R8. Entering University

It is September and the new school year starts. This girl and her elder sister got on a local train at Yen Bai and sat in front of us. Their father saw them off. As the train rolled out of the station, she stared at outside and wiped tears quietly. Her new life in Hanoi was about to begin and she was no longer a country girl. After a while, she turned to her magazine but continued to look out from time to time. Her sister, who was already studying in Hanoi, was talking to the young man across the aisle. (Somewhere between Yen Bai and Hanoi, Sep. 2002)


R7. Respect for Cha

In this remote fishing village, everyone is a Catholic. A big white church stands by the ocean. Each house hangs the Cross and the photos of the family members with the village priest. It appears that he is the most respected man here. There was a lady who was about to let her daughter drop out of school because the family was too poor to pay the fee. I asked, "Why don't you talk to Cha?" She said he would probably be too busy to see her. Spiritual guidance is very important. But I suppose it is very difficult to help all the villagers materially. (Thanh Hoa Province, Jul. 2003)


R6. Cleaning the Beach

Can Gio has a long beach. On Sunday it is full of HCMC bathers. On Monday morning, the quietude returns. I walked to the far end of the beach and slowly walked back. I watched this old lady emerge from a seaside house and walked carefully on the beach picking rubbish. Oh, I thought, this lady is very good. But soon I discovered that she was quite choosy. She didn't pick up the big plastic bottle in front of me. (Can Gio/HCMC, Mar. 2004)


R5. Lai Chau Morning

The road from Dien Bien Phu to Lai Chau is greatly improved two years ago, says our driver, so it takes only a few hours rather than a whole day. The winding road still makes you carsick. But if you like to visit a "middle of nowhere," the trip is well worth it. Stars in Lai Chau are gorgeous and morning fog on the mountain range is poetic. Pity that this sleepy little town will be submerged when a new dam is completed on the Da River. (Lai Chau, Sep. 2004)


R4. Village Lane

This village is located where Hanoi ends and Ha Tay begins. Many people here take a bus to Hanoi to work, sell or study. While the place looks like any other village in the Red River Delta with cement walls, bicycle riders and banana leaves, you can also perceive the improving life. The kindergarten is big and clean. Smiles are bright and polite. And a man says he now grows perfume rice which sells at a much better price than the ordinary rice he used to grow. (Dai Ang/Hanoi, Sep. 2002)


R3. Attending the Net

Japanese people above certain age feel much nostalgia in many places in Vietnam, both urban or rural. In a faraway fishing village like this, where there is very little except fish and hard work, we see life which might have been in past Japan and are moved and attracted. Almost all coasts of Japan are now fortified with ugly concrete and tetra pods. (Thanh Hoa Province, July 2003)


R2. Noon at Seashore

The sun is ruthless. It is too hot to speak or think. At noon, all sound dies except the lapping waves. The best thing you can do is to take a nap on a hammock in the shade. Ladies who must travel never wear short sleeves or short pants. They must be protected against the glaring sun and its effects. Whether in Hanoi or Thanh Hoa, it is the same. (Thanh Hoa Province, July 2003)


R1. Green Descent

As your aircraft makes the final approach to Noi Bai Airport, you will see Toyota, Honda and Viglacera factories on the right. But even if you are seated on the left side, don't despair. You will see village clusters, brick furnaces and plenty of rice fields. Look hard and see how small these plots are. In the Mekong Delta, they are much bigger. The air above Hanoi is almost always hazy so you don't see very much. But sometimes you get lucky and can observe the surrounding mountains very clearly. Never accept a middle seat when you fly. (Near Hanoi, June 2003)