Sunday, August 29, 2010
Monday, August 16, 2010
Ok, lets back track, 31 July 10, Narita, Japan. We're six hours into an eight hour layover in Japan. Everyone is trying to find something to do to eat up time. I meet Rebecca in an internet cafe and we sit, chat, and work on our projects , even have a beer at our station. Later we meet up with the crew at our gate when a young Asian man asks Tanja a few questions regarding boarding procedures in the airport, one thing leads to another, and before we know it we have befriended Mr. Minsu Kim, a 24 year old third year university chemical engineering student from Seoul South Korea.
He is on his way for the first time to the United States for a thirty day tour of our country with thirteen other foreign visitors. We chat, and give him advice on things to see and do during his journey, during the conversation he asks me a few questions about my project, and we immediately make a connection. Who doesn't like to talk about food!
My wife and i have a history of befriending visitors from other countries, and welcoming them to our country, it's just who we are. With Minsu it was a no brainer, ( I'm a teacher).
He told me he had a two day free time scheduled in LA before his trip was to begin, so I invited him to a day in Long Beach, which he quickly accepted.
The following day, jet lag and all, I picked him up from his hotel at 10am, and headed straight to Redondo Beach Pier for coffee and a nice walk along the pier and beach, fortunately if was beautiful sunlit day, with no crowds.
We then headed south along the Palos Verdes peninsula where we visited Whites Point, Royal Palms Beach, and then on to the Korean Bell a beautiful gift to the United States from the Korean government in 1974 overlooking the pacific ocean at Fort MacAurther, another beautiful sight to see from every vantage point.
By the time we had reached the Vincent Thomas Bridge, we had become friends. We arrived at my home a short time later where he met my twenty-three year old son, Andy and my wife, Laura. He kept repeating he was experiencing the American dream as we sampled fresh grapes from my garden vine.
During our meeting in Japan, while exchanging information, he used and noticed my pen, one of three I had made especially for my trip to Vietnam. During the tour of our home, I gave him a tour of my shop, and my pen making equipment, so naturally after explaining the process, he sat back and I made him a beautiful pen from northern California redwood burl. The process took about an hour with the inlay work and all, but when all was said and done, he was thrilled, this is my gift to you my new son from Seoul, he was speechless.
By that time we were pretty hungry from the days events, we made a quick shopping trip to the market for sandwich making and dinner ingredients, beverages when we arrived back.
He stood there in amazement as I prepared our lunch, a roast beef sandwich, fresh farmers market fruit, and a beverage.
I couldn't figure out his curiosity and interest he seemed to be mesmerized as I prepared our meal. So I asked him up front, what's so interesting, he replied, everything, this morning, today, now!
He went on to say that in his country, this whole day would not happen. First of all, in Korea, strangers don't just approach another stranger and ask for anything, even directions. Second, and most important, a junior ( as in he ) would never associate openly with someone like me , his senior ( that would be me ), for anything, I mean anything, unless spoken to first, and yet, even at the airport in Japan ( remember here, he is a third year university student) , he was openly befriended by a group of American's, total strangers, (Fulbright Scholars no less), who treated him like an equal! Now, he finds himself in my home, getting what I called the $.50 tour of Long Beach, and I'm making him lunch! Can you feel his confusion and amazement. He asked me if this was a common trait of the american people with foreigners, and I replied that, yes , for the most part we are pretty much a friendly people, with everyone.
The day ended with he taking a nap in my hammock on the deck, and my getting in a good snooze as well, followed by dinner, roast rack of lamb ( which he had never had ), Bucks famous mashed potatoes, a fresh farmers market garden salad, and fresh strawberries for dessert, heaven for both of us after our combined journey.
The trip back to his hotel ,(9ish), was to say the least, interesting, as I sat in the back seat of Bucks truck, SILENCE, Buck volunteered to drive, and for most of the forty-five minute drive nothing was said, I watched his as he gazed at the sky line in a daze, I asked him, what do you feel, he responded, the american dream.
We now, have a new son.
Monday, August 9, 2010
Don't really know where to start. I've been home a week, and I'm still addlebrained from the trip, both physically and emotionally. Brian was over on sunday, and we both confirmed the jet lag bug still had us in it's ugly grips.
