Monday, July 26, 2010

Barclays Premier League in Hanoi

With the World Cup over myself and many Vietnamese are looking for our next fix football. Luckily, in just over a few weeks the Barclay's Premier League will get under way and I am looking forward to it. The Vietnamese are avid supporters of football and I often find myself having discussions with them on a range of topics. Kids wear jerseys to school, mainly Manchester United and Chelsea, and can easily run off the players in each of the teams and explain what is happening in the news. It is often a good discussion point in class.

Football is easily accessible on our TV at home and is played in many bars and cafes throughout the city. Once the season starts it will be easy to watch the games here in Hanoi.

I have played the Barclay's Fantasy Football game for the past three years, winning my personal league for the first two years and coming a disappointing second last year. I brag to you only as a challenge to join my league and try and beat me this year.

You can join my league by selecting the below link, registering and creating a team. Once you have a team you can join my league so for all football fans; Get Involved!:
Join my League
Code to join this league: 488014-118565

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Sunday adventures (between 5 and 6pm)

Today I went to one of my favourite parts of Hanoi, around Dong Da lake, inside the maze of market lanes leading to my new school. I work there every Sunday, I teach 5 classes of 90 minutes each. Between 5pm and 6pm I get an hour break, and I usually spend it getting my hair shampooed which is such a relaxing experience in Vietnam. It’s refreshing also, as the lady always washes my hair with cool water, scrubs my face and gives me a head massage. It’s been really hot for the past few weeks so I always feel sticky and dirty by the end of the day. These shampoos are really revitalising, I feel ready for my final class after that.
But today I was hungry. I was hoping to fit a Pho as well as a shampoo in 55 minutes, however on my way to the Pho place, I heard a little voice call me.
Co oi!!! (which means “auntie” or “teacher who is a woman”, I don’t know which one it was as she is in age to call me auntie but I am also her teacher – and a woman)
I looked at my little student, Chi. She’s 6 years old, and cute as a button. She was waving at me from across the lane, one hand on her cute little pink bicycle. She looked happy, so I just waved back, smiling. When I looked back in front of me, ready to continue towards the Pho place, something in her attitude caught the corner of my eye and made me look again. She looked lost and confused.
I crossed the lane to join her, and we had this conversation in Vietnamese (now, I missed a few things, my Vietnamese is far from fluent, so whenever she said something I didn’t understand, I’ll leave a blank here)
- Little niece, what are you doing?
- I’m going home.
- Alone?? Where is your mother?
- She’s at home
- Where is your father?
- He’s at work.
Well, I didn’t know how to ask her if they were coming to pick her up. I could sense there was a problem but I didn’t know what it was.
- Where is little niece’s home?
- That way (she points towards the lake)
- Is it far?
- So so.
- How will little niece go home?
- With the bicycle
- So, go home then.
- But my bicycle ………….(bla bla bla)………. She points at men drinking tea 10 metres away from us. She looks like she could cry.
- I don’t understand you sweetie pie. AAAH! Nguyen, come here!
Nguyen is another one of my students, he’s 11, he speaks English well and we get along really nicely. He’s my boss’ son. He was just passing by, going home after his class. I ask him to help me out and ask little Chi what the problem was.
He crouched to talk to her, I mean she’s like one meter tall, max. From their conversation, I understood the following:
- Little sister, where are your parents?
- Mum is at home, dad is at work.
- Why isn’t little sister going home?
- Little sister is (bla bla bla) bicycle (bla bla bla)
Nguyen straightened himself up and told me her bike was broken, the chain was stuck, and she was waiting for the repairman to come back to his usual spot, next to the guys having tea.
- When will we come back, little niece? I asked Chi
- I don’t know.
Nguyen let go of his bag (into the mud) and started fixing the bike. He got his hands dirty for nothing. “It’s really stuck” he said, “I can’t help”
- Ok, can you tell Chi I’ll take her back to school and she can call her parents to come and pick her up from there please?
Nguyen translated. Chi smiled at me with an immense look of relief on her face. I took her hand in my hand and her pink bike under my arm and off we went. We walked back to school, chatting away in Vietnamese.
- Does little niece like cats?
- Yes!
- Does little niece like dogs?
- Oh, no! little niece is afraid.
- Does little niece like…
- Little niece like rabbits!!!
- Really?? Wow, yes, rabbits are so pretty!
And so on. We got to school finally and I handed her off to Hoa, the lovely admin girl. Chi looked happy now, she waved me goodbye.
“Cam on Co!” (Thank you aunt/teacher).
You should see her, she’s so damn adorable and fragile, I wanted to adopt her. But apparently she does have parents, even if they make her ride her little pink bicycle back home alone, at 6 years old, on streets crowded with crazy motorcycles and gigantic cars.

