Last winter when I was home in America for Christmas, I went to visit my friend Melissa who I teach with in Vietnam. As we played games, ate delicious homemade fish tacos, and walked round her farm, I whined that I didn’t want to return to Vietnam. I was feeling the looming sadness of continuing a long distance relationship and nostalgia for life in the States. But, Melissa assured me it would be the best semester ever because we would take up weekly biking. It took us until March to organize a bike outing with our friend Elaine, but since then, it has been an almost weekly occurrence. If you are my Facebook friend, you have seen far too many photos of my crew on bikes, but it is one of my highlights every week. Unfortunately, we only know a few loops, but we love them dearly and never tire of the wonders of Vietnam city and country life. Despite doing the same 40k loop the last two weekends, I was struck this Saturday by how vividly green everything became in just one week. It was thrilling to see that the rice had grown and the water levels had risen.
Despite the fact that it is the rainy season, Vietnam is having the worst drought conditions in a long time. Due to the rains coming late,China building some new dams upriver, and the low elevation of the Mekong Delta region (just south of HCMC), the salt water from the sea has permeated the soil of much of the arable land and polluted the well water. Farmers and families here are facing extreme economic hardship. My sister Megan came to visit, and we went on a tour of the region with a speedboat tour company called Les Rives (highly recommend). Our knowledgable guide explained the current situation, and now, I am advising one of my seniors on her Extended Essay about the effects of the drought on locals. My heart aches for the farmers down south, and we are planning to take a bike ride weekend down to the delta soon. Hopefully, we will be able to find someway to contribute to some families during this rough time. On normal weekends though, we don’t make it to the delta, so we pass farms much closer to the city.
Three weeks ago, we resumed our weekly trips and started with a little loop that we call the bridge loop because we get to bike over about 30 bridges along the way. Bridges are the only sort of elevation change happening in southern Vietnam, so it gives us a little challenge. Along this route, we have a lot of traffic through a developing neighborhood called Nha Be, but eventually we reach some rural land. The past 2 weeks we have done what we call the double ferry route. It starts by biking up the biggest bridge in the city (feel the burn), and then takes us through some of the outskirts of the city to a ferry. We take a big ferry over to some rural land and bike to another ferry that returns us to District 7 about 25 minutes from our neighborhood. I love being part of this biking community which grew from about 5 to a record 16. What a great way to start one morning of each weekend!