In 1976, America celebrated it’s 200th birthday. I was just six at the time, but I remember a few things from the occasion. I remember wearing red, white and blue in our school picture, at the request of the school (we also said the pledge of allegiance in “those days”). I remember being down by the bay and lots of flags and the Star of India sailing for the first time in 50 years.
Every Thanksgiving, our little community of El Cajon rang in the holiday season with the Mother Goose Parade. We’d listen to the local high school bands, wave at the B-list celebrities who agreed to be in the parade and eagerly await the last float…the one with Santa Claus on it.
In Siena Italy, I was in town between the two Il Palio races. One evening I was sitting on the steps writing in my journal when the piazza started to fill up and a festival ensued. I stood with a group of people who started singing when their flag was dropped out the window, announcing that their horse would race in the August Il Palio. It was at that moment that I fell in love with festivals.
In Japan, I participated and attended my fair share of festivals and celebrations from sports festivals at school to fire festivals to celebrate a good harvest. I have been dressed in yukata to walk WITH my Japanese friends in the parade. I have sat under the sakura WITH co-workers friend and the like to marvel at delicate pink blossoms and drink a decent amount of sake. I have sat beneath the dark sky WITH my Japanese teachers and friends to watch a two hour fireworks show, part of a regular summer celebration. And I have poured beer WITH my friends to celebrate comings and goings, birthdays, wedding and sometimes no reason at all. I was included in those occasions and I loved them all.
So when I knew that I would be in Hanoi during it’s 1000 year anniversary celebrations, I was naturally excited. I’ve already expressed my disappointment leading into the celebration, the lack or organization, the lack of inclusion of the foreign community, both locally and internationally. And in this past week of celebrations, I have grown even more so. Some would say that the expats are being too negative and looking for bad things to say. But I’ll tell ya…when a city turns 1000 years old, and you don’t tell anybody how you are planning to celebrate or what festivities they can attend, when you don’t even tell them what days they may not be able to get to their place of work due to road closures or close so many streets that the already insane traffic becomes monstrous, well then…I don’t have a hell of a lot of sympathy. It’s poor event planning and it’s laughable.
Mette and I did venture out yesterday to see what might be happening around Hoan Kiem Lake. We saw lots of people making laps around the lake. We saw lots of people wearing “I ♥ Hanoi” t-shirts and red ties around their head. One vendor put a sticker on our faces, unsolicited, and then demanded that we pay him 10,000VND. He wasn’t too pleased when we peeled the sticker off our faces and stuck them back on his sheet. We didn’t appreciate the raised voice, nor him pointing at us like we had stolen the stickers.
Lots of people in from out of town sat around the park areas and watched any number of the jumbo TV screens, programmed to tell the story of Hanoi. I did take some pictures of some funny and rambunctious boys, but that was only after their parents called for me to take their picture when I was actually trying to get a picture of the crowds gathering lakeside. Mette was asked to take a picture with a girl, who motioned for her boyfriend to make sure to get all of Mette in the picture (Mette is a very tall and gorgeous Danish gal). We left the area just in time, before the real crowds descended. We went past the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum on our way home to see the set up for the big 10.10.10 parade site.
And so this morning, I watched on TV the ceremony, the parade of military and cultural troops and birds on roller skates, dragons and flags and flowers moved and shaken for the sake of pageantry, big colorful floats depicting moments in Hanoi’s history, and I’m not sure how many of the same exact picture of Ho Chi Minh. One of the most enjoyable moments on the TV program was the last 15 minutes where they showed numerous old photos of Hanoi. That was really interesting and culturally appealing.
And so now that the celebration is nearly over and it is assumed we will all go back to our normal lives tomorrow, I have to wonder what everyone in Hanoi, in Vietnam thinks of the overall celebrations? What will people here remember? What will they take away from this? I can tell you that while initially I was super grateful to be here on this momentous occasion, I really have nothing to boast about. I didn’t celebrate WITH you, Hanoi. And again, that’s such a shame, because I really wanted to.
NOTE: My previous blog post “36 Days to Go” was mentioned in an article in The Economist. Not a super positive article about Vietnam, but I’m pretty happy to have On The Bright Side mentioned in such an establish and respected publication. Imagine that! My little blog made it into The Economist! (The link will no longer work, as my blog has been moved to WordPress now.)
