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Jackson Hole Shreddily Ladies

Sasha Dingle

A year ago, I moved myself to the Tetons, and shortly after made Jackson Hole my stomping ground.

Montana has my heart, but so does the man I followed into these peaks... and Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park are a nobrainer.

I had visited Jackson almost annually in elementary school (my parents have a timeshare in town), then a break as we made our annual trip out west to other destinations. College in Bozeman started up again the annual pilgrimage. But I never remembered seeing so many LADIES here. (Or in any of the ski towns I've EVER been to). 

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Sasha Dingle

This blog’s been quiet for far too long! There are seasons when it feels good to hole up, live from a place of intuition –not getting too analytical or separated from direct experience. I spent summer sinking into safari tent living at Yellowstone Under Canvas. There were big Montana mountains to bike in, restore in, and a dock on Hebgen Lake for yoga. The best counter to winter ski life.

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On opportunity and spirit

Sasha Dingle

It was a day for red meat. My energy stores have been feeling so depleted in this downtime week between the Freeride World Qualifiers at Moonlight Basin and Crested Butte -for whatever reason, that after massage therapy I doubled up: I'll take the beef chili with a half Yellowstone topped with shaved beef.

It was an R & R Sunday for me. Then I opened my inbox and the simple: "thanks so much for replying me. I'm still studying...but my life has changed so much since my dad died."

My heart jolted. And off it sprinted, pulling me fully back into what has become an increasingly alternate universe.

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Solo road trippin

Sasha Dingle

When I was living in Vinh, Vietnam one of my best friends was a French expat. We would have girl dinners, $5 massages on Sundays, and escape to the beach on her company motorbike every afternoon that we could sneak beach shack seafood and a swim into the midday work siesta.

Good morning world! This solo traveler passed a lot of early morning semis to get here.

Good morning world! This solo traveler passed a lot of early morning semis to get here.

She had lived in Thailand working at the embassy and, at the time I was working in Vinh, was the manager of a French cultural center in Vietnam- independent and clear in her vision for herself. 

I remember her telling me, as she was feeling unsure about embarking alone on a trip to the mountains of Sapa, that it’s good to keep traveling alone. You have to every once in a while. Because if you stop and don’t for a stretch of time, then you become too afraid when it’s time to go. You ask your friend or see what your boyfriend’s schedule is… you fall into the fear that going alone requires you to be brave, flexible, open to experience. Even just riding a bus or train by yourself and showing up someplace new on your own makes you much more open to experiencing and reaching out to people when you get there. Solo travel reinvigorates. Especially for a female, for whom the world can feel unsafe going alone, solo reveals how strong and independent you can be.

So I had this in mind as I took off on a solo drive down to Salt Lake City, UT for OR (the Outdoor Retailer tradeshow). This was only three days after returning from ten days in British Columbia, Canada with my boyfriend and friends in the BombSnow crew, and relaxing in Bozeman was feeling like such a nice alternative…

I would have preferred going by train, like the night train of Vietnam’s North-South Reunification line; I love to fall asleep in one place and wake up in another completely new. But for this trip: a 4 am wakeup, driving through the dark and willing deer and big horn sheep to stay in their place... to an end destination of the Alta parking lot would be my solo journey.

How does it feel

Sasha Dingle

Last Christmas my student took me home. By bus and then by motorbike, I huddled into her sister’s sweatshirt, blind and tucked under the back flap of her poncho. 40 degrees of clammy, drizzling weather felt freezing in Vietnam. With no indoor heating and concrete block homes that radiated the cold, I spent most of Christmas huddled under blankets in a shared bed. The girls would slip under the covers with me for body heat, in-between preparing daily meals.

The night my student brought me to her village, we drove in under a pitch black sky. In one of the poorest provinces in Vietnam, (for reference, I’d guess an annual income in this area to be around $300?), she tapped me and slipped the poncho off my head. I’d later see families washing dishes in the muddy creek and the entire Christian town convening for a 4 am church service before farmers went to the fields. We drove in and, to my astonishment, in every modest concrete courtyard were the twinkling lights of a Christmas tree.


This Christmas was a morning skin across a Montana lake, up to down with my brother and some friends. 

To distract myself from the mental chatter, I played a game of pretending my skis were another sense organ. Just another extension like my fingers or my nose, I focused on how does it feel? to slide my skis across the skin track. The information of oh this feels good registered in my brain to release some endorphins and prevent the mind from forming its own impression of how painful, how tired, how slow.

