Packing And Off To Thailand

Apologies for being MIA the last two weeks. Things have been rather hectic as we packed up, finished work assignments, and took care of errands.

Packing the odds and ends.

Packing the odds and ends.

Packing this time has been considerably easier than on our way out here since we have a fraction of the stuff.

We had our last day of work today for the school’s closing ceremonies. The Vietnamese are very into their fanfare. The ceremony contained elementary performances, multiple speeches, and awards for every single middle and high school student.

Our sentiments exactly at the closing ceremonies.

Our sentiments exactly at the closing ceremonies.

Tomorrow, we head to Thailand for ten days of rest and relaxation on the beach.

What we hope our island stays look like.

What we hope our island stays look like.

Then it’s  back to Saigon for a day to regroup and catch our flight to New York.

We are planning a few posts on our must-sees in Asia, the things we’ll miss the most, and the things we are most excited to get back to. Hopefully we will be able to catch up on the blog while we’re on vacation. Otherwise, we’ll be blogging from New York.

Posted in Preparing to Move | 1 Comment

What’s For Dinner…

Walking through the grocery store trying to decide what to eat for the week, Rob stumbled upon this:

Frozen Snake

Frozen snake for dinner anyone?

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Agent Orange Relay

On Friday, our school hosted an Agent Orange Relay event in order for the students to raise money for victims of Agent Orange.

Rob resting in his office before a late night of relay.

Rob resting in his office before a late night of relay.

After some opening songs and dances by the Socialist Youth Party,

DSC00129

 the kids were anxious to get moving.

Waiting at the start line.

Waiting at the start line.

The students walked, ran, crawled, and piggy-backed a .5 k (.6 mile) loop around the school. Each lap they did was tallied to their teams’ total, which pledges had bet money on.

Making Laps any way they can.

Making Laps any way they can.

While students were waiting to walk, or taking a break, there were a bunch of games and activities going on around campus. A popular Saigon band came out to play, there was karaoke, companies selling products (jewelry, food, bags), and face painting.

Move the ball along moveable poles, ring the bell.

Move the ball along moveable poles without it falling off. Ring the bell while blindfolded and spun around.

The highlight of the evening was the Staff vs. Student basketball game. Brian, our PE teacher, did an awesome job of recruiting teachers and organizing us into 5 minute rotations.

Playing Ball

We were all a sweaty mess, down three teachers to injuries, and barely running by the end, but we won! With Rob’s height, those kids didn’t stand a chance.

We Won!

This event was awesome. The whole thing was organized by our Career Counselor, “Little” Rob, and he truly did a fantastic job. The kids were motivated, excited, and seemed to be having a blast. I’m not sure how much money they raised, but I know a few students who single handedly covered 15 kilometers, about 10 miles!

Posted in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, Random, Teaching | Leave a comment

Temple Raiders

With our last four day break of the year we decided to head out of the country and see Siem Reap, Cambodia.  About 4 miles from the city is the UNESCO Angkor Archaeological Park.

The map we used on our way around Angkor

The map we used on our way around Angkor

In the park extends around 400 square Kilometers and multiple temples, the most famous of which is called Angkor Wat.

Angkor Wat from across a pond within the temple

Angkor Wat from across a pond within the temple

The intricacies of the temples were amazing. As said by a guy we met while hiking through one temple, “This place makes the Egyptian Pyramids look like children with blocks.”

A sample of the carvings you can find in all the temples at Angkor.

A sample of the carvings you can find in all the temples at Angkor.

Two of the 216 said faces of Angkor Thom.  Can you spot them?

Two of the 216 said faces of Angkor Thom. Can you spot them?

Our first day exploring we decided to rent bikes for a $1 each and peddle around the park.  Our plan was to visit three main areas, Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, and Ta Prohn (where Tomb Raider was filmed).   We ended up biking about 12 miles in the heat of 35 degrees Celsius (about 95F).  It was a great way to see the area, being able to take our time and pull off to see the sights.

The bikes we rode, Brooke riding through a gate of Angkor Thom, and a deer crossing sign.

The bikes we rode, Brooke riding through a gate of Angkor Thom, and a deer crossing sign.

The Bridges in Angkor are all lined with these statues.

The Bridges in Angkor are all lined with these statues.

Passageways found throughout the temples.

Passageways found throughout the temples.

As you hike your way through the temples there are many stairs you get to climb most of the stairs are about half the size of my foot and at an extreme angle.  I heard they were at about a 60 degree angle it felt like they were closer to 87 degrees.

The temple stairs.

The temple stairs.

The next day, with our legs wobbly and an early wake up call to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat, we decided on taking a Tuk-Tuk driver to drive us around the park.  We did what is known as the small tour circuit, and saw Preah Khan, Neak Pean, Ta Som, East Mebon, Pre Rup, and Banteay Kdel.  All of which are amazing in their own ways.  It seems to us at least that each temple gave us something new.

