30 October 2005



I think I want to change my career path; I want to become a wizard. It seems so much more exciting than lesson planning and correcting papers. I could conjure up spells, dispense evil spirits, live in a castle high on a hill, and dress in really funky clothes.

Having said that, I finished week one of the new job and have to say it was quite enjoyable. Luckily, I only teach one level, something quite unheard of in the world of teaching. The only downside is that I teach one class two days a week and a different class three days a week, and I split these classes with two other teachers. Added to that confusion is that while I am on a break from my class, my co-teacher is teaching a different class, making it quite difficult to meet and coordinate plans. It’s a real Escher-type scheduling challenge, but I seem to have survived so far.

An added benefit to the work week is all the exercise one gets just going from classroom to office to photo-copy machine and back. I am working in a brand new, huge building, with cavernous ceilings and long, wide, winding corridors. (It really is nice architecture, although the color scheme of pale green and salmon leaves something to be desired.) However, it does take quite a bit of time to get from point A to point B, especially since no one is allowed to use the elevators. So if you happen to grab the wrong class register out of the teachers room at the back end of the second floor, and you teach at the back end of the third floor, and the staircase is in the exact opposite direction of both, it’s a bit of a hassle. Forget about running out to get an extra copy of anything.

And as for photo-copying, which we do a lot of, things brightened up on Friday. The English teachers got their own copier! Prior to that, there was only ONE machine for the WHOLE school, which was on a different floor at the opposite side of the building.

With the combination of a new job, new books, new classes, and all that running up and down, by Friday night I was fairly whipped and dreamed about hibernating in the house all Saturday. Unfortunately, I had to cruise into town for various, extremely uninteresting errands. I had planned to get up early today, Sunday, and go to the local market to stock up for the week, but just couldn’t do it. So I cleaned the house and vegetated most of the day.

With the weekend coming to a close, it is now time to sit down and work on next weeks classes and correct papers.

I’m going to Google, Schools of Wizardry.

ps: yes, it’s a watermelon!

23 October 2005

World Series

World Series

Can you believe it? I can get the World Series LIVE in Vietnam! I didn’t quite believe it when ESPN Asia announced that it would carry the games. The play- offs were broadcast a day or two late, and I don’t think they showed the entirety of any one game. But this morning, Sunday, at 7AM, I turned on the TV and there it was. I did check on the internet to make sure it actually was a live game. I’m looking forward to watching a few innings before taking off for work.

And yes, I will again be gainfully employed starting tomorrow morning. I am as ready as one can be, and hope things go smoothly. The good part about the new job is that I only teach one level, instead of the usual five to seven levels I have done in past teaching establishments. The semi-tricky part is that I teach one group of students two days a week, and another group, three days a week, and I share the classes with two separate teachers. Yes, I am confused. Coordination will be a bit of a challenge, but it should smooth out in a few weeks, and then the term will be over.

Time to go over my lesson plans one more time.


19 October 2005

Fixing Things

Fixing Things

My leaky kitchen faucet and dripping washing machine hose just got fixed. I also got my full length mirror hung. I had to wait two and a half weeks, and it only took twenty minutes for the work crew of two to complete the tasks.

I showed one of the guys where to hang the mirror, and we marked the drill spot. He then went to retrieve his substantially large drill from a nylon sack. I looked at it and noticed there was no plug; just a split, coated wire. (And in case you didn’t think about it, neither the workers nor I spoke each other’s language.) I put on my most shocked face and pointed.

The men laughed and said something like “No problem.” I had to leave the room as the one with power tool in hand stood ready to drill, while the other inserted the bare-ended wires into the socket. I jumped when the drill emitted a large whine/grind as it connected to the wall, then abruptly stopped.

I stuck my head around the corner to make sure no one had been electrocuted. The guy at the socket was busily shoving the wires in with a something that may have been a pen. This time I left for good.

I would love to be able to hang things myself, and possibly avoid having to give emergency CPR, but you can’t do it here. Or at least not without a drill. The walls are brick. I remember the first time I lived in a brick walled building. I’d spent about five minutes knocking on the walls trying to find a stud before I realized there were none. The advantage of not being able to hear your neighbors far outweighs not being able to easily hang pictures. Except that for right now, I can hear the workers upstairs building the two story penthouse.

