Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Celine: I did it again!! Cooking Mama, c'est moi :)

Christelle, j'aurai peut etre bientot droit a une place sur ton blog?? :)

J'ai encore cuisine un festin aujourd'hui: Nems aux crevettes (bon, ok, je les achete surgeles, ca doit m'oter mon droit d'entree sur Olala, non?), soupe de champignon faite par moi de A a Z, nouilles blanches ("bun"), legumes sautes a l'ail et crevettes sautees aux spring onions... comment on dit, en Francais, spring onion? Une sorte de petit oignon au bulbe blanc et a la tige verte, fine et longue. Ciboulette? Sais pas...

En tout cas, c'etait un regal pour Ding, et Leg a mange un peu de nouilles a la soupe de champignons: pas la peine de macher.
Meme si je ne peux pas manger en ce moment, j'aime beaucoup preparer a manger, cuisiner et servir un joli repas tous en couleurs et dans des petits bols vietnamiens trop jolis. Ca me plait. Peut etre que mon gene cuisinier se reveille enfin! Entre mes deux grand-meres cordon bleus, ma mere qui rends tout ce qu'elle touche dans la cuisine delicieux, meme les haricots verts bouillis, et ma soeur qui a son propre blog de cuisine, je me sentais un peu en retard!! Toujours, d'ailleurs, mais j'aime de plus en plus cuisiner, en tout cas. Croisons les doigts et esperons que ca ne soit pas passager!

I cooked again! Shrimp and spring onions, crab nems, vegetables fried in olive oil and garlic, white noodles called "bun" (pronounce "boon") and mushroom soup made by me!. Dan loved it... or maybe he loves me, so doesn't want to tell me that it taste rubbish :)
I wouldn't know how it tastes, because I still can't chew so I just had mushroom soup and a few noodles. yum.
Even though I can't eat, I do enjoy cooking at the moment, I like how pretty a meal looks herem in those cute vietnamese bowls. I try to make sure that Dan comes to a beautiful looking lunch everyday at the moment. Not very feminist of me, I know, but what can I say? I enjoy cooking Vietnamese food and I enjoy Dan's enjoyment. Perhaps, at long last, my cooking gene has awaken? I mean between my grandmothers who are unbelievable cooks, my mum who makes the best home cooke meals ever and my sister, who actually has her own cooking blog... I was feeling a little behind. I still am, but at least now I enjoy cooking. So maybe I'll show you more pictures of my work :)

Vietnam Annual Beverage Festival

The weekend just past was the Vietnam Annual Beverage Festival. I knew little of this event until told by the Vietnamese owner of the house I am staying in, on our boozy Thursday night encounter. The festival was very close to where I live and seemed a good port of call for the coming weekend.

After dropping Celine at work I grabbed my camera and headed for the festival. There was a number of large tents set up in the grounds of Vietnam’s exhibition centre. Each tent represented a different brand of beer and there were several food stalls spread around as well. There was a main stage, which was receiving most of the attention when I arrived. On stage were two young well dressed Vietnamese, a man and a woman, who were talking to the crowd via their microphones. At the front of the stage were lots of tables with countless cases of beers stacked. Young girls, dressed in beer advertising, were frantically filling beer glasses while men frantically drunk them. As the hosts on stage chatted away I looked at what was going on there and it didn’t take too long to work out what was happening: a drinking contest.

I stood out like a dog's butt in the Vietnamese crowd and it wasn’t long before approaching eyes sought my involvement. One man, clearly on his way, made the effort of walking over to me and dragging me towards the stage. People cheered. It seems I was entering this contest... As I walked on stage, being the first of the contestants to greet the hosts, I had this strange feeling of being watched. By absolutely everyone there. A little overwhelmed by this new found attention I looked around smiling. Many people were smiling back clearly excited to see a foreigner in the competition. Shit, I had better not let them down.

With the other contestants on the stage I was kindly given the rules in broken English. It was simple as most drinking contests go: in this case the first to drink three glasses of beer wins. Each round of the contest had a different beer and this round was American beer, not one I had ever tried. I was not in the best drinking mood after my Thursday night exploits and was wondering how the hell I had gotten myself into this. While trying to put my game face on and get myself into the zone I was approached by one of the hosts, with a video camera and a microphone.

“Can we do a quick interview?”

“Ummmm yes”

I was asked the usual questions so luckily I was prepared: Where are you from? Are you living in Vietnam? What do you do? I wasn’t prepared for the “Are you going to win??” question and my blunt reply of “yes!” sent excitement around. Shit, shit, shit. Now I was going into damage control. Surely I couldn’t win. I have all these eager Vietnamese waiting for my victory and I was soon to disappoint. Exit strategies were going through my head. Could I pretend to faint? Possibly a drop and run scenario? All seemed a little too dramatic and reality struck that I would have to fight my inner demons and bring victory to Australia.

We all stepped forward and the countdown started. On the bell I raised my glass and took my first big gulp; the warm flat beer attacked my taste buds. I instinctively retracted but persevered nonetheless, finishing the first glass in acceptable time. The second glass was painful and my stomach was not agreeing. Shit. After a small break for composure I finished the second glass. While on my third I could see I was loosing pace with the front runners and fearing an embarrassment on stage succumbed to defeat. Shaking hands with the victor I strolled away from the limelight. I exchanged smiles with the hosts and a few people as I left the stage. It was a fun experience but the beer was awful.

Now happy to retire to one of the beer halls I was taken aback when the tap on my shoulder led to overwhelming encouragement to again join the stage for another round. Surely not, I thought. I can’t do this. Please don’t make me do this. My voiced refusals were not heard and somehow I found myself on the stage again. Dejected I found two large, warm and presumably flat mugs of beer in my hand. Clearly a shattered man I prepared for battle.

I managed one and a half glasses before the winner claimed victory. A poor showing I admit. I ambled off the stage in defeat looking for a quieter setting.

I never cease to be surprised here in Hanoi!

Le week end dernier, Dan est alle boire un verre au festival annuel de la biere, en face de chez nous, pendant que j'etais a l'ecole. Il s'est rerouve le seul blanc au milieu d'une foule de Vietnamien qui l'ont du coup tout de suite remarque. Ils l'ont traine sur scene ou se deroulait un concours de buveurs de biere, a qui finirait sa pinte le premier. Dan avait un peu le trac, et d'ailleurs il a perdu le concours mais tout le monde l'a acclame et apres quelques minutes une jeune femme avec un micro et un cameraman sont venus l'interviewer. Il a repondu aux questions comme il pouvait, et s'est re-fait entrainer sur scene un deuxieme fois, pour une deuxieme defaite. Quand je suis rentree a la maison il m'a raconte sa soiree mouvementee. Decidemment, quand Dan va boire un coup quelque part, il a toujours beaucoup de succes!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Celine: apparently I cook now!!

Ce matin, j'ai prepare pour Dan, qui rentre a midi et demi tous les jours: Une petite salade de tomates et fromage, du riz blanc, des nems aux legumes et des tomates farcies. Ici c'est comme ca qu'on mange: des petits plats et du riz nature, ou des nouilles nature, et on pioche de tout et melange ce qui nous plait dans un petit bol. J'ai pris le coup de main, parce que ce dejeuner ressemblait a s'y meprendre a ceux que preparaient Mme Dzung!

Quant a moi, j'ai mange une soupe. Hmmm, la bonne souplette. C'est la seule chose que je peux manger, grace a mon dentiste qui m'a arrache des dents. Merci dentiste, grace a toi j'ai perdu deux kilos (que grace a Mme Dzung j'avais pris, au prealable :) )

Today I cooked this lunch for Dan: Prawn nems (nems are fried sort of spring rolls or I think tha's how you call them in Australia. In France, spring rolls are never fried bit raw, more like salad rolls), tomatoes filled with mixed porc and herbs, veggies, tomatoes and cheddar salad and of course rice. This is how people eat in Vietnam: there are usually a few small tasty dishes and plain rice (or plain noodle) on the table, and you pick different bits and mix in your own little bowl. Today I was pretty proud of myself, this lunch looked a lot like the ones Mme Dzung would cook.

