Wednesday, November 30, 2011

"The American Teenage Referee in Hanoi"

Here's a link to the refereeing segment produced by VTC10: NETVIET, The Vietnamese Culture Channel:


Monday, November 28, 2011

Time Travel; and, Turkey by Surprise

          Alright. I’m back! Did you miss me? I feel like I’ve just been put in a time machine. The month of November has gone by in an absolute flash. Now it’s the 28th and I’m absolutely stunned at how quickly the entire semester has gone. It still feels like I just left last week, and now, I’m staring right at the end of the semester, just 3 weeks away. Let me try some metaphors . . . we are now at the twilight of the first semester, not quite dark, but there is little time left before the end. But then again, for me, and the other 6 students staying for the full school year, it is only lunchtime . . . as much as I would like to leave and head home in a few weeks with the rest of the semester students, I feel like that’s not a valid choice. Retreat is not an option! They don’t call it school semester abroad, it's School Year Abroad!

So some interesting things took place during the weeks since my last entry. As noted in my last post, I was filmed for an English-language television news journal, refereeing a soccer game! That was a lot of fun. I met the film crew at the fields before my game, and they filmed me preparing for the game, checking-in the teams and inspecting the field, and doing some warm-up stretches and jogging. Then, just before I took the field to start the game, I did an on camera interview, and talked about my experience with soccer and refereeing. The focus of the interview was that while I am at school here in Vietnam, I am volunteering my time to assist with running a youth soccer league and also refereeing some games (I'm donating the salary I would make for refereeing back to the league). Youth referees are as unique here in Vietnam as we are back in the States, so players and spectators definitely seem to take note when I'm on the field! The program aired on TV a few days ago, but my segment hasn't been posted on YouTube yet, so you’re going to have to wait a few days to see it. The game went smoothly, and the only not so smooth part involved a penalty kick right at the end, but by that time the camera crew was gone, so it worked out well. The next week after that game (last week), I was invited to referee for a professional football club! Well, it wasn’t actually the professional team; it was their U-15 academy team. A lot of professional clubs around the world have academies, where kids live and study, and also play soccer. These players may have only been 14-15 years old, but they were amazing! They had incredible ball control and passing skills. They played another club team, not affiliated with a pro team, that was coached by the directors of the league I referee for. They are a very good team, and rarely lose a game, but they lost 10-0! That, for those of you who know little about soccer, is a very, very high score! And especially because there were two very skilled teams on the pitch. But I guess that’s what you get when you play against a school that specializes in developing professional soccer players.

Last week, we had a Thanksgiving banquet. Yes, we actually celebrated Thanksgiving over here in Vietnam. And just a warning, the menu may shock you… oven cooked turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, salad, pumpkin pie, apple crisp, cakes, brownies… and the list goes on. It took a heroic search all across northern Vietnam to find the various ingredients (I think we ate the only two turkeys in country), and some fantastic cooking by some of my fellow students and teachers - but we had it all!! It was a large party, with host family members, students, teachers, and friends of the school from Ha Noi. There must have been at least 60 people there! The guests were treated to some fine musical performances and a play.

Looking forward to the events of interest these next few weeks. . . .  this upcoming Friday morning, at around 3 am(!), I am going to be attending an all-school town meeting at my alma-mater, Santa Barbara Middle School.  I'll be online on Skype, of course, and if all goes well with the technology, I'll be making a short presentation about my experiences so far in Vietnam, perhaps have time to show one of my videos, and then take questions from the audience.  The day after that, on Saturday, I'll head out of Ha Noi with my classmates as we go south for nine days to visit Saigon and the Mekong River Delta. Upon our return, we'll have just one week of school, and really only 4 days, because we have our final semester exams scheduled on Friday and Monday, December 16th and 19th. After the exams are done, we'll have just a few days to celebrate and decompress and then half of the students will return back to the US on December 22nd. And the biggest news for me, on December 20th my mom and dad and my sisters will arrive for a three-week visit! During their stay, we'll hang out in Ha Noi for several days, then we'll be traveling south by train to Hoi An (where we'll spend Christmas), and then will continue on traveling through Cambodia and Laos.  As luck would have it, on the same week that my family gets here, my godfather Aaron will also be visiting Ha Noi on an unrelated trip from his current home in Qatar, where he's a school teacher. I'm excited to have all my families together (host, real, and lifelong friends) - I'm sure we'll have a few great dinners that first week.  Special Note:  Uncle Aaron and Dad, if you're reading this, as this will be the first time we'll all be together in years, I expect to finally hear the Needles Story that has long eluded my ears....I believe that I'm old enough now.