The noise level has gotten radically worse since I first moved in. I had been looking forward to a few weeks of unemployment and spending my time in my beautiful home, reading and writing and creating. It has been all but impossible. The hammering is something I can put up with, but the electric tile cutter that sits on the floor directly above my apartment is unbearable. I was told by my landlord that when they built my apartment, they were not allowed to cut tiles inside because of the noise. They were also not allowed to work on weekends. But the people upstairs were at it all day last Saturday. I think my landlord phoned in a complaint today. However, nothing changed.

I am also a little concerned about how long it will take to complete. When I first moved in, they said one month. It has been almost three weeks and now they say another month. Oh well, I start work full time next Monday, so I guess it no longer really matters.

The good news is that I can now see the moon! I face north, which means no direct sunlight, but loads of light all day. However, I was starting to miss seeing the sun and I had never seen the moon. Then, a few nights, when the moon was full, it decided to visit my side of the building, and every night since I can see it for longer periods of time. It was still in my viewing range at five this morning. I never have been able to figure out the movement of heavenly bodies, so will just have to wait and see if the sun puts in an appearance.

Oh! There goes the helicopter again! Or at least that was what I thought it was for two nights running. Sounded to me like it was circling for criminals, but I just couldn’t see any helicopter lights. Then it happened again yesterday, in the late afternoon. I looked out my window, and oops….there is a river just about half a mile down the road, (which, for some reason, I hadn’t been aware of even though I cross it every time I go into town.) That put-put-put is the sound of the fishing boats returning. Yes, I feel really stupid, but you have to give me credit for admitting my idiocy.

By the way, please do note the Google adds at the top of the page. Somehow I don’t think I am ever going to accrue enough of whatever it is to make any money, especially if you look at what is listed. I wrote about construction, and ads come up for concrete. I wrote about light bulbs and ads appeared for lighting fixtures. And when I wrote about a bad hair day, there were ads for afro wigs and bridal wigs. I am sure that when you read this, you’ll see ads for plumbing or maybe fishing.

And one final, further unrelated note: the picture is of an ENTIRE supermarket shelf of MSG, which one can purchase by the kilo. Just one more reason I avoid eating out.

I need to check on the moon.

15 October 2005

This Ain't Blonde

This morning I was all excited about my trip into town to get my tresses back to blonde. I knew my guy in town would do me up right.

Finding a great stylist is difficult anywhere in the world, but much more so when you live in a country where people have totally different hair. Vietnamese hair is out-of-this-world beautiful. Generally, it’s thick, heavy, straight and black. Not to mention rich and shiny. But if that is the only type of hair you are used to, my thin locks, (which are straight in California, but kind of wavy here), are not something you should attempt to cut.

A month or so ago, I accidentally found a hair salon that was filled with people who did not have Vietnamese hair. I talked to a couple of the patrons and they assured me that this was the best place in town. I had to agree when I went a few weeks ago and had my hair cut.

The stylist was Vietnamese, but had immigrated to Sweden as a teenager, and had learned his trade there. He gave mean awesome cut. I said I would be back in a few weeks to get highlights.

I am an old pro at how the technique of highlighting should be done and how it should look, as I have had years of practice watching it be incorporated into my very dull hair. Some years I go for “natural blonde” and sometimes it is “I paid good money for this, blonde”, depending on my mood. And one day, I promise, it will not just be highlighted, but be 100%, Scandinavian blonde. For now, I wanted to stick with super blonde highlights.

When I made the appointment, I checked on the price. Outrageously expensive for Vietnam, but less than I pay in the US, and this isn’t something you can skimp on. So, money in hand, plus additional tip cash, I set off fully intending to return home a stunning blonde.

During my last time there to get my hair cut, I was both impressed and a bit taken aback by the hair wash. It is wonderful to have a head and neck massage while lying with your head over a sink, but this had turned into an ordeal of 40 minutes. It was really too long, and just not that good. This time I was determined to tell them to cut it way back.

I arrived at 10:00 and they put me in a chair while my stylist was finishing up with another customer. They brought me magazines and coffee, and then a young woman brought over a stool, sat down, and said she was going to massage my arms. Sort of weird, but my left hand has been really screwed up, so I told her to work on that side. Then another gal came over and started doing my neck and shoulders. It was OK, and I guessed just part of their service, but you got the impression these people really didn’t know a whole lot about massage.