This blog post was mentioned on October 8th in an article in The Economist. Not a super positive article about Vietnam, but I’m pretty happy to have On The Bright Side mentioned in such an establish and respected publication. Imagine that! My little blog made it into The Economist! For my most recent post on the 1000 Year Anniversary of Hanoi, please click HERE.
I wanted to see if anything has gotten better 20 days after my last post and many more days fewer than 36 to go until Hanoi’s 1000th Anniversary comes to town. So I did some snooping in the new and found some more supportive articles that the 1000 Year Anniversary of Hanoi will bring more disappointment than celebration:
Vietnam Net Bridge feels that the government forgot tourism.
My favorite quote from this article is, “It seems they were not well prepared for the event and so they could not gain high results. Another problem is that there had been no clear-cut long term planning. They just waited until the last minute to try their best.” Funny thing is, this is the famous Vietnamese pianist talking about an international piano competition. He happens to be performing for the opening ceremony on October 1st.
The words – golden opportunity for profit – is not what any tourist wants to hear!
I suspect that this type of exhibition will be everywhere. 1000 of this and 1000 of that on display. But could you imagine THIS???
And here finally is something which somewhat resembles a calendar of events. Still looking for more details!
I want to make something clear….I feel very privileged to be here during this most momentous occasion. I LOVE festivals and celebrations. That is evident if you’ve ever read some of my blog entries from Japan. I really want Hanoi and Vietnam to shine during this remarkable milestone. But having worked here for two years, I’m not even the slightest bit surprised by the lack of organization and the last minute planning…and the exclusion of the foreign community. It’s turning out to be a very local and exclusive event…and that’s a real shame. 1000 only comes around once. And I’d like to participate and really enjoy the celebrations!!!
9/4/2010 ORIGINAL POST
The main photo above shows the countdown screen at Hoan Kiem Lake which helps all Hanoians eagerly anticipate Hanoi’s 1000th Anniversary. The city is 1000 years old on October 10th. I’ve written before about the disorganization of the event and the lack of ability to capitalize internationally on such an occasion. A few new decorations have gone up around the lake such as the banners and tribute to Ho Chi Minh for Independence Day, as you can see in the photos.
Unfortunately, Hanoi has not gotten its act together enough to really draw attention globally. Working in tourism, it’s a big disappointment, as you have to rely a bit on the country and city to market the destination to foreign travelers. And what better occasion than the 1000th – 1000!!! – Anniversary of the birth of your capital city!?!?!? There has been absolutely no international news or marketing for this event. Here are some local news articles I’ve found:
“The biggest concern now is traffic jams.” http://en.www.info.vn/society/122-facts/11092-many-heads-of-state-arriving-for-hanois-1000th-anniversary
Best Wishes Sent http://www.hanoitimes.com.vn/newsdetail.asp?CatId=79&NewsId=17675
Wow, this sounds fun… http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20100820213343.aspx
Where? Schedule? Tickets? http://www.thanhniennews.com/2010/Pages/20100904165116.aspx
I hear that just as they did for Independence Day (an every other holiday), the flowers will go up around Hoan Kiem Lake, and there will be fireworks…but what of festivals? There are brief mentions of activities, dignitaries visiting from other countries, parades, gala dinners, cultural shows and such but I have yet to see a website with a calendar of events, nor do I know when all these festivities will take place, if I need to buy tickets, where to buy the tickets, etc. A little hard to participate when I have no idea who, what, where and when it’s happening!
My assistant told me a few weeks ago that the only news she could find through VNAT (Vietnam National Administration of Tourism) was an opportunity to advertise on the billboards which will go up around town. In fact, if you take a look at their website (http://www.vietnamtourism.com/e_pages/news/index.asp) you can barely find a focus on the upcoming birthday. A few other organizations have contacted us to advertise in special tourist publications, maps and cookbooks for the month. I don’t want to advertise, I want to DO something, ATTEND something, WATCH a show, a parade, a concert…something… and CELEBRATE. I simply cannot find the information on how to do that…and neither can any of my local staff.
In a time when SE Asia is fighting to attract tourists after an economic meltdown, H1N1 crisis, rampant reports of Dengue Fever, and political instability in Bangkok, Vietnam could have been the hero of the region by investing their resources to bring a positive focus to their country. I’m sure that in 1000 years of history, there is a heck of a lot of culture, people, events, food and amazingness to celebrate and showcase to the rest of the world. I’ll be curious to see what actually happens come October, but at just 36 days to go, I have a feeling this is a huge, HUGE, opportunity missed. And that’s really a shame.