Me, I had a soup for lunch, thanks to my dentist who extracted a few teeth from my mouth, and I still can't chew, I have lost a couple of pounds though, and the painkillers make me pretty high and happy, so at least two good things have come of it! :)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

In the wars

Celine and I have been living in Hanoi for around 6 weeks now. Of that time Celine has been out of action for close to two weeks. First she was fighting a dreadful allergic reaction thanks to yours truly. The last week has been the recovery from dental surgery. The surgery was a success however the aftermath has been one of intense pain. The swelling looks as if she has received a punch or two around the jaw. The pain killers help with the soreness but they make her drowsy and spacey. It looks, touch wood, that things are on the mend now and we both hope this is the last of her infortunes. If you take out the two weeks of inaction we can both be pretty happy with what we have achieved in our time here. We have found a place to live, have jobs, have explored Hanoi vigorously and once beyond. We have mixed with the locals and learnt some of the language, especially Celine who is always happy to chat away and try her few Vietnamese words with everyone. We have learnt to ride the motorbikes and sampled countless foods. In short, despite Celine’s tough couple of weeks, I think we have been able to fit a lot into our time in Vietnam.

Our apartment is going well. We really enjoy the area. The other day I ran into the owner (who lives on the bottom two floors with his family) and he asked me if I wanted to go for beer. I gladly accepted. We went to a nearby bia hoi, the Vietnamese version of the microbrew. “Tram Phan Tram!!!” or “bottoms up” is called around as glasses are emptied. Those 3 words are the mark to down your beer. It is a frequent occurrence and the beer or two I had planned had now turned into a mission. Man can the Vietnamese drink. We chatted about his family, life in Hanoi, politics, sport and beer around the world. His pace never altered and I stumbled home in a mix of bleariness and confusion a few hours later. The end result of my first major Vietnamese session was spread across the floor in our apartment. Poor Celine had to hand wash it! It was reminiscent of my teenage years and not a good feeling. I now know why a friend of ours in Hanoi is planning a spew hole inside the restaurant they are building.

The kids I am tutoring have moved into a house, a five story mansion, in the West lake area. The only thing small about the house is when comparing to others nearby. The people live in luxury in this area and the houses are amazing. It takes about 25 minutes to ride to work now but riding along before the day gets too hot is actually a nice way to start the day. Part of the trip is on one of the highways and I saw the dangers of the motorbike in Hanoi. As I rode past a man was being helped to the side of the road, blood pouring from his face. His recent accident brought me back to reality on the dangers on the road and I concentrated intently for the rest of my trip.

Now after dropping Celine at school I plan to sit back and enjoy the AFL grand final. No complaints here.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Flying Fish

In preparation for Celine’s dental surgery we decided to hit the town and enjoy a nice meal. Celine was having her tooth ripped out and a metal screw inserted in preparation for an implant. This was going to be painful for a few days (although not so much during the surgery as she was going to be sedated) and hearty meals were soon to be limited so we went for some tasty Vietnamese food. We opted for fish. The restaurant, on the street at the back of the Ho Chi Minh Museum is a local hang out with a vast menu of varying cuisine. It is by no means flash, plastic chairs and plain tables filling the white tilled floor. Many locals come for the cheap bia hoi and as I have mentioned in previous posts, I can understand why.

The staff have limited to no English so the few words we have learnt came in handy. We decided on grilled trout (There is some approximate English on the menu) which is to share between two people and came to 140,000 dong or around $10AUD. With the beers delivered we started discussing the approaching surgery. Celine was chatting away when she lost thought and looked over my shoulder; her eyes went from curious to shock.

“No, no, no, no. oh my God, he’s going to kill it!”

Celine had just noticed the tank that was holding the fish, and the waiter trying to grab the fish with his bare hands. She also realised that this was the fish we were going to eat. Celine is well aware that the fish we eat have to be killed but seeing our meal just before death does not heighten the eating experience. With his arm stretching into the tank the young Vietnamese server looked around and smiled. He couldn’t understand us but perhaps thought we were enjoying the small spectacle.

“Well don’t hurt it…” Celine started to say, but then stopped. By then she had had time to adjust to the situation. She now realised that the small tank was by no means ideal for the life of such a big fish and that the most humane thing to wish for was for the trout to be out of its misery. We quickly decided to swap seats though so she wouldn’t see what was going on. By this time the server was deep into the tank and latching on to the first available trout. He grabbed one and as he pulled it out the trout trust with all its strength breaking free of his grip and flew towards the ground.


My eyes opened and stared as the server scrambled to pick up the flopping fish.

“What happened? What was that?


“Was that the fish? Is it dead?”

Now here was a tough one. Not knowing what the correct answer was I hesitated, searching her eyes for what she wanted to hear?


“Are you sure? Was it fast? How did they kill it? It didn’t suffer?”


The server walked off, big flapping fish in hands, to the kitchen. My feeble attempt at reassurance ceased as the evidence left the room.

Now both back to our self imposed denial of where food actually comes from we relaxed into our evening. The fish soon arrived will a mixture of vegetables and rice paper. It was delicious. Compliments to the chef!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Celine: est-ce une oiseau? Est-ce un avion? Non, c'est Super Teacher!!!

C’est rigolo d’enseigner. Quelques anectodes sympas:

Enfants :
On étudie donner des conseils, et plus particulierement « si j’etais toi »
Au probleme : "je me dispute tout le temps avec mon petit frere de quatre ans", une petite de 9 ans réponds: "si j’etais toi, je dirais a mes parents de l’abandonner dans la foret."

A chaque fois que je fais l’appel, c’est la crise de rire génerale. Apparement ma prononciation vietnamienne est comique. Je leur demande de me reprendre, et ensuite je dis « c’est exactement ce que j’ai dit !! » nouvelle crise de rire.

Dans ma classe de débutants, les petits ont 7 ou 8 ans et ne parlent pas un mot d’Anglais, du coup je répète sans fin des structures de bases de type « HELLO HELLO MY NAME IS » ou « How are you ? », et surtout, je dessine au tableau. Ils adorent. Une petite photo d’un de mes chefs-d’œuvres :)

J’ai une petite puce dans ma classe de débutants, qui est russe. Blonde aux yeux bleus (c'est la seule petite blanche de toute l'ecole), elle ne parle pas Vietnamien ni Anglais, d’ailleurs, puisqu’elle est débutante. Comme les petits se traduisent les uns aux autres en vietnamien ce que je leur dis, elle a un peu du mal a suivre, elle. Aujourd’hui j’ai demandé a la classe si ils savaient d’où Macha venait. Je me suis montrée du doigt, et ai dit « France », je les ai montré du doigt et ai dit « Vietnam » puis j’ai montré Macha du doigt et les petits ont dit « America!!! ». C’est logique, qu’elle soit en classe de débutant en Anglais tout en étant Americaine, dans leur tête. Elle est blonde, elle a les yeux bleus, donc elle est Anglaise ou Americaine.

Quand je leur ai dit « Russia » ils l’ont regardée avec des yeux ronds et admiratifs. Je crois que Lenine est un héro ici, et les petits connaissent la Russie comme un pays de légende.

Dans une classe de gamins mais plus avancés en Anglais, aujourd'hui, on révisait les magasins. Je dessinais au tableau un objet, et ils devaient me dire ou on peut acheter cet objet. Par example, je dessine un livre, et la classe crie « bookstore !!! », puis une tomate, et la classe crie « grocer’s !! ». J’ai dessiné une cuisse de poulet, pour leur soutirer « butcher’s », mais ils ont tous crié« KFC !!! » :)

Adultes :

Mes élèves les plus avancés parlent tres bien anglais. En fait, ils lisent tres bien l’Anglais et sont incollables en grammaire, mais manquent de pratique a l’oral. J’adore cette classe parce qu’on peut parler de tout. Ils comprennent toutes les expressions, les termes compliqués, etc…
L’autre jour on étudiait « Imagine », la chanson de Lennon, et un article qui va avec. Les élèves ont tout compris, et l’article était plein d’expressions que je ne vous traduirai pas parce que franchement, je ne pense pas que vous sauriez ce que ca veut dire. Il y avait des mots balezes, mais ils n'ont eu aucun problemes. Il ne m’ont demandé d’expliquer qu’un seul mot…
Ils n’avaient jamais vu ce mot et ne comprenaient pas le concept.
J’en etais sur le c..
J’en ai déduit que le bouddhisme ici ne rentre pas dans la catégorie fermée de religion comme on l’entends nous. C’est une façon de vivre, le mot religion ne veut rien dire pour les vietnamiens.
C’était bien délicat a expliquer, et encore plus de justifier les paroles de Lennon. Je ne suis pas censée rentrer dans des débats théologiques avec les étudiants. Mais je m’en suis bien sortie.

