A Long Road to a Delightful Place
Updated: Mar 3
Terry McHugh, REI board member & short-term business team leader
Have you ever been invited to a great opportunity at the wrong time?
I have thoroughly enjoyed my four business team trips to Vietnam, but the road to get there was long. It was back in the early 1980s when I first met Brian Teel (current REI staff) in the Chicago area. He was a school principal and I was early in my business career.
By 1999, REI was regularly sending teams of business professionals to Vietnam to lecture at universities. I was deep into raising our six children while working as a real estate investment advisor. Back then, when Brian reached out on occasion to invite me to join one of these short-term teams, I couldn’t take two weeks away from my family and the office, as I had limited vacation days. But the passage of time creates opportunities.
By 2018, time was now on my side: all our children were on their own and I had retired from a nice career. So, some 35 years after being introduced, Mr. Persistent (aka Brian Teel) came knocking once again. Confident he would do so, I had already resolved to say “yes” to joining the Vietnam Business Team.
In November 2018, I arrived in Hanoi for the first time. My initial impressions? Traffic everywhere – a mix of motor bikes (thousands), cars, buses and trucks, moving through the city as if one living organism. The ancient and the modern melding together – gleaming office buildings towering over ancient alleyways lined with small shops. Sidewalks crowded with people squatting on short stools while enjoying unfamiliar dishes. Excursions to the countryside revealing a country of great natural beauty. Several trips later, all the chaos that is a Vietnam city streetscape now seems normal.
I go to Vietnam to teach what I know about business, but I am the one who comes away learning so much. My top takeaway? The people I have met in Vietnam are truly delightful.
The university students that we meet are…delightful! They are eager to learn, quite knowledgeable about the world (more so than many US students), respectful and hopeful for their future. I have stayed in touch with some graduates and have enjoyed sharing a meal and hearing of their post-university lives during my most recent visit to Vietnam.
The university administrators and teachers with whom we engage are…delightful! They truly appreciate our presence, honor us at ceremonies, work hard to make sure that our time at their university is well spent and never let us miss a Vietnamese lunch.
REI’s team in Vietnam, led for many years by Mrs. Lien is…delightful! Their efforts in class scheduling, transportation logistics, sightseeing suggestions and Vietnamese insights allow our business teams to enjoy our visit.
I am looking forward to my next business team trip when I can once again discover more about this fascinating country, enjoy visiting with old and new friends, and try to help in all areas of their lives. I hope others will take advantage of these opportunities to join short-term teams, when the time is right, to bring their professional training and personal hope to more places where REI works.