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Family Newsletter - August 1998

From: Fran and Ken

Greetings to all:

As some of you may know through Phyllis and Elmer, we (Fran and Ken Martens Friesen) are currently living in Hanoi, Vietnam. We are here with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) as Country Representatives working with a small staff of Vietnamese and expatriates in the areas of rural development, handicraft production, and English teaching. The following are some excerpts from a recent letter to family and friends...

After a couple of busy weeks here in Hanoi, things are starting to settle down a bit. We are officially in control of this MCC Vietnam ship now, having seen the former country reps off in late June. We have just moved into a house near the MCC office and are busy trying to make it home.

The news around here is a lot about weather. It had cooled off around here--two weeks in July were almost pleasant. But now the heat and humidty is back--high 90's for both. The heat was replaced for a while by rain, and lots of it. We got to find out first hand about Hanoi's flooding problems. Seems the city has paved over so many lakes that water has nowhere to drain anymore, except into people's houses and down main streets. I talked to a US Embassy official the other day who said that the majority of people working there had standing water in their homes. We so far have been spared, though we are not yet in the clear. We are fortunately on the high side of our street, and on the high end of the block. In the two rains we have had so far the water has come within about 4 or 5 inches of our first floor. The people who live near canals (which drain sewer water) are particulary lucky--just imagine what might be floating around in their living room--perhaps, among other things, some of the 40 million rats that Hanoi residents have killed so far this year! (No, we don't have a rat problem, but the rice crops are being threatened by them).

The roads, meanwhile, are often impassible after it rains, with (literally) two feet of water standing for long stretches. That leads motorbike and bicyle drivers to drive on the sidewalks (naturally!) where they may only have to deal with a foot of water!

Daniel is happy to be back with his friends at the International pre-school. Loren is getting reaquainted with his nannie, who seems to really enjoy his company as she teaches him new Vietnamese words that we have yet to learn. We set up a small plastic pool on the roof (that we brought from the states--the pool, not the roof), along with a little swing, so we are quite a splashing, swinging spectacle to some of our neighbors who watch us from their balconies or roofs. Such is life in the big city.

On July 4 we actually succumbed to the temptation to hang out with other Americans at the 'American Club (run by the US Embassy), eat hot dogs and hear 'Whitney Houston' (well, actually a taped, Filipino imitation of her) sing the star-spangled banner. Fran talked briefly to Pete Peterson, the American Ambassador ("Hi, how's it going?" "Fine, thanks.") and his charming new Vietnamese-Australian wife.

We are actually also slowly getting adjusted to working side-by-side in an office, dealing with very capable Vietnamese staff and MCC volunteers, and writing up endless reports and memos to make MCC staff in Akron happy.

So that is life in Hanoi this fine day. We would love to hear from anyone who feels led to write about life, or anything else of import on your side of the world. We will respond as we can, depending on whether we are in the middle of a crisis or not. Take care. Love to all.

Fran and Ken

From: Phyl

Dear family,

I spent last week at Paul and Fran's lovely place in Highland Park. Paul had a heavy teaching week and doesn't like to leave Fran alone that much. Probably you've all been there and know how beautiful the area is--lots of trees, big homes, lawns and flowers, lake near by. One evening the resident family of raccoons came scampering out across the back lawn to investigate the food situation--cute little guys. Fran doesn't drive now but can go out, so I drove the second car (remember stick shift?) and we went shopping, to lunch, etc. Saturday we all drove out to a farm to buy corn, Sunday to the Botanical Gardens.

Well, we're off to Canada on Sunday after I pinch-hit for an absent organist in the morning. A young man named Gred Yoder will be here two weeks. After we get back a young Taiwanese student is moving in--really nice guy, though Dahong will be a hard act to follow. In Canada it's a Martens reunion of 40 to 50 persons including Lauren, Vern, Karen and their families. One tradition is a curry dinner at some point, so Friday I'll be cooking with the caterer (she will do one meal a day). Tent up on the farm yard as a gathering place, sleeping in the hay loft, and so on.

We're driving. In June we took the Reno-Denver route by Amtrak (wondrous smooth ride through the mountains for 2 days). Last week I flew Reno-Salt Lake-Chicago on Delta. Now we will hit the Reno-Elko-Butte etc. route by car. I think Amtrak will turn out to be the most enjoyable way to go. In between all this we did a fast trip to Phoenix to the funeral of our long-time friend and Elmer's colleague, George Konrad.

We drove to Reedley on Tuesday and in 30 or 40 minutes had the car loaded with so many peach/nectarine culls it chugged home like a tank. Gave most of them away, will take some to Canada. Peaches on bran flakes with sugar and milk is a breakfast for the gods...probably what the Greeks meant by ambrosia. Well, it's been hot here but what else is new for all of you. More next time. Stay cool!

Love, Phyl

From: Jo

July 12-19 was a great time for me. I attended The University of Iowa Summer Writing Workshop, taking two classes in writing children's stories. The University offers week-long and weekend courses through June and July, and writers/would-be writers come from all over the States to work together. We went from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. writing, rewriting and critiquing. I LOVED it!

Frank came along to enjoy the library, bookstores and coffee shops and to investigate the local flood control system. Dams and reservoirs fascinate him. He thinks he should have been a civil engineer or a beaver.

One thing I learned was that we should write for the enjoyment of it and not be so concerned about what others think.....so how about some writings/poems for the web, folks?

If anyone wants to take a writing class at Iowa next summer, let me know. I'll send you the information.


From: Steve

Despite the fact that it is only August, the alpine growing season is coming to an end up in the Rocky Mountains. For many plants, July is really the only guaranteed time that it is safe to bloom. That meant that my July included four VERY early Saturday morning awakenings in order to try to capture on film some of these wildflowers and mountain scenes.

Alpine Sunflowers

The problem with trying to get nice photos during this time is that the best hours for photography are roughly from 6-8 in the morning. This meant that I had to be at the trailhead by 5 after getting up at 3 and driving up.


The part that makes it worthwhile is having a glacial valley pretty much to yourself (no tourists up that early!) as the sun comes up over the eastern horizon.


But I am looking forward to August, so that I can sleep in a bit later on my Saturdays.

From: Jo

WANTED: Does anyone have a good curry puff recipe they could send me? I added the Highclerc curry puff recipe to the web (found it in the Kodai alumni magazine), but it doesn't sound like the kind we used to have. - Jo