Devoir écrit que mes élèves adultes on du rendre il y a quelques semaines : Racontez vos dernières vacances (original).
Traduction du devoir d’un eleve :
"J’ai rencontré une fille sublime avec de longs cheveux noirs et de beaux yeux mais elle m’a dit qu’elle avait un petit ami et qu’elle partait a Sapa avec lui ce week end. Moi, j’avais classe d’Anglais ce week end. Mais finalement mon prof n’etais pas la donc j’etais libre. Quand je suis rentre chez moi j’ai vu que la jolie fille m’avait appele. Je l’ai rappelée mais elle pleurait trop au téléphone et je ne pouvais pas comprendre ce qu’elle me disait. Elle m’a dit de venir la rejoindre alors le lendemain je suis allé a Sapa. Elle était tres triste parce que son petit ami n’était pas la, il n’avait pas pu venir. Elle m’a montré une photo de lui: c’était mon prof d’Anglais !!"
Je peux vous dire que ce devoir a fait jaser toute la salle des profs, étant donné que le prof d’Anglais en question est l’un des nôtres.

Deuxième devoir :
"Ces dernières vacances je suis allée a la mer avec mon chéri. Il est beau. Il est riche. Je l’aime. Il est tres occupé. Mais il est tres beau. Il a aussi beaucoup d’argent. On a mange du crabe. Il peut acheter des fruits de mers bons parce qu’il a un bon travail. Il est merveilleux."
Crise de rire avec Dan en lisant le devoir. Comment je note ca, moi ??

Ma perle:

J’ai demandé a mes élèves si ils avaient un/une idole. Une de mes élèves préférées, Mai, n’a généralement pas peur de prendre la parole, et si elle se trompe elle s’énerve toute seule mais elle reprends la parole quand meme la fois d’apres. J’admire ca, moi. Bref, elle me parle d’un boys band Coréen qu’elle aime, parce que les 14 (14 !!!!) mecs sont tous « very handsome ». Toutes les filles s’excitent : ouais, ouis, Super Juniors, ils sont tellement beaux !!
Elles sont fans.
Je les ai trouvés sur Internet. J’ai cru ne jamais m’arreter de rire. Non mais regardez les, et regardez la COUPE du numero quatre.

Celine: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No... it's Superteacher!!

I love being a teacher, I really do. In this post I share a few teaching anecdotes from the last couple of weeks.

Kids say the funniest thing: the other day we were studying giving advice by using the “if I were you” structure (these kids are about 11 and already have a good level of English. When I was 11, I could not say a word in any other language but French). I was inventing problems and one kid at a time was to give advice for that problem. To the problem “My little brother and I argue all the time”, a little girl said “If I were you, I would ask my parents to abandon him in the forest”.
LOL. That only made me laugh, the other kids only smiled and a few even nodded!

When I call their names at the beginning of the class however, it always provokes general hilarity. Apparently my Vietnamese pronunciation is comical… they’re cute and sweet though, it’s not mockery, it’s genuine amusement. Then they correct me and actually use drilling method with me, which is what I do with them all the time! (drilling = repeating the same word a few times and get students to repeat until they pronounce it properly). It’s sweet because even my little ones do that to me with names, and they’re like… 7.
These little ones are starters in English, and they don’t understand anything I might tell them apart from “hello” “how are you” and “what’s your name”. I use gestures and draw on the board a lot: they love this. I draw slowly to get them to guess what it is and they scream random things (half the time in Vietnamese, like I have a clue whether that's correct or not!) until they recognise the animal, or football etc… I took a picture of the board after a class once, see above, isn’t it cute?
With the adults (they are usually young adults, from 16 years old, so I still call them “kids” when talking about them to Dan :) ) one thing that marked me the most was when, in my Intermediate class, we were studying Lennon’s “Imagine”. These kids are very good in reading English and in grammar. They have been doing English grammar for years and know everything about it. They also have an impressive vocabulary, including expressions, idioms etc…
In the article about the song, there was expressions such as “the song was a hit in the seventees” I mean, how are they to know that “hit” can be used for “success”, I don’t know... but they knew, and they also understood every complicated word. They only were puzzled by one word:
They had never heard of it and were not familiar with the concept. It was my turn to be puzzled! I explained it to them with tact and to the best of my abilities, but I understood there and then that Buddhism doesn’t fit in our definition of religion. It is more… a way of life, I would say.
One of the funniest culture difference amazements I have had in the last few weeks I have been teaching, it’s when the girls from my pre-Intermediate class, who are about 19 to 22 years old, told me about their idols: number one on their list was "Super Junior", a Korean boys band. They all loved the boys band, made of like… 14 guys (!). The girls said they were so handsome and beautiful and great singers. I aroused mu curiosity so I looked the boys band up on the Internet. Oh my God. I thought I would never stop laughing.
Honestly, look at the picture above. And please can you explain to me the hairdo of number 4??!!!


We had lunch at a restaurant called KOTO yesterday. KOTO (Know One, Teach One) “is a not-for-profit restaurant and vocational training program that is changing the lives of street and disadvantaged youth in Vietnam”. The staff members at the restaurant go through a hospitality course as well as English lessons. The course is designed for disadvantaged kids between the ages of 16 and 22.

All the restaurant's profit goes back into the charity organisation. The restaurant, 59 Van Mieu Street, is four stories which give you the option of inside or outside dining as well as an area to sit and have a drink. We opted for the fourth floor and decided to sit outside to grab the views. It was sapping heat so in hindsight we should have opted for the air con.

The kids that served us were great. They were friendly, professional and had really good English. I couldn’t help but smile with the accent of the cute little girl who read us the specials from the board. She sold us though and we decided to take the shrimp salad as well as the KOTO special plate, an assortment of goodies, and a dish of mushroom sticky rice. We enjoyed the lunch. The prices were a bit high but still reasonable and it was good to know the money was going to a good cause.

According to the KOTO brochure nearly half of rural Vietnam lives below the poverty line and more than 50% of the country’s population are under the age of 25. This in turn means that much of the youth of Vietnam are suffering. Many kids are not completing school and will struggle to ever find a job. The brochure says that there are an estimated 19,000 young people living on the streets of Hanoi. For this reason alone it is good to go and show some support to KOTO which has already trained over 300 trainees to date. All in all, it won't disappoint.

Hier midi on est alles manger a KOTO, un restaurant qui forme et lance dans le milieu hoteliers des jeunes sans abris ou venant de familles tres pauvres. Tous les revenus du restaurant sont investis dans l'ecole hoteliere KOTO, dans l'enceinte meme du restaurant. Les serveurs sont des petits jeunes sympas, et c'est bon de savoir qu'on depense ses sous pour une bonne cause. Je n'ai pas pu resister a coller ici un une revue du restau, ecrite par un habitant de Singapour, qui nous fait le plaisir de commenter KOTO sur Trip Advisor, en Francais, alors que manifestement ce n'est pas sa langue originelle :)

"C'est vraiment un must, allez au restaurant à Hanoi pour soutenir un admirable noble cause et derrière le cadre perché dans ce restaurant, si vous n'êtes pas pour faire la cuisine et l'ambiance. Les membres du personnel sont sans-abris enfants des rues qui ont la possibilité d'apprendre nouvelle compétence, retrouver leur confiance en soi et sef-confiance et j'espère qu'après le pingre. On y retournera être capable et indépendant individus responsables et. Apparemment, ils sont pas payé pour leur formation à koto mais on a offert et de la nourriture. J'ai senti que ce n'est pas du goût de cet Win-Win présentation.La nourriture n'est pas mal bien qu'un peu cher comparé à des endroits où se restaurer à Hanoi, mais il est toujours bon de soutien une bonne cause. Les employés sont très empressés et serviable, ils nous ont vraiment chérissez la chance de pratiquer leur anglais avec des étrangers. Sans Domicile Fixe les enfants savent partout dans le monde et le concept à koto devrait être émulée globalement"

