Aug 03

I took the much needed plunge and finally updated my blog, specifically the layout and design. I removed some links from my blogroll and added a couple to my Linkedin and Academia.edu pages, since they seem to be getting some views lately.

Yesterday was my niece Emily’s 6th birthday party. It is surreal that she starts first grade in the fall since I remember her birth quite vividly. I have my own birthday coming up on the 13th and it is a biggie. I am trying to be blasé about it since it is just a number; easier said than done.

My summer class ended last Saturday and final grades were due today. I am not teaching in the fall which will be my first break from it since January. I appreciate having some free time so I can focus on getting other priorities back to the top of my list including blogging more frequently here and getting my foodie blog (http://delish.me) updated on a regular basis because we clearly eat out enough to share some fun tales.

V moved in on the third floor and she is a fellow foodie who shares my all Asian, all the time belief. Needless to say, she has fit in quite nicely at The Laurel. It is pretty neat having someone upstairs that we actually hang out with quite a bit since past inhabitants have not exactly been friendship material. Let’s just leave it at that.

Next week, M and I are headed to the Cape for two full weeks. It is a big deal since I have never taken that much time off work, at least in a row, but I am really looking forward to it. We rented a “charming cottage” in Harwichport and for the price, I am still convinced that it only has 3 walls or no indoor plumbing. I sent Eileen over to check it out and according to her, it is legit. I am hoping that won’t change once we arrive. I am quasi-bracing myself to find an upgraded tent at the given address so keep your fingers crossed for us.

Beej wants me to have a yard sale since she has “so much stuff ” that she “is desperate to get rid of” and now my aunt has started making boxes so it looks like that will be happening. I will send out details as soon as we hammer them out, but I am thinking mid September.

Okay peeps, thanks for reading.

More soon.

Jun 09



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

We stopped at a roadside cafe on the way home and hammocks were available so this guy took full advantage.

Jun 09



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

One of many offers for rice wine Terry received while at the wedding party. He politely declined all.

Jun 09



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

These are two very happy wedding party guests. Happiness could have been due to their kind disposition or perhaps their drink of choice.

Jun 09

When I was preparing to take this trip to Viet Nam, I would have never guessed in a million years that we would be invited to a Vietnamese wedding party. Wow, what an experience it was.

We met the LRC library staff of about 30 at the University on Saturday morning at 8am and all poured into two air-conditioned vans. Terry and I were in the smaller of the two along with about 10 others, including Mrs. Trang, the Library Director and some students from our class.

The trip was 100km (roughly 60 miles) but because there is just one main and very crowded road to get places, it took close to 4 hours each way, but the journey was well worth it. Because we were in a university van, we had priority when we got to ferry boarding areas and could cut the long line, which saved a great deal of time. We boarded two car ferries on our way to the southern province of Bến Tre, situated in the the Mekong delta, where the groom’s family is from.

Vietnamese weddings frequently have 3 days of celebrations. On the first day, it is a chance for the parents of the bride and groom to gather together and share a meal. The second day is for the bride and is held at her family’s home and the third day is focused around the groom and his family. The groom is a security guard at the LRC so Mrs. Trang was able to get us invitations to this party.

On the ride there, we learned that it is customary for the eldest daughter of a family, after marriage, to move in with her in-laws and husband and take care of everybody. In Mrs. Trang’s case, she is the youngest daughter and her in-laws live with her and her husband, so she takes care of the entire family. It is quite an interesting arrangement. Apparently if the newly married couple is able to buy their own house after they get married, they do not have to move in with the in-laws but I am not sure how frequently that happens.

We arrived to the groom’s family’s home and learned that they own a beautiful pagoda which is the site of the wedding party. There is an area behind the pagoda where tables were set up and a band was playing. The bride and groom greeted the guests as they arrived and walked under the arch to join the party. We were seated at 2 large tables and quickly received iced drinks. The day was extremely hot so this was very refreshing.

