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Latin dance class in Hà Nội

Dance workshop with masters Marcin Wojtkowiak and Dominika Rucinska

 A Latin dance class will be held at HARMONY DANCE, 4th Floor, Trống Đồng Plaza, ‪65 Quán Sứ, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội‬.

The class will be taught by Marcin Wojtkowiak and his partner Dominika Rucinska – Polish Latin runner-up, 6th European Cup, top 48 Professional Latin on Blackpool and UK Open Championship.

Directions for basic movements as well as advanced techniques by professional Latin dance teachers are on offer.

The class is suitable for anyone who wants to approach Latin dances from basic to advanced levels.

The classes are held every Saturday from 7.30pm to 9.30pm, starting June 20.

The class costs VNĐ400,000 or VNĐ1,200,000 for a one-month combo, entitling the holder to four classes which is allowed to have the expiry date extended up to seven days.

There is a 10 per cent discount for couples and for students who register and transfer ‪before June 18.

Contact ‪090.229.6272‬ or 0768.095.084 to book.


Your Vietnam

25 years of Vietnam-US diplomatic relations – Part 2: A debonair ‘lock breaker’

On the road leading away from the tourist-packed ancient town of Hoi An in Quang Nam Province, an octogenarian produces neatly designed, Western-influenced business cards for anyone lucky enough to visit him, a habit from his previous profession — bridging the gap between Vietnam and the U.S.

>> Part 1: Cooperation to tackle COVID-19 pandemic

Bui Kien Thanh’s refined mannerisms check out with his backstory: a former representative at the United States office of the defunct Republic of Vietnam’s National Bank and an ex-realtor in France.

He used to be the special assistant to former President Ngo Dinh Diem during his presidency of the Republic of Vietnam, and he was later known to be one of the agents who bridged the gap between Vietnam and the U.S. during the inception of Vietnam’s open-door era. 

Thanh was born in 1931 into an established household.

His dad was a successful entrepreneur and Thanh enjoyed a pleasant childhood. But he was faced with an array of challenges later in life, the details of which he captured in his autobiography Bui Kien Thanh – Nguoi mo khoa lang du (Bui Kien Thanh – The Debonair Lock Breaker).

Early in his career, Thanh was sent by the Diem administration to New York, with financial support from the International Cooperation Administration, to study central banking operations in an attempt to rebuild infrastructure.

After a year of study, Thanh was invited to stay in America and was appointed to be the representative of the National Bank in New York all at the young age of 25.

Before moving back to Vietnam in the early 1990s, Thanh found himself frequently traveling between France and the United States.

In 1984, he was recruited by an insurance company now known as American International Group, an entity that Thanh used to represent back in his days in Saigon, the old name of Ho Chi Minh City.

Experience in international economics and connections with American executives and politicians acted as the premise for Thanh’s deeply influential work in the normalization of Vietnam-U.S. relations. 

He was one of the advisors who contributed to the momentous Doi Moi (Renovation) policy of Vietnam in 1986, with the focus set on extending economic ties and its subtask of normalizing bilateral relations with the U.S.

Thanh still takes pride in his work opening up the conversation with Vietnamese economic reformists in the early 1980s, including incumbent Vice-President of the Council of Ministers-turned-Minister of Home Affairs Pham Hung.

After months of discussions, the Vietnamese government came to the unanimous conclusion that “only when the people become prosperous can the nation become stronger,” according to Thanh.

Staying to help as long as he could

The normalization of Vietnam-U.S. relations was attributable to the pre-existing desire for it from both parties, Thanh said.

As proposals on normalizing the relationship with Vietnam had been voiced within the realm of American politics from as early as 1975, the go-getting economy of a 1986 Vietnam could not skip out on such a lucrative market as the United States — the biggest economy of the world. 

Between 1986 and 1987, some Vietnamese leaders showed a willingness to enter negotiations with the U.S., but they could not reach out due to the limited communication channels.

The option to start the conversation via Sweden, one of the earliest diplomatic linkages of Vietnam post-1975, was not viable because of conflicting stances of both sides on Vietnam’s part in the unrest in Cambodia then. 

Utilizing his connection with American figures, Thanh once again acted in the process as the bridge of diplomatic conversation. 

“Since I am one of the few [people in Vietnam] with a history of working with government higher-ups as well as the social and economic echelons of America, whenever the Vietnamese government needs to liaise with the American government, I can provide support by linking up [Vietnamese officials] with their American counterparts,” Thanh said.

“This work that I have done for years is more like a personal mission to me. Not because I’m excellent or anything, I just happened to be in the right position to do it.”

