Archive for November, 2015


November 2015 – 30. November, 2015

Paul and Esther at Mai Chau

This trip is long – 24 hours after leaving San Francisco we arrived in Hanoi! We are glad we have learned to sleep on planes. Arriving passengers in the immigration line can see those who are meeting them. We were so excited to see the Treadway family (the MCC country representatives here in Vietnam) awaiting us out in the greeting area.  The airport was new and the process was seamless, meaning no long waits and no baggage searches.

First impressions included the wide busy streets with all sorts of vehicles but no military trucks, jeeps and guard posts as we had known back in 1970.  Walking from the Treadway’s home to the MCC office where we now are staying for three months of language study one feels vulnerable to the moving bicycles, motor bikes and cars which pass you.  It is a give and take motion and usually not at a high rate of speed. I must be vigilant and more mindful of where my feet are stepping than some persons since I feel that my balance can easily be challenged!

No matter how often we go out on the street just in front of our house there are new sites, sounds, and smells!! Fresh cuts of meat – chicken, pork, beef including the organs and intestines, live crabs, fish, and clams, fresh flowers, fresh baked French bread, vegetables and fruits of all kinds are just a few items.  The humidity and high 80 degree F for the first 2 weeks meant I was never able to get rid of my sweating face and hands.  Then last weekend it got “cold” and was down to the early 60’s. Yes, no sweating for parts of my day are possible although this means houses without heat become cold and do not warm up during the day. We both were and are experiencing our first bout of being “sick” with colds here in a new place – another part of adjusting.

Our first full weekend here in the country we accompanied the English speaking International church on a two day retreat to Mai Chau, a 4 hour drive south west of the city. This beautiful valley is in an area of high mountains where tribal Black Thai groups live.  This was an opportunity to get out of the city with little need to use local language since the arrangements were made for us by the church group.  You will note some of the pictures from this outing. (more are in the shutterfly link at the end)

Mai Chau view of fields and mountains

Language study began for us with a tutor, Huong, who comes from the central part of Vietnam where we will work.  Every afternoon for 4 hours we listen, repeat, video, and converse.  All of this after our 1st 7 days of just listening. Neither of us remember learning much of this 45 years ago when we were here.  Yet many of the words come alive and active and must be from the past.  During our mornings we try to dedicate 3 more hours to just listening and speaking using our laptops and the recordings we took the day before.

Our daily routine includes finding some breakfast on the street or making something in the office kitchen.  We also do the same for our evening food. The noon meal is made by Em Thu who works here in the office. Lunch is shared by all who live or work at the office and gives us an opportunity to be part of this community of 9 or more.  Vietnamese and English are used comfortably and interchangeably by several staff persons.

We visited one of the many museums here in the city and anticipate doing some more of this.  Imagine the antiquity of a culture and county that has a university that functioned for a thousand years!

One of the local NGO’s, Craft Link, is much like Ten Thousand Villages in that it works to coordinate and market fair trade products from about 70 tribal and non-profit artisan groups in Vietnam.  We attended a craft bazar by them one Saturday.

This month MCC conducted a five year evaluation of their MCC programs. Two of the outside consultants were persons our age who had served with MCC back in the 70’s one in the area we are going to be going to. We got to see some staff interactions and learn a bit more about past programs here. We continue to feel good about being part of this team.

Staying in touch with family and friends via our phone contact and local Virginia home number has been quite a gift for communication. The contact is clear and the only catch is remembering that we are exactly 12 hours ahead of those on the east coast.    Email, facebook, skype and messenger are all wonders in their own way.  We feel blessed by this possibility.

Here are some photos from our transitions and orientation:

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October 28, 2015 – 27. November, 2015

October 28, 2015

Today we prepare to fly toward another stage and experience in our lives here on earth.  We will be taking off this evening from the Philadelphia airport for a journey to Hanoi, Vietnam where we will be working with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) over the next 3 years.  For the last ten days we have been in orientation with MCC in Akron, PA.  We were humbled and admire both the dedication and professionalism of this umbrella group that enables us to serve in Vietnam.

For those who have not heard from us the background to this follows.

For some of you it seems that we have been silent for too- too long. And others, to whom I am including, this will be old information.  Paul and I have been enjoying the blessings of aging and working and feeling the goodness of health and strength for each moment.  We both thought that we would continue to work full time for a few more years before retiring around the age of 70 or so.  Paul had been working as a consultant with Virginia Department of Agriculture for almost 18 years doing data analysis with GIS information and enjoying the challenges.  I had been self-employed doing Occupational Therapy with various ages empowering persons to find the best way to perform their daily activities and meet their daily needs.

In the Spring of this year I became aware that Mennonite Central Committee was looking for someone to meet a need as a rehabilitation worker, with victims of Agent Orange in Vietnam.  When I made further inquiry and Paul and I both considered this need we were moved to make application and were invited to become part of this service need. Beginning near the end of October 2015 we start a 3 year term in Duc Pho, Quang Ngai Province, Vietnam. I will be working under a Vietnamese supervisor at a day rehabilitation center operated by VAVA, (Vietnamese Association for Victims of Agent Orange) where persons come for therapeutic activities.  Sometimes I will be visiting homes and persons who are farther from the center and I will give the families suggestions for improving the lives and function of family members who are disabled.   Paul’s specific role will be finalized and determined after we arrive. Ideas that have been discussed are Teaching English as a Second Language, teaching and guiding staff in use of computers at the rehab center, working on developing gardens for vegetables to be used at the rehab center, gathering stories and info to be shared related to MCC’s cow bank project, and likely many other possibilities. Both of us will have much to learn.  We are grateful to be granted 3 months of dedicated language study before needing to move to the specific job in Duc Pho. This study will take place in Hanoi, the capital city where the MCC main office and most of the foreign workers are living.   We trust that some of the language we used and learned over 40 years ago when we lived and worked for 4 years in South Vietnam during the war under the Eastern Mennonite Mission will return to our working memory!

