This morning, we met two IIEVN student interns, Loan and Minh. What a delight they are! Loan is a sprightly adorable young woman and Minh a very nice young man, both full of energy and quick to grin and laugh. We want to adopt all these young people! They took us first to the Reunification Palace, once the “White House” of the, Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam). Built for and by President Diem and his wife Madame Diem (the so-called Dragon Lady), it is a luxurious palace of marble and tile. Here was where the iconic photograph of the North Vietnamese tanks busting down the gates at the fall of South Vietnam was taken. The two tanks are now on permanent display there. Of course, I was able to demonstrate my historical knowledge (and ancient age) by identifying such worthies as John Foster Dulles and Robert McNamara in the old photos and telling a few war stories, mostly, more or less, kind of true. Of course, yours truly was nowhere near this palace or old Saigon during the war. That was much too grand for the likes of me who was sent to the Central Highlands to guard the water buffalo. I guess even the army figured out I was no city boy. Anyway, from there Loan and Minh took us shopping and Linda bought many presents for more people than I was aware we knew. It was pretty hot and I was a bit overdressed so we had to go freshen up at the hotel before heading to lunch, a very nice restaurant with authentic Vietnamese food including the famous nuoc mam sauce which I liked quite a lot. From there, we went to the IIEVN offices to attend the essay contest award ceremony. Students were tasked to write essays on the importance of dreams and education. We helped judge and it was very difficult. All were superb! The top winners received very nice financial help toward their education and all received gifts including the Vietnamese version of Rocket Boys. I can only hope the translation is a good one!
We are now relaxing at our hotel. Tomorrow, we’re going to be met by Ms. Ngoc (director of the Ho Chi Minh City IIEVN office) and her husband for lunch. Then, some of the IIEVN staff who just wouldn’t let us say no are taking their time off to meet with us, take us to more shopping, to dinner, and then to the water puppet show. That sounds like fun. Sunday morning is a very early one – our flight to Pleiku is at 6:20. So we’d best sleep in tomorrow (Saturday morning).