I no longer had time for a shampoo, and I didn’t care. I was happy to have been able to communicate so well with Chi, I was proud of my Vietnamese. That is until I conversed with the Pho lady. I sometimes have Pho there, and she always asks me how much I earn. We were doing just that ritual when I decided to change the topic and asked her where her husband was. She pointed at the sky and said the Vietnamese word for ‘dead’. “I’m so sorry!”, I exclaimed, in a very Westerner’s manner (I really don’t think apologising when someone mentions a loss is the Vietnamese way) she raised her eyebrows and said “khong sao” : no problem.
I was eating my soup then, lost in my thoughts, contemplating how hard it must be for her, on her feet all day, her 2 kids living with their grandparents to be able to go to a school she thought was best for them, but then not being able to see them very often, her huband gone… She still looks young and beautiful, I thought, maybe she can find another love and be happy again. After about 10 minutes, she pointed behind me so I turned around, a man was there.
-“that’s my husband!” she said happily.
Quite perplexed, I said hello. I went through our conversation in my head again, and realised she had said “sleep”, not “dead”… and she had pointed at the ceiling, not the sky. The husband was sleeping in the bedroom above the shop.
I laughed for a while. I still need to brush up on my Vietnamese, because such misunderstandings can be problematic.

Photo's of Vietnam

S73F9903, originally uploaded by Team Yeah.

We have finally started to get our act together and post our pictures on Flickr. To see our pictures from Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay and beyhond click on the link at the bottom of this photo or select our Flickr badge on the right hand side of our blog.

I hope you like the pictures.

This particular picture was taken in Sapa as we climbed a hill through the rice paddies of the local Hmong people. We were on a two day trek and I really enjoyed taking a rest and watching the local Vietnamese man and his buffalo work tirelessly through the thick mud tending to their small piece of land.

My Neighbours

Celine and I live down a small alley in a 5 story house which requires a number of sharp turns to reach, weaving around the tall houses towering above. On either side each house is connected to the next. Most houses are 4 to 5 stories high. The alley is quite thin, only a few metres across. Our house is at the end of a small lane that cuts off from the alley. On our lane there are four houses. Two of our neighbours front doors are touching distance from ours. All the families in our alley are Vietnamese.

On one side is a family with two young kids. They have no English with the exception of hello and goodbye which they shout continuously whenever we leave or return home. They are great kids and very funny. Their mother has good English and teaches at a nearby kindergarten. She is really nice and has helped us numerous times getting things done and acting as an all important translator. They live with the husbands mother; a normal occurrence for Vietnamese families. I went to a party at their house last week and drank with her husband and his friends. He is a manager of a restaurant. As it goes with most Vietnamese men; drinking comes first. I went over there for dinner but drinking was the main agenda. There was 8 of us and we finished a bottle of Johnny Walker in about 30 minutes. After that we went onto the local Vietnamese vodka and by the time that was nearly finished we started to think about eating. We were all sitting on the floor with a hot pot brewing in the middle. We were eating a duck hotpot with vegetables and noodles. After the vodka was finished we moved onto the local rice wine. I was given a snake rice wine and later a gecko rice wine. The gecko rice wine was homemade and apparently good for my health. One of them they claim, I can't remember which, was good for my libido so the guys laughed and cheered every time I had a shot.

After we had finished the duck they put live crabs into the boiling water. The kids were excited by the prospect of crab and were waiting eagerly for a taste. They loved it so much I never got to try it. I don't think western kids enjoy seafood at the same level as the Vietnamese.

