This morning, my second-year students were informed that I was leaving Vietnam in December. Apparently it had never crossed their minds before. They learned this right before they had listening and speaking with me. So as I walked towards the classroom, where several were loitering around the door, they asked me if it was true. I told them it was true. “Why can’t you stay here forever?” they asked. I told them that I need to see my family and friends at home.

“You can call them,” they said.

“You can used the internet.”

“You can write to them.” I told them that I had to go home and see my family and friends, not just talk and write to them. Then, of course, the next question was “Will you come back to Vietnam?”

“Maybe,” I said.

“Not maybe,” one said. “Promise.”

“I hope so.” It was all that I could say.

The mad trip that my students took included climbing a small mountain near the coast of Vung Tau and then climbing a giant statue of Jesus.

This is a picture of two tired foreigners standing in an incredibly small observation area with the ocean behind us.
They’ve been working on an intra-campus road here at AGU for what seems like far more than a year. And today, of all days, they decided to started the tarring and asphalt process. The interesting thing about all of this is the process of heating the tar so that it’s hot enough to use…

Heating the tar for use…

Or preparing to counterattack the army besieging the castle…
I woke up from my nap this afternoon and got my red pen for grading and started walking down the stairs to my motorbike. As I was descending the stairs, I heard a song being sung from the music building. In terms of buildings near our guesthouse, we have the garage, and then beyond that, the music building where the choir sings. But this song had a very familiar melody. I knew it from somewhere. I took a detour at the bottom of the stairs and walked towards the music building. Yes, I knew the tune of this song, but I couldn’t make out any of the words. The words were different in the version I knew. I knew the tune though, it was “The Star Spangled Banner.” I walked out and stood around the corner from the music building and stood there until the song ended. I never did make out any of the words. As I was climbing on the motorbike, I heard the choir start to sing this peculiar song again.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

This clumsy little drawing is of the most recent outbreak of bird flu in the Delta. It started back in the early part of December, and only a day or two ago killed some birds in Soc Trang. I’ve got a friend who always tells me that An Giang is a “magic land” and stays out of harms way, but me and the other foreigners are getting more and more nervous about this issue. Some of my colleagues have stopped eating eggs now because of the potential danger. But I’ve read on some online news sources that say that An Giang has done an excellent job of prevention of bird flu in the past, and I hope this will continue.

There is a saying in this country that has come to have an influence on me during my time here. I like to translate it like this: “When you drink water, remember the source.” It’s easy to pass if off when you first hear it, or regard it as inconsequential, or something cutely trivial even. It’s easy to disregard it when you’re young and rebellious and want everyone that you can survive on your own. It’s something that most Americans, at least the way I see it, don’t think about. “When you drink water, remember the source.” What is this source? Does it symbolize something? If so, what? Is this a reminder not to pollute? I think that it has a profound meaning: remember what sustains you, remember where you came from, remember your roots. Actually, the Vietnamese is only four words: “Drink water, remember source.” It’s an imperative, an order, something that you must do. As you live your life, remember your family, remember your ancestors, remember your homeland. The meaning sends electricity through me when I say it. If there is one valuable thing that I’ll be taking away from this culture, it will be the things associated with this phrase. It’s unspoken most of the time here; I’ve never heard people here talk about it unless I’ve brought it up. However, for most people here, it seems to encompass most aspects of their lives.

The values that I’ve been brought up on and known for most of my life in North America are completely different. Things like rebellion, expression, roaming, etc. seem to have a lot of value placed on them. Friends from college have scattered throughout America and the world like fallout from a bomb, including me. I’ve enjoyed reading On the Road numerous times. However, now I’ve had some time here, and I am remembering the source of my life: my family, and Ohio.

I went to bed after a solid day of drizzling, and woke up the next morning to cool air. I’m talking the kind of cool where you’re forced to wear something more than shirtsleeves unless you like goosebumps. So I had a chance to wear my jacket around; to the office, to breakfast, to coffee, etc.

This morning, Dr. Xuan stepped into the office to explain a little about the artists concept of the new AGU campus. We had a digital rendering of an aerial view, and the buildings and layout was explained. Also, I learned that hopefully in 2 years, some of the office buildings will be in use, and AGU will begin to migrate to the new campus, which is not that far away. Before lunch Hendrik and I rode out to check the construction process. There were a lot of ditch-diggers and other various earthmoving equipment parked around. Concrete sewer pipes were laid out, and the fence around the place is also under construction. I’m excited that AGU has finally found the funding to begin its expansion.

This is the picture we were looking at: