Sunday, October 16, 2016

Reflections – Joni (Guest Blogger)

For the past three weeks, Erich's parents, Joni and Morrey have been visiting us in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. These are Joni's reflections on the time here.

As our three weeks come to a close, I reflect on one very awesome experience. It began with a looonnnggg flight and then an evening in a lovely hotel near the airport. They served one incredible free breakfast which included omelets made to order, fresh fruits previously unknown to us foreigners, egg rolls and other appetizers, and cereals and much more. Then a longer than necessary Uber ride to where our kids were staying as the people at the hotel who kindly helped us order put in an incorrect address. As we knew we were close but lost, we called Erich and he had the people at the apartment complex speak to the driver and tell him how to get there. We were quite close so a few minutes later, we were there. And one of the best parts of the trip---the long awaited best hugs and kisses ever. Boy, did we miss that family and, boy, was it great to see them and hold them again.

Being in Vietnam has been a great experience. Most places people do not speak English but all are super sweet and nice and as helpful as possible. The area we are in and the shuttle ride to the downtown area is interesting in that you will see lovely places such as this apartment complex and right next to or sometimes in front of them you will see an area that we would refer to as a slum. Along the road there are many little shops and the electrical wiring to them looks like a mass of tangled lines that culminate in a mammoth birds nest look of jumbled wires. We want to know how they would ever find the bad one if they had a problem

The other shuttle destination is to a much more upscale area. The housing and the surrounding area are sans surrounding slums and appear to be a much more affluent neighborhood. The stops include an area with an entire housing community and loads of restaurants and shops. We found a great pizza restaurant there. The other stop is a mall very upscale with an enormous food court and a huge grocery store with fabulous selection. Our family goes equipped with back packs and loads them with the grocery purchases for easy home delivery.

We have had outings. We all went to a cooking school that was really fun. It started with a stop at the local market to show us many different varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats, noodles, a good education in local products. Then off to school. The chef was a woman, Linh, or Lynn, if you prefer the American spelling, both pronounced the same, who spoke perfect English and explained everything easily. We watched her explain the preparation of pho bo, the main dish around here, which is a sort of beef noodle soup but can pretty much be a meal in itself. We made spring rolls with shrimp and learned to wrap and tie them together. We also made a chicken dish where we marinated our chicken in a clay pot then cooked over an open flame. Everything was delicious. Dessert was what she called tapioca. It was like no tapioca I had ever eaten. Not at all my favorite. Some of us thought it was okay. They could have my share.

We also went to a war museum. Part of the display was the tiger cages and explanations of many various means of torture used on the prisoners. It was very uncomfortable and embarrassing to think that we were a party to that. It upset Syarra to tears and made all of us feel ashamed to be standing there as obvious Americans. I'm sure the local citizens were not looking at us with as much contempt as we felt for ourselves.

We also took a trip to the Mekong delta area. It was an amazing area where they grow many different varieties of fruits.

We took a boat ride and a sort or kayak/canoe ride, saw a bee apiary that made delicious honey from the longan fruit flower.

We sampled that fruit which is similar to a litchi. We went to a coconut plant that made candy, wine, rope, and it seemed like anything else you might want out of coconuts. I bought a great looking t-shirt size large that the woman knew would fit me. It now belongs to Syarra, my 10 year old granddaughter. So much for a size large. I guess in Vietnam I must be a size XXXL!

Then to top off our trip Morrey and I both got sick. We started with a cough, progressed to stuffy nose, then achy body and pure exhaustion. We slept all day one day then the next morning took the shuttle to downtown and went to a clinic. They spoke beautiful English and were very efficient. $523.00 American money later we left with a diagnosis of Influenza A, Tamiflu and fever medication. We came home, slept all day again with medication this time. The Tamiflu worked well and by the next day we were semi human. Two days into the meds and I was almost normal, Morrey always takes longer to get over things. Today I feel like a real person again and Morrey is almost there.

As our adventure is coming to a close we reflect on our wonderful experience and prepare ourselves for the terrible feelings of withdrawal we will get when giving those last hugs and kisses tomorrow. It has been a great treat being together and sharing a small piece of their wonderful adventure. We have a better understanding of the total experience they are getting with their world travels and we so admire and respect all that they have done this past year. As their adventure continues our memories of our part in it will carry us through until we hug and kiss them again next summer.


  1. How wonderful to share the past 3 weeks with your kids.I can only imagine the culture shock and it's never fun to not feel well away from home. My book group is reading a superbly written Pulitzer winner you may also enjoy by Viet Thanh Nguyen called The Sympathizer. We as a country don't know very much about our country's participation in overseas wars. This is a cultural and historical read about Viet Nam.

    1. Thanks Karen, it was wonderful to have them visit. I will have to look up that book. I always love learning more about the places we visit.

  2. What fun you must be having. Greetings to Erich and family. Glad you're feeling better.

  3. What fun you must be having. Greetings to Erich and family. Glad you're feeling better.