Friday, December 16, 2011

Our first visit!

Dear diary,

Instead of going on one of our weekly training rides, we had our first visit to one of the charities yesterday that our ride will be supporting. It was a chance to actually see firsthand where (y)our funding will be going. I rode up a little late as a result of a late night celebration for 7 departing coworkers, but I made it nonetheless. 

Introducing: The Thang Long English and Vocational School!

This school supports more than 300 students per year, ranging in age from 12 to 25. The students are mostly from the surrounding areas of districts 4, 8, and 7. They get to attend the school at no cost to them and are taught English skills and get training in different hospitality vocations. 

For our visit, we split up into two groups: one to get interviewed by students to practice their English skills and one to be training dummies for the vocational school. After a set time, we switched so everyone got to experience both sides. 

First stop: an English classroom.

Agenda for today: can (ability) and getting to know the riders

Rider Joe getting interviewed by some of the students.

Fruit poster in the classroom

I really wanted this

And this.
 I snapped a dozen photos of my favorite veggies that I didn't know the names of, haha.
I didn't snap that many photos on my camera, so I'll add the rest when the other riders upload them.

Next stop: the vocational station!

Examples of some of the elaborate hairstyles these students are capable of.
I know where I'm going once I get my locks grown back!

Rider Sandra getting very festive with her nails - holidaying it up with trees and stuff!

Rider Sarah getting her hair dried before getting styled.

Rider Anna and I getting our hurrr washed and scalp massaged.
Congratulations to Nguyen on being the only woman not named Mom to wash my hair!

After about an hour or so, our visit was up. The students were going home and a new group was showing up after lunch. It was great to meet the students and see firsthand where the funding goes and what a big difference it makes in the lives of these children. With such a huge disparity in the opportunities they are afforded, it's nice to help in any way we can. Free training and support for them to build skills that will hopefully lead to employment in VN's growing economy. 

The day's riding crew with some of the students, staff and Headmistress Oanh.
All in all, a well-spent morning! Excited for my next visit to another H2H-supported organization - ILACN's orphanage/hospital/shelter.

Thanks for your support, friends. 'Til next time!

Ride on,

Friday, November 11, 2011

From Hanoi to the Hoch, I will be a beast putting the pedal to the pavement!

Dear diary,

Shit just got real. 

H2H on my brain!

It's going down, folks: Tin Mai is riding from H2H, Hanoi to the Hoch, up and down mountains, through paddy fields, sporting my spandex, in February of 2012!

Friends and families, with 19 other volunteers, I will be partaking in a month-long, 1,200 mile/2,000km ride down the length of Viet Nam. We will be riding to support three charities that aim to improve the quality of life of the impoverished and less-fortunate children and youth of Viet Nam. The Children's Initiative, Saigon Children's Charity, and the ILA Community Network are all involved in projects that work towards building a better future for the young'ns of Viet Nam by giving "access to education, healthcare, training, and opportunities to fulfill their potential in life."

Why am I doing this?
- Well, I recognize the privilege and the opportunity that I have here in Viet Nam, the place I've been calling home for the past 9 months. I want to make the most of my time here and want to give back to the country that has given me so much. The inequalities here are abundant, and I don't mean between the locals and the expats. There are countless children here that don't have opportunities for access to education, healthcare, and much more. The charities listed above are all championing for narrowing those inequalities and alleviating poverty for the disadvantaged. I wanted to do my part in helping the cause and, luckily, landed at ILA, the school where the H2H Charity Ride started 3 years ago. Over the next few months, I will be training with the other volunteers and raising as much money as possible for our charities. We would all appreciate it if you could support us and the charities as well. 

What can YOU do to help?
- Easy! Check out my page here: firstgiving/tinmai. Donate. Spread my page around. Email blast/facebook blast/tweet it/repost it on your blog. Expenses for safety, fundraising, and financial administration costs will be kept to the absolute essentials so as much of your donations go directly to the charities. We'll have a better idea of what % that will be once we factor in all our deposits and (potential) corporate sponsorships. What that means is you are in no way paying for my month-long charity ride. Along with taking one month off from work (during which I'll not be having any income), I am funding my own way through all of this. The bike (sort of), the cycling gear, the accommodations, the food & drinks, and anything else will be paid for through my own funds. Whaetever you give will be going towards training youth who cannot attend public schools, funds for school materials, construction of a kindergarten, completion of a library project, a micro-loan project for the poorest families in these charities and so many more great projects. Every little bit helps. 