I figured they would stop sooner or later, so said nothing. The neck masseuse stopped when the stylist came over. I explained exactly what I wanted, and he understood. The other young woman was still doing my hand and arm, which was beginning to ache. She only stopped twenty minutes later at my insistence, and seemed hurt. Could she do my claves? I told her I just wanted to relax. I have no idea if I offended her or not.

After all the foils were in my hair, (don’t ask if you don’t know what I mean), the stylist started talking about putting in the base color. Huh? Then I remembered that when I had had my hair done before leaving, my stylist had added color to the un-foiled areas, and it had come out beautifully. I acquiesced. I only started to get nervous when some of that base dye was turning awfully dark where it touched the skin on my forehead. A few times people tried to continue the massage treatment and I declined. I also told them no head massage. Just wash the crap out and let me up.

End result: My hair is NOT blonde-blonde. In fact it looks darker than when I went in. It isn’t destroyed, but it is dull and icky and not pretty like I had envisioned. The folks at the salon were all ooh-ing and awing, and asking if I liked it. I sort of smiled and said I did. At that point, I just wanted to pay and leave. I walked over to the cash register.

This is the point where I almost had heart failure. I was handed a bill that was over twice the price I had been quoted. It was more than I have ever paid in the US. I stared at it and asked them to explain. Seems half the bill was for the highlights and half the bill was for the base color. And the price for the highlights was quite a lot more than I had been quoted. My fault though, I had assumed I had short hair and found out at the register it was medium-length, so the price went up 30%.

Obviously, I didn’t have that much money. I tried to think if I even had that much money in the house. I told them I would return tomorrow with the balance. I had to get out of there. I was so upset I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t understand how they could charge what they did. And I know I’ll probably go in to tomorrow, hand them the money, and leave, instead of telling them I hate what they did to my hair and feel I was overcharged.

Time to look for someone new.
I’m covering all my mirrors.

13 October 2005

Siestas and Light Bulbs

There is a reason I try not to be out, walking around at mid-day; the heat. Even as much as I thrive-like-a-lizard in hot weather, strolling on the streets between 11:30 and 2:00 simply isn’t advisable. You kind of feel like you might pass out at any moment, and that would prove embarrassing.

But yesterday, after a morning indoors, I was desperate to get out. I looked at the clock; 1:15, it wouldn’t be so bad. And there really isn’t much to walk to around here so my excursions are limited.

Umbrella opened to protect against those solar flares, I realized just how brutal the sun was. No cloud cover whatsoever to help cut down on the flames. I really need to get a darker umbrella. This one may keep the UV from penetrating, but does little in terms of giving true shade.

As I walked to the supermarket, I peeked into the small shops along the way, noticing that there wasn’t a lot of activity inside. The corner, open-courtyard restaurant was being hosed down after lunch, and had obviously served its last noon-time customer.

Inside the pitifully limited supermarket, with its rolling floors, (need to hang on to that cart!), I just couldn’t find the light bulbs I needed. Their supply was limited to compact fluorescents and I don’t do fluorescents. I grabbed two cans of soda and headed back home.

The motorbike taxi guys in front of the supermarket lounged on top of their bikes. They can actually fall asleep stretched out over the seat and handle bars, and I have yet to see one fall off. One called out, “Ride, madam?” while mimicking revving the engine with his hands, which is how they all ways solicit fares. The others ignored me. (note: that’s the French pronunciation of madam, left over vestiges of colonialism, and it beats the crap out of “Hey, you!)

A few shops up I passed the store that sells lamps and lighting fixtures. Oh, they’d have light bulbs! As with many stores here, the front is completely open. I looked inside but saw no one. As I ventured up the two steps to the entryway, I spotted someone lying on a mat in the back of the shop. Tentatively, I leaned in. The person napping turned out to be a woman. She saw me, got up, and beckoned me inside. I tried to protest, I mean it really was too hot to engage in commerce, but she insisted I come in.

Colorful lamps hung from the tall ceilings and jutted out from the walls. Table and floor lamps surrounded the perimeter. I headed for a glass display case on the left. There I pointed to the compact fluorescents and explained I wanted regular light bulbs, using my hands to approximate the shape.

The saleswoman bent down and extracted a 60 watt bulb in a box from the bottom shelf. I opened it and took it out. It was clear glass and I asked if she had a bulb that was white. She pulled out another bulb enclosed in a small box. I knew this light bulb. I had them in my house. Frosted glass, regular base, but odd shaped and small.

