Good Morning, Viet Nam

My first thought upon walking off the airplane and into the Hanoi airport was, “Oh wow, I’m tall”. Most days I think of myself as being 5’5-5’6″ even though I’m just over 5’9″. I blame this on the fact that Frank and Mary tower over me. I’ve never thought of myself as being tall before arriving in Viet Nam. Most of the people stood up and I soon realized that they looked much taller when they were seated on the plane. This sense of feeling like a giant hasn’t gone away.

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This church is about half a block away from where I’m staying so how I orientate myself

I walked around a bit Sunday night but with the travel and lack of sleep on the airplanes went to bed at 7pm. Both Monday and Tuesday were holidays here, first International Labor Day and then celebrating the Fall of Saigon.  I woke up at 4am the next morning and was ready to go. I facetimed my parents because it was early evening for them and waited until the noise of the street crept in to let me know the city had awaken. I got up and went to walk around the Hoàn Kiếm Lake, or “Lake of the Restored Sword”.lakeview 2 I also walked across the Huc Bridge into the Temple of the Jade Mountain. Right before the entrance two girls in front of me had to turn around and the man seemed to be gesturing to their shoes. Looking at my sandals I wondered if it was a problem but he let me pass. I later realized it was because they were wearing shorts and had to go back and put smocks on to cover their legs.

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Inside the temple
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View looking onto the lake from the temple
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I’m taller than everyone on this bridge

The temple is still active with people putting money (fake money) to burn as the offering.

I then met up with one of the guys here for lunch to talk about preliminary things, like areas to go running and what places are the best to eat.

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My shorts were too short for me to go up into the temple

Tuesday was the celebration of the Fall of Saigon, which is probably a similar feeling to a Brit being in America on the Fourth of July, but with less fireworks. Given that everything was still shut down I decided to make my way to the Temple of Literature and maybe the Viet Nam Museum of Art. Unfortunately both of those are off my paper map by a few blocks and ended up instead at Ho Chi Mihn’s Mausoleum and Museum.

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Not as busy as I thought it would be on the holiday

There was a temple there as well, which I could not go in because of the shorts I was wearing and they didn’t offer smocks. I also didn’t go into the Mausoleum because it was closed, which I found a little ironic given the day of celebration. templeI never found the Museum of Art, which is what I was really after. I would go up to a police officer and ask, “English?” and they would respond, “Hello” and that was the just of it so besides trying to point on the map any phrases I knew in Vietnamese that I did not butcher were not sufficient enough to get me to where I wanted to be. I took a cab back to the hotel, which was maybe my first and last cab ride given how terrifying the roads are here.

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Slightly terrifying

Yesterday I woke up again around 4 so decided to go for a run when the daylight broke. I decided to go run around Hoàn Kiếm Lake because it was close and that way if I didn’t want to do 6+ miles I could just cut it short whenever. Within about the first 5 minutes I soon realized why I didn’t see more runners, the humidity and the heat even at 5am was miserable. Plenty of people where out exercising, either walking around or doing group fitness, but not a lot of runners. Most of them in normal clothes and a few times seeing their clothes drenched in sweat I wanted to yell, “Cotton kills!” but didn’t.  The side street markets were also unfolding spilling out fruits, vegetables, and handmade goods. I couldn’t believe all the activity happening still in the wee hours. I only last 3 painstaking miles and then went back to my air-conditioned room and did yoga. I only had a dinner on the schedule for the day so spent most of the day just roaming around. The Old Quarter is a mix of tourists interjected with the locals. A lot of shops seemed tailored to tourists and then I turned a corner and found myself on a street that only sold coffins and memorial flowers.

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On the Hoc Bridge

Other things:

(1) It doesn’t make much difference whether you look or not while crossing the road, there is always traffic so you just go–sorry mom!

(2) Not speaking anything more than really basic Vietnamese phrases means that I’m surrounded by thousands of people but still very isolated. My mom asked how I would do with it but it hasn’t bothered me yet, I’m actually enjoying it. I do worry that if I do something wrong and someone starts yelling I will have no idea why

(3) I have yet to a store that sells hairbrushes, and I’m in desperate need. I’m debating just cutting it so someone will have to brush it.