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Celine: Café et coiffeur

Avant-hier j’ai découvert le café Vietnamien (ca phe). C’est délicieux, j’en ai même decidé de passer outre mon récent rejet de caféine. Ici c’est difficile de trouver du lait : dans les cafés et restaurants les thés et cafés « au lait » sont servis avec du lait concentré sucré (hmmm, j’adore le lait concentré sucré, ca me rappelle chez mes grands parents a Port Vendres ou il y en avait toujours une boîte ouverte dans le frigo et j’en piquais tous les jours en pensant que ma grand-mère n’y verrait que du feu… penses-tu.) Le lait concentré sucré dans le thé c’est bof parce que j’aime mon thé sans sucre. Les vietnamiens n’ont pas encore decouvert le lait concentré non sucré, a moins qu’ils l’aient découvert et rejeté parce que personne n’aimait ça!
Donc avis aux amateurs de café: le ca phe vietnamien et le meilleur café que j’ai bu de ma vie, et je compte le café frappé Grec alors vous pensez bien qu'on est dans le méga bon. C’est très sucré -si on le prends au lait- mais le café lui-même étant d’une force de taureau (comme dit Dan, le café ici fait pousser des poils au torse, je pense qu’un café vietnamien = 4 expressos) le lait concentré sucré est le bienvenu pour adoucir cette mixure. Hmm hmmm. Je suis fan. Et malgrè mon café quotidien ces trois derniers jours, je n’ai pas ressenti d’effets secondaires : pas de tremblote, pas de cœur qui bat trop vite, tout va bien. Vive le ca phe !! (compter entre 25 centimes et €1.50 selon ou on le consomme)

Après avoir bu mon merveilleux café quotidien a l’une des 75,000 terrasses de café de Hanoi (généralement assez proches physiquement de nos terrasses parisiennes ou Marseillaises… francaises, en fait, mais les chaises en rattan sont plus petites et les tables plus basses), j’ai decidé de rentrer me reposer pour me débarrasser de la migraine lancinante qui s’était déclenchée vers midi (due à mes maux de dents) et on a pris notre nouveau scooter rouge pour rentrer à la maison. En bas de mon immeuble il y a une épicerie, un café (youhhhhouuu !) et un petit salon de coiffure basique. On m’avait dit du bien des salons de coiffure (et par « on », je veux bien sur dire Marine) ou apparement le massage du cuir chevelu est compris dans le prix et se fait automatiquement. Comme j’avais mal a la tête je me suis dit que peut être un petit massage du crâne aiderait, et suis rentrée dans le salon pour demander un shampoing. La jeune fille m’a fait asseoir sur une chaise devant un mirroir et m’a fait un premier shampoing sur place, au sec. Elle avait de l’eau dans une petite bouteille et en mettait quelques goutte sur ma tête de temps en temps. Elle a gratté mon cuir chevelu avec ses ongles pendant dix minutes ce qui était franchement agréable. Puis après avoir laissé reposer le shampoing 5 minutes, elle m’a fait allonger a l’évier : ici ca ne fait pas mal au cou le shampoing chez le coiffeur. Les vietnamiens ont trouvé une solution idéale : il y a une sorte de pilier repose-tete au milieu de l’évier et pas du tout de ‘repose cou’ sur la chaise, qui fait toujours mal au cou et derriere le crâne. Ici le cou est libre de toute entrave et la tête tres bien calée.
Apres un shampoing de 45 minutes ( !!! ) comprenant nombreux massages de la tête, du visage et même des oreilles, la jeune fille m’a fait un soin visage complet : gommage, rincage, gommage, massage, creme et m’a nettoyé les oreilles pendant que l’après shampoing reposait. Service complet ! Moi qui m’attendait seulement a un petit massage cranien agréable…
Quel bonheur. Je n’avais plus du tout mal a la tête apres tout ca. Mais bon, c’est vrai que pour un service pareil, il faut mettre le prix :
J’ai payé €1.50.

Two days ago I discovered vietnamese coffee: ca phe. It's amazing. It is the best coffee I have ever had, and that's including the famous Greek "cafe frappe", so that's saying a lot. Ca phe even reconciled me with caffeine, which I had been avoiding for a few months as it was giving me the shakes. Poor French person I was, not able to drink coffee! It's all in the past now, I have a daily ca phe because it is too nice. I actually go to bed thinking how awesome it is that tomorrow is a new day and that means I can have another ca phe. I can't have more than one a day though. It is made with extremely strong coffee (Dan says it makes his chest hair grow) and condensed milk, which seems to be the most popular form of milk in Vietnam, and tastes like coffee ice cream in a hot cup.
Today, after my daily ca phe, I went for a shampoo in the tiny hair salon in our little alley. My friend Marine had told me I had to try it as a head massage is automatically given. After spending an amazing hour in the salon, I am happy to report that "head massage" doesn't even start to describe what they do to you at hairdresser's here. I got like... 5 different head massages, an extended facial and an ear cleaning. But for this sort of service, you have to put the price: in this case you see, I had to pay a full AUD$ 3.00.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

What I have been doing: Part 2

I was returning home from dropping Celine at school when it occurred to me that I have been a tad lax in terms of blog updates. The thought dropped into my mind while negotiating the rain affected traffic and attempting to hold on to my remaining thong/flip flop. My dogged refusal to shop for what one would regard as the bare essentials illustrated my stupidity. As the lone rider unprotected from the rain, amongst thousands of locals wearing raincoats, I was as obvious as a fat kid in a candy store. To make matters worse the plug in my thong had broken a few days ago and instead of finding a new pair I would pop it back in and hope for the best. My thongs days were over as they decided to break again as I was riding. It was at this moment that thought I really should provide an update on what we have been doing.

We are now in our new house and really enjoying it. Have a look at the post from Celine "our flat" for a video. We have both been working hard, me with the tutoring and Celine trudging away at school. Celine is really enjoying it and is a great teacher (I promise no bias). Because of this we have been really quite busy.

Last Friday while Celine was at work I grabbed some dinner at a nearby street stall. Within minutes a Vietnamese guy came to chat in broken English. He was a friendly guy who ended up inviting me to sit with his friends who all work at one of the local banks, Agribank. Despite the obvious communication issues we had a good laugh and a few beers. They refused to let me pay for anything. Afterwards we went to a karaoke bar near where I live. There were four of us there and we switched between Vietnamese and English tunes. Here I was with three Vietnamese guys singing a solo “Like a Virgin” to their excited encouragement. Celine joined after her class, we belted out a few more numbers and on leaving they refused our repeated offers to pay. They were friendly guys and it was a fun night.

Celine has had to make a return to the dentist and will be sedated next week for a tooth extraction. Waiting for her next appointment we sat for lunch by Truc Bac Lake. It was not the best of lunches. It could have been the smelly rotten shrimp sauce that accompanied my meal (popular in Vietnam) or the security guard having a wee in the lake a few feet away. The wafts of smells were a bit too much to handle. We did find a great Japanese restaurant a few hours later so the day was not lost.

Last night we went to bar, Relax II, which was not really designed for our demographic, more the lonely old man seeking attention from young girls who looked no older than 15. It was fun to hear the live English music, sang by a Vietnamese guy whose lyrics were often adapted.

I have a new motorbike rented from a guy in the Old Quarter. It has a tendency to stall at the traffic lights. This is not a big issue except its stubborn refusal to start again, which proves a little stressful with a couple of hundred bikes beeping at you from behind.

Oh I tried pickled pigs ears the other day. I don’t recommend!
Dan dit qu'alors sur sa moto, sous la pluie, sa tongue cassee en deux en plein traffic routier, il s'est dit qu'il etait peut etre temps d'ecrire un post d'update.
il dit que nous sommes dans notre nouvel appart maintenant (voir mon post "notre appart" pour une video des lieux) et on s'y plait beaucoup.
On travaille dur tous les deux, lui prof a domicile et moi prof a l'ecole de langue. Du coup on est pas mal occupes.
Il parle de son Vendredi soir au karaoke d'en face, voir mon post "une semaine a Hanoi", puis de notre dejeuner avant-hier dans un restau de rue horrible qui me donne encore des cauchemars. Le petit troquet est en face de Truc Bach lake, le lac que les habitants d'Hanoi utilisent comme toilettes personelles, et qui pue l'egout a un kilometre. Alors manger des nouilles a la sauce aux crevettes pourries (ce n'est pas une expression. J'en ai deja parle et je le repete: c'est VRAIMENT de la sauce a la crevette "fermentee", joli mot pour dire "pourrie") devant le "lac caca"; comme l'apelle Dan, on s'en souviendra. En tout cas on a rit tout le long du repas. C'est a dire 7 minutes. Ensuite on est partis rincer le tout et effacer a jamais le gout et l'odeur avec un bon cafe.
Ps: Marine adore cette sauce. Je suis mi-horifiee mi-admirative :)
Le soir on a essaye un nouveau bar, relax II, qui clairement etait concu pour les expats masculins en recherche de companie jeune et vietnamienne. Pas pour nous... mais c'etait sympa de regarder et d'applaudir le chanteur Vietnamien qui chantait des chansons americaines en yaourt de la mort, et se tenait derriere un clavier play back: ses mains ne bougeaient pas au bon moment. Une bonne soiree quand meme!
On a une nouvelle moto, rouge, que Dan n'arrive jamais a demarrer. Alors quand on cale au beau milieu de la circulation quand le feu passe au vert, c'est gai. Mais j'arrive a la demarrer sans problemes, moi, et finis toujours par me pencher par dessus son epaule et demarrer la moto pour lui, ce qui l'enerve au possible! :) Ce qu'il n'a pas compris, c'est que je n'ai aucun merite; conduire pendant 10 ans ma renault 5 vieillote et difficile a demarrer m'a transformee en superwoman des allumages encrasses!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Our flat // Notre appart