I want to get this post up as quick as possible, so I will be adding pictures tomorrow and hopefully that video soon as well.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

United Nations and a rare Andrew Sanborn Television Interview

            Well it’s November now and this is the section of each blog where I diligently count how long I've been here and how long I have left. I realize it's a repetitive activity, but it's also cathartic so please bare with me; here it goes....I have now been here for well over two months, and with 42 days remaining until winter break, things are starting to go by a little quick now. For instance I can’t believe I haven’t had a post in 11 days! We have now been here for around 70 days, which is also hard to believe, I don’t think it’s affecting me as much as the semester students, because for them the end is now defiantly in sight. Of course I am getting really exited for our trip to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) in the beginning of December, only 3 and a half short, yet packed, weeks ahead. I look forward to getting out of Ha Noi and the north and experiencing a different part of the country. And Saigon and the Mekong delta are definitely different. For example, the temperature high here in Ha Noi tomorrow is expected to be around 77, where as in Saigon, it’s expected to be 10 degrees warmer and raining. Which I suppose may not seem that different, but... uh... anyways...

This past weekend, for the first time, I ventured up into the North side of Ha Noi, which is the international part of the city, and is where all the diplomats live and all the international schools are. One of my teachers, Thay Chuck, invited me to go with him to the United Nations International School (UNIS) to play ultimate Frisbee. UNIS is amazing. As you drive up, there is a guarded gate, and on the other side is the massive campus. The buildings are super modern and cool looking; they have a huge covered pool, indoor and outdoor basketball courts, a baseball field, and a massive field that is actually living, green grass! It was a Saturday, and sports activities were in full swing at the school, there was rugby, soccer, Frisbee, swimming, basketball, baseball… every sport you could think of was going on at the campus. Two of us students from SYA showed up to play, and after playing for a while, we got tired out, and started talking to some UNIS kids who were also in the ultimate games with us. They were really cool, and it was nice to meet some other kids from the US and Europe who were our age. After talking for awhile, it was getting dark, so I headed home - but I hope to get up there again one day soon.

          Amazingly, last week I was once again on a national TV broadcast, but this time the stakes were even higher. It was a larger station, and a bigger show. Voice of Vietnam - think Good Morning America or The Today Show - was doing a show all about my school and our director, and he and the full VoV (I just made that acronym up) crew came over to my house to film what a typical evening is like for me and my family - eating dinner together, talking about our days, doing evening routines and homework, etc. They also did a formal interview with me with a translator - which you can see below. The show hasn’t been aired yet, but when it is, I will have the video link up on the blog so ya’ll can see it. What you see in this video is my school director, Thay Vuong, filming me from a different angle with my camera. What you can’t see from that perspective is giant cameras they brought, along with all the lighting and sound equipment. So, enjoy the full, ALL exclusive, un-edited, highly anticipated, Andrew Sanborn Interview. Riveting stuff, I know....

As a side note, yet another camera crew - for a different television show, this one in English, and all about my daytime activities - will be coming with me on Sunday to my Football game to film me refereeing. So after 7 years of officiating, I have finally made the ultimate goal (pun intended), to be in a televised soccer match. Which means I can finally retire! It didn’t take as long as I thought, so I’m not sure exactly what to do next… Maybe make the next goal to play on TV, which will probably take a little longer.

          Looking forward, this upcoming Friday, my class and I get to go on a field-trip, but not any ordinary field-trip, we get to tour two coal burning power plants, located a few hours outside Ha Noi. One is a Soviet built plant that is out-dated and dirty, and the other is a modern clean one that was recently built. It should be fascinating to compare and contrast them, but don’t ask how we got this set up, it’s classified.

          So enjoy the video, and also, I have just began an ambitious film project to put my personal perspectives on Ha Noi and my day-to-day experiences here, up on the silver screen - before I become too overexposed by all the media attention I seem to be attracting!  I don't know when I'll have it completed, but definitely before the semester ends. But remember, that’s not for sure, and you didn’t hear it from me, as I don’t want the Andrew Abroad Studios lawyers coming after me again…