Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Anniversary!

It's my parents Anniversary today!

I wish them happiness in their next 38 years together.

And I thank them profusely for their constant love and support,

and for their countless sacrifices over the years for me.

Thank you Mom and Dad!

I love you.

Monday, October 27, 2008


While we were in Davis we always wondered why the Asian population there seemed to always walk or bike in the middle of the street. Sometimes there would be a group, walking or biking together, that would take up the whole street. It seemed that no matter what came up behind them (car, bus, truck…) they would hold their course and amazingly seem totally oblivious that something wanted to pass them by. I think I finally understand!! That’s totally the way you go down the street around here. There is a general understanding about what side of the street you should be on, but nothing that can’t be ignored if you’re really in a hurry. The way the cars and buses get through is by honking loudly and, magically, people move out of their way. It's amazing how well this system works. After a few weeks of this I no longer jump out of my skin when a bus honks right behind me and then speeds by with inches to spare. Still, I realize that I'm probably a bit of a menace here since there are nuances to the system that I'm still figuring out (like how to cross the street).
So I want to apologize to anyone in Davis that I was secretly annoyed with for not getting out of my way when I was driving. I'm sorry I creeped along behind you like a menacing snail. I understand now.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

A Picture is Worth 1000 Dong...

Bryce and I spent last night perusing through pictures. At first we were distracted by some old ones of Titus and Mugs in Provo. But then we got down to work and put together a short slideshow of the last month or so. You can view it by going here. We were surprised to see all of the things we had done. On a day to day basis life seems so constant.

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Cut and a Shave

Bryce finally got his hair cut by a street barber. We were walking to the swimming pool again in Hanoi and were hailed by this guy, waiting in his chair, for a customer. He told Bryce, with very expressive Vietnamese, that his hair was way too long. After some quick negotiations Bryce sat down.

I was totally impressed with the way this guy used the scissors and the hand powered clippers as if they were extensions of his own body. Titus and Maggie were totally impressed with his broom. It was made of twigs and looked like something from Harry Potter. They took turns riding it up and down the sidewalk.

When all was said and done Bryce wasn’t too impressed at all. The cut included a shave but the straight razor hurt (the barber was pretty frugal with the shaving cream and for some reason shaved Bryce’s forehead…). The thinning scissors also hurt and might have been used too much because now Bryce has some short hair scattered all over his head that insists on sticking straight up. Bryce was also left with the dreaded “shelf”. Not enough blending. I guess it’s a good thing Bryce normally cuts his own hair.

The next day Bryce found out he paid way too much. Three dollars for a cut sounds cheap until you hear you should have only paid one.

Awesome People

Thanks for posing for a picture, guys. I couldn't upload the fancy one of everyone at the party.
About three years ago I got my dream job. I looked forward to going to work and loved being there. I loved the laboring women, the wrinkly babies, and most especially the strong beautiful women I worked with. I had a slightly unhealthy level of awe and devotion for these ladies. Luckily, they were nice to me (very nice) and taught me to be a good nurse despite my lack of self confidence and occasional tears (I admit it. I cry… a lot). I had to leave this job to come here and have felt a little heartsick about it. But, guess what? They’re still there. 24 hours a day! Thank you for always being there. Thank you for taking care of my broken heart and my new baby. You’ve seen me at my worst (many times, unfortunately) and still you take care of me. Thank you. I’m thinking of you.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Fruit Fun

This is what we got up to the other day after Titus went to the market and came home with a ton of fruit. He just went out for a few things but came home with a watermelon, apples, persimmons, oranges, and bananas. The ladies there didn't want to give him change so they loaded him up with fruit. We have a calendar with pictures by that French guy who makes all the fruit people and the kids were inspired. I think they were pretty happy with the way it turned out.

The Hanoi Water Park

Before time went too far I wanted to post about the water park adventure. Bryce took the kids and I stayed home with the babe (chilling out and watching movies). It turns out the water park was closed for the season. Luckily, the attached amusement park was open and fully functional. There were only a few people scattered about in the huge park so Titus and Maggie went on rides galore. The children's play equipment here often reminds us of something we might see on a movie set and the amusement park rides didn't disappoint. They were clunky and rusty, in desperate need of a cheerful paint job, and set in a suspiciously quiet park. Bryce was pretty sure it was totally safe.
Titus and Maggie on the roller coaster for the fifth or sixth time. Maggie was actually about two centimeters too short but the attendant gamely waved her on. I love the hair flying back.
Bumper cars was popular with everyone. Check out Maggie at the wheel. Bryce endearingly said she already has the look of a girl at the wheel.
A real live dragon rising from the bushes!
Titus and Maggie looking out from the ferris wheel. It was a huge ferris wheel and Maggie told me it was so boring that she forgot to look out of the window at the top. I guess the classic romantic magic of it was lost on her.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Hey! Happy Women's Day!