For dozens of years now, Thanh has never ceased his commitment to solving the imperative requirements, inching toward the reconciliation of Vietnam-U.S. bilateral relations, using resources obtained from the former administration to fill the gap between the two countries. 

As he mentioned earlier, there might be others who are as talented as him, yet not everyone would have stepped up and dedicated themselves to the common good as he did. 

For the octogenarian, half a decade of back-and-forth travel and tenacious advocacy for Vietnam-U.S. relations can all be traced back to a vision bigger than himself.

One of the women living with Thanh talked about his health and the frustration of his progeny for his refusal to move to America. 

“He said he needed to stay in Vietnam to help, as long as he could,” she divulged.

Bui Kien Thanh (left) sits next to Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap during a work meeting in a supplied photo.

Bui Kien Thanh (left) sits next to Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap during a work meeting in a supplied photo.

Model relations

The Vietnam-U.S. dynamics have progressed so far, from being former enemies to the official normalization of relations in 1995.

Over the past 25 years, their bilateral ties have been enhanced on every facet.

U.S. leaders have praised the proceedings of normalization and development of the relationship on multiple occasions. 

The chronicle of the rapport has the potential to become an exemplary ‘foes to friends’ case study, claimed Nguyen Quoc Cuong, who served as the Vietnamese ambassador to the U.S. in 2011-14.

The 25-year journey came to fruition from a deep understanding of historical context as well as the international and domestic landscape.

Even after the normalization, there remains hurdles and complications in the linkage between the two countries, one of which is cynicism, or lack of trust. 

This is not an issue that can be flipped overnight since the two countries uphold different political and social systems, were once arch-enemies, and had a history of sanctions and isolation imposed by the U.S. that extended well beyond 1975.

The resolution for this issue is none other than mutual trust-building via cooperating on a leveled basis as well as respecting each other’s system, independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity. 

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Your Vietnam

Eking out a living as pig porters in Vietnam

It might seem like a strange job, but being a piglet porter is an important source of income for a group of elderly women in Que Son District, Quang Nam Province, located in central Vietnam.

The job description is simple: carrying the piglets out of sellers’ baskets, putting them on the scale, and delivering them to buyers.

“This is a nobody-knows-what-it-is kind of job,” said Tran Thi Thao, one of the experienced female piglet porters. 

“I can’t even tell my relatives what I’m doing for a living.

“Sometimes bus drivers won’t allow me to get on because I just smell so bad.”

Carrying piglets for a living

Ba Ren Market in Que Son District, Quang Nam Province is the go-to place for local consumers looking to purchase pigs.

The market’s reputation as a trading hub for swine is has spread so far that both buyers and sellers travel from as far as Nghe An Province, 528 kilometers north of Quang Nam, to purchase its pigs.

Part of what sets Ba Ren apart from other markets is the crew of female pig porters who spend their days carrying hogs from sellers’ baskets to scales, making sure customers get what they pay for while staying clean in the process.

The female porters begin their day at 6:00 am, chit-chatting through face coverings under the shade of traditional Vietnamese non la conical hats.

The ladies’ voices are raised, loud enough to be heard over the clatter of cages, scales, tables, and chairs being set up as vendors prepare for a busy day at the market.

That noise all comes to a screeching halt the moment a procession of piglet-carrying motorbikes rumbles into the market.

“Here come the piglets! Quick, let’s grab them. What a long wait today!” exclaimed one of the female porters as the motorcade arrived.

These sellers have one job — meeting with buyers and discussing business. Everything else, including carrying the piglets, bathing them, and weighing them, is handled by the porters.

To increase their income, the female piglet porters at the Ba Ren Market in Que Son District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam also provide baskets and stools for rent. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

To increase their income, the female piglet porters at Ba Ren Market in Que Son District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam also provide baskets and stools for rent. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

Working together to earn a living

The market’s crew of porters is an experienced bunch, with many of them having worked together since the marketplace was established decades ago.

Tran Thi Thao from Phu Sa Village, Que Xuan Commune, Que Son District affectionately considered their leader.

Not just because she is a 26-year veteran of the market, but because the 60-year-old woman is widely deemed the cleverest on the team.

“My job is to carry the piglets where they need to go,” she said. “When I need to weigh them, I hold them tight and step on the scale. Then I weigh myself without the pigs and subtract the difference.”

According to Thao, disputes are extremely rare amongst the market’s porters.

“Each of us has our own regular clients we attend to. When some sellers don’t show up, we work together to help those who do,” she explained.

Each morning at 7:30 am, piglet merchant Huynh Van Tanh visits the market on his motorbike, typically carrying about a dozen pigs he has brought from his family’s farm in the province’s Tam Ky City.

