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Old August 2nd, 2009, 10:13 PM
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Default Sunday, Sunday

By Mark Kent , British Ambassador to Vietnam

Sundays are supposed to be restful - but it rarely works out like that. I normally have to spend some time working to catch up on the previous week's flood of emails, especially if I've been away (last week I spent three days in the Central Highlands).
I try to do some exercise too. My routine is to go running three times around Thong Nhat Park. At first I tried to run there from home. But it was a vain hope. You have to try to dodge street cafes and cope with pavements which are used for parking mopeds rather than for pedestrians.

So I accepted fate and now walk there and take in the street sights. It took me a while to work out the entrance requirements to the park. VND4,000 entrance fee - unless you arrive before 7 a.m. (no chance) or after 5 p.m. - the designated exercise times.

Apart from being free, going after 5 p.m. allows you to see the groups of (mainly) ladies doing aerobics and to meet up with other Vietnamese joggers, as well as the fascinating other glimpses into Vietnamese society.

The fairground, the little train, the speak-your-weight machines, the food sellers, the badminton players and the kids playing football.

Today I met a well-built middle-aged man of military bearing who I ran past but who then picked up his pace and overtook me again. I stayed behind him for about a lap, then he motioned me to follow him on his circuit (different from mine) and kept looking back and beckoning to check that I was keeping up (increasingly difficult as he was clearly fitter than me).

When he eventually stopped to meet friends, we shook hands and said goodbye. Perhaps I'll meet him again, like the man I often see jogging with the most impressive handlebar moustache I have seen in many years.

Then I get home, shower and off to an informal dinner with the Brazilian Ambassador (or so he told me). I'm not shaven (apart from my head), and was going to put on a t shirt and jeans.

But then I think better of it and take a jacket as it's a bit cold. Good job, as it turns out to be a gastronomic formal dinner with Patricia Wells, a famous food critic, and several other Ambassadors at the Metropole Hotel.

Almost as embarrassing as the time I turned up to the Embassy Christmas party in Brussels in my flowery Hawaiian shirt when everyone else was wearing suits. There's no way back on these occasions. So I pluck up my courage and brazen it out.

Great food and an interesting dinner. But it takes a turn for the worse when Joao (our Brazilian colleague) suggests a cooking competition between Ambassadors. And a golf tournament. I can't cook (not even an egg). And I can't hit a golf ball. He then suggests a singing competition, which luckily was a joke as I can't do that either. I'll deal with the competition when it happens (Joao suggests I try to cook scrambled eggs). Then it's 11.30 p.m., time to go home, write this, and get ready to hit the week proper....

Source: VietnewsOnline
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