A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter I Print

Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon by night Brother Dinh Vo Tran Gia, A.A.,  a Vietnamese Assumptionist who is a member of the Region of the United States, left for Vietnam on Tuesday, November 23, 2010 together with the regional superior, Father Dennis Gallagher, A.A. Bro Dinh had not been back to Vietnam since 2001. The Assumptionists founded the first community in Saigon in 2006 and now have three houses in Vietnam: a house of studies, a novitiate, and an orphanage. Fr. Dennis and Bro Dinh's trip had three goals: (1) to spend time in the three Assumptionist communities and to discuss potential educational ventures with Assumption College in Worcester, MA; (2) to visit the bishop of Dalat to thank him for his "gift" of Dinh to the Assumptionists; (3) to allow Dinh to see members of his family still living in Vietnam, especially his 96-year grandmother.

Dennis picked me up around 3:15 AM and we drove to Brighton where Br. Ron was waiting for us. We checked in around 4:30 smoothly in term of paper work. Dennis had a good seat from Boston to Los Angeles. However, from LA to Hong Kong and from Hong Kong to Vietnam, he had the same seat on the aisle. I think he did not have enough room, but it was okay.

I believe that you all know about how to check in now with international flights. We had to take off shoes, belts, key, cell phone, lap top... until you have only one layer of your clothing left with the "machine" does not beep, beep. This part is not fun at all when traveling today.  Again, when we were boarding, another check point was set up. It was not as serious as the first one because they know you don't have any thing left for them "to look for".

Br. Dinh with his sister and mother after his ordination to the diaconateOur flight from Boston to LA was estimated around 6 hours 30 minutes. But today because we got into "air traffic" we  landed an hour later. Many people missed their connection flights. We were lucky enough to board on time for Hong Kong. In LA and for this particular flight I guess, we heard those who were checking us in speaking Cantonese, Vietnamese first, then English.  From the air, the city of LA looks beautiful. Dennis did not have a good look since he sat far from the window. This was a nice treat from the crew for our having to land an hour late. However, many people did now enjoy it much because their schedules were all mixed up. I slept most of the time. There were only two things I did: look at the duty free magazine and write my parents an e-mail. Dennis did a lot of reading. He tried to close his eyes but it seemed it was too hard for him.

We did not wait at all to get on board for the flight from LA to Hong Kong.  Again, I slept the whole time. Dennis told me that he did sleep but a very short time. We had one breakfast with Chinese noodle and two "lunches" on this flight. How strange! That's because of the way human beings calculate time. After we ate the first lunch it was still noon a few hours later. I guess the crew did know what to do so they served the entire plane another lunch!!!!! I hope you agree with me now that time doesn't exist, hahahahahaha. I slept so deeply that I missed one lunch. The flight wasn't very pleasant because the plane was quite full. You could also hear two other Chinese languages and English. We landed around quarter to 7 pm Hong Kong time. We found our gate for the next flight. Hong Kong airport was quieter. It has a different style and guess what: internet is free. It wasn't free in Boston or LA. I had a chance to send my parents the e-mail I wrote in the plane in LA. At the airportDennis closed his eyes about as long as it takes Father Donat to walk to his lovely room in Nault from Emmanuel House. I woke him up in order to board the flight to Vietnam.

We had the same seats again on this flight. However, the flight had less people, so I moved to another row where I could lay down to sleep. They served us a dinner but we were too tired to enjoy it. We landed 30 minutes earlier than scheduled. I guess even planes can speed up when there is no traffic in the air. We did not have any difficulties at all at customs. I got two questions:  why my passport was issued in Washington DC. and how many years I have been in US. It took Dennis a few minutes to pass through customs. However, we had to wait for our luggage quite a long time.

Fr. Peter Khue, A.A., superior of the Assumptionists in VietnamWe went out hoping that some one would show up with a sign with our names, but no luck. Then I received a phone call from Tomasz. I had asked him to dial my number to show that my phone work. Just dial my number as you usually would in the US, 508 505 5901.  We waited for a while and I phoned and phoned to the house but got no reply. I made a decision to take a taxi to the house. It was 11:30 PM here.  The taxi brought us to the house, but the house doesn't have a number. Nobody knew what was happening. I asked the driver to phone the house from his cell phone one last time before we would have to go to a hotel. This time the phone worked. Two brothers from the community came out to lead us to the community. We chatted for a while and then went to our rooms . I hope Dennis can sleep while I write to you.

The weather is "pleasantly warm". it was 80 degree when we landed. I started to see Dennis's regular phenomenon with the weather. That is it for me now. I am sure Dennis can fill in the rest which may be more interesting than my e-mail. However, home sweet home nowwwww. I am tired now but I don't think  I can sleep. Many memories slowly return to me ,both sad and happy. I don't want to close the door of my heart to them. I just let them in and we will be together here on the fourth floor of the house. It is very quiet and quite beautiful. It is the best moment in along time --- for tears and smile come at once...

Until next time...

Br. Dinh, A.A

Footnote to Chapter One
by Fr. Dennis Gallagher, AA, Regional Superior
subtitled:  Rip Van Winkle (aka Dinh) and the man who has trouble closing his eyes...  this man is a serious sleeper when he puts his mind to it.   Note the one who didn't sleep through any meals.

The ride to the house deserves some proper coloring....    To begin with, it was odd to be orphaned at the airport... The men here at the Assumptionist community were embarrassed about an internal miscommunication ...  but that was the beginning of an adventure which brought us through Saigon's dark streets late at night - one of them is appropriately called "the street that never sleeps." We did find the neighborhood - an alley with gated houses on each side, scrawny dogs yelping at us all the while. The problem was the residence numbers were marked "uncertainly" and we rang up the wrong house at that late hour. We were finally greeted from above by a young woman who was nicer about it than I would have been..  That sent us back to the cell phones, which up to now had yielded nothing despite repeated attempts. Just when we were ready to have the cab driver bring us to a hotel, one of our guys answered the phone at the house. It turns out that the AA residence was contiguous with the house that we had rung up by mistake - by that time we had moved out of that immediate neighborhood. After a few minutes two of our scholastics came by on their motor-scooters and escorted us back to the house.

Besides the omnipresent motor-scooters, the first impression for me was how much the airport reminded me of Manila - the tropical heat, of course, but also the open-air waiting area outside the international terminal with hordes of folks waiting for their loved ones, many of whom were likely coming home from jobs outside the country (that, too, like Manila).
Imagine this, if you will: in 10 minutes Dinh and I will be on the back of two of those motor -scooters as we begin making our rounds to visit some communities associated with the AA's here. This will remind me of my youth, when I rode through the neighborhoods on the back of Buddy O'Shaugnessy's bike, because learning how to ride a bike was a late achievement for me. Buddy's bike was not so burdened as this one will be. 


A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter II

A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter III

A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter IV

A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter V

A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter VI

A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter VII

A Vietnamese Diary: Chapter VIII

Last Updated on Thursday, 10 February 2011 10:23