On my blog, it has been a while since the last time I gave news about our mission. The reason for this silence is simple. I have many things to do. Days, weeks, months, run by so fast. However I am aware that to keep friendship alive, it is important to exchange news regularly. I know we live in a modern world where communication is made by cellphones and chat but there is nothing like writing. Writing helps me to slow down, to reflect on life and to share it with you. At times, it is a difficult exercise. It requires me to identify what is essential. I don’t know if you feel the same but I can say that there is a paradox in my life. My natural tendency is to be active, to do things. But on the other hand, the numerous things I do make me wish to take a break, to pray, to read a book, to have a walk. I am also aware that to keep a deep relation with God and with myself, I need moments of aloneness, of desert, even if the desert can sometimes be tough to experience. The good thing is that the relationship with God is also nourished by the encounter we make with people in daily life.
Outing to the Beach with blind children and teenagers !
Everybody enjoyed it so much!
During the last months, I was very moved by an outing to the beach we did with thirty blind children. At first, it looked like a risky adventure. For some years now, I have been in touch with a center for blind children in Saigon, where the blind children and teenagers are very nice. They sing beautifully and the Sisters who take care of them do a very good job. I shared my project with the seminarians who are living with me and they told me they were in! I then gave a phone call to the Sister director of the center. She was enthusiastic. I needed the help of many people to accompany the children. I phoned some groups of young people I know, and in a short time I had 35 volunteers willing to participate in the outing. Regarding practical items, such as renting two buses, finding a place for lunch and a suitable beach,…, I asked my guys to deal with those things. They are very efficient! The outing was a success. Feel the wind, smell the sea air, play in the sand and the waves, talk, eat, take a sun bath: so many pleasures widely shared by seeing and blind participants. The weather was beautiful and everyone enjoyed it. I have an idea for next time ... Maybe we could have an outing in tandem (bycicles for two persons) ?
"Hoa Mai" The "Apricot tree",
its blossoms during the New Year season.
No Tet feast without such flower!
Several weeks later, the most significant period of the year for the Vietnamese, Tet holidays, arrived. For most of the Vietnamese, it is the only period of holidays during the year. Our seminarians got three weeks of holidays. I naively imagined that I would rest during that time and gently read some books at home. Actually, the holidays ran so quickly… I went to celebrate the New Year’s Eve (lunar calendar !) in Father Trinh’s family, my confrere. His family is from Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. It is there that I had spent my first New Year four years ago! The atmosphere was simple, quiet and precisely what I longed for. According to the tradition, we visited the uncles and aunts of Father Trinh, as well as three of our seminarians. It was interested to see where they were born and raised. They are all from the countryside.
Tet (New year feast) at home with the young men in formation
(16 guys this year!) and the four fathers.
Visit to the family of Tien (the 4th starting from the left),
one of our postulants, in the Mekong Delta Region.
I only could stay in the Mekong Delta for four days. On the fourth day, I came back to Saigon and the day after, I travelled to Nha Trang (center region of the country, 400 km from Saigon) with the orphanage Hoa Mau Don. We decided to travel by train. It was the first time in their life that the children were travelling by train. They enjoyed it a lot. In the train, the seats are made of wood, it takes ten hours to reach destination, but it’s a nice experience. In Nha Trang, the seashore is beautiful. Of course, when you are in charge of 40 children, there is some stress, and organisation is not the best quality of the orphanage. But everything went well. The children were so happy and so were we, my confrere and myself.
No matrass, no problem!
In Vietnam, you don't need much comfort to sleep well !
The trip back home was a bit more complicated. The children went back by van but the van could not carry everybody. My confrere, myself and two teenagers, had to look for another bus to come back to Saigon. At this period of the year, it is not easy. Luckily, we could buy some tickets for a departure at 5pm. The good thing was that it gave us one more full day in Nha Trang. So the four of us, we took a cable car for three kilometers to reach a tourist island. It was worth to spend one day there. At the end of the day, we went to the bus station. On the way back to Saigon, in a thirty seats bus, we were fourty. The seats were not comfortable and my confrere and myself, seating side by side, didn’t have much room. We reached Saigon at 4am! Thank God, the driver was driving carefully, something quite unusual in Vietnam!
View from the Cable car of the seashore.
Now, I am ready to start the second semester with the seminarians and happy to be back home and to do my daily work. Next week, the parish priest goes for a pilgrimage in Israel for one week. So, I am “on call!” Mass every day at 5am. No problem, I am used to it now !
I wish you a happy « cat » year, especially for those born in 2011, 1999, 1987, 1975, 1963, etc...