Fr. Tom Cassidy has moved from the Philippines, where he was assisting with the English program, to Vietnam. This is his first post from Ho Chi Minh City:
It’s almost 14:30 and the house is quiet as it is siesta time in our formation house. I’m getting ready to go with Fr. Rino Venturin, SCJ, district superior, to visit one of the local markets. It’s more of a scouting trip to look for some small gifts I want to bring back to the States for some family members and friends. I’ll do my real shopping upon my return to the city towards the end of my trip. Looking today will also be a good measure to see if there are items elsewhere in Vietnam that will be better suited as gifts.
My trip from Manila to Ho Chi Minh City was a nighttime affair. Happily we left Manila on time at 22:50 and landed in Ho Chi Minh City just about at midnight local time as there is an hour’s time difference between the two cities. Getting through passport control and customs in the middle of the night wasn’t too difficult as I think we were the only plane that landed on the international side at that time of night. Fr. Rino and one of our Vietnamese SCJ students, Br. Bat, met me as I walked out of the airport.
At present the SCJs do not own a car so we returned to our house by taxi. The streets were all but deserted which made for a fast trip. The roads between the airport and our house are good and so the trip is not nearly as long as what one experiences in Manila.
If you were to describe traffic in Ho Chi Minh City the word I would pick would be: motorbike. I’m sure I’ll be able to snatch a picture or two while I’m here for some future journal entry. The ones you see here are from our parking garage and are those used by our students. This does not represent all as some of the students were off to school by 07:30 this morning when I shaped his shot. I suspect if you count the bikes you’ll probably have a good idea how many students we have.
The students fall into two groups: (1) Those who are completing their college education and (2) those studying English to prepare to go to the Philippines. Those who graduate from step two will leave this October and continue their English studies and next spring, hopefully, another member from the US Province will go to Cagayan de Oro and help with pronunciation.
Fr. Rino said I should sleep in this morning and we’d have the community Mass at 18:00 this evening. I woke up around 06:00 and got up shortly after that. My room is on the third floor right next to the small SCJ chapel. Unfortunately, the chapel is being remodeled and the men doing the work are making a lot of noise. I was offered the chance just before lunch to move down to the first floor but since I’ve already unpacked and will leave in a couple of days for my extended tour of the country I said I was happy staying put.
I am familiar with this house since I came for its blessing as the US Province helps support the Vietnamese SCJ District, including the funding of the house. I was not expecting an air-conditioned room but was happy to learn when I got into the room about 01:15 this morning that indeed it had air. Not all the rooms in the house have air conditioning; it made for a comfortable sleeping environment.
I decided to take my walk this morning as it is a cooler time of day. Our three house dogs greeted me as I excited the house. I noticed this morning that the road in front of our house has been paved since my first visit. I say road but think more like an alley back home as the street is narrow, though two cars can pass one another without too much difficulty. Once I got to the main street, walking became a little more problematic as there are no sidewalks and the traffic, while consisting of a lot of motorbikes, was heavy. Not knowing the neighborhood well I stuck close to home but managed to get in an hour’s worth of walking.
It probably was a good thing as I was thinking lunch would be served at noon so I was a bit surprised when the bell for lunch was rung at 11:25. Soup, chicken, rice and vegetables made up the meal, along with yogurt for desert. In my honor our head table had Tiger Beer as well. I always like to try local beers when I get the chance. Though made here in Vietnam, I was told Tiger is actually a brand out of Singapore.
Fr. Halim, SCJ, joined us for lunch. He is the district treasurer and also will be my guide during my visit. I know Fr. Halim from his days as a student of scripture in Rome and the stint in ESL he did in the States. He has been a part of our Vietnam project from almost its beginnings. He is a native of Indonesia of Chinese background.
It’s now just about 15:00 and Fr. Rino should be knocking at my door any minute now to begin our visit to the market. I’ll bring this day’s journal to a close with a picture taken in the main chapel on the top floor (see above, right). As I quip this is not an old man’s building as the dining room is on the first floor and the main chapel is on the top (fifth) floor!