Tuesday, December 4, 2012


Up at 5.30am as usual to go walking with my faithful crew... and today we had breakfast together as well -  bánh chưngTiên bought it on his way here  ... delicious served with sweetened milk!

Thảo selected some stationery from my pile, so Tuyền gave her a ride home.

Tiên is holding his copy of an English Grammar Book I gave some of my students as a farewell gift.

Then at 8.30am it was time for our last Nam Phap Church class.  We had planned to have a party near the lake, but it had been raining and would have been too wet underfoot, so we met at the church as usual.


There were games...

... and songs


... and dancing...

Hannah B presented me with  a wonderful book of photos of this Nam Phap Church class and some of the great times we've had. Best of all, many of my dear friends had written messages in it ... a gift I will always treasure.

Then Madame Tra, "my youngest student" gave me these beautiful flowers with a speech that made me cry... it is so hard to say goodbye to these dear, dear friends.  Then she surprised the girls with the presentation of tobacco bongs... complete with detailed instructions on how to use them!!!

It is most unusual in Vietnam for women to smoke these pipes... actually, it is very unusual for women in Vietnam to smoke at all!! But Katie and Hannah were delighted with their gifts  LOL

With the party over, it was time for photos... but I found it harder and harder to keep smiling as the tears kept welling up.

And this was when I lost it.  I just couldn't smile any more. It was just too hard. Somehow I don't think I was the only one in tears as I struggled to get it together. But nevertheless my dear, dear friends gathered for a group photo... and I was not the only one struggling to smile.

Of course, it wasn't all about missing just me, either. Katie and Hanny have made many lovely friends here too and they were having a hard time saying goodbyes as well...  eg. Katie and her new buddy, Hannah Banks

Graham will carry on the classes here, along with Hannah Banks, Mel and Jutta and whoever else they can recruit so that is a blessing. 
But he needed some distractions today. It is the anniversary of his son's disappearance at sea several years ago. I cannot even begin to imagine how dreadful that must be for him and his family. I am glad he could laugh and relax at our party.

After the class party, a bunch of us headed for Sunflower Cafe again. Here's Mười playing for Mel.  This is the guitar that Xuân lent me several months ago and Tùng was using this morning.  Turns out it was Mười's guitar and he had given it to Xuân !!  

Our crowd thinned somewhat as we headed for Bún Chả for lunch.  Very tasty, but too many heavy hearts to really enjoy it. 

Khánh and I picked up the rest of the grammar books. We were going to ride over and see his house, which is in the middle of a complete re-build, but we ran out of time.  I had to finish packing, and write messages in the rest of the books... and have dinner etc etc.

For our last night in Hải Phòng we went to  German Rock Concert!!! (Like you do... LOL). About 20 of us rocked up and handed the stunned doorman about a dozen free tickets and while he was trying to count them we bundled on through.  Ehh ... there were lots of empty seats, so it was OK.  The tickets had come to us from Jutta and Khánh, sponsored by the the Goethe Institute.

It was cool. The band was really good even if the venue wasn't very atmospheric. All the songs were in German, but that didn't matter.

By the time we got home I'd had it, so I headed for bed, but Katie, Hannah, Hannah, Khánh and Xuân decided to have a few more drinks and settled in for an all-nighter. At some stage during the wee small hours they went waking and introduced Hannah B to street food. She's been living here for a couple of years but hadn't ever sat on those tiny blue stools with a bunch of local friends and eaten street food!  So I Imagine tonight will be the ice-breaker and she'll enjoy that side of life in VN from now on! 

Good thing Hannah W. had her camera in her bag to record the event for posterity.

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