There’s so much self-judgment tied into this return to skiing. Up at Bridger skiing solo the other day, I felt tip crossing, tail crossing, just about. On came… Am I leaning in? Sitting back? Can the people on the chair tell I haven’t skied for a year and a half? At some point soon I’m going to be judged for how I ski. Am I ready?

But this Christmas, with the crisp of some mountain air and uphill travel, 23 years of ski muscle memory and the familiar feeling of frosted eyelashes and nose flooded back. It’s not so much how it looks, but how does it feel?

Light and sweet and grin-inducing. Happy new year from Montana.

And then there were 4...

Sasha Dingle

The Fulbright grant is officially over. Some of us are back in the U.S., some traveling; a large group is waiting at the airport in Ha Noi to begin their 30 hour return.

Whether we made close friendships for life, whether our group of 15 strained each other's nerves, or whether we were the greatest source to lean on during a tumultuous year, the fact is that we started and ended this time together. 

The 2011-2012 Viet Nam ETA cohort represented Viet Kieu, rural, urban, female, male, gay, straight, gregarious, reserved, authors/lawyers/teachers/editors/artists/skiers/clinical psychologists/and who-knows-what-else to be. Living ten months in a quite homogenous society, our diversity taught about one of the greatest strengths of U.S. culture: the complete inability to define it in any single way. 

The Rising Dragon hotel feels empty. Four floors above where I spent all of August adjusting to life in Ha Noi, I am finding that this crowded city no longer intimidates me. Actually, it now seems like the perfect western/Vietnamese mix for when I return again to live and work in Viet Nam. At the earliest, one year from now, is what I told everyone in Vinh. I need my winters back in the U.S.

Thank you Taylor, Tanner, Quyen, Kelly, Maria, Andrea, MJ, Allision, Violet, Adelina, Ben, Lam, Brittanye and Melissa (It will be strange not to hear our names listed anymore in one big long stream). Good luck on the next part of the voyage. Hen gap lai nhe.

Reintegration Station

Sasha Dingle

I hid my emotions from myself pretty well. I pushed it catching my flight, so that the knots in my stomach were mistaken for anxiety (7 minutes to departure and just getting through security; yet, no problem. I love that Viet Nam is as last minute as I am). I cooked lunch for 10, slooowly packed up my room and cleaned, overbooked myself so that I was sprinting through any good byes that had to be made.

But I just blew up in the taxi on the way from Ha Noi airport to the city center: I opened the door and threatened to get out twice, my driver and I yelled at each other in Vietnamese, he blared the music full blast for 3 seconds, and I grumbled back frustrations about minor lies to convince me to take that cab... then I realized that I was being irrational; pressure built up behind my eyeballs and caught in my throat and I was finally feeling sad about leaving Vinh City.

Vinh is challenging and full of stressors by the day, but I've found my rhythm. It can feel a bit lonely or I can open myself up to the richest relationships because I am living alone. I relish my solo train travel and rolling-in in the early hours of the morning; after class, climbing five flights of stairs to relax in a space that is only mine. I am not always comfortable, but this has been my life

And again, I am in transition from one place to another. In Vinh, I can count on always being an outsider. What if, after this time, I find that I am an outsider in my own country? My friends have continued moving along without me. Some whose lives were so tightly wrapped around mine have added new people who will need to be introduced. I will need to be introduced to my own life, and that is a very disconcerting thought.

Two months to be a traveler in Viet Nam and time with Mom, Dad, Adrian, and Ryan to help pull my disoriented self back to life in the U.S.

Convo Culture

Sasha Dingle

The first night I arrived in Vinh, I was taken to a Vietnamese-German restaurant with courtyard seating amongst a garden of trees and Disney Land-style fake stone waterfalls. 

I remember driving out through the alleyways after that meal, seeing concrete walls topped with barbed wire and shards of glass, and wondering what it would mean to live in a developing country.


I've just returned from that same restaurant, from a farewell meal with my dean, hosts, and vice rector. I can now enter the conversation, despite bumbling my way through humorous mistranslations of story retellings and dirty jokes. I have a comfortable place among these relationships that have supported me. 


