29 March 2006

Winding Down

Two more days until the end of the term. One more day of finals, and all the reading of essays, marking, recording scores, and handing in paperwork. Then one day of teaching, although I doubt more than a few will turn up, if that. And on Sunday I leave for my trip up north.

After I finished marking about as many exams as I could for the day, and knowing I had to be home before 5 for my acupuncture doctor, I grabbed a taxi for the Sinh Café tourist office to purchase my train ticket/tour. I had only ever been to their office in the backpacker’s section of HCMC, but saw that there was a second one not far away.

I pretty much detest the backpacker area. It is jammed with cheap guesthouses, travel agents, low-priced cafes, somewhat costly boutiques, drinking establishments, and hookers. Quite a lot of people from work live in, and/or hang out there. I have no idea why. It’s quite the seedy locale. The Sinh office, right in the middle of it all, is a ghastly, hole-in-the-wall, with over-worked, under-paid, rather unpleasant staff. I was hoping that their sister office was better, and I was not disappointed.

Although it is walking distance from the nasty branch, it is a different world. I only saw a couple of foreigners on the street. The office actually looked like a tour office, and the ladies there were helpful and pleasant. Well, as helpful as they could be with limited English and my zero Vietnamese. (my language classes have again been put on hold because the teacher is out of town, but that is a whole, other, boring story.)

I pulled out the information I had picked up over the weekend and asked about other Sapa tours they might have. It all got very confusing. Mostly because a 4-day, 3-night trip, includes 2 nights on the train, and only one night in Sapa. I just can’t seem to get my head around flying up to Hanoi, a 2 hour flight, on Sunday, then boarding the train at 9:30pm, and arriving in Sapa at 7am. I think I am then taken to a hotel and either go village trekking right then, or after lunch. I finally decided to just pay for it and if I want to stay a day or two more, I’ll deal with it when I am there.

The whole idea of a 12-hour, overnight train ride, in a “soft-sleeper”, (which is a cabin with two bunk-beds), with three people I have never met in my life, sort of makes me itch. My worst case scenario is being stuck with a bunch of drinking, smoking, 20-somethings, or a local family who have brought on pots of fish and rice and screaming kids. I know I will never be able to sleep, and what do I do when I have to walk to the end of the car to pee? Will my clothing be safe? I can’t very well take a travel bag into the loo. I tried to see if I could pay extra for my own “room”, but was told I couldn’t. I felt totally trashed when I left the ticket office, but told myself this is how it always feels, and once I am on my way it will work out.

I really should stay either a few more days in Sapa, or take a few days in Hanoi. It’s just that I don’t like to do more than one thing a trip. And then there is the problem of taking cold weather, trekking clothes to Sapa, which will not be appropriate for Hanoi. Once again, the whole by-yourself-luggage hassle. Not to mention the freeze factor.

Lately, in HCMC, it has been 100ºF, (37ºC), and it stays toasty all night. Sapa might get up to 60ºF, (16ºC), during the day, and around 53ºF, (12ºC), or lower at night. That is a drastic climate change. And I do believe that it is 6000 ft elevation, so not only will I be experiencing hypothermia, but I will get altitude sickness. And no, I do not have the right clothing, but will make due. One friend told me not to worry, that they had the fireplaces roaring in the hotel. I simply can not, as I sit here drenched in sweat at 10pm, even imagine being cold, let alone cold enough for a fireplace.

But look on the bright side, I say to myself. I think there is still a bit left of that solar eclipse going on, somewhere in the world. Mercury is out of retrograde. I will pull out my tarot cards to make sure all the forces are in alignment, and if I had any incense, I’d burn it.

Best reason of all that I have to go is that I need new photographs. I have been reduced to this latest, which is another neighborhood shot. I refer to it as the Wisteria Lane/Stepford/Hollywood- back-lot, section of the burb.

If I don’t find anything to write about before I take off, you’ll hear from me in about a week.

25 March 2006

Trip Plans

I have one more week of work, then a week off. I have been planning on going to the north of the country for some time, but am just now looking into how to do it.

You can put me on a plane with a suitcase and $100, fly me to any far-off corner in the world where I don’t know a soul and don’t speak the language, dump me on the tarmac, and I will be happy. And not just happy; thrilled. Within a week I will have a place to live and a job. But once I am there, I never seem to travel much.

