Saturday, November 29, 2008
This guy was making containers for the pieces to be fired in. He was mixing materials with his feet here in a cool little dance. Bryce and Titus worked together to make a snail with their hands. You can kind of see the big block of clay in the background.There is a woman there who paints the same design on tea cups all day. Her hands moved so fast it was impossible to tell what she did and when. One second the cup was blank and then next it was finished and nestled in stacks with hundreds of others. She let Titus and Maggie paint a few cups of their own. They had some very original, if less precise, designs.
This family made tea cups and tea pots. These are the cup molds. In the background you can see the door to the kiln. It's coal powered and wasn't on today.
We also went shopping. There were so many beautiful things. I kept trying to remind myself that ceramics aren't easy to take home in your luggage. Of course, I bought stuff anyway. What else could I do on a beautiful sunny day in a town full of shops?
Pork (ground, or super duper finely chopped)
Mushrooms, maybe 8-10 (cooked and finely chopped)
1 Onion (thinly sliced)
Bean Sprouts, maybe 1 ½ cups (chopped into ½ inch pieces)
Noodles, 1 bunch (thin vermicelli type noodles, maybe rice based, maybe not)
Wrappers (thin, papery, definitely rice based)
Salt (might be mixed with MSG)
Oil for frying
Prepare ingredients. Set noodles in water for about 5 minutes and then cut into ½ inch pieces. Place all ingredients except the wrappers in a bowl and mix together well. Season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in shallow frying pain on medium (maybe low) heat. Place about 3 Tbs of filling mixture onto one end of wrapper and roll it into a parcel, folding in the edges as you go. Repeat until all of the mixture is used. Fry parcels for about 10 minutes until outside is golden brown and inside is well cooked. Serve with sweetened fish sauce.
We’ve had these spring rolls made with a variety of ingredients. If you’re near the sea they might be made with shrimp instead of pork. If you’re vegetarian the meat might be substituted with chopped egg, cabbage, and carrots. No need to be fussy.
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Maggie was amazingly adept with the scalpel and scissors. She followed instructions perfectly. The project brought out her curious side and she kept asking scientific questions like, "Is this one a girl or a boy? How can you tell it's a girl?"
I mostly watched and tried to keep Enzo from touching anything in the lab. Besides the squid, they dissected snails. The snails were alive when they started dissecting them. I'm not sure that's ethical. It might be as bad as that machine that breaks sheep legs so vet students can practice setting them. That still bothers me.
But anyway, the dissection project was very interesting. I love job perks.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
We love the beach. Take us to a beach and we'll be your best friends forever.
Tropical storms sure can deposit a lot of debris
It was a weekend of Ho Chi Minh. Statues, busts, pictures, temples, clocks... We joined the domestic tourists at the sites as they paid homage to their revered leader.
I can tell why everyone here seems to like Enzo. He really is a great baby. He managed to be downright jolly after getting only half of his normal sleep and got yet another woman to offer to keep him when I go back to the US. I said no...again.
There are some people who believe that bringing a certain kind of incense into their house will bring bad luck, or even death. You really have to be careful with incense. I wish we had known that before Maggie and Titus decided to start collecting incense sticks. Sorry doesn't even begin to cover it.
Maggie had the unfortunate, though inevitable, realization that using public bathrooms is quite a risky business. She got stuck behind a rusty lock in a bathroom with worse than dubious cleaning practices and has vowed to hold it from now on. I can see why the Lonely Planet suggests that you might rather pee behind a tree.
It was a relief to get back on the train on Sunday night. We were exhausted. But the trip went by so fast. We blinked and it was over.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
I’m afraid I had to disappoint everyone again by explaining that there was a teacher’s day in the
Last year, in
One thing is for sure. It is way more fun to appreciate our educators (even fake ones, like me). So, how about a little more celebrating and a little less laying-off?
Happy Teacher’s Day!