I’m blogging from Sapa today, as I am up here to celebrate Pete’s 40th birthday! Woo hoo!!!! We’ll be having lunch soon and then head over to his new project, Hmong Mountain Retreat. We’ll have a party tonight and head back to Hanoi on the overnight train on Thursday.
Of all of the things I’ve gained in Vietnam (experience, weight, patience, etc.) one of my favorites is my dear friend Pete. We met when I traveled here in 2008 and have had frequent visits since I moved here. One of my favorite people in the world, I’m so delighted to escape the heat of Hanoi and celebrate this milestone with my amazing friend.
Love you Pete! Happy Birthday!!!
My life in Vietnam has certainly been void of cultural experiences lately. I suppose this is why I so often look back at my posts from Japan. I had oodles more free time to travel, explore, hike and trek and basically, soak up Japan. I spend six days a week and far too many evening hours on work stuff that I have found it pretty difficult to “get with the program” here in Hanoi and really sink my teeth into Vietnamese culture. So I was incredibly happy this week when I received an invitation to our Financial Controller’s daughter’s wedding.
April 10th was considered a lucky day in the Chinese Lunar calendar. Our company “Madame” (I’m not really sure her job title, but she’s essential for all the community and government relations), had also chosen April 10th as the moving date for our Emeraude office. I’m sure the wedding was scheduled on the day for the luck factor, as well.
After the circus of idiot movers (see blog entry below), I rushed home to get ready. The wedding was at the Sheraton, walking distance from my house. As soon as I walked up, the courtyard was full of dressed-up party goers taking lots of photos near the central fountain and under the wedding arch, decorated with white roses. At some signal, all of the 500+ guests made their way to the dining room, deposited the money envelopes in the large heart boxes, and sat freely on either the groom’s side or bride’s side of the room. The ballroom decor was a rather “normal” set-up with the cake on one side of the stage and a champagne glass pyramid on the other, waiting for the champagne to be poured by the couple. The glowing ice-sculpture in the middle was a nice touch. Tables were decorated with tall center-pieces and lots of white roses. This sat, of course, on a large glass lazy-susan so that the traditional vietnamese food could served in the traditional manner.
As I’ve seen before in Japan, there was a host for the reception. He hushed the crowd and started the “show”. The parents came down the rose petal-sprinkled, red carpet and took their places on the stage. The audience clapped after introductions. Then the dry ice machine was turned on and with dramatic music, the couple walked through the foggy air and made their way to the stage as well. The fathers gave a speech. Then the cake was ceremoniously cut (it was never served). Then the couple poured champagne over the glasses, the top four of which had pieces of dry ice so that the whole charade looked like a living sculpture. The couple returned to stand in-between their parents, but with the couple having switched places so that they were standing next to their partner’s parents, symbolizing the unity of the family. The champagne was served to the family and the host gave the toast and everyone raised their glasses.
The united family then made their way through the tables to individually toast the guests. The classical quartet took their places on stage and began playing a very reined set of music. The food was served, people ate, ate some more, drank some more and then the tea was served. An hour and a half after we sat down, everyone was getting up and heading out the door. There was no dancing, no throwing of the bouquet, no garter toss and no possibility of a cheezy DJ showing off as emcee and playing the chicken dance. I was home by 8:30pm.
My understanding is that this was a very high-end wedding. Most are held in large halls, and there is plenty of beer, food and light-weight Vietnamese falling drunk off their chairs. So while I am glad I was able to enjoy a really nice Vietnamese wedding reception, I hope I have the chance to see a more modest celebration!!!
I remember being 29 and getting ready for work one morning. In my bright yellow bathroom on Bentley Avenue in Los Angeles, I was putting on my mascara. I looked at myself, the tears started to well and I said out loud, “Oh my God, I’m going to be 30!” For some reason I was terrified.
My 30’s turned out to be pretty damn good. I spread my wings when I moved to Japan, and without a doubt, those five years in Shizuoka made for the best chapter of my life. I was fulfilled on so many levels. The last three years of my 30‘s have been full of transition and constant change… returning to San Diego, getting caught up with family and friends, taking off on world travel and then searching for the next step in my career before heading to Vietnam. Obviously, 39 has been a crazy year filled with both minor and major adjustments.