All of a sudden, getting on a bus alone and going out on tour just seems too problematic. It has nothing to do with being alone, but everything to do with practicality. I mean, who watches your bag when you need to use the bus station bathroom, or when you dive into the surf at that beautiful beach? That being my general mindset, along with preferring to stay home and do all the things I never seem to get done when I am working, I don’t ever take full advantage of the places I have lived. Or haven’t until I came here.

Now, every break I’ve had, I’ve gone somewhere. Once I am on the road I love it and wonder why I’d spent time debating whether or not to travel. In the past week I have, once again, been thinking about not traveling during my break. Should I go, should I stay, should I get a tour, should I go it alone, should I book with this travel company or that? It seems so overwhelming that giving up on the idea presents a fairly nice alternative. Making all those choices and decisions alone, when one has limited information, sucks.

One of the reasons I like to live around the world is so that I can experience the local culture, especially that of indigenous peoples. I am entranced by their lives and clothing and artwork. In Vietnam, the remaining ethnic minority groups, as they are referred to here, live in and around the city of Sapa, way up north. I knew I wanted to go there, but didn’t, and don’t, know very much about them and the area in which they live. This last week of trip planning has proved educational.

First of all, I found out that I can fly to Hanoi, but then must take a 12 hour train ride up to Sapa. (again, who watches your bags on a 12 hour trip when you go to the head?) Staritng to think twice about it all, friends reassured me that the train ride is at night, in a sleeper car, and is very comfortable. Ok, so I guess I can manage that, but then I had to get some sort of tour because you just can’t hike around the hills looking for villages.

Following the suggestions of various colleagues, I went online and checked out what was available. Unfortunately, it seemed all the trips were designed for people coming from outside of the country. I was looking for a 3 or 4 day thing, and the ones listed were a minimum of ten days. The prices were ok, but not cheap, especially considering I would have to pay for the airfare and train trip.
I then remembered Sinh Café Tours. They run those $8 day trips to the Mekong Delta and other places. I hadn’t used them before, but remember running into an older couple who swore by them and who had had a fantastic time in Sapa with one of Sinh’s tours.

I got to their web site and was very happy to see that they had three day trips, starting from Hanoi where you get the night train, and the price was at least two-thirds less than the other companies. However, I then went on to read the details of the trip which included the word trekking. Right. I should have done better research, because I was sort of surprised to find out that one had to walk lots of kilometers to actually get into the village areas.

Once again I thought of not going. I am a walker and can walk and walk for hours. But trekking sounded scary. I walk on my own time at my own pace and a forced march is not my idea of a vacation. Did that also mean I had to be a backpacker? What was I to do but to put it off until a later date and maybe find someone who knew more about traveling in the north and might even go with me? I thought about it. If I don’t go in April, I won’t have a chance until the fall, and by then it would be the rainy season. Trekking down mountain slopes in the cold and rain is simply not an option for me. Besides, I reasoned, I was being very silly to not go to the one area I most wanted to see simply because of the word trekking.

That settled, I went into town to do some power shopping before hitting Sinh Café’s office. And since it was 200 degrees at 2pm, I stopped off for a cold drink where I ran into two friends. Both of the guys had been to Sapa, so I pumped them for info. Tell me about this trekking, I asked. My friend laughed. It’s an easy walk. The jeep drops you off at the top of a mountain; you leave your bags with the driver, who later hooks up with you at the bottom. The other friend went on to tell me that it was lucky there was only on Sinh Café in HCMC. In the land of no copyright laws it seems that numerous industrious individuals in Hanoi have ripped off their good name and ideas to get a piece of the action.

Once at the Sinh office, I requested information about the three day trip. The man at the counter got out a travel itinerary brochure and pointed it out. But this is different form the on listed online, I said. He just looked at me. I tried thumbing through the pamphlet, but couldn’t find what I had seen. I told him I would print out the online one and be back.

At home, I got on the computer and found the trip, then matched it word for word with the brochure I had been given. Well, it was almost the same. I looked at the logo. It was the same. Then I looked at the website listed on the brochure and it was not the same. Similar, but slightly altered. I remembered what my friend had said about the copycats. When I finally got the real Sinh Café online I saw hat they had included a notice about other companies that had stolen their name, logo, and trip description. And people wonder why I opt to vegetate at home.

I really think I might now have the right information. I will check with a few other people on Monday to make sure the local Sinh Café is the outfit to go with. I then have to get a plane ticket, then go book the tour. Which brings up another problem. I either take a morning flight and hang out in Hanoi all day, (who watches my bag?), or take the night flight which doesn’t give you enough time to make it to the train station so you have to stay in a hotel, and then you still have to do Hanoi all day. So why don’t I just stay a day or two and check out Hanoi? Because I choose to do one thing at a time and this time it is Sapa.