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Flowers outside the Ho Chi Minh Museum

 

Leaving on a Jet Plane

Way back in law school when I was looking at different programs I only applied to University of Notre Dame and the main reason surrounding that decision was that it required a 6-8 week international field research component in order to graduate. At the time not sure I would return to law school (I am going back, more on that later), I figured that having the research experience would help me to shift directions. Within about 3 weeks on campus I knew I would be going back to law school and now I am set to go into the field. I’m hoping to be able to update my blog as I travel along. I’m on my way to Viet Nam for 3 weeks and then headed to Switzerland for 4 weeks. To put it in simple terms I’m looking at the intersection of Viet Nam’s domestic policies with an international framework dealing with Pandemic Influenza Vaccines. In 2009 H1N1 pandemic influenza, vaccines were donated to low-middle income countries with Viet Nam being one of the eligible countries. They rejected the vaccines citing import restrictions dealing with quality control issues. In 2011 an international framework was developed to ensure that the countries that were giving up virus samples would receive benefits (i.e., vaccines at the time of a pandemic). Viet Nam hasn’t changed it’s policies so mainly the framework is pointless if the country doesn’t allow for the benefits to be revived on the domestic level. I’ll be looking at what barriers are still in place and how to best circumnavigate them to allow the benefits be derived.

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Ready for anything- I hope!

I made it to Chicago with only a few mishaps, mainly getting stuck in one revolving door with my suitcase and then again on the metro going through the turnstile. That one was a little more precarious, with me and my suitcase wedged between the bars and my only thought being, “how is this my life” I had no idea what to do to free myself and instead my body took over and I tumbled over the suitcase and out of the gate. Problem solved. A little girl ran up to me and asked if I was okay. I responded with, I just need to leave this country. And that’s what I did–and they let me!!

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Not at Casa Bonita anymore

I hoped on a plane and headed to Dubai, landing after 13 hours. I’m currently in the middle of a 8 hour layover and with very nice visa restrictions I left the airport and did what any other white girl would do: go to the mall and eat tacos. Actually the mall was recommended to me by a friend from Saudi Arabia (thanks again, Nayef!) because it’s right next to the Burj Khalifa (160 floor skyscrapper-tallest building in the world- no I did not go to the sky deck) and they also have the Dubai Fountains which put on a show every 30 minutes. I was a little nervous to leave the airport because I occasionally get lost on the metro in Chicago, and I don’t speak Arabic in any capacity, and have no cell service except when I’m connected to wifi. Thankfully it was pretty straightforward and I didn’t encounter any hiccups. I arrived safely back at the airport about an hour ago and still have 3 hours before my plane leaves for Hanoi. I’ll land there after close to 40 hours of traveling. Fortunately, Monday is a national holiday in Viet Nam so I’ll be able to use the day to orient myself.

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Getting Back in The Saddle

I thought I would keep rolling after Leadville and try to maintain my fitness into cross season and maybe even do some collegiate mountain biking. I did one race, and then had two weddings the next two weekends (both so much fun!). I was then going to try and race Madison the following weekend. However, after returning from wedding number 2, I  found myself on antibiotics for the first time in over 10 years. Which made me so grateful for the access I had to get them quickly but it still took a lot out of me, leaving me off the bike for over 3 weeks.

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Heidi got married and Kara didn’t faint when we gave our speech; the weekend was a success!

For the second wedding in Colorado I was able to sneak in some rides between wedding activities. I was able to meet up and ride with my friend Nicola before she left for Namibia. The last time we were able to ride together was when we raced Iceman…on a tandem and she was stuck behind me for 30 miles.

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More bike riding….never a dull moment with Dave…

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Dave riding my bike, yes he is a giant

While I thought I would be spending the next weekend racing in Madison there was no way my body would have made it though the race but I still went up to hangout with Sully and his team. It was the first time I had seen him since Leadville (yay… long distance, school and race schedules). It’s also the first race I’ve been to in a long time that I wasn’t racing at–which was nice but also made me realize I’m not exactly ready to be a spectator.

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Sully is somewhere in this photo….

The only biking that happened in the next week was when Mary Clair came to visit for a football game and I talked her into riding bikes around campus–last time we rode bikes together was before 2010…

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Just had to promise a ND football game at the end of the ride

This past week was fall break and I spent it with Molly and Abe down in Florida. I did some running to start building my fitness back up and to start working off all the candy I’ve been eating.

When I got back I decided to finally go for a bike ride. I took the cross bike because I’m going to try and race in 2 weeks (we’ll see how it goes with this much time off). The trail system had a few more exposed roots and down leaves than I was expecting so it led to some questionable handling skills but made me excited to take my mountain bike out there. And so 2 months after finishing Leadville, I finally feel like I’m ready to get back to riding.

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I’m baaccck!

Jered and Ashley Gruber also took some really great photos from Leadville that are amazing and worth sharing (even though it’s a little late on my part).

