Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Goodbye ............................................ and Home.

Khánh was determined to stay awake till 5.30 so he could come walking with me one last time, and sure enough, after all the others crashed and went to bed, he stayed up playing music to keep himself awake.... but all to no avail!! It was raining! So finally he crashed out for an hour or two as the sun came up.

It wasn't long before dear friends started to arrive... 

... at one stage there were over 30 people in my house! I was glad that I'd already packed, but more gifts needed to be squeezed in... and before long it was all pretty chaotic! Hannah B. caught a taxi to take back all her blankets and pillows and towels that she'd lent us, as well as the things Khánh and Xuân were keeping (for picking up later).

We were due to leave for the airport at 10.30am and as the time drew closer I began to worry that Kate from VAIE still hadn't turned up so I called her only to find out that she didn't know she was due to come and check me out of the house today.... communication breakdown again.  Anyway, she rushed over and was stunned to see all the people milling around. We walked through the house so she could check I hadn't wrecked anything, but to my embarrassment, when we got to the kitchen it was a mess!!  Food, bread, dirty dishes... stuff everywhere! I hadn't been in there since I cleaned up after breakfast, but several starving late risers had...   By then we were running late, so all I could do was apologise.

A taxi was called, and our bags loaded in. I had to go in the taxi and it was a sad lonely old ride to the airport. But as soon as we arrived I was again surrounded by my beautiful friends. Katie, Hannah W. and I checked in our luggage (my big suitcase weighed 35 kgs!!) and thankfully they didn't ask to weigh our hand luggage ... I reckon mine weighed at least another 15 kgs, so Hannah B had kept it out of sight during the checking in process, but she needn't have bothered.

We then had an hour to wait so Tiên rallied everyone together and we all trooped across the carpark to a place where there were a couple of park benches. And that's where we spent our last precious minutes ... 

We were getting a bit teary, so out came the guitar.... 


So many beautiful friends ( family ) came to see us off. 

 At the back is Tuấn (Badmen David), Mười, Trung Ho, Xuân, Tuyền and Tự.
Then it's Khánh with Sam, Thành, Tuấn Anh, Hannah Banks, Heo Hâm, Nhung, Hà, Thảo, Parazini Mạnh, my Katie, Tùng, Hannah Williams and  Tiên Vien,  with Tiên in front.

And all too soon, our time was up.  We had to go to the departure lounge. One last round of kisses and cuddles. I was a mess before I got around them all. Sobbing by the time I got to Khánh. Nearly all of us were in tears, I think. As we walked through that last door we heard a rousing shout: "Một, hai, ba - We love you , Annie!!"   ... three times!   I was definitely a blubbering mess by then.    

What makes it even harder to leave is that I don't know when I'll be returning. Since I spent all the money I'd saved at the dentist, I will have to get a job in Coffs Harbour and save up the fares etc before I can book flights to come again. 

We flew from Hải Phòng to Hồ Chí Minh City and had a few hours to wait between flights and start thinking about home.

Then a flight to Sydney with another wait for the last leg home to Coffs. We had been travelling for 22 hours when we finally arrived in Coffs Harbour.  Home. 

Hannah's Mum - Lynne, Jordan and Bailey and Lockie...

Caelyn and Gemma (look how she has grown!!)

Welcome home dinner at Greg and Gemma's new home... my precious family.

What an amazing nine months. I am so blessed !!

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.