Sunday February 7 Hanoi. One week before Lunar New Year, Tet

Written by Jack van Ommen on February 7th, 2010

I am sitting in the lobby of the hotel and the t.v. is playing the early eighties movie of the 4  couples who get together after a college reunion. I forgot the name but I remember the one song “Jeremiah is a Bull Frog”. Great movie, I saw it in the mid eighties with Joan Wildman.  And according to the printed text today’s epistle was from Jeremiah but on further scrutiny that was a printing/language error. The epistle was from Isaiah 1-2A, 3-8 “Here I am Lord”. And the Gospel was from Luke 5-1-11. The miraculous catch of fish on the lake of Gennesaret. I had expected that there would be a French service at the cathedral of St. Joseph, where I went to Easter service in 2006, in a French mass. But St. Joseph has only Vietnamese services. The English service at 10.30 a.m. was at Cua Bac Church. It was a once monthly children’s mass. Very few tourists because it is a distance from the tourist hangouts. Mostly ex-pats and Vietnamese English speaking wannabes. Nice service. Father Alphonsus Hung (same  as our Gig Harbor priest, father Nguyen Hung) Pham is the parish priest. Ugly church from the early 20th century, similar to St. Joseph. But it brough me to a part of the city I had not seen in 2006; near the presidential palace. There is the Citadel that was stormed by the French in 1882 and the garrison in the Citadel compound. On the grounds were several competitions going. The most unusual one was a contest of the best sing bird. As you will see from the photos there were at least 173 entries and they are judged for how well and how long they sing in a three hour period. It was just amazing to watch the intense expectations of the owners. I was told that these birds, they were all the same and in the same cages, are worth a small fortune. The other competitions were for bonsai and marble sculptures. It was just incredible how much the Hanoians were taking advantage of all these parks and events. I had to rent a bike and go back to the same area and see more of it. I rode down West Lake and Truc Bach Lake. Both were at least the size of Lake Washington in Seattle. Paddle boats, people fishing, restaurants, lovers relaxing on the banks, beautiful residential areas that reminded me of Lago Magggiore. Hanoi is just a great city to live and play in. Much more so than Saigon.  I also rode the Red River banks trying to find the same back alleys I remember from 2006. The below figures show some of the transformation the country is going through, getting ready for Tet. Women are busy planting thousands of fresh plants to liven up the parks and boulevards. The red Peach blossom branches and miniature Mandarin trees are everywhere.  I had more fun on the bicycle than all the guided tours I have dones so far. But I will do just one more guided day trip on Tuesday to go to the river of Tam Coc. I was trying to Google for the cruelty committed to the Redemptorist priest Nguyen Van Khai but most of the sites are blocked by the Vietnamese government. Please, make a point of getting this information. This is not a perfect world and we all need to be aware of what is still being shoved under the carpet as far as the the limited freedoms of expression in this country, China, Laos, Birma, Cuba etc.


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