After dinner, we moved onto the beers as I was getting a bit hazy. The Vietnamese can definitely out drink me so I show the effects of a decent drinking session first. After a few beers I said my goodbyes and went straight to bed. I felt spacey and lethargic the next day; a feeling I usually get after drinking the local rice wine. I don't know what goes in the wine to make it and it is probably best I don't.

On the other side is a young couple with a young baby. They have little to no English. They live with the parents, I think of the husband. The grandparents of the little one who I guess are in their sixties are always around doing chores inside and outside of the house. We have always been friendly with them, practicing our Vietnamese and talking to the baby. They have been friendly back.

Our desire to be friendly to them has gone due to the recent actions of the grandmother. We were leaving our house when we saw a cute little puppy near our entrance. Celine asked me to go upstairs and find something for the dog to eat. After about 30 seconds I heard a pained yelp from the dog. I came downstairs to a furious Celine. The grandmother, after seeing the puppy grabbed a stick and smacked it hard on the head. Celine tried to stop her but determined, she pushed past Celine to hit the poor dog. The puppy ran off and not wanting to be anywhere near her we left. I think it is completely unacceptable behaviour - hurting a defenseless, innocent animal that is doing no harm to anyone. I have seen it before where Vietnamese have kicked dogs or thrown stones at them. It makes me very angry.

I have thought about this in the past few days and I wonder if I am a bit of hypocrite? I have eaten dog meat while being in Hanoi and the honest truth is that I haven't really thought much about the process of getting the meat. Are the dogs treated humanly? Are they suffering? Unfortunately, if the actions I have seen on the street are anything to go by then I have my answer. That thought leaves me with a feeling of guilt. My desire to try and experience new things and immerse myself in a culture may have clouded my judgement and allowed me to take part in, in my opinion deplorable behaviour which I don't condone.

Should I have eaten dog meat?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but going forward one things for sure; we won't give anymore of our time to the dog hitting family.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Vietnamese Ninjas

You will notice in Hanoi that when the sun comes out a particular type of fashion for women follows. The Vietnamese, especially the women, as in many other Asian countries don't like their skin to brown. It is exactly the opposite to Western countries who go to great lengths, often expensive and quite bad for you, to have a brown of tanned complexion. In Vietnam a lot of the sun cream is whitening so for foreigners visiting, I suggest you read the bottle before you buy it; otherwise you will end up whiter than when you started.

When the sun comes out the women are prepared. They all have specially designed shirts which protects any part of their upper body that comes into contact with the sun. I say specially designed because these shirts are made just for this purpose. They have a special bit of fabric at the wrist that flaps over the top of your hand while you ride (see picture). I have heard of other ones that pretty much have a glove at the end of the shirt - protecting each of your fingers and hand.

I take my hat off to these women because when I am peeling off the clothes they are putting them on. It often feels like a sauna when you step outside and the thought of wearing these types of clothes is painful. They have a hoodie to cover their neck and head and often wear a mask to cover their face. When I asked one of my classes about this they said that they are the Vietnamese Ninjas. I liked this comparison but I think they could be more accurately called the Flower Ninjas for every shirt is some flower or multi-coloured pattern. I don't know what the fashion police would say about them back home but all things considered they serve there purpose.

It is interesting to see the different views from different cultures. After a holiday away catching the rays and coming back feeling good with a nice tan (this is Celine I am talking about - it is physically impossible for my skin to brown) the Vietnamese will say quite bluntly:

"What did you do? You are so brown? Now you are ugly".


I want....

I was doing a lesson today for a Starters 3 class; which means they are between 6 and 10 years old. They have pretty good English for their level so I am always trying to challenge them with different ideas/vocabulary that is outside the course outline.

Today we were talking about the verb "want" and using as the food vocabulary. I asked the kids to prepare a shopping list of things they would like for their birthday party. Most kids were doing the task quite well but two were concentrating intently. After about 5 minutes they both came running up to me, age 6 and 7, showing me the list for their party.

"We want everything for our party" shouted one.

I was really impressed with their list. About two thirds of the way down I see the words beer and tobacco. I raise an eyebrow and say;

"guys, this is for your birthday party. Not your parents."

"I know" said Cu, of 6 years old and about 1 metre tall. "I want beer".

"You want beer? Really?"

"Yes. I like beer" He said

"When do you drink beer Cu?"