I had planned to write about my new found son from Seoul, but that experience need's it's own entry.
The trip. Wow, where to start. first of all, a big thank you to Mike, and his group for even inviting me to participate. When Mike offered me the opportunity to apply, I didn't think I had a chance of qualifying, but bingo! I was going! Now, it's all a blur, almost a dream. At times when I'm talking to my wife Laura, something pops up in my head, either a high spot or a low spot, some important, some mundane and it's hard to pit it into words, especially the emotion. As far as mundane, there was nothing mundane during the entire trip, even the long bus rides were special, seeing brief glimpses of the farmers in the fields to the makeshift eateries found everywhere we went, and the people, the beautiful people of both countries.
What was especially unique about the trip from my perspective and research, was that it was my job to talk and interact with the people in our respective fields. As a result, I had access to kitchens, foods of every description, chefs, waitstaff, managers, dishwashers, all the people that make my field, my passion, so unique, so first person. I've begun to outline a new chapter for my syllabus on "Asia" for the Fall semester, both the culinary, (food ) and the "Food and Beverage" (administrative) aspects, and believe me it's going to be an eye opener for a lot of people. ( The good, bad, and the ugly)
Even the motorbike traffic was a sight to see, and it was evident everywhere we went, from Ho Chi Min City to Phnom Penh, and on into Hanoi. I drove Brian to John Wayne today to see his family, and on the way back I could still see the motorbikes in my head, and still feel the exhilaration of riding on the back of Rosie's back in Hanoi.
One things been especially odd since my return, the phone has been silent, no calls from family or friends welcoming me back home, it's been weird but a pleasant weird, for the last week it's been Buck ( my wife ), Andy ( my son ), and Jack the dog! Aside from the sleep, and fatigue issues, I've found myself with a mild form of PTSD, but in a good way, don't know exactly how to describe it! I've had a hammock hanging on my patio for a couple of years now, and it's getting a whole lot of use these days. Even Bucks been really good about giving me space, not asking a lot of questions unless I volunteer. But for the most part, I've been pretty much to myself, and my thoughts.
The three things that keep coming to me with a ton of emotion, and it's hard to describe, are the NVA officer, Mr. Nam, I met in Hoi An, Rosie, my gracious host at the "Botique Hotel" in Hanoi, and the trip to Chu Lai and the LZ goodbye to my men, I will carry those memories with me forever.
My daughter Renee and her husband Tom are coming over this weekend, and I'm anticipating the "Best part of the trip" question to come up. and to be honest, it's going to be tough to decide on a single moment or place. How do you describe location, emotion, or experience?
I took a ton of pix during the trip, and now that I've gone threw them, I wish I had taken more. But I've got Brian to cover that, as a photo journalist, he took his share of shots and we've agreed to share when all the dust settles.
Then theirs Brian, my friend, my colleague, and now my brother. I won't go into detail, but during the trip we discussed everything from politics, (He's Vietnamese), family, art, you name it, and I'm thankful to have had his friendship through this journey of a lifetime, we've already discussed a return visit to vietnam in he future with our families. I look forward to it.
Don't have much more to add, except that it's so good to be home. I'm not going to close with the cliche about really appreciating what you have, etc. etc. I think you already know that.
Our New son from Seoul
Friday, August 6, 2010
Sunday, August 1, 2010
For the last 2 day's I've been trying to get Victoria to set me up with a Ho Chi Min City chef, to complete my research. Well, I shouldn't have been surprised when she called this morning at 7 to tell me that she had arranged for me to participate in a cooking demonstration at, are you ready for this, the REX HOTEL, one of the most famous hotel's in Saigon during the war.
It was built in 1927 during the French occupation, and during the war it housed military officials and war correspondents from 1961 thru 1975.
I's now a posh hotel and restaurant complex in the 1st district about a 5 minute ride from the hotel we're at. The Royal Court Restaurant where the demonstration was to take place is a beautiful traditional Vietnamese adorned facility. The walls are decorated with murals, and sculptures of the history and legends that are Vietnam and it's culture. One relief in particular that was pointed out to me by the general manager, Mr. Giac, showcased a scene of a teacher instructing his student's in a classroom. The picture reminded me of a saying, as thing's change they always seem to stay the same.