I need to buy some warm clothes.

20 March 2006

Vernal Equinox

Today is the vernal equinox. I believe one is supposed to dance naked in the moonlight. Or possibly that is for the summer solstice. I may try it anyway and see if it leads to enlightenment. I might just be happy with not being a day behind, as I have for the past week or so.

I never forget St. Patrick’s Day, but did so last week for the first time in my life. It wasn’t until a colleague wished me shamrock greetings that I realized it was the 17th of March. In previous years, I have always brought in Irish music to class and done a mini, St. Patrick’s Day lesson. And since it fell on a Friday, by Monday it was just too far past the date to bother.

Not to worry, I had my Vernal Equinox lesson all set up. I decided not to print it out on Sunday night since I didn’t need it until Tuesday, the 20th of March. In class this morning, I casually asked what the date was. The 20th. This was getting too weird. Why was I a day off on everything? I decided to check with the astrology sages.

Just as I’d thought: not only is Mercury in retrograde from 2 – 25 March, it is doing so in my astrological house. Major bummer. Fortunately, we all have the total solar eclipse on 29 March to look forward to, with the promise of an exciting end-of-month for me. Let’s hope so.

Off to howl at the moon.

19 March 2006

The Praying Mantis Story

Several months back, I came upon a praying mantis taking a nap on a fence at work. I tired, not to successfully, to get pictures of him. (see blog: 8 Nov). Since that time, I have been on the look-out for another. Then, on Friday, I saw one, on the same fencing material, but across the way from my first sighting.

I had no camera with me this time, but went over and talked to him. He totally ignored me and continued to rest. I was very pleased.

That next day at home, as I was opening curtains, I was surprised to see yet another praying mantis right on the bedroom window screen. When I leaned over to say hello, I realized that he was in fact on the inside of the screen, trapped in my apartment. I quickly opened the screen and tapped it hoping he would fly away. He didn’t. I tired a few other tactics, but he remained glued in place. I then went and got a plastic container and tried to coax him in. He still wouldn’t move. Carefully, I laid my hand next to him until he had no choice but to hop on board.

I was surprised at how sticky his little mantis feet felt as I slowly got him off my hand and into the container. Next, I gently deposited him on the windowsill and closed the screen. I had assumed that he would immediately fly away. But he just sat there and I started to get worried. I asked him if he was all right, but he didn’t answer.

I left him there for a few minutes and when I went back to check, he hadn’t moved. Had I inadvertently brought him home from work and trapped him in my house and now he was dying? Or had he flown in the night before and now was weak from lack of food? I went to the refrigerator and got some green leafy vegetables for nourishment although, I thought, maybe he eats little insects. Again, I left him hoping he would eat and fly away. He didn’t.

The next time I looked, he was on his side, roasting in the heat. Quickly, I picked him up, brought him inside, and placed him on the cool tiles by the balcony door. He was alive, but weak and I hoped it was just shock. Then I got a little plastic lid and put water in it. Do these creatures drink water from troughs? I bent down to talk to him and pet him. I told him to relax on the tiles, and that I would leave the door open so that he could fly away when he was ready. I also closed the curtains part way to keep it cooler.

An hour later, I needed to leave. My praying mantis was now on his side again. I moved him against the wall and propped him up. I thought about leaving him on the balcony just incase he did revive and could fly off while I was away. But I decided he wasn’t long for the world and he would feel safer inside. I entertained the thought of putting him out of his misery, but simply couldn’t do it. I really hoped that insects didn’t have a complex neural system and that he wasn’t in pain. I explained to him that I was going out and that he should rest.

When I got back home several hours later, he was again on his side, and I assumed he was dead. I carefully picked him up so that I could look closely at his amazing structure. He was so beautiful. And then a front leg slightly moved. My poor little mantis was still struggling, and I was still unable to end it all for him under the weight of a shoe. I remembered hearing about the painless, freezer technique for euthanizing goldfish. I put him in a tiny Tupperware, gave him a last pet, and into the freezer he went.

He is still there. I am not sure what to do with him. I suppose I should hone up on insect rescue techniques incase it ever happens again.