"At lunch and dinner"

"How often" I asked, intrigued.


I was a little shocked and curious. It seemed pretty obvious that they drink a little beer with their father at lunch and dinner - healthy amounts - but it was an interesting discussion and not one I have ever had with a 6 year old.

As it turns out beer was definitely something they wanted on their party list. I wasn't game to ask about the tobacco.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Photo of the week # 3

End of the afternoon sun on West Lake, three days ago.

Ouch again.

And yes, I hurt myself yet again. This time I smashed my foot into a sort of iron brick popping out of a short wall. my foot got stuch between my bike's footrest and the brick. You probably can't see that on the picture, but my foot is twice its normal size (I have skinny feet, at least something in me is skinny).
When my foot met the wall, I saw stars. The pain irradiated all the way up my ankle, it was blinding. I started sweating and feeling sick, I kept thinking "I broke my foot". I was on my way to a nice rice lunch followed by a work session at a nearby cafe, but I turned the bike around direction SOS clinic, a good 15 minutes drive away. That was a weird driving session. I couldn't use my right foot and was still feeling faint from the shock.
In the end, I didn't make it to the clinic: when I got there, there was a sign saying the clinic had moved to... my street. Oh I couldn't be bothered anymore, I went home to ice my foot and sleep off the pain killers. I couldn't move it at all, or wiggle the toes.
Two days later, I can walk on it and move it, but it still looks blue and traumatised.
I'm fine though. Just getting more and more aware of the fragility of a body, such a soft and frail little thing when confronted to hard human made materials such as stone, metals or road cement. (Yeah I know. Stone isn't human made. It still hurts just the same.)
Man, driving is dangerous!
Especially in Vietnam, because ok, I did this on my own, there's no crazy Vietnamese driver to blame... but still, a massive iron thing sticking out of a wall at feet level is weird enough but how can I see it when I'm looking up, concentrating on avoiding all the random electric cables hanging from poles?
Lol. I still love Vietnam.
Ps: I got a pedicure before the accident and not for the cute doctors at SOS clinic to notice. I swear.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Hien's text

The other day, as Dan mentions on a post, there were floodings in Hanoi. Rain just poured for a few hours, maybe two, but it was so intense than streets were blocked and water was everywhere.

I'd like to share the text Hien sent me that day, her approximative English is so adorable. (Hien is thwe lady who comes to our house to clean and tidy our constant mess, we love her she saves our life twice a week)

"Hi Mss Celine. How are you? To day it is big raining so my home is floof.
Lot water come in hight my house. Every thing proplem… electric… frize… clothe…
so may I day off today please?"

My favourite is... "my home is floof"

We of course told her yes!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Bobby Chinn's Restaurant

Last week saw the departure of our friend Sal, an Aussie who has been working as a tour leader for Contiki. She spent most of the past 9 months on the road, taking tours through Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. As appealing as the job sounds it must be pretty draining and living out of a suitcase must get tiring after a while. After a month or so on the road Sal would finish her tours in Hanoi and we would have a chance to catch up.

For Sal's last night in Hanoi we went to Bobby Chinn's restaurant, an upmarket place above West Lake. It is a renowned restaurant and the owner is an interesting character; you only have to look at the introductions on his menu. It is expensive for Hanoi, but it was an really enjoyable experience. It was an intimate and romantic setting with rose petals on the table; a bit unusual for three people.

The menu looked delicious and to mark the occasion we went for the set menu which included I think 6 dishes. There was a Vietnamese and a Western set menu. We all opted for the Western menu, not because the Vietnamese one didn't look as good but because we craved, and missed some of the dishes on the Western menu.

I will spare you the fancy names on the menu. We had a a thick tasty pumpkin soup, as well as a delicious and tangy seafood soup. The egg plant salad was amazing and perhaps the highlight was the fried foie gras that melted in your mouth. The main was Atlantic salmon and for dessert a soft shelled chocolate taco as well as Crème brûlée. We washed all this down with one of the best wines I have ever had. It was an Argentinian wine but I can't remember what sort. Sal, can you shed some light?