The first course consisted of very tender pieces of pork served with delicate coils of rice noodles. It was absolutely delicious. Next came chunks of beef in a sauce meant to be soaked up by the pieces of bread at the table. It was divine. Next arrived rice mixed with veggies and what looked like a type of salami sliced thinly on the top of the plate. Seafood was next and consisted of a hot bowl of broth which simmered in the middle of the table as fresh shrimp, squid, and white river fish were added to cook. The level of freshness of this entire meal was absolutely amazing. The soup was served with a few spoonfuls of rice and the seafood was cooked perfectly.

During the many courses, we met the very kind parents of both the bride and the groom as well as some of the other guests. The very inebriated ones seemed to be drawn to our table offering us small tea glasses full of rice wine. We kindly refused since from the look of these guests, this rice wine was quite potent. Many of the men were very interested in talking to Terry and trying to coax him into drinking. They must have picked up on his kindred spirit vibe. Terry resisted and did not drink, but it was tempting. I got some really great photographs of the beautiful bride and groom, along with many of the guests, in different states of sobriety. There was also some karaoke fun with the band as a few of the library staff members serenaded the guests with some songs.

Fruit was brought out for dessert and I had my first taste of durien. The strong scent is off-putting to most but the fruit itself is just lovely. It is quite hard to describe but is very sweet and soft. The smell did not bother me since the fruit was so tasty.

One of the drunk men launched into a conversation with me, with Mrs. Trang translating. He told me how his mother lives in California and when I asked what part, he could not for the life of him, remember. A few minutes later, he clarified that it is his mother-in-law who lives in CA, not his mother, so that was a little more reassuring. Mrs. Trang said that it was probably lucky that he was able to recollect even that much information in his “special state.”

After the meal, I had planned to walk around the grounds and take some more photos and ended up going into the simply stunning pagoda with Mrs. Trang. We removed our shoes and went inside. We were given three sticks of lit incense at each of the altars and I followed her lead. She placed the incense up at her head and fanned up and down in a sequence of three times. Then she put the incense in the vase in the center, still glowing, and crouched down in front of the altar in reflection. It was a very moving experience to be a part of and I felt really blessed to be there at that moment. The groom’s family is very lucky to have such a this pagoda on their land.

The whole wedding party was a really amazing experience. We were welcomed with such open arms by all of the guests and the families of the bride and groom. I really felt so humbled by everything and felt lucky to meet everyone and be in their presence for a couple hours.

The ride back to Can Tho was fairly uneventful, except the women in our van were on the lookout for durian but the price had to be right. We stopped at several roadside fruit stands before finding one that suited their needs and bargaining skills. The van itself was not massive but now consisted of 10 people plus many, many bags of durian wrapped in newspaper and placed in plastic bags. The scent was not very overpowering but the windows were left open for the ride home to keep the air clean. Just a quick reminder, it was a very warm day so the ride back was on the hot side but the breeze felt nice.

The plan was to visit the floating market early Sunday morning with a few of the library staff members but Terry and I decided to spend the day prepping for the week ahead and will visit the market next weekend instead after teaching is over.

The magic basket in my hotel room is still working like a charm. I leave laundry in it and when I get back from class, everything is hanging washed in my closet. Amazing.

Also, I have a roommate named George. He is very shy but has made an appearance a few times walking sideways on my wall and darting to hide in the lights. He doesn’t bother me and I don’t bother him so it is quite a perfect arrangement. George is a small gecko and while I am not normally especially fond of lizards, I do have a soft spot in my heart for George.

Second week of teaching has begun and we have a busy week planned for the students.

More soon.

