Connections in Hanoi

Although I worried a week was too long for an initial visit to Hanoi, it turned out to be a very busy time! I had appointments with school staff on Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, plus an additional counseling session with a Christian on Wednesday. The Holy Spirit put me to good use!

We had dinner with David and Mary Jane Thursday night. They helped start Concordia International School Hanoi (CISH) and have worked abroad for many years. They were gracious enough to have us to their apartment and cook dinner for us. A good time of learning some of the history of CISH and meeting important figures in that history.

Saturday afternoon we had an amazing lunch with Ian and his family. Ian is the high school principal of CISH. He and his wife both have deep roots and have served in missions in the Philippines for years.

In case you’re wondering, the thumb-and-forefinger sign everyone is making is a traditional photo symbol in Southeast Asia. Locals rarely just smile for a photo, opting instead to involve their hands and fingers in various signs and symbols. This one is supposed to look like a small heart.

We came home from this lunch stuffed! Only to meet the hosts of our Airbnb who invited to join them for a special lunch. We didn’t feel we could say no, so we warned them we wouldn’t eat too much and watched as they brought out plate after plate of food.

That’s roast chicken, a pork soup, an entire steamed fish, mounds of brightly colored sticky rice (in the shape of fish) and a beef stir fry. They explained that January 14 is an important day for remembering family. The catfish is symbolic of the connection between family ancestors and those still living. We managed a few bitefuls and it was delicious.

Our host Binh recently retired from serving in the Vietnamese foreign service as part of a diplomatic team. He had the opportunity to serve all over the world including the United States. He spoke with pride about difficult but important conversations he had with US counterparts over improving relations between our two countries. Their house is like a museum, full of photos of him with various US Congressmen as well as mementos of the various places they’ve lived over the years. I found particularly of interest a certificate issued to his father and signed by Ho Chi Minh himself.

Although the city is beautiful, with a mixture of traditional Asian architecture and more western designs influenced by the French occupation of the country in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the pollution is terrible here. It looks like fog but it isn’t. It hugs the ground and at times obscures vision more than a few dozen yards away.

It makes for a beautiful sunset but it’s a dangerous problem, one that residents including the international school are very concerned about!

The plan at this point is for me to visit four times a year or so, depending on what is most helpful to the staff. I trust the Holy Spirit will give us wisdom regarding the best way to move ahead in partnership, and I look forward to hopefully a return trip in April!

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