I met Ms Ngoc and her team at the Ky Uc cafe this afternoon. Ky Uc means “Memory” in Vietnamese, a fitting moniker given the reflective and relaxing ambiance they have created here. The place was dimly lit with small, dark wood tables, and plush couches. The menu offered everything from tea to exotic coffee drinks to enjoy while listening to the soothing background music that sounded through the place – a cozy escape from the rain and street clamor just outside.

I arrived early to wander this part of the city before the meeting and there was much to see. Every square inch of real estate was accounted for, and, like a child’s set of balancing blocks, the neighborhood seemed to teeter precariously on top of itself. Markets of fresh fruit, rice, meat, and fish converged with living quarters stacked three stories high. Laundry strung from canopied balconies lined with plant boxes, and thick strands of cable wires linked the roof tops to each other. In the center of it all was a peaceful green pagoda with an inviting, manicured garden of bright flowers and plants. It was as if someone had studied the scene and determined that the people who live here just might need a place to escape the packed conditions for awhile.

Ms. Ngoc, the Vice-Dean of the HCM College of Special Education, arrived with two of her team lecturers from the college. This group hosted the UN People to People symposium earlier this week. I had sent them a copy of our teacher training concept proposal in advance in hopes to gather feedback and suggestions. They all were excited about our program design and the four tracks that we intend to offer- auditory verbal education, speech language pathology, audiology, and early intervention. There is a significant need for more understanding of these areas and also a need for language development research to better cultivate the acquisition of Vietnamese in children with hearing loss. We talked about the current deaf education landscape and what they see as pressing needs for teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing. We identified opportunities for collaboration in various areas pertaining to our program and I am looking forward to working with them as we continue this work.