Exploring the Wonders of Vietnam

January 11, 2006
From 35,000 feet

I'm sending this e-mail from Singapore Airlines flight 025 from Frankfurt to Singapore. When we boarded in New York, they gave us a card good for a half-hour of wireless Internet on board the flight, plus a 50%-off coupon if we wanted to purchase Internet access for the entire flight. The discount cost would be under $15, but I'm just using the freebie and signing off. I feel like I'm contacting Mission Control.

The plane is now somewhere just north of Istanbul, where the amazing SA crew is about to serve "lunch." After being de-iced before takeoff, we climbed southeast out of Frankfurt, crossed the Bavarian Alps (all snow-covered and quite rugged from the air), flew south of Vienna toward Szeged. We'll cross the Black Sea and head over Iran or Iraq—not sure which. I don't know what time it is, either, because that depends on where you are — and that's constantly changing. More later on ideas about time.

I didn't get much sleep over the Atlantic. They served dinner after the 9 p.m. takeoff — a full meal with china, real glassware, and not a plastic fork in sight. Then, there was a snack before arrival in Germany. Hot towels appear at frequent intervals, and there are slippers, pillows, blankets, toothbrushes and toothpaste. If the seat were bigger, this would be a first-class flight.

The Swarthmore group is beginning to gel. Lisa Lee says there are 32 of us in this flight, but I haven't met them all yet. I'm sitting next to Steve and Ann McNees. Steve is Class of '64, a retired Federal Reserve Board economist and teacher. Ann was born in Swarthmore but did not attend the College. They live in Austin, Tex.

At JFK airport, the Swarthmore people seemed to recognize each other almost without being introduced. Do they really have a secret handshake? I'm used to it after 15 years, but I'll never be part of the club. Swarthmore alumni often ask me where I went to school, and the answer—Middlebury—elicits a knowing nod accompanied by a generous understanding that my almost-good-enough college must have some things in common with Swarthmore, although it isn't Swarthmore.

Our position has changed as I have composed this. We're nearer Belgrade. Time to stop and send this before the lunch tray arrives. I think I'm having the lamb.

Best to all,


About This Site

In January 2006, a 40-person contingent of Swarthmoreans is traveling to Vietnam as members of the Alumni College Abroad. The trip, led by Associate Professor of Religion Steven Hopkins, will focus on the history, religion, and the vibrant culture of contemporary Vietnam. A smaller contingent will accompany Hopkins to Cambodia, including a tour of the famous temples of Angkor Wat.

Jeffrey Lott, editor of the Swarthmore College Bulletin, has joined the trip to write about it for the magazine. This site is a series of reports filed by Jeff from Vietnam and Cambodia during the trip. Your responses are invited.

Vietnam 2006 Itinerary

List of Travelers

Respond to these posts

Blog Entries

Leaving Tomorrow: Jan 9, 2006
From 35,000 feet: Jan 11, 2006
Ho Chi Minh City: Jan 12, 2006
Museums of Vietnam: Jan 14, 2006
Temples and Tunnels: Jan 16, 2006
Stories and a Poem: Jan 17, 2006
Skipping School: Jan 18, 2006
Dateline Hanoi: Jan 19, 2006
Three Days in Hanoi: Jan 20, 2006
Winding Down: Jan 26, 2006
Poor Phnom Penh: Jan 27, 2006
Chuc Mung Nam Moi: Jan 29, 2006