I now see that it's not only women who have their roles here. We all have a responsibility to each other. It can be as simple as offering the best pieces of meat, or filling one another's bowls with rice, encouraging "an di", "eat more" ie. "I care about you". There is comfort in simple gestures and having a responsibility to someone else in the complicated network of society. It can feel stifling or it can feel comforting. Your choice. 


What will I miss most about Viet Nam? The first thing that comes to mind is the noi chuyen culture. Vietnamese people are skilled in the art of bullshitting/chem gio/speaking about nothing... I mean this in the most positive way. 

Your xoi seller will pull up a plastic stool on the pavement and remark about your health (Are you thinner or fatter today? Perhaps, blacker/tan?), inquire about your family, what did you do today, where are you going? I have true relationships with the family at my general store and the women whose seafood restaurant I visit. Again, it can feel intrusive or it can feel like caring. 

It's been great for language learning because random people on the streets are up for a chat. Frequently, the same small talk questions are asked or, to get a good listening session in, just wait for a long monologue.

I needed this lesson. Never before would I stop in on my neighbors just to relish some conversation, never before would meals and conversation be enough to keep me engaged for long. I used to despise just making noise, but I now see that these minor exchanges build relationship. In Viet Nam it's important to show your hosts that you are comfortable-you sing, you eat, you toast in order to do so. We entertain each other with our voices and we noi chuyen.

Saying good bye

Sasha Dingle

Cracked sunflower seeds between my teeth and drank sugarcane juice outside the university front gate, while watching a dubbed version of Jurassic Park on a sidewalk projector. 

Back in Vinh, I'm starting the rounds of good byes.

On Sunday, my last evening in town, I will open my doors to all friends and students to swing by. I never like good byes; only do good-bye-for-nows, so luckily chao means both hello and goodbye. Sending out a round of phone texts to pass the invite along. It pulls at my heart to I think of all my students who all the time in the world would not be enough time with them... so sad to leave, but hoping the best for them and their futures. 

Yesterday I realized that my students don't need to go abroad to expand their worlds. They can do it just by going to Ha Noi or Ho Chi Minh City/Sai Gon where there is more contact with a mix of cultures and ideas. This is more hopeful, more reachable. I can't stop thinking about what they have stacked against them and what they have in their favor.

Very much on my mind, clearly my time in Viet Nam does not end here.

"I Grow" Youth Development

Sasha Dingle

Le Ton Vinh Sinh Vien. Award ceremony to honor top achieving students at FPT university. Winner by silhouette.

 Inspiring... Vietnamese university students organizing development summer camps for high school and middle school students. 

Teaching in Nghe An province has been rewarding in that these are the students who need encounters with foreign teachers and more educational/professional opportunities. It's also been nice, however, to kick back with a cushy expat life this past week in Ha Noi, interact with some dynamic and motivated students at the American center, and be impressed by all the hope and big ideas that are moving into action (mainly because 20-30 years ago, big ideas were discouraged by an "Old Guard" government and remnants still linger in my conservative home in Viet Nam).

My boyfriend sounds a bit worried that I've grown too big for life here, so to ease all doubts that it's anything but a mix of professional and kicking back, see previous post of the hooligans I choose to spend my time with.


Vietnamese students are building their own future. A student crafted invitation to guest present at the "I Grow" youth development program this summer:

Dear Ms Dingle,

I want to say another time to you that I was really inspired by your speech about leadership and moderator toolkit today. As I said to you before, I come from AIESEC Hanoi - the international platform for young student to explore and develop their leadership potential and we have intention of carrying out a project this summer for the purpose of providing a comprehensive learning environment for the youth. I attach importance to the development of the young generation therefore we pull out all the stops to make it reality and hope that we can corporate with each other to bring about the best to Vietnamese students through training courses in our project. 
I attached a file including the proposal of our project to this mail. Hope that you find it detailed and useful to have a deep look towards our project and our organization as a whole. After reading the attached file, I would like you to tell us which skill in our project that you really want to deliver speech to our attendees. Therefore, I will arrange the schedule and tell you about the specific time of your own session. Please feel free to contact us if you are concerned about anything relating to our project. I am willing to answer all questions of yours and will reply to your mail as soon as possible. 
Best regards,


Ha Long Deepin'

Sasha Dingle

Backkie into Ha Long Bay. Not me, Dad - I wish.