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Lately I've been guilty of just keeping the kids busy as opposed to helping them have "enriching" experiences. In the past few weeks they have spent considerable time on such lengthy activities as trying to crack open coconuts with broken tiles and "weeding" the lilypad ponds.
Yesterday, since Bryce was still gone, we started another activity that was meant to fill in time but ended up being quite telling and fun. We sat down with a bowl of beads and some fishing line and proceeded to make some necklaces. It was interesting to see the different approaches they took to the beading. Titus was very methodical and determined. He was characterized by sayng, "I'm going to make the most beautiful necklace for you, Maggie." Maggie was a little more spontaneous with her designs and shied away from patterns. Enzo didn't enjoy it at all sine we kept the bead bowl away from his remarkably sticky fingers. "Beads aren't for babies, Enzo," Maggie sang repeatedly.
All in all we had a good time and now they have several necklaces that they intend to sell and thereby make a fortune.
Saturday, November 15, 2008
I’m not really alone after all since I have three children with me. Bryce has left for the weekend. Off to an interview in
And what says “live it up” better than a wedding? So, off we went this morning to a beautiful Vietnamese wedding. I ironed and wore shoes for the first time since we’ve been here. The groom is an acquaintance of ours for whom I have a special place in my heart since he once jiggled Enzo to sleep while watching soccer on TV. He looked appropriately dazed in his spiffy suit. His bride was stunning and they embarked on their life together with flair and pizzazz. Blasts of shiny confetti rained down on the couple and their parents while they cut the cake and drank a toast with magenta champagne (champagne is my best guess. I'm definitely no expert). T
The wedding was just what we needed. Titus and Maggie even had the distinction of being the only two guests to have any wedding cake.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
-It was kinda hard to tell who the ferry workers were in Cat Ba. Some of them were wearing uniforms (more like the army variety) and some were wearing business suits. The anonymity of the workers didn't seem to hinder their performance as they got down to business and loaded the ferries on time! This all boils down to a definite absence of the power trip sometimes found among WSF workers (Mad Marge - need I say more?).
- The ferries were loaded and unloaded in a somewhat random fashion. Cars, buses, motorbikes, and pedestrians got on and off at their leisure. It was a little alarming for someone used to the more orderly approach of WSF. - The ferry docks were essentially concrete slabs and there was usually more than one ferry there at a time. Imagine all of these ferries loading and unloading in their special way and you get the picture of the relative chaos that reigned. Still, everyone seemed to get to the right place and this was all done without blinking lights and walkie talkies (I'm just saying that might be one way to keep the WSF ticket prices down).
- There was a snack place on the Cat Ba ferries and, believe it or not, I could afford the snacks.
- The bathroom on the ferry was a wooden outhouse with a drop box philosophy. The lock on the door was broken which gave way to the obvious problem of the door being opened at inconvenient times. Give me a WSF bathroom any day.
-Undoubtably, WSF is faster. I had to keep looking around to see if we were moving. There wasn't much of a wake.
- We ended up eating our lunch on the Cat Ba Ferry sitting in a circle on the floor (not a lot of benches to be had). Of course, it was the floor of the control room at the top of the ferry. The WSF have plenty of padded benches and tables but I've never been in the control room. I guess it's a toss up which I would prefer.
- There is a definite theme of safety in the WSF system. Bright orange vests, warnings, posters, drills... Bryce used to get nervous when we parked in a cross-hatched area of the car deck. We didn't really notice that same theme here. There were some orange life rings that were obviously very accessible since the students seemed to have a good time playing with them.
- After taking the Cat Ba Ferry we started to realize all of the paint that must go into keeping the WSF system going. Paint for the outside, the inside, the warning signs, the car deck... It is a lot of paint, but I think it is worth it. The alternative is an amazing amount of rust and bewildered passengers.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
1. There is a limit to how many treats my kids will eat. I can tell you from first hand experience that it is rather important for your food storage to include more than choco-pies and halloween candy.