Please find below our humble abode. It has been raining pretty hard of late so the pictures of the roof terrace and pool are to follow.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Celine: Une semaine a Hanoi

Voila quelques jours que je n’ai pas écrit… c’est que entre le déménagement et 11 classes par semaine j’ai un peu du mal à m’organiser. Chaque cours prends du temps à préparer, puis à exécuter.
Nous voici dans notre nouvel appart depuis deux jours maintenant. On l’aime beaucoup : on mettra des photos dans notre prochain post.
On est partis de chez Mme Dzung et Mr Tuan Vendredi, et ensuite le week end est passé à 100 à l’heure. Il à fallu faire des grosses courses et déballer nos valises et nos affaires tout en corrigeant des controles et preparant les 5 classes que j’ai dans le week end.

Quelques anecdotes de cette semaine :

- Dimanche dernier nous étions invités à la fete d’anniversaire du fils de Ly (Phuong et Ly sont les copines de Marine : Phuong est même sa belle-cousine) de l’autre coté du pont. On y est allés sans savoir trop à quoi s’attendre et nous avons passé une journée vraiment sympa, bon… il y avait quand meme trop d’enfants qui hurlaient mais c’était un anniversaire d’un petit de 8 ans donc on s’y attendait un peu. Ly et Phuong sont toutes les deux mariées à un Français et tous leurs amis sont des couples mixtes aussi. Tous les gamins jouaient en Français et j’ai même entendu « on a gagné, les doigts dans le nez etc… ». Ca m’a fait rire, je ne sais pas pourquoi (et Dan non plus, parce qu’il n’a rien compris), mais ces petits qui n’ont jamais mis un pied en France se parlent en Français et chantent les memes chansons que nous quand on était petits.
Une fois les petits calmés, les grands on fait un barbecue directement dans la rue (le quartier est tres calme et résidentiel) : j’ai mangé de l’agneau et bu du vin rouge, hmmm hmmm, ca faisait un moment. En tout cas le bijou de la journée c’était de voir pour la premiere fois en chair et en os l’a-do-rable petite niece de Marine, Fleur-Ly. Elle est jolie comme un cœur. Depuis que Marine va au Vietnam, c'est-à-dire depuis l’été 2001 ou je suis partie en Espagne avec tous mes copains (sauf Marine, forcément…), elle me ramene des nouvelles et des photos de son cousin et sa vie au Vietnam. Je me souviens quand elle m’a dit qu’il se mariait avec Phuong, et quand elle m’a dit que Phuong attendait un bébé, et de toutes les photos de Fleur-Ly que Marine me montrait tous les ans, de Fleur-Ly bébé à Fleur-Ly maintenant (elle à 5 ans). Mais les photos ne rendaient pas justice à cette petite fille, la plus jolie petite fille du monde (avec Alice bien entendu). Phuong m’a dit que Fleur est trop maigrichonne et bronzée (ici c’est beau d’etre blanc comme un q), moi je l’ai trouvée parfaite : jolie comme une poupée, plus calme que ses copains, un peu timide aussi. à chaque fois que son petit frere de un an apparaissait dans la piece, elle courait lui faire des calins. Trop choute.

Ly aussi à une petite fille : Mimi. Mimi à quatre ans et elle est trop rigolote. Elle parle Français couremment, et à passé la journée à me répéter « Non c’est pas vrai que tu connais Marine, non non non c’est meme pas possible, non tu la connais pas Marine, non non non » sans fin. Un vrai moulin à parole, et une petite coquine. Dan l’a adorée.

Le soir, au barbecue: (Mimi est la petite fille en rose)

- De Lundi à Jeudi j’avais mal aux dents. Oui, je sais, apres mon allergie à la penicilline suivie d’un épisode de gastro : une rage de dents. C’est la misere en ce moment cote santé. Jeudi je suis allée en urgence chez le dentiste qui m’a annonce que le nerf etait touché et qu’il fallait dévitaliser. Je le savais déjà, ca, merci. Sauf que cette dent ne s’anesthésie jamais et il faut que je me la fasse soigner sous sedation. La dentiste, gentille comme tout, parlait tres bien Anglais, à essayé de m’anesthesier quand même, avec trois piqures. Sans le moindre effet. Mais alors, meme pas un centimetre de ma gencive n’était anesthesié. Elle ne s’est pas demontée pour autant et m’a annoncé qu’il faudrait donc percer un trou dans la dent (sans anesthesie !!!!!) pour injecter un medicament qui tuerait le nerf.
Pardon ? la roulette sans anesthesie ? Non merci. Mais si, elle l’a fait quand même. Et même si j’ai passe un sacré sale quart d’heure sur la chaise, je dois dire que depuis je n’ai plus mal et que c’est une véritable délivrance ! à noter : les dentistes sont plus zens, ici, j’ai senti l’ambiance yoga lorsque, en larmes dans ma chaise (comme d’hab), la dentiste m’a dit de me relaxer et de respirer bien profondément, et qu’au contraire des dentistes européens, n’a pas laché l’affaire et à verifié que je relaxais en me répétant environ 15 fois « respire ». « respire ». « respire. », en me tenant la main.
Les dentistes zens, c’est bien.

- Mardi Dan a essayé les rouleaux de printemps aux oreilles de cochons. Un échec total!

- Vendredi dans la journée je suis allée dans un grand magasin de l’autre coté d’Hanoi : Big C (groupe carrefour). C’était duraille parce qu’il faisait une chaleur d’enfer et que la même chanson , bloquée sur repeat, repassait sans cesse. Mais apres une heure et demi de shopping forcené j’avais tout ce qu’il me fallait pour notre appart, dont serviettes, coussins, nattes pour bronzer à la piscine sur le toit de notre immeuble et rice cooker ! J’ai aussi acheté un livre énorme pour Grand-mere, cadeau qu’elle à recu avec grand plaisir. En échange, elle m’a donné plein de the vert.
regardez, chez Big C Hanoi, les poulets sont mis sous vide... tout entiers!

- Vendredi soir Dan devait venir me chercher à l’ecole, ce qu’il fait souvent, mais à la sortie de mes cours à 21h00 je trouve au lieu de mon mari en moto, un texto qui me dit de venir le rejoindre dans le bar Karaoke en face de chez nous. J’y suis allée, un peu perplexe, et ai trouvé Dan entouré de jeunes cadres vietnamiens en train de chanter à tue-tete « like à Virgin ». Oui. Like à Virgin, Dan.
En fait il était allé dinner dans le troquet en bas de chez nous et à rencontré ces gars sympas qui lui ont payé une biere et lui on demandé de se joindre à eux pour leur Karaoké rituel du Vendredi soir. Dan est allé avec eux, juste en face de notre appart, et à constaté avec grand bonheur que la norme dans les karaokes ici, c’est de louer une petite piece pour la soirée, de commander innombrables biere et de hurler dans le micro quelle que soit la chanson. Ils lui ont même fait chanter des chansons vietnamiennes. Quand je les ai rejoins, j’ai tout de suite oublié mes soucis de la journée et ai chanté aussi sans complexes. J’ai demandé les chansons suivantes : Help et California dreaming. « No problem » m’a dit le jeune homme en charge du karaoké, avant de me mettre « Hello » et « Heal the world »…
J’ai chanté quand même :)

Et maintenant c’est Dimanche soir et enfin c’est la détente. Dan regarde le foot et moi j’écris ce post tout en jouant a des jeux sur facebook : trop bien.
Demain, je bosse dans la soirée, et dans la journée, je vais chercher mon passeport qui a disparu. Oups.
Quand je pense que l'autre jour Mme Dzung a osé me dire que j’étais tete en l’air et que je perdais beaucoup de choses !!
Pff. N’importe quoi.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Why Hanoi is awesome

We have just moved into our new flat and we are both feeling relaxed. The month living with the family was great and I wouldn’t change anything (well?) but it is great to finally have our own place. With all our things moved in we decided it was needed to fill the fridge. We took a trip to the local supermarket, Hapro and stocked up on some needed supplies. We filled up three large plastic bags of goodies for a cost of $28. For this, Hanoi is awesome. Some of the stand outs that deserve a mention are; pho noodles with assorted condiments – 30 cents; 375ml bottle of Vietnam vodka - $1.50; large pack of Vietnamese Nems (fried pork rolls) - $1.20. Not included in the $28 Hapro run but equally impressive, a case of Carlsberg beer - $14.