What's the deal, really?
- Starting back in September, the volunteers started doing twice-a-week training rides around Saigon. Each ride is roughly 20 miles/30km and lasts a bit over 2 hours. We'll be ramping up our rides as the date moves closer, eventually tackling 55+ miles/90+km rides to mimic the actual February ride. The average ride will probably be somewhere around 43-50 miles/70-80 km/day, with the shortest day about 30 miles/49km and the longest about 68miles/110km.
Just this past week, I did a 75 mile/120km ride that started around 7 a.m. and finished at 5 p.m. That was absolutely bananas. I've got a long way to go before I can be in top form to be able to do this for a month straight.

So, let's get to it. Please spread the word and help/support the cause. Thank you!

For more information, check out our website here: H2H Charity Ride (dot) org
To keep abreast of our training and fundraising efforts, read out blog here: H2H (dot) blogspot
And, again, to read more of my story and to donate, holler: tin mai @ firstgiving

Peace and blessings,

The very first training ride back in September for H2H 2012.
Sarah, Dana, tinothy, Rhona, and Kirsty bird.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Northern VN Vacation: Part II! Hanoi, October 14 & 15, 2011

Dear diary,

Much smaller update this time around. Our 2 day adventure (mostly) walking around Hanoi. Did the whole tourist deal, ate a bunch of yummy foodssSss, and recovered from climbing Mt. Fansipan only to get our beasts on the following days on Cat Ba. 


Anti-drug PSA.

I'm amazed how I got such a clear picture while walking by. Slick.

It was only a matter of time...

He got herded onto the bridge...

And all these lovely people got to take a photo with an authentic white man!

Bún thịt nướng, somewhere in my top 5.


We decided to wait on the hot pot for a bit...

Tofu, squid, I forgot, and Morning Glory with garlic.

Yep, you're seeing that right.

Oh, my! O Mai!

Vietnam Museum of Ethnology: Exhibit on HIV in VN

Guess what this is and I'll send you something special.


I'm not usually a fan of museums, but I had a wonderful time at this one. The following exhibit on recyclers was really eye-opening. I see these women everyday walking up and down the streets, digging through bins and bags, and don't really give much thought to their stories. 

I didn't take too many photos of the exhibit, but you can get the gist with the following info from the photos. The artist also replicated a room of a boarding house where these women and their family stay. Quite mind-boggling how they manage to fit their lives into a 3x3ft room (often shared with a spouse.) Just really puts into perspective the life of excess and comfort most people like me have grown accustomed to. #firstworldproblems, tinmai.

Hip Hop exhibit documenting one of Hanoi's bboy crew.

They got the right idea.
I was looking to cop a spot as well, but they swooped up all the good benches.

First thing that popped into my mind: Taylor Swift.

Miniature models of different Hmong tribes' houses. 

Albert Le!

Marriage by capture...what?

I snapped quite a few photos of phrases I had never read/heard of before to Google them later.

After all that walking, time to eat! Bánh bèo!! Also in my top 5.

Bánh nậm, my gooooooodness! I hadn't had this in years.
Another reason why Huế food is topsssSss.

Temple of Literature

I came in expecting to see a collection of books or writing or something. Silly me.


Stalkerazzi time!

I've been spotted!

Ummm, wat?

Who sets out all these drums only to forbid drum-beating? Tease.

Nerd meet-up. Only missing Andre Nguyen.

A lot of dressed up gals came through to have their photos taken.

Rhona thought they were quite attractive, so she begged me to snap some secret photos.

Solution to solving litter problem? Being firm, but gentle. Thank you!

Chillin' by the lake, watching the fish, um, float by.

Dessert: fruit, ice, coconut milk, and a shit ton of condensed milk!

No, I was not mocking an ethnic group. Rhona's brilliant Oreo face-race.

Step 1: Twist an Oreo in half.
Step 2: Stick the creamy side to your forehead.
Step 3: Wiggle and contort your face in anyway you want and try to move the Oreo to your mouth.
Step 4: If successful, EAT! WIN! If it falls off, DQ'd!

Losers lick off remaining cream on the winner's face.

According to Mimi Pham, Anthony Bourdain really dug this place.

Phở tái chín (rare steak & brisket). No joke, it was half noodle and half meat.
A bit much for my liking, but it was good. Still prefer the southern version with all the herbs, bean sprouts, and tương (sauce).

Happy Birthday, Sister! It's in the mail.

And that's it for today. Part III, Cat Ba coming soon.