18 March 2006

A Desk of One's Own

My dining room table, like all dining room tables in every place I have ever lived, has never once been used for a meal. I usually eat sitting in a chair, towel on my lap, bowl in my hand. The theory behind this is; why mess up a good work space with plates and utensils, when it can be better used as an ironing board, desk, bookshelf, sewing center, and crafts table? Anyway, I would feel totally ridiculous sitting down by myself in front of a placemat, water glass, and cutlery.

Writing is one of my most favorite activities. In fact if I could do nothing else all day, I would be very happy. Since I still have to work for a living, my hours spent at the lap-top on the dining room table are less than I would like, but still add up. And this has created a bit of a problem. It is a lovely table, but because of the design, I can’t scoot the chair in. Or rather I can’t do that and still be able to cross my legs, (a totally necessary action if I am to be comfortable). I have been meaning to get some sort of small desk for several months now, but things just take longer in foreign countries. However, today I persevered and will have my new writing station in two days.

Last week I talked to the guy in charge of facilities at work and asked where I could get a desk. He drew a map and wrote down the names of the streets. At noon today, when it was around 300 degrees, I just about blew it off. But then I sat down to write emails and immediately remembered why I desperately needed a proper place to write, not to mention work on art projects. (My current crafts table is the ironing board.)

The taxi dropped me at the corner of the furniture street and I went in to the first, small shop. I was in a part of town where I assumed no one would speak English, and I was right. I was able to point to a normal sized desk and explain I wanted the same thing but smaller, which they didn’t have. I then went into a tiny place that had tiny kid’s furniture. I looked at a school desk and thought it might work. But the shop owner was a taste surly, so I continued on down the road.

Two more stores and I found my place. It was larger than the others and a lovely, middle-aged woman came out to help me. She did speak a little English, which proved quite helpful. I found something close to what I wanted, but asked if they could make it without the drawers. This, I had to mime, but was understood. We finally got the right size and color, and instructions to assemble it without the foot rest and drawers. It will be delivered on Monday, at a very reasonable price.

That finished, I pulled out the other scrap of paper that had the street-of-cheap- shoes. This had been supplied by some of my students. Earlier I had checked the map and seen that it was only a few blocks from where I was. I think I have written about the impossibility of shoes here in sizes larger than teeny, and styles other than hooker. Hence, I was overjoyed to walk into the first store and see all sorts of doable footwear in larger sizes. I had been looking for sport shoes that could pass for work shoes, but ended up with funk-o-la Birkenstock style sandals, made of a pearlized blue.

Further down the street I walked into a fair sized shoe store with rack upon rack of all sorts of shoes. I was immediately drawn to the row of Doc Martins. Oohhhh, more totally un-university-instructor, happening shoes! At first I had assumed they were copies, but once again I was proven wrong. Guess Doc M also manufactures in Vietnam. And boy, have the styles changed since I had last tried on a pair. More importantly, those thick soles on some of the styles are now made with light-weight material, making them comfy and easy to walk in. I got two pair, at a total cost of about $17. I started to look at the sneaks, but I had already spent enough money and time shopping for one day.

I will now have feet and a back that won’t hurt. I am only worried about getting frostbite at work while wearing sandals.

Find the Frog

14 March 2006

Trash Cans

I live on the 7th floor, with four other apartments opening off a small, rectangular area. Garbage pick-up here is done by throwing your trash out into the stairwell and waiting for the cleaners to pick it up, twice a day. Most of the people in my building, on all floors, don’t bother to double bag, tie the top closed, or even use a trash bag. It is nasty, especially when fish innards are involved. A while back, the management put up a notice asking people to take more care with their refuse and to possibly purchase a trash can.

Two or three weeks ago, I bought a lovely red, plastic bin with a top. I was very proud of my neatness and hoped the neighbors would follow suit. Instead, they started dumping things in my bin, like orange peels and cigarette butts, and open bags of trash. I would remove them on a daily basis. I thought maybe they didn’t realize it was my personal can, so wrote my apartment number on the lid.

Things were fine for awhile, until one morning I woke up to find my trash can had been stolen! It happened between 11PM and 6AM, so had to be a neighbor. The next Saturday, I bought another red bin for my apartment, and a large blue one for the neighbors. I wrote my apartment number all over mine, and the floor number all over the other. I thought the neighbors would be pleased. All that day, I peered through the peephole every time I heard someone coming or going. The trash bins were still there. Or at least until the 9:30PM check. Both had been taken!