With the fridge packed we hit the streets in search of a meal. In Hanoi, this is not hard to find with an abundance of choice on nearly every corner. We found a place with views of the busy street, friendly staff and most importantly great food. We had seafood, vegetables and five beers for 100,000 dong or around $7. For this, Hanoi is awesome.

After dropping our bags in our new flat my thoughts turned to the cable TV. I had all but given up watching any Australian sport while in Vietnam. Score updates on the internet or possibly an online radio were my best hopes. But no! Hanoi TV in fact has a grand selection of television and most importantly Australian sport. I am sitting here writing this post in my new lounge room watching the AFL final between the Western Bulldogs and the Brisbane Lions. Coming up next is the NRL game between the Melbourne Storm and the Manly Sea Eagles. There is rugby and English premier league plus tennis and much more. Vietnamese TV has a vast selection of channels. Vietnamese allows me to catch all the Australian sport. For this, Hanoi is awesome.

Our flat is great and pictures are to follow but I thought I should show you this little device I found in the bathroom. A hose connected to a small lever and nozzle sits near the toilet. I am sure there is a specific use but I have decided to multi task. In terms of an alternate to the old and trusty toilet paper, well, let’s just say it’s different. There is also the benefit of being able to wash your feet after a long and dusty walk through the streets. More importantly and defiantly more enjoyable is when you squat in an attacking position, aiming towards the door and waiting for movement. Concentrating and steady you slowly release the trigger straight into an unsuspecting Celine. For this, Hanoi is awesome.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Confessions on a motorbike: Part 4

I have been travelling on a motorbike for around 3 weeks now but I am still finding I see different things everyday. It is a hectic way to travel however there is something about it that makes me feel free. You have to be careful and concentrate intently about what is happening around you but otherwise I find it relaxing. I think the lack of rules has a major part to play. There are no speed signs and really little street signs directing the masses. For the signs that are there they pose little meaning as the traffic creates its own rules. There are some traffic lights counting down the seconds left on either the green or red light. To the best part they are followed but 3 seconds left on the red light means its time to go. On the adjacent street as it turns red the traffic is still pouring through. The result is a mess in the middle of the intersection, both lines of traffic trying to find a way through. In the end they do and you zoom off to the next intersection.

There are many one way streets however that will not stop motorbikes heading in the opposite direction, even in a peak hour traffic jam. I experienced my first traffic jam on Monday when Celine was heading off to class. It was gridlocked. Motorbikes as far as your eye could see. I was hot and sweaty from the heat of the engines and you could see the pollution in the air. We were moving very slowly and it was then I saw that in times of need the Vietnamese are very resourceful. If the road is at a stand still they will take to the sidewalk. Not just one or two bikes but a steady stream. I joined the flow and ducked back into traffic a block down when we could not go any further. This is normal and it didn’t seem to bother the traffic police standing on the corner. I have seen them pull people over however I don’t know what for. I am guessing to check their licence and if that is the case I hope I don’t get pulled over; I don’t have one.

There are a number of places to fill up with petrol around the city. It is a simple and efficient way. You pull up, take off the petrol cap, wait for the lady to fill you up and pay her. The whole process takes less than a few minutes even when it’s busy. The tank takes a few litres and usually lasts the week; all for about $2. Once you are done you shoot back into the traffic and are on your way. After filling up yesterday Celine and I went out to a big Supermarket; The Big C. Man was it big. I could barely see from one side to the other and was dreading what was in front of me. Celine on the other hand was in heaven. The Big C had pretty much everything from food to electronics to house goods and motorbikes. Everything we need to start our flat we can find at the Big C and they deliver as well. It is about 20 minutes on the motorbike but worth the trip. We made a start on things we need but Celine is planning a return trip sometime soon. I am pretty sure I am busy.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Celine: journées a Hanoi

Nous vivons toujours chez la famille vietnamienne: Tuan, Dzung et Grand-mère, mais seulement pour quelques jours. On a trouvé un appartement dans la rue juste derrière, et on a signé un bail de trois mois (3 mois seulement parce qu'on espere pouvoir trouver moins cher ensuite. Partager une grande maison dans un quartier plus eloigné nous couterait la moitié de ce que l'on va payer pour cet appart). L'appart est très joli, avec déco Vietnamienne, petit pont et riviere au milieu du salon, télé avec cable et adsl wifi.... et même une piscine sur le toit de l'immeuble, construite pour les enfants de la famille vietnamienne qui vit au rez de chausée et à qui l'immeuble appartient. (le pont est dans leur salon, pas le notre. On traverse leur salon pour acceder a notre appart).

Dan est toujours prof à domicile, tous les jours de semaine de 8.00 a midi, pour les deux garcons américains qui vivent à trois pas de chez nous. l'un des garcons, Jed, vient d'etre accepté dans une école, donc maintenant Dan sera seulement le prof du petit, Zick. (les noms complets sont Jebediah et Ezeckiel. Quand même.) il attend toujours que le cursus scolaire officiel arrive par courrier, et en attendant il leur fait visiter les musees d'Hanoi et leur apprend un peu d'histoire-Géo, et la civilisation et culture du Vietnam. Il décide du contenu des lecons lui-même et des devoirs à donner. Il est libre de pas mal de choses, ne travaille que 4 heures par jour, du coup il est content de son boulot. Pas de stress.

Quand il termine, à midi, il rentre à pied (les garcons habitent une grande tour moderne juste a coté de notre maison a nous) et on va manger quelque part tous les deux. Moi, la plupart du temps, j'ai passé ma matinée à dormir et préparer mes lecons pour le soir. Avant que je ne commence à travailler, j'etais malade pendant 10 jours et passais mes matinées à faire des recherches sur le "new hanoian". le site web de prédilection pour l'expat à Hanoi. Donc à midi on va manger quelque part, puis on se ballade un peu, on rentre se reposer et vers 17h00 je pars au travail: dans la semaine mes classes sont à 17.30 et 19.30: je termine a 21h00. Dan lui profite de ses fins d'apres midis pour lire et écrire le blog. Le soir il vient me chercher a l'école et on va manger quelque chose ou boire un verre en ville. On rentre toujours avant 23h30, parce que c'est l'heure ou Grand-mère se couche et on ne veut pas la réveiller.

On aime beaucoup la vie ici, les journées passent plus vite... en meme tems on a l'impression de faire plus de choses tous les jours. Cette aprés midi on va faire des courses dans un grand supermarché pour trouver des bricoles manquantes dans notre appart... par exemple la cuisine est vide: il nous faut assiettes, verres, poele, casserolle etc... Alors on a déja acheté pas mal de petits bols, petit plats etc... trop jolis, vietnamiens, mais bon il nous faut quand meme les plus gros ustensiles types bouilloire, casserole et rice cooker. je sais pas comment on dit rice cooker. Cuiseur de riz?

Pendant que j'écrivais ce post, il y a deux minutes, Grand-mere est venue me voir, toute contente, pour me donner quelque chose de non identifié a gouter, et croyez moi c'était absolument ignoble. Mais terrible. J'ai machouillé en souriant et du coup elle en a laissé trois de plus sur ma table de chevet. Godness.

Mes cours se passent super bien, j'ai souvent hate d'être au soir pour pouvoir voir mes élèves! je pense tout le temps a mes années lycée en ce moment. On était chiants, quand même, avec nos profs. C'est pas facile, d'etre prof. Ca doit être l'angoisse d'être prof quand les élèves sont chiants.
En tout cas j'ai eu des compliments hier, le plus notable venait d'une dame d'une quarantaine d'années qui m'a dit qu'elle m'aimait mieux que sa prof d'avant parce que j'étais trés "dynamique"!

