Tuesday was our last day in Vietnam and I am reflecting on it as I am on the flight back to the US currently. We did not have any planned teaching on the agenda for Tuesday so we were on our own. I stated the day with, of course, an awesome run! I went along my usually route following the river north and felt almost at home. The fumes from the pollution were not getting to me anymore, and I barley noticed the crowds and traffic. It was a very nice run and I was just thinking about how lucky I was to be able to have the time and energy and means to go out and run in the morning. I also noticed that I have not once checked my pace on these runs all over Vietnam. I will have to go back at some point and see how I was doing, but I was so into the moment of each run that it was not what mattered to me. The movement and being there with my thoughts and seeing the sights and people and living right then was what was important.
After our final breakfast of dragon fruit and the wonderful woman that manages breakfast everyday that greets us with “teacher teacher,” Lori and I were off to shop. We were on a mission to get our lovely guides some “bling” for their hair, which we were successful of finding at the Ben Ton Market. We then ran into our fellow teammate Minh in the streets and he showed up where the indoor market was where we did the rest of our shopping. Being a huge Starbucks fan I also had to check out Highlands’s coffee because that is the biggest there and Starbucks has not entered the market. I think this coffee was good, but with the US prices they are charged here and at Gloria Jean’s, Starbucks could totally compete and I wonder why they have not entered this market yet. But I digress.
After we had finished shopping and walking around the city and had enjoyed our liquid lunch of Highlands coffee it was back to the hotel. Once we got back I realized I was super tired with all the work and travel catching up to me, so as Lori headed out to check out more sights, I curled up in bed and took a nice long nap, it was so needed as I was starting to feel a bit worn down with the early hours I had been keeping to ensure I ran and still was able to fit everything else into the packed days we have had for the past 2 weeks. While I was resting, Hoang was out cruising the town on a friend’s motor bike! I wish I would have coordinated this one better so that I could have take a ride with him, but he had a blast and saw the city from an even more unique perspective. To sum it up in his words “it will appear that we are going to get into an accident every 2 seconds, but then we won’t.”
Our last commitment of the trip was a hosted dinner at Tad, or Orphan Outreach NGO program lead in Vietnam. We headed over to the house with everyone on the team besides Minh who was not feeling well that night. It was a shame because this was our final closing dinner together as a team and we really missed him. Tad lives in a high rise condo in an international neighborhood across from the international school his wife teaches in. Their place was small by US standards, but huge by Vietnam Standards. With what appeared to be 2 bedrooms and one bathroom, kitchen, living room, dining room, and laundry room. It was a lovely place and as a team we were honored to be invited over for dinner with him and his wife. The meal was amazing!!! It was the first time I had hummus since I left the states and I was just in heaven with all of the Mediterranean vegetarian treats. Hoang, our Vietnamese food coinsure, was not too excited to be eating something different, but it was the first time him, Linh, and Diem have tried hummus and they liked it! It was a really fun evening discussing everything we had done and experienced over the two weeks, and sad at the same time that we would not be waking up and doing it again in the morning. Yet we had to wrap it up and head back as we had to depart the hotel at 3:50am for our flights back to the US.
I set my alarm for 2am while I went to sleep at 11pm so that I could get a few mile run in before I had to get on many planes and be traveling for over 24 hours straight. My last run through the city at two o clock in the morning was maybe one of my favorites of the entire trip. It was an entire new perspective on the city. When I left the hotel it felt as though the city was just winding down, there were still people out on the streets walking around, granted very few compared to the usual day or evening, but there was still some life. As I made my way long the usual streets there were mainly big trucks moving through the city and very few motor bikes and cars. It was the quietest I have ever experience the place and very peaceful. It almost looked like a totally different town with all of the store fronts closed and locked up tight. The only scary part were the rats that were bigger than cats, but they were not all over, and just more surprising than anything else. As I made my way back to the hotel I noticed that the streets had also cleared of people. By the time that I got back to the hotel just before 3am it was a ghost town and everyone was asleep for the night including the door man that sleeps in front of the door to keep the hotel secure and had to unlock everything to let me back in. This last run was the perfect conclusion to my journey to Vietnam. I have had the wonderful opportunity to do this and to give back and be a part of something larger with a team of amazing people. I loved every moment here in Vietnam, even the rough ones because there was always something to learn from it. I came here as part of a group to “teach” about computers and technology, but I realize that I am the one that did I ton of learning in the process.