After the first theft, I debated about how I would notify management or ask the cleaning staff if they had seen it. On my way out to work, I drew a quick sketch of the item in question, and wrote my apartment number below it. Upon meeting the ladies downstairs, I did a mime/drawing re-enactment of the crime. I think they understood. One of them mimed back how she removed my garbage every day and then replaced the lid. We looked at each other, shrugged our collective shoulders, and went off to our daily jobs.

I also tried calling the management office, which sent over a representative who spoke no English. Again, I drew a picture and did an impressive imitation of someone stealing my garbage cans. I think the guy nodded his head in agreement just so that he could get away.

My next step was to make a trip down the road to the management office. I finally found someone who spoke English well enough to understand the problem. She said to go back to my place and the building manager would come by. He did, and had been briefed on the situation, but had a very limited English vocabulary. I thought he said he would call the owners of the other apartments on my floor.

I have since called him, and I think he said he talked to the owners but that no one has seen my trash bins. I figure it has to be a neighbor because at 9 or 10pm, they, or their friends are the only ones on this floor. I walk down the stairs, but everyone else takes the elevator, so it couldn’t have been someone from another floor. Anyway, it is maddening, and worse, the trash situation is back to what it was, piles of rotting garbage in the hall.

I am starting Vietnamese classes next week.

08 March 2006

Sisters Unite

International Women’s Day, 8 March. I should have joined in some sort of antiwar protest, or women’s rights march, but there aren’t any that I know of here. CODEPINK - Women Say No To War, had events all around the world, except here. I was ready and willing to march on down to the US Consulate and turn in a petition protesting the war. But I would have been alone. Maybe I should have done it anyway. I guess I will just have to send another email to the Whitehouse voicing my thoughts.

There didn’t seem to be any organized programs of a political bent here in HCMC. There was, however, lots of cards and flowers to be bought. I first noticed this over the weekend when I found a coupon in my mailbox offering a free treatment at a new hair salon in the neighborhood. The accompanying card said Congratulations on Women’s Day!

Yesterday at work, two of my students gave me a beautiful Happy Women’s Day card. One of the guards asked what I was going to do for Women’s Day. It seemed that it was to be celebrated like Mother’s Day or Valentines Day, which upset me. Last night I got on the internet and searched around for some pertinent reading material. I found it on the UNESCO student activities site. I dutifully printed it out, and used it for my morning class.

I was very pleased to find out that at least half of my class did know about the history of Women’s Day and what it represented. Those that didn’t, learned. After that, I didn’t mind the bouquets of flowers in staff offices, or the roses that were passed out. It was all a bit hokey, but as long as the real message was somewhere among all the gifts and orchids, I could live with it.

I’m off to write that email to Mr. Bush. Join me, won’t you?


[I went back to the river by my house and got better shots]

05 March 2006

Herbs & Tahina

On the bus back from town today, a man sat behind me. Voice and physical appearance revealed that he was in his late 50’s, from Scotland, and fat. During the short, 20 minute ride, this is what I learned about him, mostly from his cell phone conversations. He had had breakfast in town, and was now returning to relax for the afternoon at the pub with a bottle of wine, followed by lunch. He has a friend and colleague named Chris who went to a big party on Saturday afternoon and got very drunk. He’ll see him at the office tomorrow morning at 8:00. They are to finalize the plans for the project and make sure the others have work to do for the entire week because, after all, they are paying the lads and they want to get their money’s worth. Mike will be at a different meeting tomorrow morning and will cover for this guy who doesn’t want to be there.

His loud voice was still ringing in my ears after he had exited the bus. Lucky for me, I was able to finally return my thoughts to the bag full of special items purchased at a store called Veggies.

I had heard of the place, but had thought it was an over-priced, small produce market that sold to the rich ex-pats; which it is. I had also heard it had imported processed overpriced garbage food; which it does. And these are the reasons that I had never shopped there. But after searching for popping corn for weeks, and asking everyone I ran across if they knew where I could get it, a friend said that Veggies was the place.

As I walked in, the first thing I noticed was the bulk bins of beans and grains. I found the pop corn right away. They had all sorts of beans and rice that you can buy anywhere, so I almost walked past the garbanzo beans. I had never seen them here. My next product search was for oregano and any other spices that I might be needing and had yet to find in HCMC.

I seem to be only foreigner in Vietnam who does not eat out. No inexpensive restaurants in my neighborhood and I don’t like the large amounts one gets in a restaurant are two of the reasons. But even if I wanted to not cook for a day, I can’t because of all the MSG that goes into every dish in any restaurant.

