If you’re ever in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), contact Volunteer for Tourism Organization and arrange a free tour of the city! VTO is comprised of local volunteers who wish to meet foreigners and practice their language skills!
I met up with my tour guide, Pi at 2pm. After visiting the popular Flower Market, Pi and I hung out for almost two hours in the Caodaism temple waiting for the rain to pass, learning a lot about Vietnamese culture, norms, and of course, Caodaism!
Turns out that Pi–who, coincidentally, is originally from Quang Nam province where I volunteered a few weeks earlier—had JUST attended his graduation ceremony that same morning, and was now officially out in the Vietnamese workforce with a degree in Human Resources!
Interestingly, “…Adherents [of Caodaism] engage in practices such as prayer, veneration of ancestors, nonviolence, and vegetarianism with the goal of union with God and freedom from saṃsāra [the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound]….” You can read more on wikipedia
After a failed attempt to find a veggie restaurant for me that didn’t pre-season with sugar and MSG, Pi got some food from a street vendor, and we hung out under a canopy in front of a shuttered storefront and chatted until the rain passed!
It was a great way to spend an afternoon, and I have another tour scheduled for Monday with a different guide! Meanwhile, please help Pi grow the organization to keep the volunteers busy and serve foreign tourists as well ! How? Simply contact them through the VTO Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/vtovietnam)and arrange a free tour for yourself (yes, tips are accepted!), or share the page with your nomad/traveler friends or social network!
While I wander about Saigon, I don’t want to leave you without something to read! My friend, Mr. Hung, from Da Nang, wrote a touching thank you for my gift to him of a copy of Turn Your Passion Into Profit….Click on the image to read his Facebook post and please leave a comment or like for Hung!
Hung gave me an “I Luv Da Nang” t-shirt (Vietnam Large)! And now you know why I wear loose fitting shirts!
Hey Hung, according to my friend, Don C., on Saipan, you may have a career in adult entertainment!
And as a follow up to the job interview post,
The first interviewee– Ý Nhi– pictured in the photo from the interview (and far left below in blue shirt) was offered the position, she accepted, and started the very next day–which was also my last day at the hostel! The staff had a farewell party for Thảo (sitting next to her) whom Ý Nhi was replacing!
Talk about an alternative travel narrative! One of the benefits of an extended stay at a new destination is being there long enough to make real friends and to be invited “on the inside” for rare opportunities. So, on the next-to-last day of my three week stay in Da Nang, Vietnam, Hủng invited me to help him interview four candidates for a receptionist position at his hostel. I would be a “company representative” sitting at the table with him and Ánh, one of the current receptionists. I jumped at the opportunity, then allowed my mind to process what this would entail, as well as what new things I would learn:
How do twenty-one year olds in Vietnam approach the job application/interview process? What are appropriate (and inappropriate) questions to ask in Vietnamese culture? Will the interview be conducted exclusively in English or will it include Vietnamese? What sorts of questions will the candidates themselves ask? How will the post-interview job offer and rejections be handled?
I immediately started writing some questions based on my PassionProfit philosophy & formula, and to further prepare, I searched online for other unique interview questions to ask. Here’s one I found that I asked one of the candidates: “In completing a project, is it better to be “perfect” and a bit late, or “good” and on time? (What do YOU think? Comment!)
Each interview lasted 15 minutes, and afterwards, Ánh and I gave Hủng our recommendations. It was a very insightful way to spend an afternoon and offered the sort of peek into regular life in Vietnam you won’t get sitting on a tour bus!
As I compose this entry, today will be my final day in Da Nang, Vietnam, at least for a little while!
ADDENDUM: The first interviewee– Ý Nhi– pictured in the photo above (and far left below in blue shirt) was offered the position, she accepted, and started the very next day–which was also my last day at the hostel! The staff had a farewell party for Thảo (sitting next to her) whom Ý Nhi was replacing!
You asked for it, you got it! Here’s your chance to hear it not from me and my observations and experience, but from an actual, living, breathing Vietnamese girl! Ánh and I chatted for about a half hour about everything from life in Vietnam, political freedom to dating, marriage and more! This is just a TEASER, a very short preview to whet your appetite! If you want to be notified about the full interview, please subscribe to the Youtube channel….AND, ask Ánh your own questions in the comments section, and receive an answer!
