Fr. Binh and I arrived safely in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) at 11PM at the end of Tuesday, January 25, which was toward the beginning of the same day in the Willamette Valley. Our transit, all tolled, took 24 hours and we lost one day by crossing the International Dateline. On the plane we didn’t know to pray Morning Pray or Evening Prayer!? (For those concerned about the economy of time, we will get two Thursdays on Feb. 24th when we return!) At our layover in Seoul, Korea, there was snow on the ground and dry temperatures below freezing. But Saigon got up to 86º that same day, and humid.
We are staying as guests of Mr. and Mrs. Quang and their four teenaged children (well, the oldest is 21). They have family in Fr. Binh’s parish in Portland. They are incredibly hospitable. By the time we got to their house it was midnight and Mrs. Quang already had dau hu ready for us (sweet tofu soup, with sliced ginger and tapioca balls – yum!), which is supposed to prepare a traveler’s stomach for Vietnamese food. Then we each had a large bowl of pho (fuh – traditional soup with meat, noodles, fresh herbs and lots of steaming broth). Binh stayed up late getting to know the family. Their children, who learn English in school, and who speak fairly well (way more than my 10 Vietnamese words!), are computer savvy and will help me post these messages.
Hundreds of people wait outside the baggage claim area at the Saigon airport to greet their relatives and friends just arriving. When we saw the crowd Fr. Binh said, “They are all here to welcome you, like the Beatles in New York City.”
Fr. Binh and I are greeted by his friend, Mr. Chin (who has been to the USA) who came to pick us up at the airport. Five of us crammed into a car with all of Binh’s and my luggage – 6 bags! (I don’t know about seatbelt regulations here, but we were in violation of all the Oregon ones).