We still live with our vietnamese family, but only for a couple of days now. We have found a flat, see Dan's post from a couple of days ago "What I have been doing", as he explains most of what I talk about above.
I have started teaching and so far I love it. the students are adults and they have a good energy. I have two classes every evening, and usually prepare them in the mornings, while Dan is tutoring. I got my first compliment today from a lady who said she liked me better than her previous teacher because I was very dynamic. Yay!
When I was sick, I spent my mornings on the new Hanoian, trying to find places to shop for western things such as scales, clothes larger than XS, bed linen, books in English or French etc... Because of this awesome website, I have found a few supermarkets, one of which we are going to this afternoon, to buy plates, saucepans and a rice cooker for our flat.

So, there. We like it here, and we're happy. We're both working but it doesn't feel like work, it feels like holidays still. We hope this feeling lasts!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Confessions on a motorbike: Part 3

Today Celine and I went to an 8 year old birthday party on the other side of Hanoi, over the Long Bien Bridge. It was a mixture of French and Vietnamese culture (as a result of the parents) and was a good chance to meet some other expats who really should be regarded as locals. The trip home was a treat, driving the bridge and watching the lovers end the weekend hand in hand gazing over the reflections on the river. Take the ride home with us..............

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Celine: premier cours!

Hier j’ai donné mon premier cours.

J’avais un peu le trac en allant a l’école, mais j’étais quand même relativement bien préparée vu que j’avais mis… allez, bien 4 heures a planifier ma leçon dans tous les sens : a ce rythme-la, mes $16 de l’heure ne sont plus rentables ! :) Mais j’ai discuté avec d’autres profs et ils me disent tous que dans quelques semaines je serai rôdée et je ne passerai plus que quelques minutes a préparer mes leçons.
Les heures de cours à Langage Link durent une heure trente. J’ai passe la première demi heure a me présenter a mes étudiants, apprendre leur prénom etc… J’ai distribué un petit formulaire a remplir, qu’on appelle « needs analysis » dans le metier avec des questions de type « depuis combien de temps apprenez vous l’Anglais » « quelles activités de classe aimez vous le plus », « dans quel domaine aimeriez vous vous améliorer » mais aussi quelques questions plus perso de type « quels sont vos hobbies ? ».
D’ailleurs a cette question, deux on répondu « manger » et trois on répondu « dormir ».

En tout cas les élèves étaient sympa : c’est une classe d’adultes, ils ont entre 16 et 40 ans, pour la plupart sont étudiants et en dessous de 22 ans. Ils sont assez timides et je vais devoir repenser mes activités en paires ou a trois, parce qu’ils ne jouent pas le jeu et préfèrent faire l’exo seul dans leur coin, ce qui ne colle pas au principe de l’école de faire interagir les étudiants le plus souvent possible. Je me suis aussi souvent retrouvée dans le vent après avoir posé une question a la classe entière et n’avoir reçu en réponse que des regards ronds. Donc j’ai commence a poser les mêmes questions mais a un étudiant en particulier a chaque fois : cette méthode marchait mieux parce que du coup tout le monde parlait, chacun son tour. Et Nam, le jeun homme le plus proche de moi sur ma gauche, répondait a toutes les questions, même quand je les adressai clairement a quelqu’un d’autre, donc lui a même parlé 17 fois d’affilée ! J’ai du m’empêcher de rire au bout d’un moment et le rappeler a l’ordre.
J’ai trouvé leur niveau moins avancé que ce a quoi je m’attendais. Ils n’avaient souvent aucune idée de ce que je venais de dire, j’ai du me mettre a parler beaucoup plus lentement et écrire beaucoup de mots sur le tableau. Par contre ils sont incollables en grammaire ! Des jeunes qui me comprennent a peine quand je parle lentement et me demandent ce que veut dire « melody », un mot que je trouve plutôt basique, n’ont aucun problèmes a m’annoncer que « I was listenning to the radio » c’est du « past continuous » , chose que Dan ne savait pas il y a encore deux mois. J’avais en effet entendu dire qu’au Vietnam, quand on apprend une langue étrangère a l’école, il s’agit surtout de grammaire et de déclinaisons sans fin, un peu comme nous avec le latin.
En tout cas ils étaient très gentils et l’heure et demi est passée plutôt vite. J’avais préparé une leçon beaucoup trop longue du coup mon prochain cours avec cette classe (lundi soir) et déjà préparé !
Aujourd'hui Samedi, j’ai deux classes de plus : leurs leçons sont déjà prêtes, j’y ai travaille jusqu'à minuit hier soir, donc ca c’est fait. Il s’agit encore d’adultes, mais un niveau en dessous (élémentaire). Dimanche aussi j’ai deux classes, et la je n’ai pas encore préparé leur leçons. Ma chambre est déjà jonchée de livres, cahiers, flash cards, polycopies, dessins etc… J’ai besoin d’un bureau avec des étagères et des tiroirs a dossier !! On a trouvé la semaine dernière un magasin super tout a un euro (equivalent du pound land en GB ou YEN world au Japon) avec plein de bricoles vachement pratiques, dont des fournitures de scolaires dont j’avais grand besoin. Mais il m’en manque encore des tonnes.
La semaine prochaine on s’installe dans notre nouvel appart, il y a pas mal de place, plein de rangement et deux bureaux : un pour Dan et un pour moi, parfait. Le meuble je veux dire, pas la pièce.

Apres mon premier cours Dan m’a emmenée au restau pour célébrer, mais on a du rentrer tout de suite après dîner a cause d’un accès violent de crampes de ventre. Et oui, après l’allergie a la pénicilline qui m’aura scotchée presque deux semaines, voici venir la tourista. Yey !!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Hanoi Stalkers

You can never be too safe out there, with “those” kinds of people lurking around. When I say “those” I refer to the ones that keep making eye contact when you are trying to have a meal, the ones that engage in conversation making little to no sense. The ones that leave whens you decide to leave and follow you down the street. These are not the kind of experiences one enjoys at the best of time but when in a foreign country it is darn right scary. What pushes the night from weird and uncomfortable to downright scary and makes one contemplate the danger in the situation is when the said peoples follow you to your door step. We had one of those experiences today.

We noticed them sitting next to us at the restaurant. We were out numbered by one which already made us wary but decided to avoid eye contact. Once on our motorbike we headed home not riding too fast to create attention but by no means taking it slowly. I was a little nervous and edgy. As we approached the next corner they were by our side. I smiled at them. They smiled back. The nerve they had to harass us like this. I accelerated to try and make a break on them but they were still by our side. We were not going to lose them. Fearing for our safety Celine grabbed the camera. I guess her gut instinct was to get a picture of these hoodlums in case we needed to identify them. The ring leader was in the middle on the bike constantly making hand gestures. At each corner they were there. At one point I thought we had lost them and as we turned into our alley I felt safe. It was only then that I heard their voices from behind. They were driving past all looking at us. They had followed us all the way home. They didn’t stop and kept on riding looking over their shoulders until we were out of sight. We were home. It was a bit of a wake up call for us in this new city.

On return we were a bit shaken by the whole experience and needed a few minutes to calm down. Celine showed me a picture on the camera. In the midst of our getaway she had managed to get a photo. It was clear. We had them. Our ordeal did not go without reward. I am not sure how the police system works here but I plan to report the incident tomorrow. I don’t want anyone else to have to go through what we did tonight so I have posted the photo that Celine took below. Please be careful out there.

These three guys are adorable. They are awesome and are the exact reason we both love Vietnam. They are not stalkers, instead a happy family who loved speaking a little English and helping out their new foreigner friends, being us! We were sitting next to each other at a restaurant and the little girl “ring leader” was eager to practice her English. They laughed when we used any Vietnamese (totalling about 40 words now) and were having a great time with our basic communications. They helped us with the bill and avoided us being ripped off and left when we did. We smiled at each corner on the motorbike and they did, probably on the ring leader’s orders, follow us home. They drove off into the night and it was nice to know someone was happy to spend the time on a Friday night to follow us home. I felt important. Thank you Hanoi stalkers.

Vietnam Independence Day

On Wednesday 2nd September Vietnam celebrated their Independence Day. This is also their National Day and marks the date the Viet Minh, “a communist and nationalist liberation movement” lead by Ho Chi Minh, claimed independence from France and marked the end of the Japanese occupation as a result of the end of World War II.

Vietnam lost their independence to France over a thirty year period starting in 1859. The French military claimed Vietnam as a colony of France and the country was subsequently named French Indochina. Despite numerous calls for independence by the Vietnamese the French controlled the colony until they fell to Germany in the Second World War. The Japanese took French Indochina in 1941.

