Today is Teachers' Day in Việt Nam... a wonderful tradition where students honour their teachers - both past and present - by visiting them and giving them gifts. For those of us blessed to be part of the Nam Phap Church Class family, there is a full day party to be enjoyed!
We were picked up at 8am - Graham and Lee, Katie and I - So we already formed up a small convoy before even getting to the church!
Once there, we stood around chatting as the group gathered. Even though it was cool and overcast we knew it would be another wonderful day! I was told that today I could relax and Hiếu would take my camera and be the photographer for the day... seemed like a wise decision, since it would leave me free to just enjoy the fellowship...
The day began with a presentation of gorgeous flowers to us teachers as a token of love and appreciation. Tuấn Anh, club president did the honours...
Since we are leaving tomorrow, beautiful Madame Tra presented Katie and me with farewell gifts and another lovely speech.
Then it was our turn to express our love and appreciation for all that these classes bring to our lives.... followed by group photos!
We split into four small groups so the newcomers would feel included... an opportunity to get to know new friends.
About this time I had a call from Sáng to say he was running late, but was on his way. So glad he could make it! I have only seen him in the last few days for he has been working far away and just got some time off to come home to HP - right before we have to leave.... in the nick of time haha!
One has to be very patient while the convoy gets organised... working out who rides with whom so no-one is left behind takes time! Graham and I had our escorts take us back to the hotel so we could drop off our flowers and presents - we left them with Thủy at reception. Sáng arrived just as we were heading down the lane...
This is an over-the-shoulder shot of Trung Ho with some of the others behind him. We took a back route to Đồ Sơn, which was quite picturesque... and that's when I realised I didn't have my camera...and Hiếu was way up in front. My rider was a newcomer who didn't speak much English and didn't know who Hiếu is anyway so I couldn't get him to catch up. Seriously though, I have so many photos of the countryside...BUT...there in this little village we rode past the most perfectly photogenic wall I have seen here!!!! It had the crumbling plaster revealing red bricks all along the bottom, mossy bits, mildew stains...it was a classic! AND I DIDN'T HAVE MY CAMERA! AARRGH! I will simply have to ride that way again next year and hope to spot it...
We had some drizzling rain and the cloud cover was very low when we stopped at Vương Triều Mạc - a large complex which was re-built as part of the 1,000 year celebrations of the establishing of Hà Nội as capital (in 1010AD) to honour the memory of the Mạc Dynasty who ruled here five centuries ago. That's our convoy all parked neatly!
The courtyard is vast...yet there are only a few homes nearby. The stele on the turtle's back had the history of the Mạc clan's rule (for just three generations). One of the guys who joined us for the first time today very kindly translated it for me. He speaks English fluently, with a very plumy English accent...quite unusual!
...well it is a tea house! ...
Dịu, Hải, Tran Anh and Katie
When it started to rain, we took shelter under a pavilion
It didn't rain for long, though and we were soon on our way to this restaurant where we were booked in for lunch.
With so many of us there was some shuffling and table re-arranging to fit us all in.
There was another group there celebrating - some teachers from a local school. Lee went over to say hello and before long someone proposed a toast or two and everyone was joining in!
Group photo with strangers, now new friends!
After lunch, Quỳnh pulled out his guitar and led a sing-a-long. There is a particularly popular song that's sung on occasions like this where verses are made up about the people present and they are obviously very funny. Sadly for me, though, the song is in Vietnamese of course!
Haha ... they didn't know I could play the guitar! I tried to think of a simple song that everyone could join in... and only came up with Kumbaya, so we sang a few verses of that old song.
Then the convoy headed down to Đồ Sơn beach. It was drizzling again and getting cooler...
... but that didn't deter the energetic ones!
Because of the weather, the games that had been planned were scrapped.
... but there are always plenty keen for a game of soccer.
A pile of driftwood and sticks was dragged together, and Hiếu siphoned off some petrol to help get the bonfire started....
It always amazes me how much heat a fire throws off! When it burned down, some sweet potatoes were thrown in to cook, and before long there were people with sooty streaks on their faces.
Once again, the guitar came out and Quỳnh led a sing-a-long.
And all too soon it was time to come home. Sigh. We have to leave tomorrow.