I’m not sure that I have yet welcomed this next decade with open arms. I haven’t had that moment in the mirror where it has really sunk in that I am now 40. I have had several moments in the mirror recently where I thought about a neck lift and a nose job, about getting pregnant by some handsome stranger just to move along Project Shanna, but I don’t think that that means 40 has sunk in. Does it?
What I hope is that this decade is kind. I hope to find my dude, perhaps have a child (Project Shanna 2009 has rolled over into 2010). It would be nice to share my life with someone and have a family of my own. (My parents would be thrilled with this idea, too!) I’d like to continue to explore new and fantastic corners of the world. I am an adventurer at heart and I don’t yet feel settled. Although I’m not sure how well that goes with the project. I guess at 40 – I want it all, damn it!
I hope I worry a lot less about what people think of me. I’m overly considerate and too concerned about others. While I always want to be a kind and giving person, I’m tired of sacrificing myself for everyone else. I need to get a healthy dose of selfishness. I need to be kinder to me. I have to take care of myself first and foremost.
I suppose that my lack of worry that I’m 40 is a bit of an indication that I am on the right track headed into this phase of life. The fact that I haven’t had that “Oh my God” moment may actually be the sign that it has sunk in and I am accepting this. Besides, aren’t we as young as we feel?
I’ve often said that my ideal age is 28. That was the year I traveled to Italy, my first solo travel. That trip changed my life and that year was just a fantastic year for me. But with all the life experiences I’ve gained since then, I don’t identify as closely to 28 as I once did. In turning 40, I was looking for quotes about the milestone and I found this one – I’m not 40! I’m 18 with 22 years of experience! And you know what? Bingo! That’s how I feel! So here’s to 18 and letting the counter on the years of experience continue to roll over. Bring it on!
Two weeks went by too quickly. I didn’t do enough. I wish I could have seen more people. Squeezed in a trip to San Francisco or even Dallas. That would have been good. So many things going on in my head and my heart. I’m not sure I got enough hugs from my niece. Will she remember me when she see’s me on skype through the computer? One more week would have been good. I could have checked a few more things off the list. But then again, these two weeks were not about checking lists. It was about taking a breath and reflecting and just having a good time. And that I did.
I return to Hanoi with a renewed spirit, a new outlook and a host of ideas for what’s ahead. I’m really thankful for having a couple of weeks at home. It did me a world of good. Cheers.
On the cusp of my one year anniversary with Apple Tree, of living and working in Vietnam, and on the heels of my travels overseas to London and Morocco, I can’t help but think about goals for next year.
Usually when I work at home, I have the TV or some music on in the background (or as the weather is pleasant now, my windows open which lends plenty of background noise). A line from one of the movies on HBO was, “Life is an occasion. Rise to it.” And it caught me and made me think. Have I risen to the occasion this past year? Has my life been well-rounded? Have I achieved all of my goals? Have I taken the bull by the horns and checked off all the boxes on my personal to-do list? No, no, no and oh yeah – NO!!!
I am actually very sad at how quickly I lost sight of myself this year. Right off the bat, work projects gobbled up me and my time, my thoughts, my every waking moment. And we all know that that is not the person I am or the type of person I aspire to be. I am not all about work. Yes – of course – I will always have a strong work ethic, be dedicated to my job…but when I don’t attend to my personal life on account of my job being too much…..Well then, Houston, we have a problem.
I know almost nothing about Hanoi. I can’t tell you what the best restaurant to go to is because I haven’t really tried enough of them. Outside the events at the Press Club, I’m not to sure where is the best place to go to have fun. I don’t really know that much about Vietnamese cuisine. I eat most my meals at work. At my desk. I have about 7 words of Vietnamese down, and 5 of those are so I can direct taxi drivers.
Sure, I have made many great friends, and certainly strengthened those relations I had coming into this post. Project Shanna 2009, though, a total bust. Absorbed the local culture? No. Made a good group of Vietnamese friends? No.
Usually I wait until the end of December to pick my personal theme for the year. (Let’s not even touch on the fact that I did not live up to my personal theme for 2009. Nor my professional one for that matter.) But after hearing that line in that movie, I’ve already decided my one theme for 2010. Rise to it. And with all my power, and spirit and resolve – I will.