After the brief tour we were escorted to a beautifully set table to the side of the main floor. The executive sous Chef Mai began to setup a station adjacent to our table, complete with a 2 burner stove and various prearranged and preprepared foods for the demo.
I watched as Chef Mai prepared two classic dishes from the southern region of vietnam, Banh Khoai, a deep fried pancake prepared and served to the king as an everyday dish in the fourteenth century. The second was, Cha Gio, a deep fried spring roll also found only in the south. The best part of the demonstration, was the practical participation I was offered.
The 3 hour class ended with a full lunch of other dishes, including a wonderful hot pot, I plan to incorporate in my Asian Cuisine chapter.
All in all, I feel I've accomplished what I set out to do in my research. Now the hard part.
Saturday, July 31, 2010
Did some shopping today, needed to purchase some last minute odd's and end's for some family and friend's back at the ranch, T-shirt's, etc. Ben Thanh market down the street is a mecca for tourist stuff and brickabrack of all sorts. I also wanted to take additional shots at the seafood mart for my report. If you know what you're looking for, and a little haggling you can score. ( I'm starting to get pretty good at it here) their are bargains to be had. More about that later.
Right now, well let me back up a little. I missed lunch with the crew this after noon to shop, on the way back to the hotel, after scoring on some great bargains to augment my research, on the way back to the hotel, I developed a major thirst, tons of heat, I stopped for a brew at a little shack with a little older lady vendor who shared her umbrella and a big smile with me, then appeared a young lady smartly dressed and official looking who spoke to the proprietor, I grabbed my camera hoping she could catch a flick of me for prosperity, when I asked her to take the flick she balked at first, then agreed, turns out the lady proprietor is her mother, she agrees to take my picture, and in return I take one of them together, I give her my blog address and tell her to check it out later today, they will be on it! She's thrilled.
I then spot two round eye's walking by,( from Holland) I and asked them if there was any where close by non-Vietnamese to eat, guess what they ask me? Do you eat sushi! Do I EAT SUSHI ! Is a fat dog heavy, does a bear, well don't get me started. I said yes indeed I eat sushi. Well it turns out they are staying in the same hotel we're at and have seen us in the lobby a few time's. Without going into detail I explained, etc. etc. Well the sushi bar turn's out to be is a Vietnamese sushi bar about a block from the hotel, called "Tokyo Deli", I'm here now, and wow! I'm impressed, all Vietnamese employees, including the sushi chef. I introduce myself, and luckily one of the staff spoke English. When I presented my business card to the manager, things turned quickly, I was led up stairs to a private Tatami room that sat four, after I took off my shoes, well I won't get into detail, but if you're familiar at all with Japanese cuisine, I was made quite comfortable, and the food was exquisite! I ordered a "Bento Box" which consisted of mixed sashimi and grilled fish, in this case pompano and salmon. (135,000 VND, about $7.00 US ), is that a deal or what, at home $10.00 to $12.95 easy! Entree, miso soup, salad, 3 types of sashimi, rice, 2 sizable pieces of local grilled fish, AND, darn, I can't remember what it's called in Japanese, custard. I thought I was in heaven in Cambodia.
The manager keeps an eye on me like a hawk during my meal as I write this, and they make sure I'm not bothered by any distractions, the female wait staff are off to the side, looking around the corner like school girls laughing and giggling. (Now I know how Tony Bordain feels, oh! did I say that! Cool! ) AHHH, Chawanmushi, that's the custard, we do it at school when we cover Asian cuisine! Perfection, I was taught this dish by a master sushi chef years ago, Todo San, thank you!
Unfortunately the only English speaking person in the restaurant left for the day, and I wanted to interview the manager who doesn't speak English. Better luck next time, I may sneak in here again tomorrow before we leave.