Yes, I told her, that’s what I want but do you have it in this shape? I pointed to the first bulb. She gave me a questioning look. “Do you want white light or yellow light?”

OK, that is the question that I still don’t get, having heard it since the day I arrived. White light/yellow light? The bulbs are not /were not coloured lights. After the first few times of asking what I preferred, (in response to my request for replacing fluorescents), I just rolled with it and said White light. But now that I was in the light store, I figured I’d try to clarify it. I don’t understand the difference, I told her.

She took the bulbs and turned to a testing panel on a shelf behind the counter. About this time, another woman popped up from behind the counter, yawing, stretching, and patting down her hair. At the time, it really didn’t register that she had also been in siesta mode. I was too involved in the lighting demonstration.

The normal, (to us), clear light bulb and the squat one were screwed in and switched on. She indicated the smaller bulb, saying it was yellow light, the other, white light. They both looked white to me. Not wanting to look like a complete idiot, I nodded my head and said, I see. She unscrewed the bulbs and handed them to me.

I then asked about wattage. Do you have 100 watts? She gave me a look of total confusion. Maybe it was a language thing. I pointed to the box, where it said 60, and said 100. I pointed to the small bulb, which was 40 watts and asked for 60. No luck. I further took a stab at asking about three-way bulbs and this woman, I am sure, was convinced I was whacked. I ended up with a couple of each style. She began to write out the bill, just as a young man sprang up from behind the counter on her right.

This time I almost jumped. I was quite embarrassed – I mean here I had been talking and asking questions, and this guy had been sleeping. I tried to say I was sorry, but I guess it didn’t matter.

Still not ready to go back to the crib, I went to a little deli/café that I had not previously been to. It has two, outside tables, so suited my requirements. There wasn’t a soul on the street. I went in to order and the place was empty. Or so I thought. From the back of the small café, a young woman slowly rose and greeted me. Again, I thought I should leave and felt bad about interrupting her rest.

But I stayed, and wondered why the hell I had thought sitting outside in the heat, after being out in it for quite a while, would be refreshing. I gulped my ice tea, went home, and jumped in the shower.

We’ll see how many of me it takes to change these light bulbs.

09 October 2005

Across The Street

It’s Sunday, and I really thought that the men and woman building the four story house across the way would have the day off. They didn’t. So now I know that they work seven days a week, from 7 in the morning until 5 at night.

They also live on the site, off to the right in a tin roofed lean-to. They have electricity and running water, and not much else. There is no outhouse that I can see.

In the evening I see the men in their shorts soaping down and hosing off. I don’t know what the women do. I was surprised to even see woman on a construction site. But they are there, hauling buckets of sand, bricks, and mixing concrete.

I think some of them go home in the evening, but there are around seven who stay. They gather wood to build a campfire and cook dinner. It appears to be a communal effort.

Yesterday, I saw one of the women hanging washed clothing on the fence that surrounds the site. Fortunately, the rain held off most of the day so their clothes should have dried.

At noon they break for lunch and sleep. Then right back to the building. It rains a lot these days, but they do not stop until the rain is really pouring.

I don’t know how long they have been working on this house or how much longer it will take to finish. I wonder if they have family and children and if they ever get to see them. I know they don’t eat enough food to sustain that type of labor in this climate. I know they are drinking the water we are not supposed to drink. I know that I would never have the strength and courage to survive in that life.


07 October 2005

CNN Asia

I’d almost forgotten how different and enjoyable CNN Asia is after being subjected to CNN in the US for far too long.

CNN in Asia is broadcast out of Hong Kong. It oozes with European culture and flair, but it is not at all high-brow. Everyone dresses with style and sophistication. You want to know where the woman bought their clothes, and even if they do wear the requisite heavy make-up, at least they don’t look like hookers.

The anchors come from the UK, Australia, Asia, the US, and Europe. Their intelligence and grasp of the issues at hand is obvious; no giggly girls and boys. They don’t yell at you, they don’t talk down to you, they don’t project false emotions; they are the type of people you would invite into your home.

And yes, they are all pretty, have great wardrobes, unnaturally white flawless teeth, and impeccable hair, but that’s the business. If I ever get tired of the perfection, I can just switch to BBC where the clothes and hairstyles are horrendous, not to mention their dead boring delivery. However, to be fair to BBC, everything other than their news coverage is top of the line, and I watch it all the time.