Riding on our Tuk Tuk.  This was great after a day of biking.   Our Tuk Tuk driver for two days Bye and I. Yes, his name was Bye.

Riding on our Tuk Tuk. This was great after a day of biking. Our Tuk Tuk driver for two days Bye and I. Yes, his name was Bye and his number was 7886 (78 is my football number and 86 is the year Brooke was born. Easy to remember!)

On our last day we realized we had finished what most people see in three or four days.  So we were lost on what to do.  We read about a floating village tour, but it sounded like a scam.  Turns out it is too since some of our friends ended up going to see the village and had some pretty entertaining scam stories to retell at the rooftop pool later that day.   We ended up taking a tuk-tuk about 40km out of town to see a few more temples.

Climbing and exploring the temples

Climbing and exploring the temples

Although looking at the temples now adays, they look as though they are just carvings, and stone rubble.  In actuality they are bustling with people, and not just tourists gawking at how amazing they are.  We were also able to see Buddhist Monks old and young.

Being a huge religious area one can see monks walking all over.

Being a huge religious area one can see monks walking all over.

There were lots of kids selling food, cold drinks, and trinkets.  These kids are good salesmen. One came up to Brooke and asked her to play a game with her, then drew a tic tac toe board in the dirt.  Another came up to me, stood next to me, and started counting her postcards to ten in at least four different languages.

Children are selling products at every temple.

Children were either selling products at every temple or hanging out waiting for their parents to finish cleaning the temples.

Artists spend their days in the shade of the passageways and over hangs looking for the right light to paint and sell.

artists in the temples painting the scenery.

artists in the temples painting the scenery.

For some cooling down after a day out in the sun we would head straight to our hotels rooftop pool, then hop in a Tuk Tuk to Pub Street, with some friends who were on vacation with us, for dinner and a couple drinks.

The Bui Vien, party/night market street of Siem Reap

The Bui Vien, party/night market street of Siem Reap

Although we appreciated and enjoyed our time in all the temples, we would have to say that our favorites were: Bayon in Ankgor Thom because of the faces, Ta Som because of the hallway and tree at the end, Benteay Samre because of how quiet and peaceful it was, and finally, not so much a temple, but the holy river Kbal Spean because we needed to hike a 1500 kilometer (1 mile) to see it.

Posted in Cambodia | 1 Comment

Dressing in Style

The Vietnamese women have a unique clothing style. They wear a pajama-type ensemble that includes a matching top and bottom.

Pajamas

These pajama clothes come in all imagined colors and patterns.

She is actually looking straight ahead, the way she wears her helmet makes it look like she is looking up.

She is actually looking straight ahead, the way she wears her helmet makes it look like she is looking up.

From what we understand, the more traditional, married women and street sellers wear them, while the more modern and affluent women do not.

Pajamas on boat

The pajamas are worn for everything from day-to-day life, sleeping, swimming, and bathing. I saw a women who lived in a shanty in our neighborhood take a bucket shower on the street while in her pajama outfit.

Pajamas at the market

There is also a trend of wearing a single foam hair curler like a hair-tie. Even the most stylish and affluent women have adopted this style.

Pajamas at work

Posted in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, Random | Leave a comment

Clothes, Sun, and Books

With a three-day weekend, and not having left HCMC since February, Rob and I were chomping at the bit to get out of town. The one hour flight to Hoi An was the perfect option.

Lantern sellers both young and old.

Lantern sellers both young and old.

We had visited Hoi An for a few days during our Vietnam south-north Christmas trip and loved the little, quiet town.

Commuter Boats

Commuter Boats

Hoi An is famous for its custom tailors in literally every store on every street. Rob and I went on a bit of a shopping spree and bought clothes for ourselves and gifts for family. We haven’t bought any clothes at all this past year, so we figured we deserved a bit of a splurge.

Getting measured for: dress pants, linen pants, two shorts, a dress, and three shirts. Phew!

Getting measured for: dress pants, linen pants, two shorts, a dress, and three shirts. Phew!

There were two beaches within biking distance of our hotel. We spent our first afternoon, after a tough morning of being measured, at the Vietnamese beach and watched in awe as floods of locals came to have dinner in the sand as the sun set. There was a major argument on the VN beach while we were there that involved the police. We think it was about one of the fishing boats and some netting.

Vietnames vs. Western Beach. Major difference!

Vietnames vs. Western Beach. Major difference!

After getting badly sunburned on the first beach day, we slathered on the block and bicycled about 8k to the Western beach for our second day. Swimming in the ocean, reading, and enjoying some Saigon Greens was exactly what our city-weary selves needed.