The moment he parks his bike, women porters quickly rush to his aid, untying the strings holding his cage together, preparing a bamboo basket for the piglets, and setting up his vendor area.

While all this is happening, Tanh appeared to wander off in search of a cup of tea, unworried about leaving his wares in the hands of the porters.

One piglet porter counts her little earning after a hard morning at work at the Ba Ren Market in Que Son District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

One piglet porter counts her little earning after a hard morning at work at Ba Ren Market in Que Son District, Quang Nam Province, Vietnam. Photo: B.D. / Tuoi Tre

According to Xuong, one of the female porters, the women earn VND500 (US$0.02) for handling each little piglet and VND1,000 ($0.04) for each larger one.

To increase their income, porters provide low plastic stools and large bamboo baskets for rent.

“I charge VND5,000 [$0.22] per morning for every piglet basket, and VND1,000-2,000 [$0.04-0.08] for plastic stools,” said Xuong. “I earn about VND100,000 [$4.3] in total each day.”

Thao, the ‘senior’ porter, says that most of these female porters do not have their own farms to work on and simply learned how to handle the pigs by working at the market.

“Every day I make just a little money. I seldom get to keep ‘big notes’ in my purse, only banknotes of VND500 or VND1,000,” she said. 

“Everything else goes toward my family’s meals.”

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Wide awake under the knife: the bizarre cutting-edge advancement of surgery in Vietnam

Hospitals in Vietnam are continuously introducing the latest technological advancements and improvements to their operating theaters, opening up limitless options for patients with previously inoperable conditions.

H.B. from Long Bien District, Hanoi found herself faced with impaired vision in one eye and complete loss of eyesight in the other at the age of 37.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan results indicated the growth of a pituitary tumor inside her skull which was interfering with her ability to see.

B. received surgery at Viet Duc University Hospital (VDUH), a central-level medical facility in the capital city, where the surgeons employed a novel technique to remove the three-centimeter-large tumor through her nasal cavity.

She gained back a portion of her eyesight within 24 hours of the operation and a majority of her sight in just five days. She was discharged from the hospital on the sixth day.

“I’ve gained more vision and a larger visual field each day since the discharge. It has almost returned to normal,” B. said.

The technique was done by inserting medical instruments through the nostrils, then incising parts of the sphenoid sinus — a hollow space in the skull behind the nasal passages and below the brain — to create an opening to the tumor, utilizing the navigation system to locate the mass, cutting the growth into pieces, and finally removing it through the nasal passage, Dr. Nguyen Thanh Xuan, deputy head of the VDUH’s neurosurgery department 1, explained.

This technique – called transsphenoidal surgery – is used to remove pituitary tumors, meningeal tumors, and craniopharyngioma, a rare type of brain tumor.

The oral passage, which is also a natural orifice, can be used to remove tumors placed lower in the skull, such as in the basilar area.

The unconventional placement of the laceration requires special materials to help heal the surgical wound, such as nasal mucosa to leg fat.

“The application of such materials on an open wound helps the body to fully mend in just a few days. That’s how magnificent our bodies are,” Xuan said.

An aneurysm balloon in brain artery is shown in a supplied file photo achieved through medical imaging.

An aneurysm balloon in a brain artery is shown in a supplied file photo achieved through medical imaging.

In his younger days, Xuan would not have dreamt of a surgical method that allows alterations to be done through nasal and oral passages.

But modern techniques have surpassed his wildest expectations, bringing about cutting-edge treatment approaches with certified effectiveness, given medical advances and equipment utilization.

Compared to conventional open surgeries, natural orifice endoscopic methods do not inquire the brain to be uncovered, minimalizing the risk of brain impact and the size of incisions while allowing the wound to heal faster.

This is considered a medical breakthrough as it can be used on 90 percent of pituitary tumor cases, helping patients access a significantly better surgical experience.

However, according to Xuan, not many surgeons are capable of performing this method as it requires expertise in endoscopic surgery, microsurgery, and many other advanced techniques that can only be made possible with the support of the latest technological instruments.

Wide awake while being cut open

Experiencing brain surgery without being put to sleep, also called awake craniotomy, is a new approach that has been applied on several recent patients at the VDUH.

C.Q.C., a 56-year-old from the north-central province of Quang Binh, is one of them.

C. was experiencing numbness in his left hand, movement limitations, an inability to grab objects, and the occasional loss of balance while walking before he sought treatment.

At the VDUH, practitioners found a large tumor — 2.3 centimeters in width and 3.6 centimeters in length — in C.’s brain and suggested removing it using the awake craniotomy technique, to which C. agreed.