Later this evening I decide to go solo, and go for a long walk, half way threw my walk the rains came, big time! For the last few day's my right knee is starting to go out (old tennis injury and age are creeping up on me) so I take a short cut back to the hotel, and guess where I find myself, back in front of the sushi bar! Darn sushi again for dinner! :)
Long story short, Brian and I are hard at work writing, and working on our project's, guess who call's, it's Rosie calling from Hanoi, to see how we are doing, to say good bye, and to thank us for our hospitality and kindness.( Later on, my plan to help her son accomplish his wish to become a chef!) It should be we, who should be thanking her for her help and hospitality while visiting her beautiful country, but that's the beauty of our profession, God I love my job!
It's almost 2:00am now and we have a long day ahead of us, tomorrow after a month without our families, long grueling bus rides, endless lectures and temple visits and many, many miles of untold stories and memories, at last, HOME.
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
Really don't know where to start ( sound's familiar), I feel I've crossed a thresh hold in my life, and it feel's good!
The trip to Hanoi was amazing from different levels one from a personal, ( the war, now behind me) the other from a practical, wow, I'm here to study and research! Kind of blow's you're mind!
The contrast's, in Saigon the south, it's a loose, fast pace, kind of dirty, party type atmosphere. Hue, Hoi An area pretty much in the central, a little slower, cleaner and open, lot's of visible rice patty expanses as far as the eye can see. Water buffaloes, and hard working farmers, massive diked area's for aquaculture, to the tiny street vendors hawking everything from food to make shift motor bike mechanic shops.
Now Hanoi, the north, pretty clean ( an objective view on my part ), a bit more conservative, and cosmopolitan. It's hard to describe.
We landed after an hour or so flight from Saigon ( Ho Chi Minh City, what everrrrr! ). Loaded onto a bus for a short ride to a small downtown district called the "Old Quarter". On arrival to this crazy buisy area of motor bikes and people, we had to get off of the bus and transfer to four waiting large golf cart electric vehicles for a ten minute ride to the heart of the city. The street's are amazingly narrow, thus the golf cart transportation, chaotic foot traffic, and motorbike chaos. Lot's of round eye's everywhere you look, obviously a hit with the eureo's, and american's.
The hotel, "Hanoi Boutique Hotel" is situated smack dab in the middle of everything you could possibly need or want. It's been under a major renovation for about a year, and Rosie, my F&B friend said it will be another three or so month's before it's completed. ( Maybe! ) It's a beautiful building, room's a bit smallish but how much time do you spend in a hotel room with so much to do and see? I've already decided to come back in the future with Buck, ( My wife ), more later on why.
The immediate and sourrounding area is rich in French Colonial and Indochine ( their description not mine ) style architecture and old world charm. It's really cool here! Small quaint and easy to walk. I went for a walk one night and got really lost in the maze of streets, late night market's, bars, restaurant's, street hawker's, dark alley's with the usual denizens of the deep, if you know what I mean, I was waiting for Bogie to come out of the shadow's and ask me if I was lost, but no luck. I finally flagged down a Taxi-------.
PANIC!! My roommate Brian, just came by to drop off some money he owed me and to pick up his camera and bag, ------, Oh S---t! NO CAMERA, NO BAG! UTTER PANIC! Where oh where can my camera bag be? ( the camera is a loaner from school just for the trip- all $4000.00 of it!) Some quick phone calls to David to back track last nights events and happening's. Last chance call to a restaurant they had a late night dinner at, and bingo, his whole complexion and demeanor changes, they have his camera and bag on ice for him! Just come by and pick it up the guy says, thank you god, there are actually some honest people left in this world.
Can anyone spell, BIG TIP!
Ok, back to the taxi, I get in trying to remember the exchange rate from US to Vietnamese Dong, in Saigon I exchanged $100 US at the hotel, and received $1,8500.00+ -Dong, man I'm not a math major. We finally arrive at the hotel it's 27,000 Dong, panic, so I call over the hotel lobby guy, turns out it's about $3 bucks US. Whew!
I'm in the elevator on my way to my room when I meet this beautiful female vietnamese uniformed employee who ask's me where I'm from, we exchange professional conversation, during which I explain to her that I am a Professional Chef from the United States, and briefly explain to her why I'm here, her expression completely changes and she proudly announces that her name is Cam Thai Thu, (Just call me Rosie ), and she is the hotel Food and Beverage Manager, how cool is that! To top it off she is also a professionally trained Chef!! Thank you Hilda, there is a god!
