Two weeks ago, I drove to North Carolina to meet with some colleagues regarding a book project. Right before I left, my dear husband phoned to ask what I would think about a month in Vietnam. This is the same husband who earlier this year dangled in front of me that he might teach in the Semester at Sea program next spring, meaning that I could accompany him on a four-month voyage around the world. Needless to say, I got to liking the idea and had many a fantasy of the places I'd go, the things I'd see, and the relative isolation being aboard a ship might provide that would be conducive to some serious writing. After all, he'd be teaching; I'd just be along for the ride. As it happened, he dashed my hopes upon a rocky shore when one of his nuclear physics experiments was scheduled for beam time at an accelerator during the time we would be away. This is a big no-no in the research and funding worlds, meaning the trip was off before it really started anywhere but in my imagination. As a result, when asked about spending a month in Vietnam I said something like, "Sure, whatever, sounds great to me" and hit the road south.
By the time I had arrived in Chapel Hill and checked into my hotel, my dear husband had consulted with his department chairman, checked with his funding agency and a lab or two, and submitted a request to the dean to add teaching a month-long course at the University of Hue to the sabbatical he had already had approved for spring 2009. There was no reason to think the dean wouldn't approve the switch, dear husband said, so I should start planning. Well, I said, if the book project did end up a go, I would have to have Internet access, not wanting to think about communicating with my co-authors and a publisher using Internet cafes to which I would carry my thumb drive. Dear husband assured me that would not be a problem.
Fast forward two weeks, and the dean has given her blessing. It appears that we will be spending a month, probably mid-February to mid-March, next year at the University of Hue, in central Vietnam. Next year will evidently be the third year that someone from the University of Virginia has gone to Hue to teach a one-semester course over the space of one month, similar to the way courses are compressed here during summer school. It's part of a program that a UVa physics faculty member who is Vietnamese started with some colleagues in Hue. I don't know the other faculty members who have taught in earlier years, but I do plan to ask dear husband if we can get together with them. It would be nice to hear firsthand just what sort of adventure we will be taking.
I thought that a new blog might be a good way for me to keep track of the various preparations that will have to take place (I have multiple mental lists that should at some moment be committed to a more stable medium than my mind) as well as to chronicle the adventure as it unfolds next year. For now the only plan we have is that our elder son will accompany us for the whole month given that he has finished his master's degree by then. Our younger son's spring break falls during the month we will be there, so he could come over for a week. We did purchase two guidebooks and a map so that we can start to get oriented. The Vietnamese physicist who helped start the program told my dear husband two things to plan on: drinking bottled water while there and taking several bottles of Pepto-Bismol with us. I've already added those to one of the mental lists.
Besides the aforementioned guidebooks, I've started looking at various travel websites for background. I printed off visa applications only to have dear husband offer that he thought the folks at the university there would be assisting with those. I'm having a physical in two weeks and have needed shots on the list of items to discuss with my family doc. I need to ask someone about a power converter for the laptop. Lots to do, but by starting now, about a year before we would be getting back, I hope to get it all done without too much scurrying to and fro randomly panicking. Yeah, I know, the best-laid plans...