All in all it was a great evening, rose petals or not, and the food was wonderful. You go to this restaurant for a food experience where quality prevails. If you are looking for a hearty meal then you should probably go elsewhere. The servings a small and you don't leave full; but very satisfied. The set menu was $50 US.

Sal, wishing you all the best for your next adventure.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Bonne fête nationale!

Hier soir il y avait un bal francais a Hanoi, je suis allee y passer une heure, et ca valait le coup, juste pour la musique. En une heure ils ont passé :
Tomber la chemise (TROIS fois !)
Danse avec tes baskets (lol)
C’est l’amour... re-lol Quand je l’ai vue dans la rue, inconnue, la la la la la la la...
Téléphone (trois chansons differentes)
C’est un beau roman c’est une belle histoire (kasdedi camping car)
Les Rita Mitsuko
Renaud, Gainsbourg et plein d’autres choses. Il n’y avait pas une seule chanson que je ne connaissais pas... probablement parce que la plupart des chansons venaient du top 50 des années 80.
Quand j’ai compris le style de musique, j’ai attendu avec impatience les tubes de Début de Soirée, le boys band culte de mes 8 ans, mais non, ils ne sont jamais venus. Quelle déception.

Ca ne valait pas le coup pour les raisons suivantes:
- Payer une fortune pour le pire vin rouge que j’ai bu de ma vie
- Etre entourée de francais, j’en viens à me sentir outsider tellement je me suis extirpée de ce monde, je ne comprends aucune de leurs références.
- Se tenir près de bombes atomiques vietnamiennes de 45 kilos se trémoussant les fesses
- Se tenir près de bombes atomiques vietnamiennes de 45 kilos se trémoussant les fesses DANS LA MEME ROBE que moi... grrrr.

Ca me fait penser aux magazines people qui comparent les filles célèbres qui ont eu le malheur de porter la même robe... A côté d’une poupée Viet, mon score ne faisait pas malheur...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Floods in Hanoi

Today it rained. It was bucketing down and I had the enjoyable experience of being caught in my first flood. I left my house, suit and all, with a full length raincoat hoping that would get me to work relatively dry. I waved to my neighbour who was standing at the entrance to her garage pushing excess water away from her house and into the drain. By the time I had reached the main road I realised today's rain was different to others.

There were big puddles covering the road just outside my house. Once I got to lower ground I saw that this might not be the easiest ride into work. It was windy and the rain was coming down strong. As I rode between the two lakes, West Lake and Truc Bach, large parts of the road were covered in water. Soon after police were diverting traffic away from flooded areas. The road passing Uncle Ho's resting place was covered in water. Most motorbikes were not taking the road so I followed the masses along another road. The next intersection was covered in water, only a small section of black road was visible. I turned left driving through water. At the next intersection, a large one, people seemed to be hesitant on which road to take. Many had stopped on the footpaths. I tried a few roads but they were all covered at some point with a decent amount of water. I was now driving in some pretty deep, for my experience anyway, brown water, unable to see the road.

By now many bikes had died; disheartened souls pushing them through the water. Realising that water was getting close to my exhaust I wanted out. I did not want to be pushing my bike anywhere. I tried to ride up on the footpath but I couldn't see what was under me. I hit cement with a thud. Frustrated, I stepped into the water and turned my bike. I drove along to the nearest cafe and was directed by a young guy on where to ride.

Wet but relived I sat in the cafe and had a coffee. I watched the rain come down for the next hour. I called work and said I wouldn't be in for a while but figured none of my students would be either. The water levels rose and I watched as determined riders and cars negotiated the streets below. After the rain stopped I decided to make a go for it and get to work in time for my next class. I rolled up my suit pants to my knees and rode off. I was not far from work when I hit a traffic jam; about 30cm deep in water. Any past attempts of keeping my Italian leather shoes relatively dry seemed futile. I gave up trying and proceeded to creep through the water with my feet covered in water. I finally made it, after some pretty close calls with deep sections of water.

The water levels slowly dropped and by lunch time it was pretty much back to normal in our area. My shoes were soaked so I had to spend the rest of the day teaching bare foot. The kids thought this was rather funny.

