Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bắc Ninh February 13, 2011

We left Ha Long Bay after touring the local hospital with Dr. Le. The plan was to leave at about 1pm (after lunch). At 7:30 Fr. Bình and I concelebrated Mass for the owners of the hotel and their family in a chapel they have in their living quarters on the top floor. They provided a huge breakfast for us and by 10am we knew we would not need lunch or dinner or any other food for the rest of the day. Even so, they invited us to lunch but we respectfully declined. We were to meet Dr. Le for a tour of the hospital, then go back to the hotel, pack and leave by 1pm for Bắc Ninh. But I have since learned that in Vietnam, you can make plans, but you still never know how the day will turn out.

We arrived at 10:30 at Dr. Le’s home (with stretch marks on our stomach) to find out that she and her housemate and mother (who was suppose to have left that morning but decided to stay another day) were preparing lunch for us! Because it was so cold, Dr. Le took Fr. Bình to a clothing store to get a sweater. They couldn’t find one that fit him. Then Dr. Le thought it would be good to go see the hospital while lunch was being prepared. While there, we met her boss, the director of the hospital, a man with high ideals for the betterment of healthcare in Vietnam and proud of the impressive development of his own facility. He was so taken by our conversation that he made a phone call for even more food (expensive seafood) to be delivered to Dr. Le’s residence. When it got to be 12:30, and we were a long way from even starting lunch, I noted the time to Fr. Bình and reminded him of our planned departure time and he said: “Welcome to Vietnam!”

Around 2pm we ate lunch that was excellent. In the end it was after 4pm before we had a taxi and were seen off for a three hour drive to Bắc Ninh by the hotel owners, Dr. Le and a few others we had come to know.

When we arrived in Bắc Ninh around 8pm at the motherhouse of the Sisters of Our Lady of Unity, we were welcomed with – you guessed it – more food.

I finally got to meet Kim Dung (Zoong) . No one had to point her out to me. She fills a room with energy and joy as soon as she walks in. She sat with us as we ate, but then, before we had finished she said the words that I have heard her repeat over and over: “Let’s go!”. There was a festival downtown and if we waited any longer we would miss it. As it turns out, wherever we go with Kim we do what we came for, we connect with people, we distribute gifts, we share our love, but there’s always the next stop: “Let’s go!” After being at the festival – where people brought their school children up to me to practice English – Kim said again: “Let’s go!”

This time it was to meet the Bishop of Bắc Ninh, Bishop Hoang Dat. He spoke excellent English and a little French. He was very friendly and gracious. Finally, we headed back to the motherhouse to take our rest. Mass was schedulded for 6am the next morning followed by breakfast and departure at 7. Kim Dung is always on the move.

Mass at the Hotel in Ha Long Bay.

The owners of the hotel in Ha Long Bay invited their family to join us for Mass in their private chapel in their top floor apartment.

View of Ha Long Bay from the roof of the hotel.

Dr. Le taking Fr. Bình to find a sweater to buy.

Meeting Bishop Hoang Dat of Bắc Ninh with Huong Nguyen and Fr. Bình Hoang.

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