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Seoul Pancake

Seoul004

Apologies to Rainn Wilson for the pun on his wacky, wonderful website. But facing a 13-hour layover in Seoul, Korea, I was ready to disclaim any further responsibility for anything.

Then Zabine and I got a clue: We remembered our Vietnamese home-stay host telling us of a terrific five-hour tour of Seoul we could take from the airport. Even if this tour hadn’t been a once-in-a-lifetime prize (and it was), we’d have seized it just to pass the time. (Do the math: Our 13-hour wait was sandwiched between a five-hour Hanoi-to-Seoul flight and a 10-hour Seoul-to-Seattle flight. Sleep, sorta-kinda included, [...]

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Vietnam Exit

May 9, 2012 (Tuesday) – Most of the past week – another blur. Our official reason for being in Vietnam ended with last weekend’s celebration of the 20th anniversary of the Hanoi Baha’i community. Normally we would have headed for home immediately. Did I explain that the earliest return flight turned out to be more than a week later?

Highlights of the past week include taking out our host families to dinner at a wonderful Hanoi lakeside restaurant, La Tre Place (aka The Bamboo Restaurant); dinners at the homes of various Vietnamese friends; a water puppet show; and a breakfast [...]

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Ridvan – and a Hanoi Tamale(?)

May 2, 2012 (Wednesday) – Still Wednesday: After our visit to the Ho Chi Minh Memorial, Zabine and I were taken to the home of a Vietnamese National Spiritual Assembly member (Duyen). Other Baha’is were gathering, and only after some time did we realize that the purpose was to pray in celebration of a Baha’i Holy Day: the 12th Day of Ridvan.

Following prayers, delicious tea and desserts were served. Among them was what appeared, at first glance to be – a Vietnamese tamale! Remembering the name of this web journal, I had to know more.

The [...]

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Vietnam Wednesday

May 1-2, 2012 (Tuesday and Wednesday) – Tuesday, for me, was a blur. Part of the day I felt weak from what may have been heat exhaustion, or some bug, or adrenaline overdose. Who knows? I stayed home and slept it off while Zabine ran around Vietnam having adventures.

Felt great to unwind. But Wednesday morning, we again got into another busy day. One highlight was a visit to the Ho Chi Minh Memorial mausoleum. We were asked, however, not to take pictures of the building or its surroundings. But the adjacent buildings (including the late leader’s rather modest house, [...]

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Vietnam Villages, Hanoi Hospitality

April 30, 2012 (Monday) — Today we traveled to two neighboring villages in the Vietnamese countryside, conducting home visits with the believers who live there. Lunch, served at the home of a Baha’i friend, consisted of delicacies I didn’t even try to identify. All I know is that it was lavish and delicious.

As we were leaving the village, our driver, Binh (Hanoi’s Auxiliary Board member), had to dismount his car to move a motorcycle someone had left in the middle of the street. Speculation was that it had run out of gas — but why leave it there? Anyone [...]

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Blending in in Vietnam

One faithful reader complains of difficulty in picking out my friend Zabine from the group photos posted here. The reason is that Zabine and I, as seasoned world travelers, have learned to blend into a crowd of Vietnamese.

Here’s a picture of the two of us blending in. Zabine, you’ll notice, does it better than I do. It takes special skill to fly under the radar when you tower over the folks with whom you’re blending. Still, don’t you agree I could do worse?

Be that as it may, Zabine blends very well, height-wise. So long as she’s surrounded [...]

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Hanoi: Baha”i 20th Anniversary Images

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Hanoi: Baha’i 20th Anniversary

For Zabine Maryam (Linkins) Van Ness, this has been a journey of 20 years. For me, it only felt like one.

We arrived Sunday morning at the hotel in Hanoi where the Baha’i community was gathering to celebrate the 20th anniversary of its founding. Stunning floral arrangements were everywhere. Many of these, I hear, were sent by the government, which recognized the Baha’i Faith here four years ago and with which the friends now have very good relations. Wishing to offer support, government officials were taken aback to discover that the Baha’is could not accept funding from outside sources. They [...]

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Vietnam: Hanoi Beginnings

April 29, 2012 (Sunday) – As I have explained, the stated reason Zabine Van Ness and I are in Vietnam is that the Hanoi Baha’i community, on the 20th anniversary of its founding, wanted to honor Zabine for her role in that seminal event.

That “stated” reason is of course their reason – and a good reason it is indeed. But it isn’t Zabine’s reason for accepting the invitation. She came here with the hope that she could assist and empower the Vietnamese friends today, perhaps even more than she did in the past. “The celebration is about the last [...]

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Historic, Healing Heartsongs

April 29, 2012 (Sunday) – Simple acts of kindness are miraculously effective at bridging deep divides. Among the many miracle workers we have met in Hanoi are Michael Orona; his wife, Selena; and their three children.

These beautiful Baha’i souls made history at the 20th Anniversary celebration of the founding of the Hanoi Baha’i community. There’s still a lot more other news and photography in the pipeline, so please stay tuned. But I could not wait to post the video below. The stage performance it depicts took my breath away because, as I was recording it, its significance suddenly struck [...]

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