When Miss Hang invited me to come and visit her and her students at Hama village I didn’t know what to expect. Ideas appeared in my imagination from the descriptions given me from Miss Hang – vague notions of meditation, isolation, and an intimacy with nature.
When I arrived in the early evening on Christmas Eve to Hama Village after a splendid 6 hour bus trip from Ho Chi Minh City, my imagination and hopes were surpassed with the beautiful reality of my surroundings.
I was greeted by Peter (Loc) at the road as the sun was low in the sky and he drove me to his home and school on top of the hill, a humble, honest brick and timber house overlooking the surrounding fields of passionfruit, pepper, coffee and sweet potato.
As I dismounted from the back of Peters’ scooter I was surrounded by a small sea of smiling and welcoming faces – the kindest and brightest faces in Vietnam. The students, a diverse group of both girls and boys aged from 14 to 23 then showed me around their land and their home. I learned in those first hours, as the sun set that day, about their motivations for attending Hama Village School – to practice mindfulness, life skills, meditation and English language.
We shared a dinner of steamed whole grain rice. The students were participating in a ten day Fast – concentrating on a simple macrobiotic diet. For ten days the students and teachers were to eat rice porridge or steamed rice, cooked over a fire. That evening the students shared with me the reasons for following this dietary Fast – reasons for eating that I have always tried to live by, but in a very simple and organic sense. Each mouth full was to be held in the mouth and chewed 120 times before swallowing, this is said to increase saliva and enzyme production which help digest the simple foods better and to receive adequate nutrition from an otherwise very simple product.
By the end of my 3 day stay at Hama Village my jaw was so sore from chewing! But I had so much energy! I felt as healthy as ever and really cherished the peaceful feeling that rested inside my belly and my mind!
The Fast also felt wonderful because it was Christmas…I have never met anybody to fast over Christmas before, it seemed to me to be such a harmonious idea…to eat so simple to create a balance for all of the gluttony and over – consumption happening in the world these festive days.
In the short three days that I got to spend at Hama Village I had the privilege to meet all of the students, learn their Vietnamese and English names, their personalities, their quirks and interests, their passions, their questions and their hopes for the future. Somehow I procured some English lessons to teach them – focussing on English pronunciation, intonation and emotional expressionism. One lesson we loped around the house and gardens, grabbing things and learning their names in English…a Bush! A rake! A branch! The teaching was easy, as never before had I met such a bright and eager group of students who were so willing to learn and grow.
Never before had I met students anywhere in the world who would wake at 5 am and study or work until 10pm with little or no break for play or relaxation. I also got to know Miss Hang a little – and with that brief time that we got to spend together I learned what an inspirational young woman she is! She has built this school from her own ideas and
dreams, and has made many sacrifices to give students a better opportunity to become open hearted people.
The students here now have better prospects because of their lessons in important life skills, such as speaking English, vegetable gardening, cooking and community living. She has so much energy and love for her students and family, and also her international guests – whom she treats like a part of her massive and loving family.
There is absolutely so much that I could write to properly describe my time at Hama Village, too much to fit into a simple article. Words can’t describe the feeling I had meditating together outside as the sun rose – the air was so cool, so silent and pure. The soil was red beneath my feet as I helped scratch up sweet potatoes from the earth, such a red as you have never seen…the colour was the taste of salty blood on the tongue, or rust by the ocean. The air smelt like green warmth and sweet passionfruit, crushed grass and wood fire smoke.
My heart felt so full of goodness, goodness I had absorbed from this magical community who had made me feel at home. I am addicted to day dreaming and reminiscing about my time at Hama Village. There is only one solution for my longing –
I will have to return again.
To Miss Hang, Peter, Phuang, Nancy, James, Mary, Helen, Louis, Oliver, Henry, Jerry, Sean, Victoria, Luna, Daniel and to Little Vic…Thank you – for some of the most peaceful, educational and rich days of my life.
May your days be warm and your fields yield bountiful crops to fill your bellies and your minds!
Good luck with your English studies, we will meet again…it’s our destiny!
My love always,
Hannah Cheetham (Australia).