We are grateful for the encouragement and affirmation that our church family, our children, Amy and Hans, and our siblings and extended family have provided us.  We decided to sell our house, store a few belongings, and finish our current work activities. Each aspect of these changes moved along positively and serendipitously.  We are took some time away vacationing, visiting each of our children’s cities, before heading home to finish the details of immunizations, doctor visits, and packing and moving out.

Here is a link to some pictures and stories of current programs MCC has with VAVA in Duc Pho/Quang Ngai Vietnam.


Paul and Esther Bucher

We appreciate your prayer support, letters, calls and emails.

MCC does not require us to raise our own support. They appreciate general donations where needed most.  If you would like to designate towards our support and projects here is the link:

Here is a link to some photo’s of the Sending Service for us at RMF:

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September 2015 – 27. November, 2015

September 2015

A message from Paul….

I came to VDOT on June 1, 1998. I have worked at VDOT over seventeen years. My wife has been accepted for a new job as an Occupational Therapist volunteer for three years with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Vietnam. I will accompany my wife in a volunteer role also. My role will be finalized later but is likely to include English Teaching, Computer training, GIS Analysis, and some Agriculture Development.

I came to VDOT from the private sector, but recognized the potential, strong staff and enterprise focus at VDOT.  I first worked on documenting the “As-Is” view on enterprise architecture including the divisions of VDOT and the IT portfolio of applications that supported them. I learned that GIS had the architecture and tools to use metadata to integrate disparate data. I specialized in using the power of linear referencing to integrate locations with Business Data.  I always felt like I was working on cutting edge technology and able to help influence the architecture, data models and applications.

There is still much to accomplish and complete but there are good teams and supportive vendors in place.  I look forward to seeing the progress on VDOT’s web portals from the coastal town of Duc Pho, in the central highlands of Vietnam. Having Internet, the Web and cell phones will be so different from our other international experiences.  I hope we can stay in touch. If I was interested in consulting work after Vietnam, VDOT would be one of the first places I’d contact.  My personal email will be   I wish for smooth transitions for the teams I work with.

I wish for smooth transitions for the teams I work with.

Whenever someone asked when I was going to retire, I said I loved my work at VDOT and hoped to work until I was 70.  Working until 70 is still my plan. Now, I am moving on to a new volunteer opportunity, following a change of location for my wife.

My wife, Esther is a skilled Occupational Therapist who had her own practice working with children.  This spring she learned about an opportunity with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC - a social service and relief organization sponsored by faith communities). She will be an Occupational Therapist working with a local Vietnam nonprofit (VAVA) focused on victims of Agent Orange. This October we will move together to Vietnam to begin a 3 year assignment in roles similar to Peace Corps Volunteers.

This is not a totally new role or interest.  For the last 20 years I was a founding board member and volunteer at the Richmond Ten Thousand Villages (an MCC related program) in Carytown. My master’s degree from Cornell University included International Agriculture and Rural Development in addition to Macro Economics. I used that training with MCC during the six years we worked with tribal villages in the Indonesian part of Borneo.

In the early seventies my wife and I lived in Vietnam for four years as volunteers doing my alternate service as a CO with an MCC related organization. This will feel like a good bookend to my active work life.  My role is still being developed but I hope to do some agriculture and computer/GIS related activities for VAVA.

Here is a link to some pictures and description of past programs MCC has had with VAVA in Duc Pho/Quang Ngai Vietnam.

Here is a link to some pictures from the VDOT Party:

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April 2015 – 27. November, 2015

April 2015: Greetings from Paul and Esther in Mechanicsville.  This winter we did something different – during those frigid February days, we were in Costa Rica for 12 days with most of it spent with Esther’s niece, Renee and her family at Monteverdi where they live and work and at the beach. It was a wonderful 12 days.  Monteverdi was the place where a group of Quaker families moved in the early 50’s instead of registering for the draft. We got to visit one of those original farms and milk some goats and read about the life of one of those pioneers in Walking with Wolf, a book about how the community got behind setting aside reserve land that has now become a cloud forest tourist destination.  We traveled with David and Sharon (Esther’s sister).

My other reading was books about cancer.  Back in January my annual physical showed that my PSA had risen slightly to 0.5.  This is for most men a low score. I had my prostate removed 9 years ago after a biopsy showed there was cancer so now anything over 0.2 is supposed to be monitored. The next usual course of treatment is local radiation if there are no signs it has spread outside of the former prostate bed. Our radiologist recommended we wait and get a second PSA 3 months later.  We had that test Friday.  It now was 0.401 a slight decrease.  This means we don’t need to rush and so will do some more tests first and then decide on when to do radiation.  We have been watching the Emperor of All Maladies PBS special, listening to another on line Video series on natural treatments for cancer, and reading books on nutrition.  I have felt overwhelmed with information and sad that it has reoccurred. I am thankful that I have a great radiologist who is willing to listen and let the next steps evolve.

We are both still enjoying our work and looking forward to actively continuing until 70 before retiring. There might be a slight change to those plans.  A couple of weeks ago we received an email from someone we worked with in Vietnam sending a link to a 3 year volunteer job with MCC as a rehab therapist in one of the central providence’s.  The assignment looked interesting to Esther, I said I would accompany her so here we are filling out applications.  We have not yet been accepted and there would be many details to work out but we wanted you to know about it so you can keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

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