She quickly ask's me if I would like to see her kitchen and meet the hotel chef when I was available, and I quickly responded by all means, when? Well before you know it within a half hour I'm touring her brand new kitchen, and she's made arrangement's for me to meet and have breakfast with Chef Le Phuong Lam the following morning. Yesssssss!
After breakfast, chef Lam and Rosie emerge from the kitchen, and what was supposed to be a 45 minute to 1 hour interview, turns out to be a 21/2 hour discussion on food, philosophy, politic's, culture, and everything else I'm supposed to be researching in the first place. At the very onset of the discussion, they specifically asked me what I wanted to know, and I quickly responded, for the next few day's, if you will have me, I AM YOU'RE STUDENT, PLEASE TEACH ME! And did they. I don't want to short change both Chef Lam and Rosie with a brief description on their combined education and experience, you'll have to read my final Fulbright Report, to learn the specifics, if I tried to do it here I'd be writing for the next 2 hours. But I must say, I was treated like royalty during my stay, every nook and cranny was open for me to view, inspect, and especially taste.
I must share one experience with you I thought was special, and close to my heart as a professional cullnarian.
The day before we were to leave for Ha Long Bay, the chef invited me to have dinner with he and his staff when the restaurant closed for the evening. Earlier that day Rosie was gracious enough to motor bike me throughout town on the back of her bike to shop for gift's, imagine this, Rosie, about 5'6, about 90 pounds dripping wet, and me about 6' and roughly 200 pounds on the back of a small motor bike, spooky, and definitely not for the faint of heart. Well after about 2 hours of motoring around the city, we finally ended up at the local farmers market to purchase the evening's fair, all local fresh produce and protein, in this case, freshly processed chicken and duck.
On arrival back to the hotel, Rosie request's that I meet them all at 9:00 pm for dinner, 8:55 I arrive and nothing is going on in the restaurant, but it's bustling in the kitchen, I think, somethings wrong, in a professional kitchen, if service is at 9:00 we should be eating promptly at 9:00, period, no excuses!
Rosie exits the kitchen obviously annoyed and flustered. I asked her if everything is alright, when she tells me that at the last moment she received a contract from the hotel manager for a VIP breakfast for 40 vietnamese businessmen for 7:00 am the following morning, and that they were in the process of doing the prep work for the meal now, and that our dinner date would have to be postponed or cancelled, ( mind you, by this time I'm starving! a major embarrassment in any culture, especially in the culinary field ).
So Rosie, thinking on her feet, the consummate professional, ( I love this woman, switches to plan "B" ), she asks me to wait a moment, and returns with a single conduction flat top, a device that cooks with, well it cooks with no flame!) Do you know how to use this, she ask's, I reply, yes, of course, a smile the size of a major happy face t-shirt emerges! GO TO YOUR ROOM, PLEASE! I'm ordered.
10 minutes after I arrive in my room theirs a knock at my door, it's one of the prep cooks with a large tray of all the fresh ingredients we were supposed to have for dinner, the duck, chicken, fresh vegetables, a pot of PHO' mushroom broth, fried wanton skins, and a complete setup for 1! The cook starts to prepare my meal on my desk, and my knowing how it works in the kitchen, they can't afford to be short handed during prep, I politely stop him and say no! I cook! His response, oh, you chef! he politely and respectfully bows and leaves. What class! I'm overwhelmed with astonishment, joy and left with a new found pride in my profession.
I'm perplexed, filled with excitement, Brian's out with family having dinner, I'm starving, it's now close to 9:30pm, and I have no one to share the moment with as I prepare my meal. Buck! I gotta call Buck! I SKYPE my wife and share the moment with the love of my life, scanning the images of the moment with my MAC, oh technology! ( I'll spare you the corny details, but it was her birthday, DO THE MATH! ) After a personal discussion and loving goodbye, I sit down to one of the most amazing meals I have ever had in my professional life, and I cooked it in my hotel room, alone, go figure! You couldn't have scripted it any better. The following morning at breakfast, I tried to convey my gratitude and respect for what Rosie and Chef Lam had done for me, but they would not have nothing to do with it. The ultimate definition of "Professionalism", and now, They are my friend's!