2. There are some women who look amazing in heels even while walking down a flooded sidewalk. I will never be one of those women (sigh).
3. Running water is more important to me than electricity. Candles can even make washing one's hands quite romantic.
4. Life always goes on.
Monday, November 3, 2008
The water level is slowly going down. It has gone down about six inches so far. They now say that this is the worst flooding in Hanoi for 40 years, and the worst flooding here ever. The water level in the drainage canals and lakes near the university are at the same level as the streets.
We are lucky to have power from a generator during the day (between 10 am and 5 pm). Occasionally we have internet access too. Sadly, there is no running water anymore. We can flush the toilet with brownish water that I suspect is pumped in from outside the front steps (not sure I want to know where it goes). We are using bottled water for drinking and brushing teeth but it seems it will still be a little while until I have a shower.
Bryce and Maggie waded out this morning for some breakfast. It seems that fruit and veggies have doubled in price. The market has only a few vendors and they're taking advantage of it.
All in all, we're doing well. Yet again, I have been reminded of how easy my life usually is.
We woke up this morning to find the guest house surrounded by water. Somehow, during the night, even though the rain had stopped, the water rose higher and higher. There has been intermittent rain today and since morning we have watched the water level rise another six inches or so.
Bryce found an online article in English this morning that informed us that we are experiencing the worst flooding in the area for 24 years. In
Here, near the university, the water is about knee deep and the atmosphere is still playful. Every time the rain stops the students head outside and start splashing each other with the murky water and shrieking like monkeys.
Saturday, November 1, 2008
Yesterday morning the there were several places the little ponds had swelled beyond their banks and the streets were still ankle deep in water. Our friend said it was perfect weather for fishing. We took some buckets out to the fields behind the agronomy building and started picking up the tiny silver fish that had been stranded there by receding water. We waded through deeper water just for fun before we were chased inside by more pounding rain. Now we have two buckets with live fish sitting in our room. We never got around to asking what they were for.
- We put together the “costumes” for the kids with the clothes we have here. Titus was Spiderman (spidey jammies, gray gloves, black socks). Maggie changed her costume daily between a Vietnamese lady (her new ao dai), a gymnastics teacher (swimming suit and leggings), and a “matchy matchy girl” (she picked out a shirt and skirt that matched each other. I think it was her favorite costume). They both seemed totally happy with what they came up with.
- Candy, candy, and more candy. The huge pile of candy flanked happy, eager children seems to show the essence of Halloween. The candy looked way better than it tasted but the kids still loved it with predictable passion.
- The three rust colored pumpkins were brought in by a friend of a friend on his motorbike from hours away. We had them in our room all week and finally carved them today with some friends.
- My English classes took on a Halloween theme and became more party-like as the week went on. I was totally impressed with the proper students who threw caution to the wind and did the apple under the chin game. I’d like to see these guys get down when it’s not in the morning on a school day! It was actually great of them to be so into it since Titus and Maggie came with me seeking some Halloween cheer.
- It rained today. A huge torrential downpour that was deafening as it came down. The courtyard filled with water several inches deep. There was a pervasive foggy mist swirling through the trees and houses. Every few minutes we saw the bright flash of lightning and heard ear splitting thunder that went on and on, as if a cosmic bowling ball had been rolled across the purple sky. Perfect spooky weather for Halloween when you’re not trick-or-treating outdoors.
- It rained more and more. The roads turned into rivers. The power cut out several times today including while we were carving pumpkins and trick-or-treating around the empty guest house rooms. We ended up doing these festivities by candlelight. Then we slogged through the pouring rain in knee deep water to the restaurant, where the power was still out, and ate dinner by candlelight as well.
- “Goodbye,” we said to our friends who had shared the evening with us. Everyone had rolled their pants up over their knees. We were huddled under umbrellas and nearly shouted to be heard over the pounding rain. “Happy Halloween.”