First, I am quickly learning that I have a fabulous staff to work with - and a huge part of the gratitude for that goes to my predecessor in this job, Ali Crandall. Ali and I went to school at Loma Linda together, and honestly, she's one of the most amazing people I know. For starters, she came into this project when it was in ruins, and, without speaking a word of Vietnamese, not having a proper orientation (like the fabulous one she's giving me), never having administratively managed staff or project budgets like, while still just being in the process of hiring a translator, AND without any social support AT ALL, she took the project and completely turned it around and has now made the 3 projects here some of the strongest public health projects I have ever seen. Kudos to you Ali - I can't thank you enough.
Lam (second from the front, in glasses) with her co-workers as the engagement equivalent of bridesmaids - all her co-workers from the ADRA office!
And so this week we were taken to a variety of events, starting with Lam's engagement party (an event only the closest of friends are invited to here).
And all the food!
During a monthly staff meeting, one of the staff members decided to give a presentation on traditional Vietnamese mountain culture (from the Tay ethnic group). Visuals included powerpoint with pictures and description of traditional clothes, music and - these staff members modeling the traditional black dress:
BTW: They DO indeed wear those iconic conical hats on a daily basis around here, but not this particular ethnic group. You'll see plenty of pictures of those here in the future, I am sure.
Then there was the festival of floating cakes on December 22nd. Floating cakes are a traditional rice-flour ball boiled in a sugar/ginger syrup that are often eaten around the Winter Solstice to celebrate warmth in a time of cold and dark. One of the staff members decided it would be a great idea if we all went out one night to eat them - and eat we did!! Ate so enthusiastically that I even forgot to take a picture of the finished product!!
Then on Saturday Ali arranged to throw a Christmas party, complete with Santa Claus, but our staff decided that we needed a big Vietnamese feast to carry us through before hand. So they spent all morning cooking up a HUGE storm in our kitchen, while we frantically scrambled to decorate the conference room in advance of the arrival fo 45 (!) Christmas revelers!
(The Christmas hats were a Veitnamese addition...)