It's Vietnam's Womens Day today. I was given two beautiful bouquets of orchids and lilies. I'd like to share them with you and wish all the amazing women I know beauty and happiness. You are amazing and I love you.

Birthday Dinner

For our friend’s birthday I was asked to make spaghetti. I used her tiny kitchen (two gas burners and a table) and we whipped up a slightly cold dinner complete with garlic bread. It wasn’t my best, but luckily there was such a festive birthday mood about the place that nobody minded. There were 10 of us celebrating at her place which was one room (shared with her roommate) and the kitchen and bathroom (shared also with the three women in the next room). I totally love the green wall. Even though it was a small place it had a very “home” feeling about it.

They were very impressed with Bryce's savvy vegetable chopping.As usual, Enzo was the life of the party. Birthday girl on the left. Enzo's newest disciple on the right.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Little Bird

For the past week or so a tiny bird has been trying to get our attention. He perches himself outside the window in our room and proceeds to exhaust himself with the effort of making noise. He chirps. He pecks the glass continuously. Sometimes he flaps his little wings with amazing energy and speed against the glass (whip, whip, whip, whip, whip). He’s an endearing little fellow but we can’t fathom why he spends so much of his day assaulting our window. Lately we imagine that he is a conduit of love. When he comes to our window it’s to tell us that someone is thinking of us.

Post Office

The other day the kids and I finally found the post office. It was difficult to find since it was disguised as your regular old cell phone shop with only a small mail slot outside to give any indication of any secret postal business. We were happy to finally send the postcards we had written 2 weeks ago. On the walk home I told the kids we probably wouldn’t be sending any more since it was relatively expensive (15,000 dong per postcard!).

I had mostly forgotten about those postcards until the woman from the shop showed up at my door tonight talking loudly on her cell phone and holding an air mail envelope. She said something to me that I didn’t understand and then handed me the phone. Not knowing what else to do, I answered. “Hello?”

The woman on the other end of the line explained to me that she lived in England but her sister (the woman from the shop who stood in front of me) had called her to interpret something important. She said her sister was very sorry and embarrassed but she had overcharged me for the postage on my postcards and wanted to give me back the money. She said her sister hoped I would come back to her shop anytime. Finally, she asked if I would please give the phone back to her sister because they hadn’t actually talked in a while. I handed the phone back and was given an envelope of money.

It was one of those reassuring experiences where I was reminded that the world really is chock full of good people. And I was also left with some questions. First, how did the post office lady know where to find me? (It’s a little disconcerting that the entire town knows exactly where we are). Also, were my postcards mailed? (I never had time to ask the lady in England). And, what is the actual price of sending a postcard overseas?

Monday, October 13, 2008

Pagoda Sunday

We spent our Sunday yesterday visiting the oldest temple and pagoda in Hanoi. It was a long day of walking and riding buses but I really enjoyed the peace there, especially at the Tran Quoc Pagoda. Even though the busy city was just a few steps away we could barely hear it.
There is a courtyard in front with beautiful statues, many incense burners, and a grand altar at which to pray. Along with other tourists, we walked amid everything with amazement, aware that we couldn’t really understand what it meant.

When we were about to leave Titus asked if we could follow a path he saw which led to the back of the pagoda. We saw a group of people had gone that way and were disappearing around a corner, so we followed. When we arrived at the back of the pagoda there was another courtyard, this one without tourists but with many others, sitting and listening in quiet devotion to a monk whose voice was amplified with speakers. He was sitting near an altar, with his yellow silk clad back to us, reading into a microphone. I asked our friend what he was saying. She said, “He’s talking about how to treat others. To be kind. Especially to your family…”

Saturday, October 11, 2008

An Adventure of their Own

Sometimes Titus and Maggie get tired of the adventures we plan for them. Here they are appreciating the wild beauty of a totally new place on a once in a lifetime trip. You can see how excited they are. So today, being a Saturday free from previous committment, we let a long suffering Titus choose the agenda: We're going to a water park.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Home School

Have I mentioned before that we’re kind of homeschooling while we’re here. I say “kind of” because I’m not really sure about how this should be done. I don’t feel passionate enough. I lose my limited patience all the time. Shouldn’t this be done by professionals?

Titus is starting to love reading (great, right?) but all of the sudden he hates math. He used to love math. Now he’d rather do reading than math. Have I squished his natural mathematical interest and abilities with mind numbing exercises?

People are a little shocked to find out that these guys aren’t going to school. They always want to know the subjects they are learning at home and want to see their workbooks. I suspect they’re comparing the local education system to ours. I think they come out feeling pretty good about themselves.

I’m pretty sure this should be done by professionals.

Our Day

It has been a little hard for Titus and Maggie adjusting to not having their usual diverting pursuits. They started doing a lot of kung fu since we've been here (and they each watched kung fu panda several times on the plane). They like to dress in one color and call themselves "the pink master" or "the black master". They have also made a few movies with their stuffed animals. Mostly they're about "kung fu mimi".

