When Vietnam Came to Galway

In 2014, a comet from the east briefly appeared over Galway brightening up the lives of many of its people.  This celestial body was known by the name of Hung Ngo.

Harvest Day, Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden
Hung came to work in my institute at NUI Galway last May. He was a conscientious member of staff at the Insight Centre for Data Analytics and was widely respected by his peers for his web technology expertise.
But whilst in Galway, Hung decided to burst forth from his university workplace and immersed himself in the wider community life of the city.
Planting Primrose Wildflowers, Terryland Forest Park
He enthusiastically became involved in a number of grassroots environmental projects. 
His love of Nature became legendary. 
Transplanting & Saving Orchids from a road development near Ardrahan
On most weekends he would turn up at organic gardening and forestry events across Galway to help build tree sculptures, clear pathways, move rocks, plant wildflowers, grow vegetables…No task was too hard, no job too dirty for this man!
Along the Mayo Greenway
Hung it seemed also fell in love with Irish heritage and enjoyed participating in cycling and touring events that I regularly organised in order to introduce Irish and non-Irish residents of the city to the beautiful landscapes, pretty little rural villages and mysterious ancient castles, mansions and churches that still cover much of our countryside.
Athlone Castle
On his last day in Ireland (Saturday Nov 30), I gave Hung a taster of some of the diverse tapestry of activities that one can experience every day in our cosmopolitan city. 
On Lough Ree

Coderdojo class, Saturday mornings, Insight, NUI Galway
In the early morning he attended my Coderdojo classes where I teach computer coding to parents and their children.
In Killeen's traditional Irish pub, Shannonbridge
In the late morning, we went to a Food Preserve workshop where we learnt from organic food expert Kay Synott on how to make chutneys, pickles and sauces out of the vegetables and fruit grown in the local Ballinfoile Mór Community Organic Garden. 
Food Preserve course
In the afternoon we took part in a mass public protest against Water Charges
Anti-water charges march, Galway city
That night we had a few pints of Guinness in Ti Coillí a very renowned Irish music pub.
Tí Coillí
So inspired was Hung by what he saw at our computer coding class, that he has now decided to establish the first ever computer volunteer mentoring club or Coderdojo in Vietnam.
I am glad for him that he is back home with his wife and children. I hope too that he will also utilise his deep interest in the environment to help his fellow citizens protect the remaining rainforests of Vietnam with their unique and precious wildlife which have been so decimated by logging, farming and built development over the last few decades.  Sadly the last wild (Javan) rhino in Vietnam died in 2010.  The country is also one of the world’s largest markets for rhino horn, a situation that has led to an alarming increase in poaching in Africa since 2007.
I have always had a deep affinity for Vietnam and its people. My first involvement in radical politics came when I was a teenager in secondary school in county Monaghan during the mid-1970s. It was inspired by the Vietnamese war of liberation against the American military and by the anti-war movement of the United States. 
Anti-Vietnam War protest, USA
I was in awe of how this little country could  overcome centuries of occupation, colonisation and brutality to defeat the world’s superpowers (China, France and the USA) that laid claim to its lands. Its history has many parallels with Ireland.
So thank you Hung for rekindling my interest in Vietnam and thank you too for all the hard work you have undertaken in helping to protect the environment in Galway city for the benefit of both humans and wildlife.
Harvesting Apples in Ballinfoile community garden
Particularly in the last decade, Galway city has greatly benefited from the talents of many people who were not born in Ireland. Hung Ngo (Vietnam) and Sarah Knight (Canada) are two good friends and fellow work colleagues who are prime examples of this trend.
Hitching a ride, Monivea village

Building a stone Celtic Cross pathway, community garden

Cottage café, Mayo Greenway
Hung in a community orchard with friends from USA, Iran, Vietnam, England, Malawi & Ireland

Supping with the locals, Ballinfoile

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