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The whole team. Photo Credit: Ashley Gruber
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Jered took this while riding by me. Photo Credit: Jered Gruber 
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On the way back. Photo credit: Ashley Gruber 
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Even though there are plenty of people in the race there are moments of solitary where you question your sanity…. Photo credit: Ashley Gruber 
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That one moment I felt like a huge badass. Photo credit: Ashley Gruber 
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And one more up Powerline. Photo Credit: Ashley Gruber

The next race I’m planning on is in Lousiville, KY. Sully will be there and it’s also collegiate conference champs so thought it might be a good way to keep my options open for nationals. To get a spot for nationals you just need to race in the conference championship so don’t think I’m planning on getting close to winning with taking 3+ weeks off the bike 🙂

School has been very busy, about the same stress level as law school, but with much less anxiety. Our grades aren’t the sole result of one four hour exam at the end but instead with lots of weekly and daily assignments. Working on narrowing down my thesis but looking at viral sovereignty and how it plays out in the international legal arena so we’ll see where it takes me!

And so the Adventure Begins

I began law school last year immediately trying to figure out how to get back to the mountains. This year I voluntarily went further away.  I decided to take a leave of absence from law school to attend a one year master’s of science program at University of Notre Dame for Global Health. I did this for a few reasons (1) I got in (2) at this point in my law school career I have 3-5 required classes left which means that at least 1.5 years of electives can be paired more to this program (3) there is a Whole Foods near by. Not so much the last one but it was a nice little bonus. There were other factors too, I promise.

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Still flat here, but the view isn’t too shabby.

I only applied to this program because it’s the only one I wanted and figured if I got in, great I would go and if not I’d stay in law school and apply the next year, or the year after that. It’s funny because even though the past year at law school I only thought a lot about leaving, when I finally did it was hard to leave all the great friends I made, even if it was east river…  I don’t think this program came to a shock for most people that close to me but most people don’t know that I do have a background in environmental science and did time studying tuberculosis in South Africa–I don’t just ride bikes ALL the time. When I got in, my mom called and said, “you know that the winters are probably worst than Vermillion and there are NO mountains” It’s true they don’t have any mountains but I’m definitely excited about the program and this program makes me more excited about law school–yay! More school!

So now I’m in South Bend for the year, I came straight from Leadville, again and landed in orientation instead of classes. And I haven’t cried once! It helped that my flight leaving Leadville  got cancelled and rescheduled for the next day so I just stayed in Boulder and ate all the food.

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Obligatory dome picture….errr close enough 

I rode with the cycling team the other day. It was the first time I had done a road ride that consisted of more than 3 people. I don’t know why I didn’t get into road riding/racing sooner, the draft is incredible! It was so nice just sit back, pedal occasionally and maintain a relatively high average speed. Although the drafting does scare me a bit, I’ve mostly only done it during gravel races when the speeds are averaging a little lower. I kept “yo-yoing” off the back as Sully said. I would tap my breaks, drop off, sprint back on, tap my breaks, drop off, sprint back on…and it continued, a nice little interval circuit.

After Leadville a few of the pros went on to start the Breck Epic the day after the race, I too went straight into a race butttttt two weeks later. I didn’t anticipate being able to do a mountain bike race here this late in the season but came up on one when looking for places to ride. I had my bike shipped out (which would have happened anyways) and was off the couch for 14 miles (really haven’t done anything since Leadville except that group ride). It was a time trial style course with 15 seconds in between. It was pretty fun, but definitely different than Colorado riding and definitely different than a 100-mile race. I even have narrow handlebars and clipped two trees with them (might be time to start riding with contacts so I have some depth-perception) and had many close calls with others. The course had been rained on the day and night before and it was pretty slicky (I came in thinking it would be running fast and hero dirt, but soon realized I’m in the midwest…) which made for some squirmy corners and some pretty sketchy saves. I finished up 3rd, but I’m trying to get faster at shorter races (I have a big engine but mainly for going far and not necessarily that fast) and after about an hour felt like I was just getting warmed up to keep going, only to be finishing. The cycling team here doesn’t do too much with mountain biking so I figured it would be a good way to try and meet some people in the area who do. And try to get some short speed work in.

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I promise someone got first!

One of the reasons I switched my website was because as part of the ND program I’ll be in the field for 6-8 weeks next summer, and figured this would be a good way for my parents to keep tabs on me (provided there is internet…) so will start posting about course work here and there as well. But still mostly focused on biking. Up next I’m planning on doing a cyclocross race in Madison in about 3 weeks (I have 2 weddings the next 2 weekends).

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Cheers to new beginnings and more adventures!