Same same, but different (part deux)

One of the best parts of Off Piste School is not having to quickly visit notable attractions and leave. Our school locations are often planned such that a 5 day stay, with only 2 days of “activities to do”, allows for ample time to both get in all the school, but also experience the culture in such a way that we all really get an authentic sense of the people. Arthur has the kids using a “running culture” pad which chronicles their observations about each stop on our journey. No more “Asia this”, or “Africa that.” These countries are so so different in essentially EVERY way immaginable. And as always, certain commonalities transcend the humanity. Take football.

We were fortunate to randomly arrive in Hanoi the night of the U23 Asia football championships, just as Vietnam beat Iraq. Only one person was at the immigration booth until the game was decided by penalties.  Adrenaline RUSH. Then we watched Vietnam beat Qatar in the semis while at a bar, complete with polite, inquisitive, enthusiastic fans revelling, even to the point where the kids asked “what’s that funny smelling smoke in those cigarettes?”

Well after Vietnam won in the semis, and we visited Sapa up north, we returned back through HaNoi and happened onto the finals. Of course, the much anticipated match between Vietnam v. Uzbekistan!

The games even come with pop stars singing in rice paddies.

And today’s final was played in China, where it snowed the entire game by the bucket.

HaNoi stopped, streets empty, blanketed in pride.

At halftime, as always, it was a time for like minded fans to do high fives with those Americans. And once you start, the enthusiasm and picture taking is seemingly endless, if you want it to be. One picture invited more, and it goes on like a Bradley Cooper stroll down Broadway. Crazy.

But here’s the really nutty part. These two pictures above are part of the next 8 hours of partying, joy and peaceful merriment as if these folks have been bottled up for decades looking for an excuse to celebrate just anything.

And this picture above? It’s outside RIGHT NOW as i type this. It’s been going on for over 2 hours. Non stop.

After the final game. A LOSS!

The out matched Vietnamese finally met their fate, LOSING 2-1 in the waning 30 seconds of overtime.  To repeat, this is the under 23 year old soccer championships!

  • The joy is honestly like nothing I’ve ever experienced. The chanting is loud and non-stop.  Wearing our trusty red tee shirts with yellow stars of the Vietnamese flag,  and similar headbands, Stacia and I waded through selfie after selfie with people that were simply happy to share the moment with foreigners. With Americans. And will do so all night. Not drunken revelry, just pure joy. (I hope the kids, sick all day, will be able to fall asleep up on the 7th floor.) It’s so clear the Vietnamese people, so kind and warm,  want to be accepted, included, and loved.

Meanwhile, the chants continue…

VIETNAM VO DING!

VIETNAM VO DING!

VIETNAM VO DING!

(VIETNAM…CHAMPIONS!)

I cannot help but wonder what it must have been like when the US withdrew from the war in Vietnam?

A lovely fan indeed.

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