The loss of the war to the Japanese gave the Viet Minh a perfect chance to assert control and in doing so marched into Hanoi, set up an interim government and claim Independence for Vietnam. The Proclamation of Independence was read in Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi by Ho Chi Minh on September 2, 1945. Despite this battle ensued with the French who still wanted the land as theirs and it was not until 1954 at the end of the Indochina was that the French finally left Vietnam.

In Hanoi today, Independence Day is a holiday and is usually a time to spend with friends and family. The streets are lined with banners celebrating their independence and their national flags are flown proudly. There were some concerts on Hoan Kiem Lake including dancing and singing. I couldn’t make out what they were saying (being in Vietnamese and all) but I did hear quite a few references to Ho Chi Minh.

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum (where his body is preserved) was very busy on the day and you could make your way down to see what was happening outside or wait in the long lines to catch a glimpse of Uncle Ho.

Independence Day for us started with a breakfast at Quan an Ngon, one of our favourite places to eat. After that I looked after the kids I tutor for a few hours which constituted lazing by the pool reading a book (not a bad way to earn a dollar). Celine was in bed getting over the last of this dreadful allergic reaction. The afternoon we found a Bia Hoi place on Doi Can Street which had a massive open area with amazingly cheap and tasty beer – much better than the Old Quarter. We had a great Vietnamese dinner at home with the family and finished it off with some French deserts. Rather symbolic. Great day in Hanoi.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What I have been doing!

This is a post for my family with no jokes or attempted funny stuff, just facts. Now that I am settled into life in Vietnam I thought I would give you a bit of a run down on what makes up my days at the moment. We are still living with the Vietnamese family however that is coming to an end soon (a month drifts by quickly!) On the tenth we are moving into our own flat which is not to far from where we are now. The flat is a level of a house owned by a wealthy Vietnamese family. The family live in the first two floors and rent out the remaining two. We are taking one level and very much looking forward to moving in. The setting will be very different to the one we have now and we will have complete privacy; something that just isn’t possible in our current environment. On our floor we have a kitchen, bathroom, big lounge room and bigger bedroom. We have a small balcony and access to the roof where there is a pool, albeit empty and a view of the city. In short we are happy with our choice.

As mentioned in a previous post I am tutoring two American kids. I am waiting on a syllabus to arrive from the states which I will use as the basis for my lessons. I am home schooling so will be teaching all subjects. In the meantime, close to two weeks now I have been preparing my own lessons. They are staying across the road (literally) in a modern apartment designed for expats living in Hanoi. I start at 8am in the morning and usually work with the kids for four hours. That leaves the afternoon to spend time with Celine, work on my blog and enjoy Hanoi.

For the first week with the kids I concentrated on Vietnam and Vietnamese history. This was extremely interesting for me as I was learning new things as well. We have visited many of the sites in Hanoi as I incorporated these into my lessons, including; Hanoi Prison, Ho Chi Minh Museum, Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the One Pillar Pagoda. We have explored a lot of the city on foot checking out a number of different areas. In my lessons I have concentrated on Vietnamese culture as well as their history. In particular we have looked at the French Colonisation of Vietnam, the Vietnamese fight for Independence and the subsequent Vietnam War.

This week we have concentrated on the geography of the world paying special attention to South East Asia. We are looking into the relationship of Vietnam with their neighbours and also understanding how colonialism has impacted many other countries around the world. Tomorrow we are looking at Africa. My lesson is prepared and at 11.15pm on the night of the Vietnamese Independence Day (already covered in my lesson) I am sitting in my bed writing this blog to you :)

So in short I work with the kids for four hours everyday and have been given creative control to decide the lesson content. I take them anywhere I feel beneficial and assign homework accordingly. I usually grab breakfast on my way, a fruit roll or chocolate croissant (still find the French influence) and head to their apartment for the lesson. I finish at 12 and as I mentioned will head somewhere for lunch. Sometimes we stay local, other times jumping on the motorbike and exploring the city. In the afternoons I will work on a new lesson and update the blog. I am enjoying my reading and have some great books; recommend “Fire in the Lake” by Francis Fitzgerald. Night time will either be with the family at home or at any number of great places to eat in the city. Sharing a meal on a street corner with the locals or in an air conditional restaurant with city views are both common ways to end the day for us. Both are inexpensive and thoroughly enjoyable in their own way. Grabbing a beer could not be easier and we will enjoy one or two before calling it a night.

I feel relaxed here. I enjoy my job at the moment which definitely beats the 9-6 routine. I am meeting some great people, seeing some wonderful things and learning each day. No complaints from me but wish my poor little wife would get better. She is definitely on the mend but this allergic reaction has dragged on and has consumed her for close to ten days now. Once she is back to her bouncy self we are both looking forward to searching deeper into what Hanoi has to offer and when we do, you will be the first to know.

Dan parle de ses journées types au Vietnam. Il explique que nous vivons toujours chez la famille vietnamienne: Tuan, Dzung et Grand-mère, mais seulement pour quelques jours. On a trouvé un appartement dans la rue juste derrière, et nous avons signé un bail de trois mois. L'appart est très joli, avec déco Vietnamienne, télé avec cable et adsl wifi.... et même une piscine sur le toit de l'immeuble, construite pour les enfants de la famille vietnamienne qui vit au rez de chausée et à qui l'immeuble appartient.
Il est toujours prof à domicile, tous les jours de semaine de 8.00 a midi, pour les deux garcons américains qui vivent à trois pas de chez nous. l'un des garcons, Jed, vient d'etre accepté dans une école, donc maintenant Dan sera seulement le prof du petit, Zick. (les noms complets sont Jebediah et Ezeckiel. Quand même.) il attends toujours que le cursus arrive par courrier, en attendant il leur fait visiter les musees d'Hanoi et leur apprend un peu d'histoire-Géo, et la civilisation et culture du Vietnam. Il décide du contenu des lecons lui-même et des devoirs à donner. Il est libre de pas mal de choses, ne travaille que 4 heures par jour, du coup il est content de son boulot. Pas de stress.Quand il termine, à midi, il rentre à pied (les garcons habitent une grande tour moderne juste a coté de notre maison a nous) et on va manger quelque part tous les deux. Moi, la plupart du temps, j'ai passé ma matinée à dormir et préparer mes lecons pour le soir. Avant que je ne commence à travailler, j'etais malade pendant 10 jours et passais mes matinées à faire des recherches sur le "new hanoian". le site web de prédilection pour l'expat à Hanoi. Donc à midi on va manger quelque part, puis on se ballade un peu, on rentre se reposer et vers 17h00 je pars au travail: dans la semaine mes classes sont à 17.30 et 19.30: je termine a 21h00. Dan lui profite de ses fins d'apres midis pour lire et écrire le blog. Le soir il vient me chercher a l'école et on va manger quelque chose ou boire un verre en ville. On rentre toujours avant 23h30, parce que c'est l'heure ou Grand-mère se couche et on ne veut pas la réveiller.
Il dit qu'il aime beaucoup la vie ici, qu'il relaxe et se détend, et que au fur et à mesure ou on découvre le Vietnam, on vous racontera tout.

Weather In Hanoi

Question, who is the weather man in Hanoi and more importantly how does he still have a job? Predicting the weather can be a tough business, especially with all the modern technology being used these days. Without being unfair the weatherman is way off the mark in Hanoi. We have been in Hanoi close to a month now and in that time it has rained twice, no more than an hour each time. According to reports online August is generally one of the wettest months of the year. This year is obviously an exception because there has been little rain.

Based on historical data it is fair for the weather man to assume that it will rain quite a bit in the month of August. I think, in respect of the job, a degree of forecasting is necessary to give readers the most accurate picture. This has not been the case. The forecasting has been done but the accuracy is another thing.

Before leaving Sydney to come to Hanoi I was quite interested in what the weather would be like. After repeated searches over the closing weeks in Australia I can to the conclusion I would be rather wet when I arrived and should pack my umbrella; 7 days straight of thunderstorms and lighting at one point. On arrival that was not the case. Despite contradicting information online it has not rained much at all.

I decided to check online to see the forecast for the next few days. Keeping with tradition I am told there will be some thunderstorms and lightning. I will let you know if I get wet.

Dan dit que malgre le fait qo'on annonce sans cesse des pluie torrentielles et des orages a Hanoi, nous, on n'a vu la pluie que deux petites fois en un mois. Et il n'a pas plu longtemps. On ne sait pas pourquoi la meteo annonce tous les jours le deluge, alors qu'il fait tous les jours beau...