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Kent and Loannie, Vietnam

By Kent Converse

I belong to an organization called Couch Surfers ( It is an organization of literally hundreds of thousands of people around the world who essentially sigh up to offer their couch, drink or a meal to traveling Couch Surfers. It is an organization very popular with young people and it wouldn’t surprise me if I am the oldest member of the organization. At least I haven’t met anyone older.

We have in Rotary the Travel and Hosting Fellowship. A fellowship of Rotarians offer the same thing, refuge for fellow Rotarians traveling the world. However, I have been a member of Couch Surfers much less time than I have been a Rotarian and I have only hosted three Rotarians. I have already had that many calls from Couch Surfers.

When a fellow Couch Surfer and friend of mine Brooke Allen found out I was going to Viet Nam for six months he checked out the Coach Surfers in Viet Nam and found they had quite a representation here. One that responded to Brooke was a young girl with the nickname Loannie. He introduced us to each other and when I arrived in country it wasn’t long before Loannie and I made contact and she invited me to her parent’s house for Sunday dinner.

To get to her house she showed up at my hotel on her bike. I think she planned on taking a bus back to her house but when she found out I had a bike she decided we would bike to her house. Well, her house turned out to be about 10 miles away in the suburbs of Hanoi. I didn’t take any map with me so she had to bike with me back to my hotel so, let’s see: She biked 10 to the hotel, 10 miles back home, 15 miles to her Uncle and my hotel and 10 miles home. I did half that and was proud I made it.

Her Dad, Aunt and Cousin had the meal ready when we got there. He works for the police and her Mom runs a sewing factory.

The food was: Rất Ngon(very good). After dinner they looked at me and said: “You need a nap.” Same as Trang’s family. Why do they always think I need a nap?

After the nap we biked to Loannie’s Uncle. He is considered a National Treasure for his inventions. The main one is the Bamboo Piano. He also made the Đàn Nhị, a long hoi zonal instrument with one string and a tuning fork at the end. You plunk the string with one hand and move the tuning fork at the end to get the right note. Must be totally frustrating to learn. He also makes flutes. He gave me one but I can’t play it at all.

Loannie told him of our library dedication East of Hanoi in December and he offered to come and entertain.

He has a daughter who got a big scholarship to the US and graduated from MIT in 2006.

This was a pleasant day in Hanoi.

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