Cruiser bicycle curtesy of our hotel

Cruiser bicycle curtesy of our hotel

Our last day found us in the home of a Californian who sells kindle books for $1. We sat in his lazy boy chairs and perused his book list of thousands of titles. Two hours, fifty new books, and an extensive conversation about making marbles later, our biggest concern on the way to the airport was what to read next.

In front of Randy's E-Books with the guard cat, my new shorts, and lots of loot.

In front of Randy’s E-Books with the guard cat, my new shorts, and lots of loot.

Our weekend in Hoi An was seriously needed. We felt refreshed and ready to take on our 6-day work week before heading off to Cambodia the next weekend.

Posted in Beach, Places in Vietnam | Leave a comment

Un Encouraging Signage

Rob and I are back from Siem Reap, Cambodia, an area we thoroughly enjoyed. While we process through the 1,000 plus pictures of temples we took, we thought we would entertain you with a Lost in Translation sign from Osaka, Japan.

The metal divider at the ferris wheel line separates those who want the clear capsules from those who want a regular one.

DSC08725Attached to this metal divider was this sign:

DSC08724Being as afraid of ferris wheels/amusement rides as I am, this sign was not encouraging, nor helpful, in my attempts to calm down about boarding the “spinning circle of death”.

Posted in Japan, Lost in Translation | Leave a comment

Lack of Posting Apologies

We want to apologize for the lack of posts on the blog the past few weeks. Things have been super hectic while we prepare to head back to the states and get in some last minute travel to Hoi An, Cambodia, and Thailand.

Rob being measured for pants in Hoi An

Rob being measured for pants in Hoi An last weekend

We promise to get back to updating the blog when we return from Cambodia on Wednesday. Until then, please enjoy this picture of Rob’s amazing hair and the stalker-ish Vietnamese men while hanging on the lantern bridge in Hoi An.

DSC09269

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

All Hail Nap Time!

We’ve all heard of the Spanish siesta. In Spain, they eat a big meal and then go home to lay down. I never suspected the same thing would happen in Asia.

Our lunch break is a full hour and half in order to give the students, and Vietnamese teachers, enough time to eat, nap, wake up, brush their teeth, and get back to their afternoon classes.

Shoes off and lined in the hallway while children sleep in the classrooms.

Shoes off and lined in the hallway while children sleep in the classrooms.

The school provides blankets and pillows for the students that are washed weekly. In addition, the cleaning ladies move the desks, sweep and mop the floors, turn on soothing music, and make sure the AC is on in every classroom to ensure a comfortable sleep. It is really quite the production.

Desks moved, blankets and pillows laid out.

Desks moved, blankets and pillows laid out.

If you’re planning to run some errands during this extended lunch break, forget it. Most businesses shut down mid-day for at least an hour in honor of nap time. You can see people snoozing all over Saigon: laying on motorbikes, in hammocks, in the baggage area under busses.

Hammock nap time. The motorbike guard at the restaurant across the street.

Hammock nap time. The motorbike guard at the restaurant across the street.

The only time Rob indulged in the mid-day sleep was when he had bronchitis. Usually, all the Western staff sit around and chat in the staff room, or finish up some work, until everyone wakes up and resumes the day.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Juxtapositions

Most of the things that happen here in Vietnam that we don’t understand, we chalk up to cultural differences. For example, how ridiculously loud everything is. From music in stores to stage performances, you are almost guaranteed to pop an eardrum.

However, there are a few things that we just do not understand regardless of culture. These juxtapositions, in the truest sense of the word, baffle us.

DSC05160

-They use a machete to cut a coconut or a pineapple, but they use hand scissors to cut the grass. And if you want a knife with your meal, good luck.

-They won’t wash their hands after going to the bathroom, but they will brush their teeth and virtually take a sink bath after every meal.

The nicest bathroom I have ever seen in VN...in Mui Ne.

The nicest bathroom I have ever seen in VN…in Mui Ne.

-They will take their shoes off to enter a house, but they will park their motorbike in the living room.

He'd have to take off his sneakers, but the bike is fair game to sit in the living room.

He’d have to take off his sneakers, but the bike is fair game to sit in the living room.

-Adults wear helmets, but children do not.

Children can also stand on the bikes to make room for the adults to sit.

Children can also stand on the bikes to make room for the adults to sit.

-It’s rude if you don’t eat what is put in front of you, but if you are overweight you are severely ridiculed.

You have to eat no matter what.

You have to eat no matter what.

-You can drive your motorbike anywhere (sidewalks, houses, stores, wrong way), but you cannot walk on the grass.

Playing on the concrete, not on the grass.

Playing on the concrete, not on the grass.

There are just some things that confuse us about Vietnamese culture.

Posted in Ho Chi Minh City/Saigon, Random | 1 Comment