Thursday, September 22, 2011

Pottery Master; first Soccer games; familiar Groceries

            This weekend was very action packed and tiring, but also really fun! On Friday I went to a German film festival, on Saturday I went to a village that specializes in ceramics, and on Sunday got my first taste of the soccer league here, and also made some surprising discoveries at a grocery store.

            But first, Friday was a school day, as it normally is, I have pretty much settled into my school and home schedule. After a day at school, I headed home, and at about 6:30 or so, went to a German movie with my sister and cousin, because she is taking German, and it was like a class project. It was part of a German Film festival that was going on in Vietnam right now. It was an Indy film, and I was contemplating the levels of boardness I would experience before it started, but I actually really liked it. It was called Welcome to Germany or something like that, I recommend looking it up, or going to your nearest German movie theater and watching it. And apparently that shouldn’t be too hard for a few of the readers of this blog, because on my stats page it says there are some people reading this in Deutschland. So Gutentag to you! I even had some popcorn too, or it was actually more like kettle corn… kettle corn. The movie was about a Turkish emigrant and his family who moved to Germany in the 60s, and the story also takes place in the present, and is about their struggles, but it is presented as a comedy. Anyways, after the movie finished we walked through a maze of sketchy alleys, eventually winding up on a main road at a cell phone store so I could add some more minutes on my phone. And then a cab to the house, and went to sleep, ready for a full day of adventure on Saturday.

            Saturday I had to wake up early, because I had to be at the city bus station by 9 am, and it was supposedly pretty far. So after I hailed a cab I was on my way, by about 8 am. The ride was much quicker then I thought it was going to be, I was there by 8:30, so I was 30 minutes early. Right when I got out of the cab, I was immediately bombarded by motorbikers, all asking if I need a ride, because it just makes sense to get out of a cab at a bus station and look for a motorcycle!?!  At least I got to practice saying KHONG a bunch of times, but when I went to the other side of the platform, my classmates weren’t over there. I stood around waiting for any of the SYA people to show up, it was pretty uneventful, but I felt famous because everyone was looking at me like I was a celebrity and an old man came up and talked to me for a few minutes until his bus came, he spoke a little English, and asked me where I was from and if I liked Vietnam, he thought it was really great that our program was here. So that was pretty cool. Eventually people began to show up, and just after 9, we lined up, ready for our full scale assault on the bus. There are hundreds of people on the platform, and they’re all fighting to get on the busses. There is no mercy or compromise, in order to get on that bus, your going to have to hurt some people, and if your not ok with that, enjoy your day at the platform! Our bus approached down the platform, a nervous energy wells up in me, its only going to be a 30 second run or so, but its going to be hectic. The bus stops, and the doors open, but once they close, they might as well be bolted (we had just finished watching a women go running by chasing a bus banging on the door because she was left behind). Go!, we jumped down off the platform and charged the bus, 20 seconds, I am just out of the door, people in front are pushing there way on the bus, 15, I made it to the door, and am attepting to step on the bus. 10, I’m on the bus, and it’s crowded, so we have to stand in the aisle, and hang onto the handles. The door closes, there are people left behind. But after a quick head count, we are all there, we have made it. After about a half hour or so being constantly jerked around on the trechourous roads of Hanoi, where the bus comes to unexpected halts and basically attempts to maneuver like a motorcycle, we arrive at the village of Bat Trang, about 5 and a half miles south of Ha Noi. It has, as previously mentioned, been in the business of ceramics for a very long time, around 1000 years I believe. After arriving, we got off of the hot crowded bus, and went to the craft market, where they had thousands of ceramics for sale, anything from plates to gigantic vases that were around 6 feet high. We had around 30 minutes to walk around and browse, before heading over to a master ceramic makers workshop. His family has been in the business for hundreds of years, and he is one of the more famous artists in Viet Nam for that particular class. He has made pots and ceramics for many important people in the country but also all over the world. The government has even asked him to create 18 giant vases (as seen in the video), for the anniversary of an ancient king this spring, and he has invited us back to the ceremony where they transport them to Ha Noi. After that he took us out behind his workshop, where construction had just been completed of the shrine to the founder of the village - they had just recently discovered his remains, and built a shrine for him.

            Next on the agenda was lunch, which was just a typical meal, vegetables, noodles, and some meat. We ate a restaurant close to the workshop. After we finished lunch, it was time to make some cups. We went to a pottery making place, I don’t know what you would call that, where we saw first had just how little skill we had. My attempts were not very good, but I tried. When we were leaving, I asked one of my teachers to talk to one of the pottery ladies and ask her to make a cup while I filmed her, and this was the result.

            It was amazing how fast she could shape and form that cup! I was amazed watching her helping the people in the group, and just had to get a video of it. Now it was almost time to leave Bat Trang village, and after another quick jaunt around the craft market, and a quick drink, we found ourselves back on the bus, and heading slowly, and sometimes very quickly, back to central Ha Noi. And after arriving back at the station, I got a cab with my school cabpool buddy Anna and headed on home.

            Sunday was an even earlier day, I had to be at the soccer fields by 8:30, so I could help out at a tournament, and get a feel for the league. I arrived on time, but soon relized that the games couldn’t begin, because the fields were still being used by other teams, so there was a bit of a wait, during that time I talked to one of the guys I would be working with in the morning, Gary. He is one of the guys in charge of the league, and has lived in Ha Noi for 3 years. Soon the teams were off the fields, and we began. I couldn’t referee today because the refs had already been scheduled, so I just helped administrate the proceedings. I was actually glad not to be refereeing today because it was HOT! There was occasional cloud coverage, but once the sun came out, it was just radiating the heat down on our synthetic turf field, and for anyone who has any expierience with turf, those little rubber pellets make the field pretty hot, and radiate the heat up. The game formats were very strange today, they had an entire tournament to get through today - U15 and U13 on just two fields (U9 and U11 played somewhere else), so they played 15 minute games for the two divisions! Usually though it is 40 minute halfs for U15 and 35 for U13, but I think I would probably have keeled over and passed out after only 20 minutes or so in this heat… At around 11:30 or so, I had to leave the fields and go home, because I was going out with my family, as it was the weekend. I had to get a new backpack, because the one I brought now has a giant hole on the top of it, so we went to a shopping mall downtown, but along the way, stopped at a pho restaurant for a late lunch, it was great! There was only one item on the menu, and that’s whatever happens to be available, today it was chicken. The restaurant has apperantly been there for around 50 years or so, and is considered one of the best in the city. Once I got my backpack, we headed next door to a grocery store that was also in the mall, as we walked the aisles, I realized that I recongnized a lot of the brands. They had kettle chips, M&Ms, goldfish and all those different types of Milano cookies, and also had a lot of American drinks, including Gatorade, which I like. All of it appeared to be imported, because the writing was in English, but had a Vietnamese import sticker put on it. So we got a few things and we headed home. It was a very long and tiring weekend, but definitely a fun one, I really enjoyed all the things I did over the weekend, except it was so hot on Sunday morning! But anyway, thanks for reading.



  1. all of the pottery is so beautiful! it looks like it coulld be in a museum.

  2. if you knew that the bus was going to be crowded, how would you do it differently in the future?