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Vietnam Rice Dance

April 29, 2012 (Sunday) — Today is the big day of our trip, the reason we came: the 20th anniversary celebration of the founding of Hanoi’s Baha’i community.

I have a lot of notes and photos to document this milestone and will upload them Any Day Now. But while I’m organizing, please enjoy this video of the performance which opened the celebration. It’s a traditional Vietnamese “rice dance”, performed by a group of young women that includes Huyen, one of the two who guided Zabine and me during our second-day outing.

This video found its way onto YouTube minutes after [...]

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A Colorful Hanoi Drive

One of my striking impressions of Vietnam is how colorful everything is. This is no coincidence, nor is it just a fact about tropical nature. It extends to human artifacts of all kinds. This seems to reflect a deep national and cultural attraction to beauty.

There are many other counties where this is far less true. Places where, despite sometimes stunning natural beauty, people seem otherwise content with relatively bland surroundings. Having visited and lived in some of those places, I never understood why. Perhaps that’s why I’m feeling so at home here.

The photos below are mostly from a [...]

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Vietnam Day Three

April 28, 2012 (Saturday) – This morning, Zabine had a wonderful and completely unexpected encounter with Rosalie Huibonhua, a Baha’i Continental Counselor. Her areas of responsibility include China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and other Asian countries. She is here, of course, to attend the celebration of the Hanoi Baha’i community’s 20th anniversary.

We met her at the home of a member of the Vietnam Baha’i national governing body. Although it seemed like a chance meeting, I don’t really believe in luck. Zabine and Rosalie, it turns out, share a common vision regarding social action and spiritual education. The Counselor instantly [...]

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Second Day Vietnam Photos

Some representative photos from our second day in Vietnam.

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Eat, Pray, Love, Shop (Vietnam Style)

April 27, 2012 (Friday) – Having enjoyed our motorcycle ride, we were set for a busy day.

First, we sat in on a committee meeting at the home of a Baha’i friend, met many members of the Baha’i community, along with a visiting Counselor, George Saroya, from Indonesia. Lunch at an outdoor noodle cafe. Delicious food. Did I mention that I am not normally adventurous with unfamiliar cuisine? So far, however, I’ve enjoyed all kinds of new dishes I don’t recognize, can’t pronounce, and that taste unlike anything I recall. It’s turning out to be a treat, not a [...]

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Vietnam Arrival

April 25, 2012 (Wednesday) – We are now in Hanoi. Considering my many (mis)adventures with travel, domestic and foreign, the trip here was amazingly smooth and stress-free. Well, as stress-free as 18 or so hours on an airplane can be.

We landed in Seoul, Korea (Incheon Airport) right on schedule (okay, a couple of minutes late). The first thrill was discovering that our cell phones could connect to the airport’s free wifi hotspot. So I texted, then called, my beloved Cheri. Actually heard her voice (though what that voice was saying was that she couldn’t hear mine very well). Zabine [...]

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Vietnam Journey Unfolding

April 24, 2012 — Zabine and I are in flight –Asiana Airlines– somewhere between Seattle and Seoul. We’ve travewled 1550 of our 5210-mile total;our altitude is 36,000 feet, ground speed 532 miles per hour, and current outside air temperature — a balmy minus-70 degrees F. (Guess if I get too hot, I can always go perch on the wing!)

Sense of time, utterly mixed up. Between Knoxville, my home, and Hanoi, our ultimate destination, the time difference is 12 hours. (But does Daylight Saving Time factor in, and how?) Twixt Seattle and Hanoi, 15 hours –at least that’s what the [...]

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Visiting Vietnam

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Good morning, April 22. I can’t believe I’m on my way to Vietnam.

The Vietnam trip has been in the works for several months, but I haven’t had the courage — till now — to write about it.

Please don’t get me wrong: I’m excited about this trip — upbeat, optimistic, incredibly happy. What I’m saying is that the whole thing has had a surreal sense of unreality. (But there’s something about looking down at the sky from above it that restores one’s sense of “this is really happening!”)

Another reason is that

[...]

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New high-def “Heart to Heart” website

Whew! It’s hard to believe it’s been more than a month since I posted my March 8 article on Heart to Heart. Sorry to be quiet for so long, but so much has happened:

I’ve ported my new presentation of the Heart to Heart program to its own, standalone web site: Heart to Heart HD. Even though this new site remains a work-in-progress, early feedback suggests that people are finding it highly attractive, engaging, and useful. You can visit it by clicking here, or on the slideshow graphic to the right.

The actual web address is: hearttoheart.bahaiteaching.net

This site went [...]

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Introducing Heart to Heart HD

The Astonished Tamale! is pleased to introduce a new service for its readers. We’re calling it Heart to Heart HD. You can test-drive it here. (Or simply click the “Heart to Heart HD” item on the black menu bar above.)

A bit of history:

Heart to Heart (without the HD) is an omnibus slideshow addressing more than 700 important and frequently asked questions about the Baha’i Faith. These are grouped into 18 major topics (or “tracks”), each constituting

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