CNN Hong Kong’s format is warm and cozy, unlike in the US, where every time I turn it on, I want to turn it off. One doesn’t mind walking around in one’s knickers in front of HK anchors. You get the feeling that they also don’t mind. I’d never even consider that in the US.

What’s more, they have really good weekly shows that, for some reason, don’t make it into the West. ‘Talk Asia’, with Lorraine Hahn should be broadcast in the US. Not only is she a superb host, who asks all the right questions in a caring and thoughtful manner, she has really interesting folks on her show. And I think the audience in the West needs to hear from the people in the East.

So I really need to ask the CNN people why they think Americans deserve trashy, sleazy, news coverage and shows, when the rest of the world gets such a better deal.

And in case you haven’t heard, that zany show, (CNN’s words), “The Daily Show” is broadcast on CNN twice a week!

May your news be good news.

06 October 2005


I got a call from one of my real estate agent/friends, telling me that he just couldn’t resist the fresh-of-the-boat, (literally) bananas he’d seen on the way to work, had bought some for me, and could he drop by?

When he knocked, I was expecting to see a small bunch of ‘nanners in his hand. But no, he brought me half a tree. “These will last you the whole week,” he said, “just hang them up.” I looked at the very yellow fruit and said, I don’t think so. These are already ripe. “No problem, they’ll last.” So I hung them up.

These are my favorite type. They are only 3-4 inches long, (I just measured), and have a really tangy taste. But even the big ones, like you get in the US, have a radically different flavor here. Or rather, they have flavor. I’d forgotten how good they are.

After I suspended the branch in the kitchen, we sat down to talk. He asked if I had any free time to meet with his sister, who just started the University. He figured she could teach me Vietnamese, while practicing her English. I have nothing but time these days, so of course said yes.

My new teacher arrived at 2:00, and we spent the next two hours teaching each other our languages. More precisely, she taught Vietnamese, and I helped very little with her English. If I could ever speak her language half as well as she speaks mine, I’d be thrilled. We will meet again on Saturday. In the mean time, I need to sit down and practice.

Tomorrow I will head back into town to my old supermarket, which turns out to be one of the biggest in HCMC. (not taking into account the warehouse type stores that they have somewhere in the outskirts.) I am breaking down and buying a pot and pan and an iron and some more things for the house. I simply can’t stand one more day of popping open a can of tuna and cutting up a carrot, and eating it with crackers as I have been doing for more than three weeks. At least where I was living before, I ate rice.

And I am forewarning all that this blog may have some ads posted on it in the near future. I’ll get paid for doing so, although I don’t see how it could possibly add up to much income. (one gets paid by the number of viewers to the blog). However, I want DSL and a CD player, so am very willing to ho my words out to corporate America to achieve these goals.

I need a banana.


04 October 2005

The Indoor Ark

The cable guy came this afternoon to install the box. I can now watch 48 channels, ten of which are in English. I was really looking forward to a night of zoning out in front of the TV. However, there was nothing worth watching.

I’d thought about taking a stroll over to this café for a cup of something, but then the rains started. And not just any rain. Torrential downpours with all the accompanying noise and electrical activity. I decided on channel surfing as the evening’s activity.

When I found myself watching Chinese game shows at 9:30 at night, I knew it was time to turn off the tube. I got up off the couch in the living room, which is an area elevated about six inches from the rest of the apartment, looked over to the floor by the kitchen, and noticed splotches of dark stuff all over.

I’ll back track a bit tell of the construction that is going on in the apartment above me. On Monday morning, while I was happily arranging my possessions, I started to hear some hammering noises from above. Then I heard drills and pounding. It was so loud I wouldn’t have been able to carry on a conversation had someone been here.

I knew this was no simple matter of someone moving furniture around. The apartments here are built as big empty rooms, and sold as is. The owners then build it in whatever way they choose. I walked up the flight of stairs to be sure. Yep, a big, huge, two story penthouse was getting its first walls put in. I slumped back down the stairs knowing that my life would probably be hell for the next month or so.

But back to the stuff on the floor. My first thought was that they’d cut a whole in my ceiling and crap was coming in. I stepped down from the raised living room area and splashed into several inches of water. Oh no! They must have made a big hole and with the rain, water must be pouring in. I looked up to the ceiling, but there were no water marks. I looked at the new 20 liter water bottle I’d had delivered, but it wasn’t leaking. Then I started to walk towards the bedroom.

