After two weeks of travelling it was good to come home to the house on Van Cao where I have lived for the past seven months.
As soon as we lugged our packs upstairs to my room Katie jumped on skype and had a long chat to the family. We had talked to them on skype using her iphone along the way, but it's so much better to sit at my computer and be able to see each other clearly.
Will (the new teacher from Ireland) was home, so I had a great time catching up with him. After two weeks he is settling in well - Khanh and Xuan had been showing him around. He came up and sat patiently while we unpacked all the presents we had bought and regaled him with tales of our travels. I should have taken a photo of everything spread out all over my double bed... amazing that it had all fit into two backpacks and a couple of big day packs!
Katie channelling her inner ninja: "Weapon of choice - strawberry and cream chuppa-chup. Never leave home without one...." (She's wearing Will's mask and my hat.)
It wasn't long before Xuan and Lan arrived, keen to meet Katie. Then Khanh arrived with a big bunch of flowers for Katie. We played a few games of darts.
That's Tony having a smoke out the front. He's another teacher sharing the house. Xuan had to do ten push-ups when he lost - again! It's a shame the video won't upload....
We all trooped up to my room and checked out all the stuff we had bought on our trip - presents for family and friends and gave them their gifts. Xuan was particularly taken with the fabulous sword we bought Greg.
In typical fashion, Xuan played around
and Khanh sat quietly smiling and watched.
After mucking around for a while, we doubled up on the motorbikes and headed into Hai Phong city centre - Khanh and Katie, Lan and Will (who had just bought a bike but didn't yet know how to ride it...), and Xuan and me. I have always loved riding bikes and we had so much fun weaving throught the traffic chatting to one another along the way.
Will and Lan on Will's new bike.
We stopped off at Khanh's favourite Chinese restaurant and had mỳ vằn thắn for dinner
We were pretty rowdy, but the restaurant wasn't busy so it was all good.
Our next stop was the fountain in the city square.
That's Hai Phong's Opera House on the other side of the square.
It's a very popular spot for young couples and Xuan couldn't resist taking Katie for a walk to see if he could spring any of his friends canoodling. And sure enough, they did surprise one young couple that Xuan knew, much to his delight.
Lan, Katie, Khanh, Will and Xuan
lots of photos!
Did I mention that we were having fun?
Xuan kept taking the lead, crying "Follow me!" as he pushed his bike along the paths through the fountain park. We went along with it for a while, but when we ended up at a service station it was time to think of something else. So we went for a ride down to the port and over the big bridge that Khanh had shown me once.
A pretty view of the port from the bridge.
It was a balmy night... perfect for a bike ride.
After we made arrangements for the morning and said goodnight it was so good to fall into a bed that wasn't moving, knowing we didn't have to pack up and travel tomorrow.
For Katie today was quite surreal - seeing for the first time the people and places she had become so familiar with over the past few months through skype and my blog.... so much better in the flesh!
WEDNESDAY, 26th October ....
Church Class, lunch, Big C and a night on the town.
After a good night's sleep, we skyped home, then Khanh arrived at 9. Hannah, a favourite teacher from last year, was in Hai Phong and the boys were keen for us to meet, so we headed off to Nam Phat church - with me on the back of Will's bike for his very first ride... He did great...
Hannah had already arrived and pretty much taken over Tony's class. When we arrived he left in a huff. Will was called up to the platform and answered questions for a while, then they asked him to sing a song... so he obliged them with a rousing rendition of Johnnie Cash's "The Gambler". Karaoke is so popular here it's not uncommon to be asked to sing. Then it was my turn, so I sang "Great is Thy Faithfulness" - cherish that anointing...
We stayed till the end of class and would have loved to join them all for lunch, but Katie and I had already arranged to go to Texas Bar-B-Q to lunch with the Wednesday girls. Helle was the only one there! It was lovely to catch up with her though. Sadly she probably won't be in Hai Phong next year when I return. Boy is being transferred to China, so they will be leaving in February, 2012. She has been such a lovely generous friend. I will miss her.
We had a call from the boys inviting us to join them and Hannah at a tea house after lunch, so Helle decided to come too - so Katie and I got to ride in her car with her lovely driver, Minh, trying to work out where we should be... it's in a really out of the way back lane... but Oh my goodness, what a gorgeous place!
The tea house is called Vô Thường, at 34 Kiều Sơn. We walked through to the two storey section at the back and went upstairs to find Hannah and a bunch of others there having tea.
The two closest to the camera are Hannah's sister and brother-in-law, who are retired missionaries!
Panda, Will, Hannah, me, Khanh, Katie, Helle, Hannah's sister, Net and ?
After having tea the boys had to go to Uni, so Helle dropped Katie and me home. I phoned Mr Cuong to arrange for us to go to Big C Supermarket. Mr Cuong is the lovely man how has been my xe-om driver since I first arrived.
He doesn't speak English, but we manage. When I told him we wanted to go to Big C and we'd need another driver he was quite adamant that he should do two trips. I guess he'd been missing the income from his best customer (me). So Katie waited while he took me, then I waited while he went back for Katie. Good thing it's only ten minutes away!
Anyway, we went first to Parkson so Katie could have a look at Hai Phong's answer to Meyers. We had a good look around then walked over to the Big C Supermarket building next door. We bought a few groceries and some hot bread (Bánh Mì) as well as a couple of lovely little white sauce bottles for Soya Sauce (nước tương) and Fish Sauce (nước mắm) to take home. Then I phoned Mr Cuong and he did the double shuffle to get us back to the house.
We had a bit of a rest for a couple of hours since the boys were at Uni and Will was working. In the evening I got on with my packing and sorting while Khanh, Xuan and Will took Katie out on the town. Firstly they connected with Panda and his mate Tinh and played pool...
Katie was having a ball, especially after she realised she was the only girl in the place actually playing pool!
Then they went to Julie's Bar - a popular hangout for Westerners who enjoy a drink and a bit of action. Will introduced them to a few other English teachers from other Language Schools.
Xuan and Puleng Lenga Lange from South Africa
At about 2am they ended up feasting on duck noodles from Hia Phong's equivalent to Harry's Cafe de Wheels (from Kings Cross, Sydney), and ended up getting home at 3.30am... still laughing.