We bought some jump ropes a while ago and they're becoming jumping masters. They prefer jumping backwards and this usually lasts until Titus starts using his jump rope as a whip.

We sometimes play indoor soccer in the lobby (it's hard to find a big bit of space outside). Usually it's Titus and Maggie on one team against me or Bryce. Enzo does an admirable job as goalie in his little car.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Real Life

Being in a developing country has definitely thrown my life into rather sharp focus. I think somewhere I developed the ability to not really see poverty. Maybe it's an American coping mechanism that I absorbed with my Cosby Show and Halloween candy. Maybe it's just me avoiding the inevitable downer that lives of struggle can bring. But, lately there have been times when it's really thrown in my face... and then it's hard to miss.

I could describe some scenes (and Bryce thinks I'm a wimp for deciding not to) but somehow that seems disloyal when what I also see is that this country is totally upwardly mobile. It's forward thinking. It's developing.

This creates some interesting contrasts. Like the farmer riding his water buffalo through the rice paddy while talking on his cell phone. Or the new buildings going up all over, mostly through the physical labor of wiry men with carrying tons bricks up a ton of stairs. And the small time fruit vendor, a woman with two huge baskets full of pomelos on the back of her rickety bike, who is passed on the the street by a shiny new BMW SUV (honking wildly, of course). These are bright contrasts with the marginal living we frequently see (and sometimes experience vicariously through our hosts).

At risk of sounding trite I recognize the contrast to my own situation in life and find myself in awe of the abundance.

Sunday, October 5, 2008


My trip to Halong Bay was fun. There were lots of pearls all over the place and lots of sea food that you usually wouldn't see like octopus, shrimp, and there was some fish there that cost $50 for one fish. My dad accidentally bought one. I'll tell you how he accidentally bought it. He was going to buy one but the lady who was with us didn't translate the price fast enough so they killed the fish before he knew how much and then since they already killed it he had to buy it...
Love, Titus

Poor Bryce. Almost had his vacation ruined. It was a great scam (for their part). That stupid fish cost about 1/5th of the whole trip. We ate every last piece of that fish. It doesn't look like we enjoyed it but it was pretty good.


Saturday morning we went to a big market for some designated souvenir shopping. There were a lot of local specialties, like pearls and shells, as well as the usual plastic toys and house sandals. Actually, it struck us as a particularly odd place to shop while on holiday since almost everything we saw could be bought on the street where we live. So, Bryce was walking amongst these wares, wondering how he got stuck there when shouting broke out on the walk in front of him.

A little girl, perhaps ten years old, with a long pony tail and a decidedly spunky attitude had been accused of shoplifting. The shop owner was the one shouting and had the girl’s hands held tightly together in front of her. The girl was pleading and explaining in a rather pitiful way and tried to tug her hands away. A uniformed guard came and took over the hand binding, twisting the girl’s hands behind her back. The pleading turned into shouting, kicking and biting. She was dragged away and locked behind bars by the impassive guard. She continued to kick and scream while a young boy (maybe a brother) grabbed her arms and legs in futile attempts to pull her out.

As Bryce was telling the story (shouting clearly heard in the background), Maggie looked up at me with wide eyes and said, “I want to see the girl in the cage.” So she did.

I’m sure it would have been even more dramatic if we had known the specific meaning of the words she kept shrieking, but our dear friend avoided translating by just explaining again that she was accused of shoplifting. After about 10 minutes a woman came (maybe a mother) and the girl was released and left with the woman. We’re not sure of any further consequences for that little girl but I think both Maggie and Titus were convinced that shoplifting’s not really worth it.

Halong Bay

Our last night in Halong Bay we went to a show. It was supposed to be a dolphin show but the huge tourist park we went to was seriously lacking in animals. So, it ended up being a laser show complete with huge sprinklers, bursts of flame, and gigantic neon dragons. Very intense. At one point they projected a movie onto the spray of water. The movie told a traditional legend for how the bay was made.

There was a princess (of course) who had two suitors. One was from the mountains and he had the power to raise earth. The other was from the Sea. He rode a green dragon and had power over the water. The princess and Mountain Suitor fell in love (lets assume) and married. This angered the Sea Suitor. He rode his dragon and raised the level of the sea and sent huge waves toward the land to wipe away the people. The Mountain Suitor (now husband) rushed to protect the people, and his bride, by raising high mountains to block the waves and the progress of the sea. He threw a huge stone on the Sea Suitor that destroyed him and his dragon alike (this was a fantastic scene in the little movie). Only the tops of these mountains can be seen, jutting fantastically out of the water, in Halong Bay.

We went out on a junk while we were there. A shiny lacquered wooden boat that creaked and swayed. Sitting atop it and driving in and out of these limestone islands, surrounded in mist, it was easy to believe in magic and legend.