Glad I saved my energy for the weekend. Boat/bay life with a crew of Australians and associates... some deep water soloing, starlit dancing and, again, the dives off the roof into glowing plankton waters. Advertised as a thousand star hotel room by my friend, Lien; once again Ha Long Bay delivers.

The end

Sasha Dingle

Little fashionista. Da Nang, Viet Nam, April.

At approximately 10:30 am tomorrow my nine months as an adjunct instructor at a Vietnamese university will come to an end. 

Unbelievably, I think I'm actually at a point where 5 minute interviews with each student, with the 15 weeks of interaction in class to refer to, can give me a pretty fair evaluation of their language level (and preparation, or lack there of). 

Today alternated sleeping and interviewing students. My entire body aches, and I'm hoping its food poisoning instead of the flu -or anything that will keep me away from my weekend climbing trip to Ha Long Bay.

The good thing about living alone, in a 5th floor apartment with stairs and only a bicycle is that you have to lean on your friends for help when you're sick. Introverted to recharge my energy, and working a very extroverted job persona, I've kept my apartment as my private personal space. Students and others are discouraged from visiting unannounced, which makes my home so un-Vietnamese.

Now, with barely enough energy to drag my body to the exam room and back, I've let myself ask for help. Three food deliveries, some short company before being encouraged to rest, kleenex, vitamins, (word travels quickly when a teacher of hundreds gets sick), a few moments sitting on the mat with my neighbor and her boyfriend while they eat dinner... in Viet Nam to live alone means to be lonely. My students, friends, neighbor and randoms really just want to take care of me. Most times, I shrug it off, but today it feels good to just give and receive the quiet gift of presence. Nice to shake off that outer shell and agree that 10 months of taking care of myself can be a bit lonely; just as I'm starting to acknowledge that, yes, I miss my family and my boyfriend, now that the possibility of actually seeing them is coming up. 

Four embryonic duck eggs and 3/4 of a giant grapefruit to put me on the path to strength... we'll see how I feel for the 6:30 am first period of class tomorrow morning.

A pukingly bad time

Sasha Dingle

Sorry for the photo spin, someone needs to teach me how to format my own website... The traditional family-style meal at the foot of our climbing crags in Huu Luu.This meal did not involve any naseau.

I've been told to beware oranges, (rose) apples and pears that may originate in China. These too gorgeous to be true fruits may contain toxic preservatives to help them hold their gleam.

But I didn't know to look out for tomatoes that when sliced, have an alien lack of seeds. This poison is causing turbulence in my stomach still and had me ejecting it back out the top within an hour of eating my meal.

 Sidewalk culture. Hue, April.

Another rewarding email

Sasha Dingle

My students are smart. They know how to make me want to come back and teach them again.
Dear, Sasha
  what 's a pity if u do not continue teaching at Vinh Uni. Studying with a foreign teacher. especially to major-English students, is very marvelous. Not me but all of us always want to study with a foreigners, bcz when we make mistakes they can correct it which we have hardy seen in a native teachers, may be it's minimum.
For me marks are not important than what I have gained after examinations, It may be ridiculous. Only a short-term i study with u i feel that my speaking skill a little bit improves. i feel that my pronounciation is better, thanks to you I can be more self-confident than b4, U know the way to motivate everyone to participate in group activities. B4, i dislike working in group with girls, it may be my personal character, but now, i'm a talktive person. U can see that i'm quite silent in class & rarely pay attention to volunteer, It is the weakness that i must overcome in the future.
I completely appreciate the lessons U gave us which make us more and more like speaking E although have some mistake. It can be said that you have changed the way we speak English and the way we learn it.
Thanks you a lot, Hope that in the future you will come back Viet Nam to teach and can help every major-English students can improve E skills like you tought us.
I'm not goot at writing and convey the ideas, hope you can get it.


Through my lens, at the American Center

Sasha Dingle

The Huynh girls in Viet Nam... Mom's two older sisters and cousins

Yesterday Quyen and I did a joint presentation at the American Center of the U.S. Embassy in Ha Noi, titled "Vietnam through a Vietnamese American Lens". We spent a lot of time sharing our very different stories of being Vietnamese heritage in the U.S., then opened the discussion up to questions from the audience. 

