Neverland or The Netherlands?

Posted by Emilie Ehrman in Sprouting in Brussels. No Comments

25th June

First off, I would like to make you all aware that I am going to crash as soon as I return home, because I have been traveling every weekend and have filled myself with tons of beautiful activities and memories (and delicious food), but I am exhausted!

This post is mostly reporting on my trip to the Netherlands, which was two weekends ago. My post on this past weekend (to Rome, Italy) will follow it shortly.

The Netherlands is like a fairytale – I fell in love with the land and the peacefulness of the countryside and appreciated the vacation from the city. I visited Amsterdam, Den Haag (The Hague), and Kinderdijk (Kinder-dike), and although it was fun for a day, Amsterdam was not as thrilling as I expected – mostly because it was absolutely packed with tourists.

Amsterdam was not a ‘let … Read More »

It’s Not Honey?

22nd June

Honey is a healthy nutritious food from bees. Paired with dates most folks could live contentedly into old age on such a diet. The delicious substance is packaged in 1 kilo containers – without label or picture. This westerner, believing twas a product from bees, ordered her fair share of the gooey brown mixture for the asking price of 100,000 VND per kilo.

One of the travelers, a native Vietnamese living in the UK on holiday in Cambodia, stocked up with 5 kilos ‘to hold him over’  until his next trip to Cambodia’s capital city.  All passengers offered encouragement: “You should try it.” “It’s healthy!” “It’s delicious for breakfast.”

Faithful to their advise, breakfast each morning continues to include the delicious honey from Cambodia.  In thick layers, it is spread on apple wedges or on thin slices of dark rye bread toasted under the broiler until the honey erupts into hundreds of tiny crystalized bubbles.

On busy mornings with … Read More »

HaLong Bay, Gulf of Tonkin, Vietnam

15th June

Surrounded by the velvety green waters of HaLong Bay is a vast collection of sculptured limestone pillars.   The megaliths appear as if centurions on duty patiently bearing witness to the increasing numbers of visitors and tourists who find their way first to Hanoi and then to the Gulf of Tonkin and its beautiful bay.

Tour companies promote excursions to this phenomenon of nature and researchers acknowledge its ecosystem and its biological importance as UNESCO’s seventh geological wonder of the world but words fall short and photos capture only the solitary stillness of the place. One must breathe of the perfumed air and be close enough to touch the ancient and rocky and ever-changing surface to truly experience the power and presence of the Pillars.

Visitors to the bay – young and old alike come from around the world to bear witness to the promise of grandeur that awaits them.

On a recent excursion, travelers included a husband and … Read More »

Nga’s Second Letter

11th June

Good Morning Marie!

Thank you for opening the door to my memories!

I believe memory is a medicine that helps us focus on who we are and helps us see more clearly the challenges in our life.

As a child, my mind was watered by my parent’s stories. I can recite them even now. I remember particularly the story about my grandmother’s long white hair; it was the color of the Red River when the seasons changed and its whiteness reminded me of wedding and funeral customs in our culture.

A French researcher Edouard Hericot wrote “Culture is what is left when everything is forgotten.” I agree with this quote because I know who I am and what I need to keep. I don’t try to change myself while my friends change much. When they go abroad, get married to a foreigner or stay on the … Read More »

I Never Thought I Would Experience Culture Shock

Posted by Emilie Ehrman in Sprouting in Brussels. No Comments

9th June

I have started my third week in Belgium, and I am very, very happy here.

I am astounded that a place I have lived for two weeks can feel so much like home, and that I can experience culture shock and homesickness each for the first time within a single weekend.

In Brussels:

My internship at Serve the City Brussels:

I am very pleased with my internship position. As a communication intern, I am furthering my experience with WordPress and MailChimp, two techniques for professional communication. I have my own Serve the City email address where I independently correspond with people who wish to serve with the organization or who have questions about the work we do. Although I am learning the answers to many of their questions, I am free to ask my supervisor, Cosmina, if any of the emails stump me.

As I … Read More »

Nga’s Letter – Growing Up Along the Red River

8th June


On Jun 3, 2015, at 22:38, Thanh Nga Hoang wrote:

Good Morning Marie!

I’ve just read your blog about your amazing experience in Vietnam!

Maybe you don’t know this but my hometown is alongside The Red River. I love that place but I am scared of the river’s strength.

I remember when the water became high, the narrow village road was slippery. My mother and I each tried to press our ten toes on the ground as if we were lizards on the wall.

My favorite childhood memories are of riding on the back of my mother’s  bicycle and going with her on the village road to visit our relatives.

The Red River Delta  is fertile with wide fields on either side in the country where  farmers spend long days without a break from their labor or relief from the heat. I remember as a child when we heard that the floods were coming, the farmers and … Read More »

The Red River, Hanoi

2nd June


The Red River, even in the light haze of early morning, is clearly visible from a window high above central Hanoi. Similar to the pattern of life in much of Vietnam, the people here are awake and on the move at this early predawn hour.  This is a routine shaped by the climate in an attempt to escape the suffocating high heat and humidity of mid day and early afternoon.

My hotel is the Chalcedony on Nguyen Truong To. Upon return to Hanoi in a few years, this will be my preference for accommodations while in the city. For the few extra U.S. dollars it is well worth the overnight escape from the crush of people and the chaos of the surrounding heat of the city during the height of the tourist season.  And at 4:30 this morning I heard a rooster (I am on the fifth … Read More »

Finding Things (and Getting Lost)

Posted by Emilie Ehrman in Sprouting in Brussels. No Comments

2nd June

I have survived my first week in Belgium!

I have tried foods and drinks and modes of transportation I had never tried before. Some of these experiments were intentional, but some were not. For example:
1. Our nearest grocery store has all of their products labeled with three languages, which is wonderful – if you speak French, Dutch, or German! Sometimes we can figure out what we’re buying, and sometimes we buy the wrong thing (like when Bif accidentally bought buttermilk for her cereal – yuk!).

2. After touring the beautiful Abbey of Maredsous, we had a surprise beer tasting session, presented by the leaders of our program. The beers were carefully crafted. We tried a blonde beer, an amber beer, and a dark beer, that had large amounts of alcohol. This one was a bit of a struggle for me to drink.

3. … Read More »

The Little Dancer at the Diamond Plaza

1st June

The Diamond Plaza in Ho Chi Minh City, District One, is a favorite meeting place for city folk, tourists and temporary residents, exchange students and scholars, professionals in-residence and on assignment from countries around the world, young lovers and new mothers. Folks don’t generally stay here unless upscale shopping is the agenda. The inviting stage-like entrance to the Plaza is simply a well-lighted and conveniently located meeting place.

Across the street is the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica. The Eiffel-designed Saigon Central Post Office is just beyond the basilica and BenThanh Market only a few blocks more. The market is one of the earliest surviving structures in Saigon and, as an important symbol of Hồ Chí Minh City, it is popular with tourists seeking local handicrafts, textiles, áo dài (the traditional dress worn by Vietnamese women) and souvenirs of all make, description and expense. Within reach … Read More »

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