The beauty of Ha Long Bay
Sunday, July 25, 2010
Saturday, July 24, 2010
Once We Were Soldiers
This one's going to be tough for me. But my wife keeps asking me to write, as many of my family and friend's are asking about, and are concerned about my much anticipated visit to Chu Lai. One important aspect of this trip for me was to revisit the base or at least whatever was left of the base camp I was stationed out of during my tour of duty in 1969-1970.
Prior to our arrival Brian, through his many contacts managed to have a close friend of his Mr. Huynh Anh (A new hero in my life), researched and located the Americal Division's base camp at Chu Lai. I was told that it was all, for the most part a shell of it's former self, and now used as a guarded military property. But I'm getting ahead of myself, I think you'll appreciate this part more.
After our arrival at Hoi An, and numerous phone calls incoming and outgoing, we advised Mike that Brian, David and I would be leaving the group and taking a side trip on the second day of our arrival, and would be gone all day, probably till the evening. Our plan would be to leave our luggage with Mike, pick up our passports and check out of the hotel at 6:00am. and meet back with the crew in Da Nang for the flight the following day to Hanoi. As a Vietnam veteran himself, I had already given Mike a heads up on our plan's, his only comment was that he wish he could have come along .
What I didn't know was that Brian and his friend had made arrangement's to have a private breakfast with a local high ranking official who wished to meet and greet us at a posh hotel close by.
Well, 6:00am we're in the parking lot and a gentleman on a motorbike pulls up, Brian exchanges a few words with him, we jump into Mr. Anh's vehicle and we're off. A 5 minute ride later, we arrive at the restaurant, a few pleasantries are exchanged, coffee is ordered, and then the bombshell!
Turns out that the official is Mr. Dang Ngoc Nam, the President of the Vietnam Fatherland Front of Hoi An City. Through close networking and the grapevine (remember where we are) Mr. Nam was informed of our Fulbright Group, our project, and wanted to meet us, as we are all considered VIP's staying in his city. During the expected small talk and pleasantries, Brian explained to Mr. Nam, my quest to visit Chu Lai, and of my service during the war, Mr. Nam asked where I was stationed and time frame, when told, his eye's opened up with an obvious excitement that was palpable to all.
Since I don't speak vietnamese, Mr. Anh and Brian looked at me with such a surprised look, I thought I had done something wrong! At that point Brian revealed to me that Mr. Nam was an officer in the North Vietnamese Army, and fought in the same area I was in at the same time I was here! There was a strong possibility that we had been first person combatant's 40 years ago! The entire experience was to say the least, surreal!
Without saying a word, we both stared at one another with a mutual respect that is difficult to put into words, unless you have walked in our shoes, after so long, and now meeting this proud and distinguished gentleman coming to the realization that once we were soldiers.
I went on to describe my official mission as a Fulbright Scholar, and my desire to study and learn the cuisine and culture of his, and that of the Cambodian people. I explained to him my sincere desire to bury the demons of the war, and replace them with a new found mutual respect and understanding as an educator.
We ended the meeting with the traditional toast of Cognac, and a mutual embrace. A wonderful beginning to a long awaited quest.
Later, "The Return"
Have much to write about, but had to leave the room, had a major power outage a few minutes ago. Air in the room is out, and it's hot as the dickens, the desk said the power is out on the whole block. Checked the weather forecast this morning and there's a typhoon warning for this area all day until tomorrow. We were on the Perfume River (Song Huong) last night on a VIP cruise half way through the trip it came down thunder and lightning, again like crazy! I'm backed up a couple of day's on my log, but good to hear everyone back home and at school are following my blog, special thank's to Chef Robert D. Yes, you were right!