“What do you (and your girlfriends) think about foreign guys (African, Asian, European….um, Jamaican)? Any biases?”
In this episode, we meet my new friend, Trinidadian in Vietnam, Ronnie Defour, who shares his experience thinking and living outside the box! Enjoy, and don’t forget to say hello to Ronnie on Facebook (see video)!
Every two weeks, hostel manager Hủng takes a 70 km drive south to Quang Nam province to a little town called Tam Ky to visit for two days with his family. With his 24-hour/on-site job responsibilities running the Stingray hostel in Danang, those two days are the only days he gets to spend quality, bonding time with his toddler son and infant daughter.
For this particular visit, even though one of those days was his birthday, and even though he’d never invited a hostel guest to his home before, he graciously requested that I take the trip with him to meet his family and spend the two days with him in his home. Of course, I accepted!
We set out at 10:45am on Monday…
We got to Hủng’s village in about an hour and then walked around a bit to meet neighbors and see the nearby lake….
Then, we had lunch (Kudos to Hủng’s wife! Best of my trip so far!)!
Later, we picked up his son from school, went shopping for food for dinner, and then just hung out for the rest of the afternoon and evening. I met his mother and father who live next door…
The next morning we headed out to the Tam Ky Cafe for some juice (for me) and coffee (for Hủng).
Oh, remind me to tell you about the lady who pulled up a chair at our table, leaned in to eavesdrop every word I spoke, followed me to the men’s room (as I attempted to lose her!) and even jumped in front of my camera as I attempted to take a photo of the grounds near the cafe! Yep, remind me to tell you that story!
Update: Just before I was about to post this, I discovered Hủng had captured the encounter and he just sent me a photo of that special lady in red!
We left in a hurry to escape the stalker, and then went to visit Phu Ninh Lake, home of the hot mineral springs! On the way there, we passed a road with rice drying on blue tarps on the street. Note to self: I’ve got to stop and get some on the way back!
We arrived at Phu Ninh Lake, paid our entrance fee and shared a ride up a hill to the actual site grounds and a few photos with Hậu and Thủy. Nice to meet you, girls!
Next, we boarded a boat with several other passengers for the scenic tour of the lake!
We stopped at a deck in the middle of the lake to experience the hot mineral springs being brought to the surface by a pipe way deep below the surface.
Then, just before the hour long ride ended, we approached a small island….
….and fed monkeys who (yes, I said “who”) gathered at beach side as the boat approached! Seems they may have done this before!
On the way back, we stopped at one of the homes where the harvested rice was drying, and I offered to purchase a half kilo or so to take back home!
I found a willing entrepreneur and made my purchase! Don’t ask me when I’ll get a chance to prepare this as my hostel does not have cooking facilities. I may have to resort to my tried and true Coffeepot Cookbook techniques!
Once we got back home, Hủng’s wife and mom had prepared a lavish meal for lunch! So, let me see if I understand this correctly: everything (all 7 plates in the silver platter including the bánh xèo*) are specially-prepared vegan versions just for me, and the other food is for the three of you??)
*Bánh xèo [ɓǎɲ sɛ̂w], literally “sizzling pancake”, named for the loud sizzling sound it makes when the rice batter is poured into the hot skillet is a Vietnamese savory fried pancake made of rice flour, water, turmeric powder.
Yep, some days, everything is served up on a silver (or red) platter!
Later in the evening, I entertained some kids in the neighborhood and family friends with videos and photos from my travels (um, or perhaps, as my friend Rogelio said, the Jamaican in Tam Ky WAS the entertainment for the evening!). (OF COURSE I showed them the Macau bungee jump! What did you expect??)
It was a great time meeting and getting to know the family and experiencing life in Tam Ky. We leave tomorrow to head back to Da Nang, but I WILL be back! Check out Hủng’s facebook post of our day.
Synchronicities, past life regressions, light workers, parallel universes, extra-terrestrial origins, soul age dating tips, Qigong, sauna detoxing, coffee enemas, Quantum Healing Hypnosis Technique, and yeah, there was lunch, too…vegan style with some new friends in Da Nang:
Welcome to the first in the series of brief video introductions and interviews with some of the cool folks I meet on my “Jamaican in China…and Beyond” adventures!
