My family arrived in Hanoi on January 4, 1991.  We would stay two and a half years, Linda and I as co-directors of Quaker Service Vietnam. Our home and office was a private house at 26 Lien Tri Street.

Four days after our arrival, on Anna’s birthday, our landlady arrived with her grandchildren.  They’d just visited the grave of her husband, killed by American bombs during the “Christmas bombing” of 1972, in the last days of the American war.  She’d brought up her children a widow, with great hardship.  Here she was, visiting these people just arrived from the country that killed her husband.  Bac Hien (“Aunt Gentle”) brought us some of the special red rice which she takes to the grave every year on the anniversary of his death.  She also brought a birthday cake for Anna.

Bac Hien & Lina

Bac Hien with Lina

Bac Hien & David

And with David

Linda and I were overwhelmed at the kindness and forgiveness she showed us. What a “coincidence” that Anna’s birthday, January 8, fell on her husband’s death day!  Later I saw that Bac Hien not only gave us her forgiveness but she also received something she had needed, the opportunity to forgive.

Bac Hien's family

With her oldest son Chau and his wife

Red Fruit

This red fruit is used to color the rice that Bac Hien brings to her husband’s grave.

In our annual visits to Hanoi, we always visit Bac Hien and enjoy a meal with her. She is a most special soul and I am so grateful that we know her and her family.

At Bac Hien's

Lunch at Bac Hien’s

In 1991 our friends the Sidmans and we started a Sunday morning softball game in the inner courtyard of the Amsterdam School in Hanoi. A mix of expats from international NGOs, our children’s classmates at the International School and a few Vietnamese came together in the cool of early morning to play something that resembled softball. The rules were unknown to many and the equipment unusual. An Iranian student used his upturned umbrella in lieu of a mitt to try to catch fly balls in the outfield.


Linda’s father Fred joined the game when he visited us in Hanoi!

A young journalist, Phu, joined these games with enthusiasm. He did learn the rules and after we left he continued to play whenever he could. He’d become a Red Sox fan, and until the Sox found their winning ways I wondered if we’d done him a favor. Phu found a way to watch their games on line, and he now has a cable TV service that brings him every game live. Phu was also instrumental in starting a baseball team in Hanoi that now plays games in other countries in Asia. His son attends high school in Michigan and, of course, plays on the team there.


Serious with Phu


Not so serious


Definitely amused!

We can trace today’s Hanoi Capitals and its youth league back to the pickup games in 1991. Who can say what the impact of our lives will be?!