By Leah Graveley
This weekend professor Ken Friesen spoke to us by the green fields in the Thai village, reminding us how our relationships with our family, friends, and others are a central part of our lives. We all have interests, experiences, and goals that connect us to different places and people and, in our Sunday devotional, we focused on how those applied in Vietnam.
There are many complexities in Vietnam. We have seen those who have so little but yet have so much. In Hanoi, I have passed shops in the morning after the owner and his family have displayed all of their items in a chaotic (but orderly) fashion. Many shopkeepers rest in their hammocks while they wait for customers. Pedestrian and motorbike groups pass by the thousands. Some stop and others pass on by. There are many shops that feature identical items for sale, and you wonder how they can stay in business. But then, in the evenings, we pass these same shops on our way back to the hotel, and the shopkeepers and their families are eating supper together on the street with neighbors and customers alike.
The importance of relationships is obvious in Vietnam. The businesses in the neighborhoods thrive through family and friendly connections. For instance, I was walking down the street and a woman approached me with postcards. I indicated that I was interested in buying a water bottle instead and she immediately pointed me in the direction of another shop on the same street. As Ken and Jim told me later, she most likely had some kind of relationship with the owner of that shop.
On Saturday and Sunday, when we were visiting the Thai and Hmong ethnic minorities, we were again reminded of the importance of relationships. The people of these villages share a rich culture and they welcomed us into their world for the weekend. Fresno Pacific University has fostered many intercultural relationships over the years. It was, therefore, fitting that the weekend had three FPU-related highlights:
1) FPU alumni Charlie Jensen and his Vietnamese students joined us on our overnight stay in the Thai village. None of the students had been before, so it was an opportunity for them to learn more about these different cultures with us.
2) FPU student Gold Moua shared insights into her own Hmong heritage, and served as translator for us in a rural Hmong village.
3) After we returned from our trip, we ate dinner with FPU student Ly Ritchie’s family in Hanoi. They graciously invited us to dine with them and it was a feast (there was lobster – and coconuts with straws).
From urban Hanoi to the rural villages, we experienced the best of both worlds this weekend. It was a weekend with Charlie and his students. It was a weekend with the Thai and Hmong people. It was a weekend with FPU students, faculty, and guides. It was a weekend with friends.