In this pilot episode, you’ll meet Rogelio from Cuba, and Nga from Vietnam! Plus, you’ll get to hear the first ever recording of Walt Goodridge’s Tony Montana* impersonation. It may be well worth the 7 minutes despite my not-too-great-but-ever-improving interview and selfie-stick skills!
(*from the movie Scarface!)
Next episode: Ronnie Defour from Trinidad now in Vietnam!
How was YOUR Sunday? Well, yesterday, mine started with me waking up at 3:30am to prepare for a 4:30am pickup. Yesterday, while I was interviewing Ronnie Defour at Karma Waters, Grace Nguyen, Karma Waters owner, invited me to ride along to observe and participate in a community support project in Quảng Ngãi Province, south of Da Nang, in Vietnam.
My pickup posse of three arrived, we greeted each other and headed out into the pre-sunrise morning to Karma Waters.
After a short wait, then quick loading and boarding, our two-vehicle convoy (supply truck and passenger bus) set out at 5:29am.
Okay, Okay. I know I may not LOOK happy in this next photo, but trust me, once the bus driver told us he would NOT be able to turn on the air conditioning, I was in heaven! Imagine! A window seat, an open window for natural breezes, a four hour plus drive through the hills of Vietnam! This is exactly the sort of thing I thrive on!
Yes, this is exactly how I like to get to know a new location–spending a few weeks hanging out with local folks, doing what local folks do, being outdoors, breathing the air, feeling the sunshine and rain, taking the pulse of the community, adjusting to the pattern and pace of everyday life….just living like a local!
The trip took 4 hours 43 minutes We left Da Nang at exactly 5:29am, and pulled up to the Tra Khue Ethnic Minority Primary School in Quảng Ngãi at 10:12am. (Sorry, it’s the former civil engineer in me who tends to get so detailed!)
A screen shot of Google maps on my phone places me at the blue dot. Approximate distance on the map: 165km or 102mi, but we definitely traveled a bit more than that!
Now, on to important matters. This trip was part of Karma Waters’ series of Charitable Programs. From their website:
“Our Karma Waters Ethnic Support Program delivers daily plant-based meals and support (such as books, clothing, toys and more) to ethnic minority families in the Quang Nam Province in Central of Vietnam.
With this program, and with funds collected in the Karma Waters restaurants, we help provide critical support to children and families in poverty through improved nutrition, health and even friendly support visits and friendship which provides them with some happiness.
With your help, Karma Waters can expand this program and help even more ethnic minority families. Check out our video and gallery below [see website] and you can see the impact this program has on the children and families in the Quang Nam Province.” Donate
Photos from the event:
The founder of Karma Waters is Nguyen Thi Bao Duyen (Grace Nguyen). Grace is an IT graduate, a professional vegan chef, and the founder of 2 vegan restaurants called Karma Waters in Vietnam. She also helps run the Karma Waters Charitable Association, teaches vegan cooking classes, creates menus for restaurants and hosts private dinners.
How Karma Waters Began
[According to Grace] “I became vegetarian in 2002, and later a vegan. I became vegetarian myself because of an incident with a fish. Yes, a fish changed my life! One day, while I was in China…(Read Grace’s amazing story here)”
All the students waited patiently until their names were called, and Ronnie helped them pass the time a little more enjoyably while they waited.
Ultimately, every single student there that day (between 125-150) received a gift package. Once the distribution was complete, the volunteers posed for a few photos:
The giving, however, was not over. Volunteers also helped erect a children’s slide….
…and a swing.
We all ate some guavas, watermelon and spicy tofu with sticky rice…..
…then headed back north in the rain, departing at 1:45pm! It was sad to leave after such a rewarding day….
Congratulations to Grace and family, Karma Waters, the volunteers, Ronnie and family, the bus driver, his assistant, and all the unseen folks who made the event a success! And, thanks for letting me be and see a part of it all!
Back at Karma Waters Headquarters, we said our goodbyes, and my pickup posse took me back to the Stingray Hostel! It was a great experience, exactly the sort of thing that exemplifies why I travel abroad!
….and THAT’S how I spent my Sunday. Like I said, how was YOUR day?
I’ll be working on the video over the next few hours and will make another post announcing it!