What If Thich Nhat Hanh Had Been Our Tour Guide of Ninh Binh Provence

Through the large glass window, we watch the rain fall steadily on the narrow street outside L’Heritage Hotel in the old quarter of Hanoi.  The riders on the motor scooters wear long plastic capes in neon colors that cover the rider and the scooter, merging the two into one.  They look like mechanical centaurs as they swerve and honk in the seething river of traffic that flows past our hotel. 

A Bad Start

Yesterday, when I booked our trip to Ninh Binh Provence, Hanoi was overcast but pleasant.    I was congratulating myself for deciding to visit Hanoi in December when the weather is cool.   The nice young lady promises me an incredible view when I upgrade the tour to include  a hike up a steep mountain.  A buffet lunch and tour guide are also included in the price of just $64 a person.  However, this morning, we wake up to a steady down pour of rain.  Now we wait in the lobby for our tour bus to collect us.  It is already an hour late.  We are off to a bad start.

Finally, our bus arrives and off we go.  For an hour and a half, we cross and re-cross, circle and re-circle Hanoi collecting twenty-five other poor souls who have booked the same tour.  Our tour guide is Tuan.  He explains cheerfully that we will only travel for another twenty minutes before we stop to get a coffee at a rest stop.  He has been collecting everyone’s “receipts” as they enter the bus.  However, he is missing someone on his list.  He calls out the name.  No one answers.  He calls out the name again.  Again, no one answers.  Five young men are loudly snoring in the back row of the bus.  “Perhaps the missing person is one of the people sleeping,” someone suggests.  He looks at Max, my ten-year-old son and demands”Wake him up!”  Max’s eyes grow large as he looks around to see if Tuan is really talking to him.  “Wake him up!” Tuan repeats. An awkward silence follows as everyone in the bus seems frozen in the horror.

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Adventure in Fluency’s Guide to Planning Your Family Trip to Vietnam

It is hard to believe that we are leaving on our family trip to Vietnam in just a few days.  It seems like just yesterday that I started planning this adventure.  However, I started planning this trip in July of 2016, just after our return from Croatia.  For me, I love the challenge of planning a new adventure.  I am a planner and thrive on ironing out the details.  However, I recognize not everyone may enjoy this process as much as I do.  Therefore, I am going to share with you the steps you may want to follow if you want to plan a trip to Vietnam with your family. I am also going to share with you different websites and applications that have made planning this trip easier.

Learn Vietnamese (One Year in Advance)

Learning Vietnamese is a lot easier than you think.  According to George Millo Ayancan at Fluent in Three Months, the only thing hard about learning Vietnamese is the pronunciation.  In his article, 9 Reasons Vietnamese is Easier Than You Think, he will inspire you to give this language a try.

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Outdoor Education Pura Vida Style – Twelve Ways to Make Your Kids Smile in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is an awesome place to take kids.  Sometimes, finding the right balance between what adults enjoy and what kids enjoy can be a challenge on a family vacation.  Our family vacation to Costa Rica was the right mix of fun and adventure.  It was also a great educational experience in the best outdoor class room ever.   Without my eight-year old son even knowing it, he was learning about conservation, alternative energy sources and botany all with Spanish sub-titles.  We travelled this small country in a rented car; from the capital of San José, to the shy volcano of Arenal, to the cloud forests of Monteverde to the monkeys of Manuel Antonio.

If you are planning on going to Costa Rica with kids, here are the twelve things that made my son smile from ear to ear.

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Can You Teach Yourself Vietnamese?

Here I go, talking to myself again.  No, I’m not schizophrenic, I am learning a new language.  This time, it is Vietnamese, my first Asian language.  Sadly, although San Francisco is home to over 13,000 people of Vietnamese descent, the 11th highest number in the United States, I was unable to find a single Vietnamese language school.  The only school I could find was the Au Co Vietnamese Cultural Center which offers Vietnamese language classes for kids between the ages of 5 and 12.  I don’t think being a kid at heart would qualify me.  Sigh.

Without a class or a tutor, I am learning Vietnamese exclusively through on-line or pre-recorded language programs.  I am using Rosetta Stone, Pimsleur, Duolingo and Mondly.  I will give you a summary of each program along with what I think are the pros and cons of each.

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Adventure in Fluency’s Calendars for 2018: Croatia, Greece, Thailand and new for 2018, The Caribbean

New for 2018 – Adventures in Fluency’s Caribbean Calendar

Just in time for 2018, we have added five calendars that are now available for purchase.  Just visit our Adventures in Fluency store to buy yours today.  These calendars feature beautiful photographs from our trips to Croatia, Greece, Thailand and the Caribbean.  Claudia Rodriguez, my daughter, and Frank Sandoval, my husband, are the talented photographers.  Where will your adventure in fluency be in 2018?  Let these calendars inspire you and my blog be your guide.

Life is an adventure, not a destination.

What Learning Vietnamese Can Teach You about San Francisco

My trip to Vietnam in December of 2017 is now booked, kicking into high gear my motivation to learn Vietnamese.  With just three short months left to learn this completely new language, I find the task to be a bit daunting.  Unlike Spanish or French or Greek, Vietnamese is completely unconnected to anything I know.   I dive in and try several different language programs and on-line applications.   However, I think my favorite part about learning a new language is what it teaches me about how it connects to San Francisco.  Learning Vietnamese has given me an opportunity to learn and connect more with the vibrant Vietnamese community living in my beautiful city by the Bay.

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Books, Ballet and Bajaderas in Zagreb

The interior of the theater glows golden like a giant bee hive as each honey comb fills up with patrons buzzing with excitement.  We are seated in plush red velvet chairs in our little partitioned box, just one honeycomb in the three rows of box seats that encircle and rise above the orchestra seating of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb.  Known as HNK (Hrvatsko Narodno Kazalište), the interior of the theater is lavishly decorated in red and gold.  A golden chandelier dangles from the center like a delicate jewel on a queen’s necklace.  Claudia and I move our chairs to the edge to take in the old world beauty of the decor.

The theater was designed by Viennese architects Ferdinand Fellner and Herman Helmer, the same architects that built the opera house in Vienna.   The theater first opened in Zagreb on  October 14, 1895.  Today, on the Fourth of July, Claudia and I wait to watch Petar Pan, a ballet by Giorgio Madia, that will be performed by the Ballet of the Croatian National Theater.   The ballet premiered at HNK just five days earlier.

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