Oh my god, oh my god! I was sloshing through inches of water that so far covered the entryway and kitchen. On into the lake in my bedroom, and I again looked at the ceiling, but it wasn’t coming from there. Standing in all that water, I wasn’t about to start flipping light switches, so it took a moment to see where the water was coming from. It was flowing in through the balcony door.

My tiny balcony is set three inches lower than the rest of the apartment. On one end is a drain. As soon as I opened the door which, by the way, does not form a seal with the bedroom, I saw the problem. The drain was not draining. The entire balcony was inches deep in water.

I stepped out into the pool and rain, reached into the drain and removed the filter. Immediately, all the water was sucked down. I ran back in and started to grab anything that was touching the floor, like the clothes on my bed that I had brought in when the monsoon started.

I guess I didn’t really ‘run’ anywhere. These are tile floors and I was trying to remain upright. Back in the entryway/dining area, I grabbed wooden chairs and put them onto the elevated space. There was no way I could move the table or the bed. I tried to think of how I was going to clean this all up. I haven’t yet found that floor squeegee, and I had nothing but a bath towel.

For the next forty-five minutes, I pushed water around using one towel and my feet. Some of it went back out the balcony door, but most went into the bathroom. Fortunately, bathrooms here are totally made of tile with a big drain in the corner. Every time I thought I had it all, I’d step into another three inch pocket of dirty balcony water. When the majority of it was cleaned up, I turned on the A/C and my small fan.

I think I got it all, but there may be some under the platform bed. Nothing much I can do. Hopefully, there will be no damage. And I’m getting some sort of mop tomorrow.

I guess a high point of the day, other than the cable box, was that the noise from the penthouse remained at a very tolerable level after the initial two hours of horror. Hopefully, that will be the case everyday.

My hands are water-logged, but boy, are my nails white!

03 October 2005


Being a bit perplexed about the food shopping situation, I asked around and found that there was a local, outdoor market very close by. If you look around where I live, you get the impression that this section of town, and the area surrounding it, was empty until less than ten years ago. Not so.

Just a ways down the road is a whole part of HCMC that has always been there, including the Cho Tan My market. I went there to shop at around 11am today, which was sort of stupid, since most sellers had already closed up. Still, I scored a few deals.

It’s a little too far to walk to, so I took a taxi. I wasn’t at all sure if it would be a long narrow street with stalls set up on both sides and down the middle, or if it would be in a covered building. When the driver dropped me off, (and please note: I told him where I wanted to go in Vietnamese, and he understood!), I still wasn’t sure. I walked around a bit, then noticed a more or less main entry area.
Mostly there were empty spaces with debris on the ground, but a few vendors were, nonetheless, open for business.

Looking down the passageway as I walked, I saw that there was indeed a building into which the market extended. I strolled on over and went inside. Men and women were busy dismantling their wares, but it looked as though inside they sold clothing and fabric and dry goods. I knew the produce and meats people were done for the day, but wasn’t sure if the clothing stores opened again after lunch.

I figured I’d better get to it if I were to find some papayas before closing time. Unfortunately, none were to be found, but I did get bananas, carrots, watermelon and ginger, for next to nothing. Then I spotted the shoe stall. I’d been looking for cheap flip-flops for the longest time.

I pointed to what I wanted and held up my fingers to indicate size. The woman handed me a pair of like size 5 flips. My feet are size 8-81/2, which is not gargantuan in the US, but seems to be here. I shook my head and held up 4 fingers. I needed a size 40, at least. She called out to her son, who dug around and found a pair. I tried them on. Probably could have used a 42, but I didn’t see any. And at one third the price I had paid for the pair I’d purchased the first week here, who cared? In fact I splurged and bought a second pair. Had they a size 42, I would have bought more.

From there I walked back out to the street to where I had seen a house wares store. I tried to find a squeegee floor cleaner, but they didn’t have one. They may not use them here, which would be tragic considering I now live in miles of tiles and only a squeegee will do. At least I was able to buy a bunch of hangers.