Unfortunately I didn't have my camera but check out this website for a few photos:

Flood Photos from local Vietnamese website

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My birthday

On Friday night I had birthday drinks with a group of friends at Le Cooperative; a restaurant/bar owned by the cousin of one of Celine's friends from France. I wasn't working the following day so the party continued on to around 4am. It was a good night but I needed the first part of my birthday on Saturday to recover. Celine ordered in some tasty breakfast, good recovery food, of bacon and egg rolls, coffee and a chocolate donut. Yum!

In the early afternoon we left on the bike to a surprise location. The surprise location was the Daewoo Hotel on Kim Ma street. We were going to spend the afternoon relaxing by the pool before having an amazing all you can eat seafood buffet. I seriously can't think of a better way to spend your birthday; especially in the Heat of Hanoi. The pool was great and really relaxing.

We skipped lunch and saved ourselves for dinner; and oh was it worth it. The food was amazing. The buffet had every kind of food under the sun. I started with a dozen oysters followed by sushi and crumbed fish. Then I had an out of this world lobster which was served with a thin layer of delicious cheese melted over the top. Man, that was good. Celine had two. There were crabs and prawns and countless salads. There were soups and pasta and pizza and curries. We had to rule out most of this because we wanted the seafood. After a few trips of oysters, crab, lobsters and sushi we went outside to the BBQ section where fresh prawns, lobsters, scallops, octupus, fish, beef and chicken were being grilled over hot coals. I don't think there is an adjective to describe how good it was. After our second trip to the BBQ section we were starting to get full. I saved some room for a few more oysters before hitting dessert. We finished with some ice cream and some tasty French cheese. We had stuffed ourselves stupid but were in awe of the experience. It was as much beer as you can drink as well. Awesome!

One might think that a mass of delicacies would cost an arm and a leg but the whole experience cost $32 per person. It was amazing value for money. I recommend it and can't wait to go back again.

We left completely content and I spent the rest of my birthday relaxing at home watching a movie. It was a great day.

Photo of the Week # 2

With the frequency of these photo additions I think the title is more suitable as "Photo of the Month" but we will try and upload more of our favourite photos.
The latest Photo of the Week was taken by Celine on my first real ride on my new motorbike. We were on our way to my birthday drinks where Celine took this great snap while we were stopped at a set of traffic lights.

Best present ever

For those of you who don't know, I recently had a birthday. Yesterday I turned 28. I don't know where all the years are going but I was very happy to spend my birthday in another country experiencing another culture. It does not seem long ago since I was enjoying a steak in my favourite pub in Sydney for my 27th birthday. Time does seems to fly at the moment but we have definitely learnt so many new and interesting things in the 11 months we have been here.

The day before my birthday Celine called me from the front of our house, saying our bike had fallen over and she couldn't lift it back up, could I come and help her for a sec? I frantically ran downstairs, a bit confused but otherwise gullible as always to her little schemes. At the front of our house was a bike - yes a bike. Celine, the legend, had bought me a motorbike for my birthday. She didn't just buy me any old boring motorbike, instead opting for a very cool 1960s Honda. The bike has been done up and has a real retro, classic feel about it. Celine put my nickname on the side of the bike as well. It feels really unique riding on the streets and has already got numerous comments. In short - I love it!

Thanks "Leg" for a great birthday present.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Now I know... I'm not crazy!

You know I had a concussion a few weeks back from falling off the motorbike and hitting my head. Well, since then I've been having headaches, I find it hard to concentrate, remember stuff and wost of all, I'm quite down all the time. I've stopped going to yoga, I just want to stay home and do nothing all the time. I hate it, it's not me. I pinpointed the accident as the start of that spiralling down, chronologically, but never linked the head trauma with the symptoms I have now, apart maybe from the headaches.

Well It was Dan's bday drinks last night, we went to La Cooperative, which happened to be Stan's restaurant (le cousin de Marinette). I had a chat with Ben August there, I'm sure I've told you about him already, the Ben August whose blog tipped me over the edge on whether I should go to Hanoi or not. Check it out, it's a fantastic blog ("Ahoy Hanoi", on blogspot). He told me he had a concussion a few years back and suffered memory loss and depression for a year after that. He googled concussions at the time, which I never did, and told me depression and lack of motivation are common post symptoms. So this morning I googled it myself and here's what I found on the first website I checked out:

Concussions are caused by blows to the head. Immediate symptoms can include amnesia, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, headache, sensitivity to light and dizziness. Delayed symptoms can include sleep disturbance, irritability, fatigue, depression and fogginess.

