Sunday, March 30, 2008

With a little help from our friends

Hello all.... So, here we are again - proposal season. This is the time of year that donors realize their financial years will be coming to an end soon and they start sending out Requests for Proposals (RFPs) or Request for Applications (RFAs) to all of us lucky NGOs to frantically bid for. This is also the time of year that NGOs suddenly realize maybe they're not as prepared as they could be to manage this deluge. And I have gone from calmly planning the work to complete the two proposals for our bread-and-butter projects that I knew would be due April 30th to suddenly being dashed back into full-on panic mode as funding opportunities, one after another, rush in.

Actually, in all honestly, I've been pushed into full-on "just say no" mode as I realize I simply cannot humanly deal with the deluge. But April will still be a very, very busy month, so my apologies for the month of March and now April as I've been slightly less inspired to write much about Vietnam and I'm sure the lethargy will continue.

However, I did have a sanity-saving visit from a good friend from my Madagascar days. I took some time off and we saw some sights in Hanoi that I hadn't managed to get to yet.
Okay, so this is a sight I've seen a lot...but Kelsey was pretty amused by it.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is a definite must-see for visitors to Hanoi with a day to kill. DISCLAIMER! I take NO responsibility for the pornographic ethnic carved statues on display at the museum. This is authentic culture, people (and not to mention, has decent possibilities for health education). I do, however, rather relate to the guy on the far left... A shock of a completely different sort: the amazing embroidery on display and in action.
This picture of Uncle Ho Chi Minh is NOT a painting - this is entirely sewn by hand.
After the Hanoi discoveries, we traveled with our new volunteer to Ba Be National Park to scout out possibilities for an upcoming summer camp we're planning. Then we continued on to Cao Bang for Easter weekend.
Okay, so another site I've seen often enough, but never with this trio below it! (Notice the Uncle Ho theme? Welcome to Viet Nam)
Saturday was disappointing weather-wise with a lot of rain and wind, and also electricity-wise as the whole town was shut down for about 15 hours during the day. So, we went and got girly and had our toes done at a little shop around the corner that had a generator to keep the lights on and the blow-dryers running. This is the work of art we obtained for the low price of less than $2 each! Easter Sunday dawned bright and sunny, so the lack of electricity was far less an issue. We grabbed two motorbikes and took off for the China border. This was my first trip to the waterfall on the border without a Vietnamese tour guide cum interpreter cum chaperon, but I know my way blindfolded by now and have enough survival language skills and people who know us to find bathrooms and food when necessary. I'm well-known at all the major tourists stops by now to be on a first-name with most of the gate keepers (including the water buffalo). The day was fabulous, with the only downside being the power being out at the cave, so we didn't get to take Kelsey in there. But the weather was so springlike and wonderful we much preferred the time in the out-of-doors anyway. I had almost a full week with Kelsey - an unbelievable luxury in our world of great distances and tight work schedules. But it is with that momentum that I will tackle the month of April - I'll do my best to be in touch in the mean time!

Friday, March 07, 2008

Breaking news: Little Furry Pets Threaten the Integrity of a Nation:

Click on the article to enlarge and enjoy.
(I'll abstain from editorializing, but I especially enjoy the line, "He also said some countries regard the breeding of the animals as legal.")