Was fortunate enough to find and visit, with Sarah, "Senteurs d' Angkor' before leaving Siem Reap, Cambodia. It's an N.G.O. that recruits local underprivileged people to produce sustainable natural products for local sale and export. Products such as candles, moisturizing creams, made from harvested berries and plant extracts, soap's, coffee, tea, a whole array of products that are indigenous to this and surrounding areas. We were given a great tour, of the facilities and witnessed first hand the hand crafted manufacturing of these and many other products. It was great! My camera took a dump because of the humidity, so Sarah was elected as the day's photographer, posting of any shots of the visit will have to wait until we can get together to swap pix. I purchased an assortment of spices, and related good's to share and use in class when I return to school in a few weeks. As far as my purchase's, some of the spices I purchased were used in the preparation of "Amok" a classic regional dish we were taught to make at the Phnom Penh cooking school, cool!
Without going into great detail, the trip from Siem Reap, to Ho Chi Minh City, to Hue was a killer, from international flights, customs, immigration and 2 internal domestic flights, some petty bickering, logistic glitches, and what not, by the time we arrived in Hue, had dinner (9ish) and hotel check in, we were all pretty much toast! and I mean toast! By the time Brian and I were ready to hit it, it was after 1 am., and we had a 8:00am pick up to the Hue University of Language and Art, for, get this, a lecture from 9:00am to 12:00 noon. (Help!!!) But to everyones surprise the experience was quite exhilarating, we were treated to a lecture of local classic culture and a fascinating performance of classic Vietnamese songs and dance by a group of both professional musicians and students, the performance was quite impressive, and entertaining. What a pleasant surprise, and our host's were so congenial. To end the day's festivities, (and here's where I kick myself, hard! ) We were presented with a wonderful lecture and slide presentation by a university professor of art, on the fascinating art of "Lacquer Art's". As an artisan pen turner myself, I could relate to the art he was so passionately describing in detail, I was mesmerized by the intricate detail of the processes in creating such beautiful pieces of vase's, abstract art, and various practical containers used in everyday life. As he passed around samples at various stages of design, he passed around a beautiful completed vase he himself designed and created. As he explained the piece and the extensive process it took to complete, you could tell by the pride that was quite evident on his face, the joy of the opportunity to share his work with us. It was just before the end of his presentation that I had an idea. A few weeks before we left on this trip, I wanted to create a special pen for myself to commemorate the trip. A pen I would use to document the experience. I used a beautiful piece of northern California redwood burl I had in the shop for some time that I was saving for such an occasion. Two hours later with a lot of patience and some intricate inlay work using crushed abalone shell, shards of turquoise, and tiny pieces of red coral, I had created a pen that would travel with me on this journey.
Well, back to the presentation, I had to do it, I asked Mike if I could meet with the professor privately, (I didn't want to make a big thing about it ), and I told him I wanted to present my pen to the professor as a gift from one artist (and I use the term artist on my behalf loosely!) to another as a sign of respect and gratitude for his hospitality, and for sharing his knowledge.
Well when the opportunity presented it's self David and Brian photographed the occasion and as I explained and describe my offering, the professor seemed to be quite moved with my gesture, and thanked me repeatedly for my generosity, and to reciprocate the gesture, he gave me the beautiful vase he use in his presentation! I was floored! I can't describe the emotion's that were going through my being when be bowed and handed me the piece. When all was said and done, well need I say more!
By the way, as I write with the perspiration dripping off my chin and on to my lap, the electricity's back on!
Oh! why should I kick myself. As I walked away from the excitement of the pen and vase moment, I left all my notes, the professors business card and related documentation at the table I was sitting at! (WHAT WERE YOU THINKING!) Good thing I gave him my business card, as we departed he said he would email me back in the states with more information and his website, whew!
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Monday, July 19, 2010
A few parting shots before leaving Cambodia, visited a nice temple this morning with the crew, still a little shaky from the revenge, but made it through. Brian and I decided to take a quick shower after lunch, by that time the heat had to be in the 100's with 90+ humidity, sweating like 10,000, ( have to be a vet to know what I mean). We were invited down to the pool for beverages with Sarah, Rebecca, and David, but that didn't last long, heat! So we all decided to meet later for dinner and a visit to the night market as our last official night in Cambodia, 7ish.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Brian and the group decided to check out the night market, I decided to stay in, and rest for tomorrow.