Two weeks ago I led a workshop presentation at the AC on "How to Host an Effective Meeting". In audition to university students, the audience of 130 included professional lecturers, human resource personnel and others. They were overwhelmingly interested in what I had to say. The presentation wrote itself (on the overnight train -it was a busy week leading into it) because I spoke from my experience participating in board meetings, staff meetings, and the last 3 years of researching and living "what makes a leader?" "how can we dialogue well together?".

I had lived a lot of it. It was a milestone moment to think that I could be considered a resource for other professionals, older than me.

This presentation was much more personal. The story of our lives, and our perspectives of our time in Vietnam. I wish I had the opportunity to clean it up and present again. Personal was almost more difficult because I had to make statements about things I had probably spent a lot of my life ignoring -That I am different? That I am a minority? Who are you to tell me how to construct my identity? And co-presenting required some coordination. 


The most special part is that now I am relaxing in Ha Noi with 3 of my students. I found sponsorship for a 2-day trip for these very active students who have been assisting me in organizing English extracurricular events all year. (Thank you to the Rising Dragon for free hotel rooms and breakfast). They got all dressed up to come to the embassy, then yelled at for taking photos outside. They researched the best food in Ha Noi for us to try last night, and are telling me we should stay here forever in this gorgeous hotel, like fancy ladies. I agree.

 Field trippin' Ha Noi

A surprise email thank you

Sasha Dingle

Dear, Miss Sasha

I am ******. I come from 50A class. I am your student of the class on morning Thursday. I really like to study with the foreign teacher. Because I have a better environment to practice English. I really felt happy when I knew you would teach me in this term. Your voice is easy to listen, your Vietnamese is good and your English is perfect . It is a pity that you do not have more time to stay here and I have only one term to study with you.
Thank you for coming my university. The life in here does not have a lot of conveniences, the weather is maybe discomfort with you and periods start quite soon. Nghe An province is the hotest place in Vietnam. The temperature in Vinh city is not the highest but it is very hot because of the influence of the southwest wind.
Thank you for well-prepared lessons. I thought you spent much time finding documents to give us useful information. You prepared hand-out, large paper and colour pens.
Thank you for your enthusiasm. You always ask us if we had difficulties in each lesson about vocabulary or content. Although you were very busy, you spent time talking with us out class - coffee dates. It is a good chance for me to pratice speaking and listening skills. It also help us understand each other better and become friendlier. I actually wanted to join in it but I could not arrange time. That is a thing make me regret.
Thank you for your encouragement. Despite of the fact that we make many mistakes during speaking and have less ideas to contribute to lessons, you often find good something to commend. It is great.
We were not active in some lessons. I hope you were not sad about this and not disappointed about our ability of English. 
My mail certainly has some stupid mistakes. I feel sorry about them. I will try to improve my English.
When you have time, welcome back to Vietnam.
Have a lucky day!



Always make time for your students...

Sasha Dingle

...They are the reason you are here.
My students took me out for coffee tonight. Immediately upon sitting down they instructed me to only speak Vietnamese, since I make them speak English every day. Fair enough. Very happy to have such energetic and patient teachers.

Rollback: April 2012 Vinh, VN - A bientot

Sasha Dingle

  The  smallest of expat communities and friends - I think at our peak we were 10 of 400,000 -bidding Julien "a bientot".

Starting the good byes. Julien was the first to return back home. I've never had so many international friends before this time in Viet Nam.

For the last 2 months in Vinh my lunch has been in French and my dinner in Vietnamese, or vice versa. I do a lot of listening, but my brain is opening up to all this language immersion.

It's also very special to realize close connections made without full language capabilities. Shared experience, running away to the beach at lunch time, supporting each other's work here in Viet Nam...and friendships are made. I am proud of these people -realizing the necessary role we play in each other's lives here in our separate spheres of Vinh, proud to consider them my friends... going to miss this time together.

 Please, somebody, note the severe juxtaposition with Ho Chi Minh in the background. Cognitive dissonance in Viet Nam? This is mild compared to some of the scandalous dances that have appeared in various family friendly events across self-proclaimed conservative, traditional Vinh City.

Vinh City View

Sasha Dingle


Just put Maria on the train to continue her way onto Ha Noi after showing her some of the best Vinh City has to offer. Here is the view from the 18th floor coffee bar in Tecco Tower.

Sights beyond: green rice paddies and sizeable mountains that rise up almost to the coastline. Bleached fine sand to rocky black beaches with battered Dr. Seuss pines that bend in every gnarled direction. This is my Vinh home.