During the three-hour surgery, C. was kept awake in the first two hours and was even able to talk and sing when asked in order to signify his response to the surgeon’s intervention and help doctors monitor whether his language or motor nerves were obstructed.

Contrary to an assumed panic response, C. coped quite well with being awake during the surgery and even said that being able to interact with doctors during the procedure was quite exciting.

After the surgery, the patient said he was able to wiggle the fingers in his left hand and that he had gained back the ability to use chopsticks.

Dr. Dong Van He, deputy director of the VDUH, an adept surgeon in awake craniotomy, talked of the method as a newly introduced option, one that inquires the courage of the patients to endure the sound of surgical drills and blades cutting into their own skull.

Blood vessels are inserted and an aneurysm balloon is nullified using the artery bypass technique in a supplied file photo of the brain achieved through medical imaging.

Blood vessels are inserted and an aneurysm balloon is nullified using the artery bypass technique in a supplied file photo of the brain achieved through medical imaging.

Artery bypass

Dr. Ngo Manh Hung, deputy head of the VDUH’s neurosurgery department 1, said an artery bypass is a procedure that can be indicated to cases of brain aneurysm or clogged brain arteries, which inherently come with risks of stroke.

Doctors in the past mostly resorted to two kinds of intervention — removing the aneurysm and reconnecting the severed ends of the blood vessels or blocking the blood flow from the dilated section of the artery.

These methods had not proven to be effective when it comes to cases of multiple or oversized aneurysms, which gave rise to a demand for alternative approaches capable of nullifying aneurysm balloons and preserving the arteries.

“In those cases, we perform artery bypasses because they work both as a medically-approved response and as a financially viable alternative to traditional disciplines which can cost hundreds of millions of Vietnamese dong [VND100 million = US$4,300],” Hung said.

Artery bypasses are also employed in cases of progressing brain ischemia — insufficient blood flow to the brain — and narrowing brain arteries which predispose patients to the risk of stroke, health decline, paralysis, memory decline, and epilepsy, but less frequently compared to brain aneurysms, according to Hung.

The technique also resolves conditions where artery tapers, triggering the body to generate a new passage for blood to reach the brain.

It is a disease which bears a resemblance to progressive brain ischemia in terms of its mechanisms and is gradually being given more public awareness.

The circumstantial artery created by the body is weak and susceptible to bursts. The consequences are divided into two scenarios. 

One of these scenarios is prevalent in children since their growing brain demands larger amounts of blood. which triggers the human body to create more makeshift arteries and in turn multiplies the risk of bursting.

The other is seen among elders and involves the main artery failing, putting pressure on the new arteries, which leads to eventual bursts. Artery bypasses would address this situation as it helps with supplying enough blood to the brain.

Dr. Ngo Manh Hung, deputy head of the Neurosurgery Department 1 under Viet Duc University Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, explains the artery bypass technique in brain surgery with hand-drawn visualization. Photo: L. Anh / Tuoi Tre

Dr. Ngo Manh Hung, deputy head of the neurosurgery department 1 under Viet Duc University Hospital in Hanoi, Vietnam, explains the artery bypass technique in brain surgery with hand-drawn visualization. Photo: L. Anh / Tuoi Tre

“The artery bypass technique has been done at the VDUH for many years, the only difference being that facilities in the past were undersupplied, with sutures not enough to do the standard regimen. For the moment, we are practicing it while much better equipped,” Hung revealed.

The technique requires coordination between multiple surgeons, including vascular and neural specialists, in two phases.

In the first phase, the vascular surgeon takes a blood vessel from the leg and passes it to the neurosurgeon to be rerouted from the neck to arteries in the brain.

The other phase entails retrieving blood vessels from the scalp and inserting them into the arteries in the brain. The vessels are as small as one millimeter in diameter and must be joined using minuscule sutures.

Just a few years ago, the medical sector was not in favor of artery bypasses and instead embraced the method of coronary intervention until they realized the high relapse rate of the latter and gradually switched to the former.

Brain intervention used to be stigmatized by patients as a hazard to memory and life quality. But Dr. Hung claimed: “Artery bypasses do not affect memory since the process requires us to ‘lock’ blood flow inside the artery wall.”

“It took us 13 minutes with 12-14 sutures to attach [a pair of] arteries’ loose ends, which means roughly one minute for a suture. This is close to the international standard, which is around 15 minutes,” Hung said.

“My teacher in Japan can do it in 11 minutes. […] Theoretically speaking, the faster it takes, the quicker we can reintroduce blood flow into the arteries, which means fewer complications are likely to arise.” 

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