That's crazy. The immediate symptoms are spot on: I had memory loss (still do: can't remember the two classes I taught right before the accident), I had difficulty concentrating that's the least you can say. I mean I didn't know how to get to the French hospital even though I had been there several times already. Dizziness, yes. For 2 days.

And the delayed symptoms all fit as well, apart from sleep disturbance. I sleep very well.

I feel much better knowing what I have, and why I have been in a constant state of PMS in the last few weeks. I'm either saddish and apathetic, or clearly in an awful mood.

Now that I know, what to do about it?

Ben says only time can heal the brain, it has been bruised and needs to fix itself. I don't think I'm going to wait another 11 months to get better though, I want to print the article and take it to Dr Thuy, my magician acupuncturist who seem to be able to fix anything. If that doesn't help, I'll consider medication, to replace whatever happy hormone my brain is no longer producing because it got punched and is traumatised. :)

To be honest, I feel better already, just by being able to put a label on the problem.

I'm NOT crazy!

Yay me!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Culture shocks

There’s a couple of culture shock events from my day a couple of days ago I’d like to share with you.

First of all, in my birthday present for Dan quest I had to go to a whole new area of Hanoi, on the other side of the Bridge, which I don’t know well at all. I realised pretty soon that I taken the wrong bridge and that the main street I wanted to be on was parallel to the avenue I was on right now, so I turn into a small lane on my right, hoping it would eventually reach the parallel road I was interested in. The small lane turned out to be very long, like… 3 kms longs, curling around small houses and street cafes, and getting narrower and narrower, until it was a dirt path. At the end of it, there was a bit of road going up, very steep. I changed to first gear and took it on with a concentrated look on my face. It was long, too. When I finally reached the top, I sighed in relief and stayed there for a second. That flat plane at the top was only very narrow, across it was the way down, pretty much as steep as the way up had been. I wondered why this segment was so absurdly mountainy when it could have been flat all the way. Why go up then down?
That’s at that point in my reflexions that I noticed what was under my motorbike right now.
I wasstanding” in the middle of a railway. I raised an eyebrow, and seased by a horrible doubt I looked to my right.
A train was coming.
Mum, don’t panick. The train was a good 30 seconds away. But still. I accelarated quicker than ever and got the hell out of there, through the path down, without a thought for how to negociate such a steep climb down. I mean, who cares right now? If I slip and fall in my rush it’s still much better than the alternative, right?
I was laughing nervously to myself after that. There had been no sign on that hill road, no fence, no warning, nothing. Everyone would have done what I did, focus on going up without stalling, and only quickly glance at the top bit to check no other motorbike was coming fast to cut my way and that’s itpeople don’t randomly check for TRAINS coming, do they? Anyway, that was the first culture shock of the day.

The second thing I saw yesterday which made me very aware of being in another coutry/continent/world, was this: I witnessed an accident. It wasn’t the first one, and it wasn’t bad. But two motorbikes collided, the first one dragging the second one on several meters, while the driver who had had time to jump off followed behind, running. Nobody was hurt but it was still impressive, and the motorbike was in a bad state. By the time I reached the men and stopped to see if I could help, I saw something amazing. They were laughing, shaking hands, and patting each other on the back. In fact, the man who had jumped / been ejected from his bike, and whose said bike was now all messed up and pouring oil on the pavement, THIS man, was patting the other guy on the back.
Unbelievable. The whole thing made me cheery for the rest of the ride home.

And the third thing, my personal favourite, was when I stopped on the side of the road to buy eggs and tomatoes from a street vendor. I manage enough Vietnamese now to be able to talk to locals about just about anything, in simple words of course but sill, it really broadens my Vietnam experience to be able to exchange pleasantries with anyone I want. So I chatted with this 50 something years old woman while waiting for her to put things in bags and give me my change. During these few minutes, she told me how hot she was, how the heat was bad for her and how she had two grown kids. All normal stuff.

Then she congratuled me on being pregnant.

Then she said eggs and tomatoes would be very good for my baby.