At first I was just cooking bland beans and rich and vegetables. Then I got into experimenting with coconut milk and invented some really tasty meals. But then I started to think about Italian food but I just couldn’t find the herbs and spices. In fact all that I had been using for flavor was garlic, onions, chili sauce, salt and pepper. I did find powered curry, but it has an odd taste. The supermarkets have lots of pre-mixed packages of spices. I have no idea what is in them other than MSG. People kept telling me that spices were available here, but I could never find them.

Veggies had a few shelves of imported, very costly herbs and spices. I would have been willing to pay top dollar for oregano, but just couldn’t seem to find it on the shelf. I was about to give up when I decided to ask one of the sales ladies.
“It’s in the cooler room”, she said. You mean it’s fresh? I asked? I followed her into the walk-in and almost fainted when I saw bags of fresh herbs. I got oregano, sage, rosemary, and thyme. (but no parsley). Some of it is grown here, and some imported. I bought a handful of each, so the cost was very reasonable.

Up at the cashiers, I looked at my items trying to think if I had forgotten anything.
Then I remembered that I was buying garbanzos to make humus, and therefore would need Tahina. I just knew they wouldn’t have it, but asked anyway. And they did! I even had a choice of two different types. The price was more than the total of all the other items and I almost put it back. Fortunately, I came to my senses and bought it. For someone who doesn’t really get excited about food, I was on a buzzing with cooking anticipation when I left the shop.

Once home, I put a small amount of each herb in the refrigerator, and laid the rest out on the counter to dry. Tonight I cooked up my first pot of pasta sauce. Mexican food is next on the agenda.

There is pop corn to pop
(the river pictured runs just to the right of the manicured garden walk, and this shot does not do it justice.))

04 March 2006

Russian Olympics

The Torino Olympics have come and gone and although I didn’t see oodles of events, I was able to get my fill of skating. I had assumed, correctly, that the winter Olympics would not be broadcast on any Vietnamese channel or on ESPN, but continued to channel surf until I hit upon Orbita, the Russian satellite channel. It took me a few days, but I was finally able to pretty much figure out the broadcast times. (I did try to get the TV schedule on the internet, but unless you can Google in Ruskie, it is not to be found.)

I found myself glued to the commentary team, a man and a women in horribly tacky, red warm-up jackets, who showed excerpts from all the events and didn’t spoil it with too much talk.

Their coverage of the ice skating was far superior to any American broadcast, not that that is hard to do. I was able to watch skaters other than the top three, and enjoy their performances without all that babbling, interrupting the performances. When they did speak, they lacked the judgmental commentary that rules all US coverage. Or so it seemed to me.

I got to see the Russian athletes in their home towns and training venues. It is always enlightening to see what fantastic athletes have been produced from bare bones training facilities. The highlight, however, was the in-depth, hour-long story about Irina Slutskya, one of the world’s top women’s skaters.

First let me point out that we have all been mispronouncing her name all these years. The accent is on the first syllable, SLUTS-kee-a, not, sluts-SKY-ya. I have been watching her since she was about 15 so am well acquainted with her life story. I sat mesmerized as they interviewed her at home, interspersed with footage and re-enactments of her skating career. At times I actually thought I understood Russian, but it was really only that I knew what they were referring to. The re-enactment of the hospital scene needed no translation. Similarly for The World Championships and Olympics. But I did finally get to see her mom and husband, although I must say I really wanted to know what was said about him since I knew/know nothing. Irina has always come across as a lovely thing, and even more so in the interview. Why is it they don’t subtitle these sorts of programs and broadcast them around the world? I am sure many of us would love to get an insight into elite athletes from other countries.

I was sort of rooting for her in the finals even though I knew she was really too old to be in the Olympics. I checked all the internet sources I could, figured that Orbita would be broadcasting live, converted to Vietnam time, then set the clock for 5AM. I turned on the TV just in time to catch the awards ceremony and get the best news of the day that the Japanese woman had won. I always like it when a person that no one expects to take gold, wins.

The other big thrill was seeing the Israeli ice dancing team of Sergai and Galit. It is the opinion of those in the know, and not just mine, that Sergai is the best male ice dancer ever to have graced the rink. Usually, ones eyes focus on the gals, but not when he is performing. He is an utterly beautiful, dead-sexy skater, who I would pay big bucks to skate in my living room. Even more fortunate, I got to see a second, rebroadcast of one of their routines.

So, it wasn’t the entire Olympics, but I am fairly sure the coverage I saw was better than anything people saw in the US.

Off to dream about ice dancers.