Coffee and Comaraderie

I finally had the experience of seeing my name on a sign as I passed through the wide doors of the airport luggage area to the crowd that was waiting for arriving passengers.  Actually, there was only one man with a sign and a few people waiting, but it still felt great.

I had returned from Bangkok just in time to catch a flight to Da Lat, a city in southern Vietnam. I would be joining fellow Fulbrighters for a one-day meeting where each of us shared the progress we have made on our Fulbright projects. It was a reunion for us since we spent four days together in September for our orientation.

Our hotel in Da Lat

A Room Full of Experts

Five of the current Fulbrighters are here for ten months or more while the remaining three are finishing up our projects in the next month. Most of us admitted that we were looking forward to seeing each other but weren’t really sure how listening to eight presentations from diverse fields would be. We were pleasantly surprised.

Is the audience still awake?

Each presenter demonstrated such a passion for their project that it was impossible not to get drawn into their world and share in their learning, frustrations, successes, and growth while here in Vietnam. I learned about the challenges of changing the culture of English teaching in Vietnam at the policy level and the impact a visiting professor had on his business students. I heard about the progress being made in public health in Vietnam and the creative ideas for addressing the stigma associated with mental health issues. A political science professor talked about teaching his subject, which technically does not exist in this communist country.  Another researcher exposed the world of researching in Vietnamese archives, which is no easy task. An anthropologist sang to us in the endangered language of the Cham people. And I was so pleased when my fellow Fulbrighters read poems on my project website and left comments for my students. One Fulbrighter even added his own poem to the site!

Almost all of us

I am grateful to the Fulbright Vietnam staff at the US Embassy in Hanoi who organized and funded this conference. As a group, we have learned so much from each other and have enjoyed the support of the Fulbright staff.

Thu Huong gets a ride from Dave
Our Fulbright conferences always come with amazing meals.
The view from the hotel

Exploring Da Lat’s Food

Several of us stayed on in Dalat after the conference and enjoyed a few days exploring the area. The winter rains kept us inside coffee shops and restaurants for a good part of the time, but no one minded.  There were many food items to try that are not even available in Hanoi.  Hours earlier, any one of us would have said the food in Hanoi was the best anywhere, but with each new treat we tried in Da Lat, we began to worry about returning to the everyday “normal” food we’d grown accustomed to in the capital city.

Banh canh, a quail’s egg snack specialty of Da Lat. Amazing!
Da Lat’s famous night market
Jeff, Eric and Cindy tried just about all of Da Lat’s street food!
Grilled sweet potatoes and corn
All kinds of food
A grill for our table
I passed on the dried squid, but Cindy was in heaven.
This amazing coconut dessert cost about 25 cents and was made right before our eyes.

Coffee, too, will never be the same

As with the food, the coffee in Da Lat took things to a whole new level.  Not only that, but the baristas are eager to share their enthusiasm for and knowledge of coffee.   I have, without a doubt, had the best coffee of my life in Vietnam (remember, I used to live in Brazil). Adjusting to coffee in the US may be the most difficult part of my reentry when I return next summer.

Making coffee is like a lab experiment at Da Lat’s finest cafes.
An exact science
Lots of specialized equipment for one cup
A visiting coffee expert from Australia taught us all about the process.
We enjoyed every moment.

Mr. Flanagan takes a spin

I did it.  I finally drove a motorbike.  It’s the most popular way to travel in Vietnam.  I’ve ridden on the back of many motorbikes since arriving here, but this was my first time at the controls.  I did have a tiny mishap along the way, but that story won’t be told here (It’s really pretty boring).  I’m ready for my next trip!

Parked at the strawberry fields.
This farmer wanted to talk to Jeff about his time in the war.
He also helped pick strawberries.
The high altitude of Da Lat means the climate and vegetation are different. This could be a lake in Rhode Island.
Don’t forget to check out the poetry website! Click on “Where I’m From” at the top of the page.

Comments (16):

  1. Lori Liguori

    December 27, 2016 at 12:00

    Just fabulous, Tim… always!!!! What an experience…..still loving every moment vicariously!!!! If I promise to save you some pizzelles, will you bring me a coffee?????? 🙂

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 29, 2016 at 22:28


  2. Paula Agins

    December 28, 2016 at 16:12

    Your reads make my day! Like Lori, it becomes my private vacation!

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 29, 2016 at 22:29

      So glad to be helping you explore the world!

  3. Paula Gorski

    December 28, 2016 at 19:45

    Love it Time!!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 29, 2016 at 22:30

      Thanks, Paula!

  4. Deidre

    December 29, 2016 at 12:50

    I am in constant awe of your experiences. You know I am envious about that great coffee! Glad you are being treated like a king for a bit and getting to share your experiences with colleagues. A nice break I am imagining for you! Also glad you are safe after your mishap. Stay healthy, happy, and amazed in 2017!

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 29, 2016 at 22:31

      Happy New Year, Deidre!

  5. Cindy Cassidy

    December 29, 2016 at 18:24

    So I’ve said a million times that this is your “Eat, Pray, Love” experience – would you mind explaining the dish that said “I want to kiss you???” You can’t leave me hanging!

    • Tim Flanagan

      December 29, 2016 at 22:32

      Well, it’s turned out to be more like Eat, Eat, Eat. Sorry to disappoint, but there’s no story to tell. Just an anonymous vendor trying to catch the tourists’ attention. I don’t even know her name . . . .

  6. Diane Weisman

    December 31, 2016 at 18:39

    Tim, I love being an armchair traveler seeing the world through your eyes. I know you already celebrated New Year’s in Vietnam. I wish you a healthy, happy and adventurous 2017. Looking forward to your next blog entry.

    • Tim Flanagan

      January 3, 2017 at 10:07

      Thank you, Diane. I had a great New Year’s on a photo tour in the mountains. So remote and beautiful, riding on the back of a motorbike for three days, meeting many local people. I have so much to share about finishing my time in Vietnam, but not much time to write this week. Moving out of my apartment this Friday and trying to finish everything up. Hope you had a wonderful New Year – I’ll be looking forward to hearing about your adventures in 2017!

  7. Tina E

    January 3, 2017 at 22:56

    Love catching up on your adventures through your blog! You have inspired Lauren to write one while she does a clinical rotation in Belize! Always inspiring others!
    Check out her blog!

    • Tim Flanagan

      January 10, 2017 at 08:40

      Very exciting. I love her blog and seeing how she’s adapting. Brings back memories for me!

  8. Elaine T

    January 4, 2017 at 07:24

    Amazing Amazing Amazing….and so inspiring!!

    • Tim Flanagan

      January 10, 2017 at 08:41

      Thank you, Elaine!


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