By now I was really hot and sweaty, and carrying a load of stuff. I started up the main road and looked around for a taxi. Whoops, there were not going to be any here. There were tons of those motor-scooters-for-hire, but I do not do motorbikes! “You will, eventually”, I am constantly told. And it would make life easier, and a whole lot cheaper than taxis, but the answer is still NO! In time, I hope to get a bicycle. Anyway, I knew that there would be a line of taxis just up the road in front of the French Vietnamese Hospital.

On my way there, I dropped into yet another household supplies store and bought a kitchen knife and a plastic stool. Exiting the shop, I gave one more hopeful glance up and down the street for a taxi.

Rounding a bend in the road, I could see that there were indeed a line of taxis in front of the hospital, which was still a far walk up the road. Maybe if I waved they would see me. Generally, just being a foreigner walking anywhere in Vietnam means you will automatically be honked at by drivers looking for a fare. And I really stood out in this part of town.

I raised my hand that held the stool and waved as I walked. I could see the drivers sitting under the trees. Surely, one would notice me. But I just kept on walking and waving and sweating. As I got almost to the first parked car’s bumper, they all suddenly saw me and started to scramble for their cars. I wasn’t sure if they had a line and I should go to the first one. Finally, I decided to just stop, let them sort it out, and wait where I was.

Next time I will go at 7 or 8 in the morning, and practice my shopping Vietnamese beforehand. It’s embarrassing that I still don’t really know the numbers, which are never hard to learn.

Shana Tova
May the New Year be filled with health, peace, happiness and love.

02 October 2005


Ok, I managed to yesterdays photos attached. Hopefully, in the future, I will be able to do it all the time.


(bummer...new home + dial-up internet = no photos....they would have been pretty.)

24 hours in the new place and I am still in move shock. It wasn’t until I somewhat settled here that I realized what poor conditions I had been living under. And what awful conditions I almost chose to move to. If I let my mind wander, I start to feel a bit guilty about living in such a shannzy crib; after all I am in a developing country. But that sentiment is generally short-lived.

I couldn’t sleep last night because of the silence. I kept getting up to lean my head out the window and listen to crickets and other critters I couldn’t discern. I just couldn’t get enough of it. That’s what happens when you live in a big, noisy city. You forget what quiet sounds like. They are building in the lot in front of me, and I don’t know why I had thought it would bother me. It’s almost white noise compared to the past two months.

I was all excited about my first venture out into the ex-pat community. There really isn’t much here besides a few restaurants and a supermarket. Now I know what supermarkets are like in the foreign community section of big cities in these types of countries: they are stocked. Selections are huge; everything you can imagine is available. Sure, a good part of it is imported chocolate and brie and mayonnaise, but there is also the best selection of either local, or almost local, goods.

However, when I walked in to the big, blue supermarket, I thought I had made a mistake. It appeared mighty small. Possibly, it was the angle of the entrance and I wasn’t getting the full view. As with all supermarkets here, I deposited my bags in a locker after first taking out my money. I grabbed a cart and foraged onward.

There was nothing in this place. A few small aisles with only the most expensive products. Like Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, at an astronomical price, but not the local brand. Same for the tuna. Then I walked over to the house wares aisle, looked at the meager selection and ungodly prices, and thanked my good senses for doing a little pre-move shopping on Friday.

MaxiMark, where I used to go every few days, has a virtual emporium of anything anyone could ever possibly need in the home. And darn good prices to boot. I bought one spoon, one fork, one bathmat, one cutting board, and three plastic bowls. But not just any plastic bowls. These have really cool pictures of ladies and flowers. There were at least twenty different designs to choose from. I figured these purchases would get me through a day or two before hitting the supermarket here for any other absolutely necessary items.

Obviously, I will need to go back into the inner regions of Ho Chi Minh City for any shopping other than what I can get in the outdoor market. I haven’t been yet, so don’t know if it is only produce and pig meat, or if they have clothes pins and brooms. I can live with my paltry kitchen utensils; after all, I do have a Swiss Army Knife, but I need all those other things like a broom and a mop. Oh crap, and an iron! Nothing like cotton clothing, line-dried, to force even the most stalwart, anti-ironer, into submission.

I would close by saying that I have an important documentary to watch on the fancy TV, (been without for longer than I’d like), but there is a problem with the cable that can’t be fixed until Monday. Still, I can listen to BBC and CNN, so it’s kind of like I have a TV. Tomorrow I’ll have the Hallmark channel!

I’ve got a watermelon that I’m about to attack with that pocket knife of mine. Should be a challenge.