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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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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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