~Linnea (& George)

Jun 06

After a delicious buffet breakfast, consisting of fresh fruit (small bananas, melon, & other local Can Tho varieties) vermicelli noodles with veggies, chilled soya milk with ice, and a petite gyoza dumpling, at the hotel on our first morning in Can Tho, we were picked up by a taxi to head to the university. We arrived at 7:30am and even at that early time, there was a massive line of students waiting to get into the library right when it opens. This is not something I have ever seen back in the States and just really emphasizes how heavily the library, and especially the Learning Resource Center, are used. This was wonderful. They were many signs welcoming people to our Emerging Technologies in Libraries Workshop in the LRC, which was very neat to see.

The class has 30 participants from a variety of public and academic libraries across Viet Nam as well as IT and LRC staff from Can Tho, so it is a great mix of people. Some have robust IT setups while others are just getting started. We have 4 translators from the university and their level of english proficiency is just astounding. It was not much of an adjustment to adapt to this new way of teaching that involves stopping after a few sentences in order for the material to be relayed to the students by the translators.

We covered the goals and outcomes for the two weeks, the structure of the class involving lectures and hands-on activities, and then I talked about workstation security and management using the Tech Lab as a real-life example, which worked quite well. Students were engaged and their introductions told us that they were coming from a lot of smaller public workstation spaces (under 40 computers) and some that did not have a space to call their own so the Tech Lab made sense to talk about. I brought up the future plans including the dual and tri-boot summer upgrades and it generated a 45-minute discussion with lots of very relevant and thoughtful questions from the participants. The structure of the course involves a 2.5 hour lunch break at 11am where the participants go home to eat with their families and nap, while Terry and I eat lunch and prep for the afternoon sessions. I told my mother about the daily lunch with family and she promptly replied, laced with italian guilt, “that must be nice.”

We headed into the computer lab after lunch for some hands-on activities involving installing and configuring imaging, antivirus, and anti-spyware software. We ended the day with a group activity where the participants were separated into public, academic, and Can Tho (since they have the largest contingency of attendees) libraries and they worked out designing an ideal pubic workstation space for their individual audiences. It turned into a very interesting discussion and was a nice end to the day.

We headed back to the hotel and then to the Mekong restaurant which came highly recommended by the gentleman at our hotel’s front desk, and I can understand why. It is traditional Vietnamese cuisine and is slightly geared to foreigners but is not a tourist trap in the least. We got fresh spring rolls with shrimp and fried vegetarian spring rolls to start and then shared river fish in a clay pot and tofu with veggies, everything was excellent.

We got back to the hotel to do a little prep for the next day of teaching, but quickly discovered the trying nature of the wireless network. It is deceiving since it will look like it is a very strong signal, you will join, and within a minute or so, you are booted off. I had hoped to be able to use the evenings to finalize materials for the next day of teaching but this little snag made that a bit tricky. There is a slightly better signal in the hotel lobby but not by much. We set up shop literally a few feet from the wireless access point and the booting offline continued but slightly less frequently. This was a bit of an unexpected wrench in the plan but we deal with that all the time in the world of IT, so we just shifted gears a bit and worked things out.

A quick funny story, there is a wicker basket in my hotel room and I was using it to store laundry with the plan to take care of the clothes later in the week. When I got back to my room from the first day of teaching, everything from the basket had vanished. For some reason, I assumed it had all been thrown out and called the front desk to verify my fears. They sent someone upstairs who opened my closet and there was everything neatly hanging-up and freshly laundered, all for a whopping bill of $54,000 dong (~$3 US). I want to take the wicker basket back to Boston and try it out in my apartment.

More soon.

Jun 06



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

The students are hard at work in the training room during class.

Jun 06



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

Statue of Ho Chi Minh in downtown Can Tho.

Jun 05



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

I took this at a slight traffic jam right as we arrived to Can Tho after the 4 hour drive from Ho Chi Minh City. It had been raining so the roads were a bit flooded.

Jun 05



Vietnam 06/08

Originally uploaded by leonnea

There were so many wonderful and fresh fruits and vegetables at the market in Ho Chi Minh City. I had to capture some of them digitally.