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July (p.2)



Those who know me, know I enjoy exercising. Depending on when we became acquainted, some of you will remember me as any, or all, of the following: a mountain trail backpacker, a daily casual jogger, a more serious marathon runner, or the pre-developmental leave 5-day-a-week swimmer. 

Well, here in my neighborhood, I’m “that foreigner who walks around the lake every afternoon.” Everyone who is not a native Vietnamese, I'm told, is collectively referred to as a "foreigner" (người nước ngoài) until such time your country of origin is identified. In my case, the question is: “Anh là người nước nào?” ("You to be people country which?") and I reply: “Tôi là người Mỹ” ("I to be people America"). The Vietnamese commonly refer to America as hoa kỳ”. “hoa” translates to “flower”, although I'm not sure if "kỳ" can stand alone as a word. I'm told different versions of the origin of hoa kỳ”, and, as with all languages, the origin of words can be a bit unclear or confusing. A common answer is: when the Chinese first saw an American flag, the stars on the American flag reminded them of flowers, so they referred to the “flower people” when speaking about Americans. Sometime during the Nguyễn Dynasty (1802 to 1883) the term was introduced to the Vietnamese. The written term was translated from Chinese to Nôm, which was a form of written Vietnamese that was based on using Chinese characters to write Vietnamese words. It was then translated into the existing written language, Chữ Quốc ngữ. Chữ Quốc ngữ, is the (modern) Latin-based written Vietnamese language developed by the Portuguese missionary, Francisco de Pina, sometime in the 16th or 17th  century. The term "hoa kỳ" remains to this day. I’m thinking the next evolution in my speaking of Vietnamese is to answer: “Tôi đến từ Mỹ” (I to from America") or “I come from America”. Here's a surprise…in my early days of learning Vietnamese with my Vietnamese language teacher, I was often told that I needed to stop acting like a professor (analyzing everything) and just memorize the sentence. She has resigned herself to the fact that I can't stop analyzing each word's meaning (I am, what I am); though I really do try not to analyze…really I do.

Back to exercising. Fortunately for me, just a block away from where I live is a really nice small park. Next to this park is a medium-sized man-made lake surrounded by a twelve-foot-wide walkway paved with eight-sided bricks. Every afternoon around 3:30-ish, I can be found walking around the lake getting curious glances from the regulars who frequent this community resource. Currently, I walk the 2 kilometer (1.24 miles) circumference, five times; although, I could see myself increasing this number over time as I acclimate to the climate. This lake is a good place to get adjusted to the heat and humidity - half of the lake's circumference is under big, shady trees and half is mostly barren of all vegetation and the sun beats you down like a sledgehammer.

and…speaking of climate. For those of you who believe you know what it's like to live where there is “heat and humidity”, here's some food for thought: There is an old saying: “If you think you're pretty good at ordering your dog around, try your cat.” so…if you think you know what living in heat and humidity is really like, trying living in Hanoi from May to October. The hottest/most humid months, by the way, are June, July, and August.  

Like other places in the world, Vietnamese people are health-conscious. Unlike the US, however, gym memberships in the few commercial gyms in my area of Hanoi, are beyond what the average working class individual or family can afford to buy. As a result, every park I've seen in the city has a designated workout area. I am absolutely amazed at the numbers of people who utilize these workout areas. Given it is difficult to describe the variety of anchored/stationary metal workout machines, made out of three-inch pipe, that turn, twist, arch, hang, or swing, or the barbels made out of concrete and metal poles,  I direct you to the next page where I have posted some pictures.

If you go to these areas on any given day, you will likely see people

  • at various stages of getting chiseled muscles and washboard abs 
  • doing yoga or a variety of creative movements designed to keep range of motion in every joint in the body
  • doing line dancing to reach that aerobic level 
  • getting massages from people making a living giving them 
  • playing bad mitten
  • playing soccer
  • playing 



p.2 photos