For those of you who might not know, and to put the title of this post in context, Hue is pronounced like "Way." It is also the home of Doannie's parents and where we will be spending the next month working. We arrived Sunday night, and in the couple of days that we have been here in Hue, we have really come to appreciate how different it is from Saigon. First of all there are many fewer motos, which has lowered my heart rate considerably.
There is a lot less in-your-face poverty, and there are is a certain air of refinement in the way that life is conducted here. The banks of the Perfume River have been spared overdevelopment, and instead of crumbling houses and storefronts they boast a 2mile long promenade lined with trees and gardens and filled with sculptures. There are over 5 universities here, and an early highlight was a trip to the Quoc Hoc High School, built in French colonial times and attended by Ho Chi Minh. The pristine grounds boast the words "Day Tot, Hot Tot" or "Teach Well, Learn Well." It should be noted that while Hue people consider themselves the enlightened academics of Vietnam, the rest of the country considers them a bit snooty and highbrow. Coming from Boston, we fit right in.
We spent Monday getting oriented to the city and to our new digs - a room over the clinic adjacent to the Convent of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. Complete with nuns running around in blue habits (including Doannie's aunt, the physician-nun for whom I am working), it is very Sound of Music. Our room is spotless but a bit sparse - we sleep on a simple mat and blanket. But the views overlooking the Perfume River and the deliciously prepared Hue cuisine are well worth it, plus it is forcing me to speak Vietnamese. So far I can say "Toi khong biet noi tieng Viet" which means "I don't speak Vietnamese."
After walking around in 100 degree heat and 100 degree humidity for 6 hours on Monday, the purchase of a sun shade of sorts became our singular quest. Finding the hat store was like finding an oasis in the desert - except that only one hat fit my huge noggin (turns out Doannie's equally large cranium is unusual for the Vietnamese). This unfotunately left us with little room to bargain - they had me cornered, and they knew it. So I am now the proud owner of a ridiculous looking big blue hat which I am sure will feature prominantly in all future blog pictures. Who knows, it might even earn me a reputation about town as the Blue Hat Lady - fitting for slightly eccentric Hue.