I’m not pregnant.

Honestly, I’m paranoid and conscious enough about my weight to be worth believing when I tell you that I don’t look pregnant either, in fact, I have lost weight in Vietnam, and the healthy foods I’ve have here have helped by belly become somewhat quite flat, even if I still have healthy pading around the thighs and love handles areas. I was a bit puzzled but mainly, amused. I thanked her and didn’t bother denying, it would have been too complicated.

You gotta love Vietnam, hey?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sleeping Dan

At the moment, Dan teaches at least four classes a day. It might sound easy to non teachers, but 6 hours of teaching, from 8.30 in the morning to 5.30, is actually very full on. You need to add the numerous hours of preparing lessons, marking tests, filling up report cards, meeting with parents etc... It's very trying. As you can see, it's also tiring. Everyday, Dan falls asleep sometimes between 8.45 and 10pm. I don't go to bed before midnight, so I have a lot of time on my hands. Mainly, I spend it taking pictures of him sleeping so soundly and peacefully that nothing seems to bother him. For some reason, it makes me laugh.
Isn't he cute?
Yes, he's wearing a different outfit on every picture, that's because they've really been taken on different days. That last one where he's wearing black and white shorts is actually what I'm looking at right now. I took the picture 10 minutes ago. He hasn't moved yet. lol.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Morning Ritual

There have been quite a lot of early mornings for me over the past month. Celine and I have often dropped by Joma, a nearby cafe, to grab breakfast before I went off to work. Celine's favourite is the granola with fruit and yogurt while I love the brekkie bagel. We both get a coffee to go as well. I have learnt how to drink a coffee while riding a motorbike; not the easiest skill to master.
We know a lot of the staff now and they are all very friendly. It is nice to have a chat with them as they are starting their day. Dropping by at 7am in the morning is also good because they are just opening and we don't have to be bothered by the whinging foreigners who use Joma as a place to voice their unfortunate lives.
Joma is quite expensive, for Hanoi standards, but a good coffee and tasty food makes the morning of teaching loud energetic kids that little bit easier.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Depuis une dizaine de jours, je vais travailler au café (vous savez que je travaille à la maison sur mon laptop 90% de mon temps depuis Avril?). Mais pas n’importe quel café : Un squat aux origines Neo-Zelandaises mais avec des allures Toscanes, Puku2, installé sur Food street, une petite rue piétonne qui était déja une de mes rues preferées sur Hanoi mais qui depuis l’ouverture de Puku, est devenue mon repaire.

Je passe tellement de temps à Puku, et j’y vois passer tellement de gens que je connais, de potes et meme de colocs que ces derniers jours je n’ai pas pu m’empêcher d’être projetée dans le passé... je retrouve les sensations de mes années Niçoises, ou les groupes de potes sont presques définis par le café, snack ou bar ou ils passent leur journées. A Nice on n’avait pas de portable, on se retrouvait touours dans le meme café, c’était notre deuxième maison. Selon les années le café changeait, ainsi que le groupe de pote d’ailleurs : de mes 14 ans à mes 18 ans j’ai vécu dans la café de la rue Boyer, puis au Pastrouil sur la Place du Palais puis dans un pub à coté du Pastrouil dont je ne me souviens même pas du nom, c’est fou j’ai du y passer huit étés consécutifs.... Et l’été 96, le snack, ou je vivais de 8h00 du mat a 17h30 tous les jours. Le principe des mes années 90s à Nice, c’était : c’est là bas que je vais squatter, qu’il y ait quelqu’un ou pas. On était copains avec les serveurs de toute façon donc jamais seuls même quand les potes n’étaient pas encore arrivés.
Je retrouve ça à Puku. Tous les jours je prends mon ordi et j’y vais, vers 11h00. Parfois je ne pars pas avant 19h ou 20h. Entre temps je vois passer tous mes copains, mes copines, mon mec et ses copains, des connaissances qui s’assoient quelques minutes avec moi. J’y retrouve souvent Dana, qui bosse sur le même projet que moi, et du coup on travaille ensemble. C’est vraiment cool, c’est ce qui me manquait un peu depuis que je ne travaille plus à Language Link : un repaire de potes ou je peux aller sociabiliser quand je veux.