Saturday, December 23, 2006

Santa Gets Mobbed at Cleaverlearn in Hanoi

I played Santa Claus at Cleverlearn for the children. It turned in to a riot as the kids swarmed me and began to trample each other to get at the presents in my bag. We attempted to take video, but it was too dark. Click the link above to view a movie of the sordid ordeal.
Merry Christmas,
Ed & Karen
Christmas Mayhem

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Sunday, December 17, 2006

Wintertime Blues

As we are nearing the end of December, the idea of another Christmas away from home is looming ever larger. It is odd how you grow to miss even the things you hated most about home. The more I start missing Halifax, the more I try and remember icy winter days, scraping snow off of the windshield with numb hands, the seemingly endless night that is January and February. The funny thing is I actually miss the crunching of snow beneath my boots and the cool crisp feeling in my lungs of a deep morning breath. It has been an endless summer for these past twenty months, and as much as I enjoy that, there is really nothing like warming up in a cozy home after a battle with the elements.
There is also the tradition of Christmas that I have grown to enjoy. Christmas eve at Bob and Noreen's or Doug and Helen's and then Christmas day and early evening at my parents house and then the Christmas evening party at Kelly's (before) and Kelly and Joe's (now). Always followed by a trip to Karen's parents house immediately after. We will miss that again this year, but we will be thinking of everyone.
We have met some folks here who have invited us to a Christmas dinner, turkey and all the trimmings, and we have graciously accepted. At least we will have a proper Christmas dinner this year, unlike our Steak and Potatoes of last year.
So, again, as we said last year, when you are all together enjoying this yuletide season, have a drink for us, and the other displaced family members and friends who would all rather be with you, than wherever it is they are.
Merry Christmas everyone, and Happy New Year! We love you.
Ed & Karen

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Welcome to the Jungle

It hadn't occurred to me until someone at work brought it up. Vietnam will ruin me for all other places. I obviously need to explain this in more detail, and I will try to do it without sounding all "Do I look fat in this dress "
Everything is very cheap here, as I mentioned before, and that was exciting for the first little while. Now, at the three month mark, I am beginning to get worried about this lifestyle. Absolutely anything you want is available at almost no cost. That is the kind of thing that is dangerous to get used to. I don't think I mentioned this before, but we do not cook at home. It is pointlessly messy and more expensive than eating out. This means I have been eating at restaurants for three months. I am not talking about Mickey D's and Subway here, I am talking about good restaurants. It costs me, generally, less than 5 US dollars to eat wonderful meals, containing multiple courses. Great, right? yeah, for the first little while. Now I am more like, I wish I had a can of Chef Boy-R-Dee Beefaroni, as I am dining on a Fred Flintstone sized rack of Baby back ribs, potato wedges and salad.
The question is, How does one come back from something like this? How do I return to North America and resume the 9-5 lifestyle, where eating at a nice restaurant is a special evening you do once an a while, as it will cost you 100.00 or more, if you decide to have drinks and desert. There is no tipping or tax here. So if you have a 50.00 food bill in a restaurant in Canada. You are looking at 7.50$ in tax and 7.50$ for a tip, if you do the 15%. 15 dollars on a 50 dollar bill.
Here, not so much. If we spend 20.00 US on a meal here. I assure you, we will be leaving food on the table and we will be intoxicated. And that's 20 dollars total, no tip, no tax, for both of us.
My point is, we will be here for another year, possibly longer. We were psyched by the cheapness of food in Taiwan after Canada, and Vietnam makes Taiwan look expensive. I am starting to worry about spending "too long in the Jungle"!
I heard that figure of speech a couple of months ago from a Kiwi expat who had been in SE Asia for over seven years. He, at the time, was complaining about the lack of Vietnamese girls in Hanoi that were interested in dating foreigners. This is quite the opposite from most other places in Asia. I asked him, quite simply, why he didn't just date one of the many foreign girls populating Hanoi? He looked me dead in my eyes, and spoke in a startlingly somber manner. "Oh no, Ed, I can't do that, I have been in the jungle for far too long mate." I laughed at that, at the time, but in retrospect, he meant exactly that. With Asian women, I am told, there is no effort in a relationship. There is almost always a language barrier that makes small talk and conversation almost pointless. Unlike with Western woman, who expect much more from a partner than just being there. He could no more go back to dating western girls after dating Asians than I will be able to go back to the way of life I traded in to come to Asia. It is not the girls for me, obviously, but it is everything else.
I am starting to feel like we have been in the jungle for too long, and we still have quite a way to go. I can imagine some of you reading this, shaking your heads and muttering..." I can't believe this jackass has the nerve to complain about being able to eat at nice restaurants every night!" It is the bigger picture that I am, not complaining about, but just worried about.
If Christmas came everyday, it would no longer be special. Fine dining has already reached a point with us where it is no longer special, and I am worried about the point where it will become expected, almost necessary. We simply can not live like this in North America. Not, unless we were wealthy, and I mean lotto 649 wealthy.
French, Italian, Asian, Brazilian, Greek, Mexican, Indian etc. Every evening we ask ourselves, "What are we going to eat tonight?" You wouldn't believe how many of the selections illicit the rolling of eyes. What do you get for the person who has everything? Well, I ask, What do you eat, when you can eat anything?
Welcome to the jungle baby!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A little love people....

I know that some people are still checking in on our misadventures from time to time as our hit counter shows over 5, ooo hits. That is incredible. Remember, anyone who is still with us, that there are comment buttons at the bottom of every blog. Please leave a comment, as it is great hearing from you, even if it is just to say hi. This blog is one of the only connections we have with our world back home so anything is better than nothing.
Keep warm, keep safe and keep on truckin',

PS: It is actually a blue "Shout Out" button, just click on that and you can leave us a message.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Tiles and Tribulations

I just stepped out of the shower and proceeded to hang my towel up on the railing, I put all of my weight on one foot as I lean in to pin the top of the towel with a clothes pin, when my foot crashes through the tile, thanks to a hollow pit beneath it. A jagged piece of tile decides to almost sever my baby toe with a gaping, five inch circular gash that goes right to the bone. "Ouch" right? yeah, and then some. Karen hears the small explosion and comes to see what all the commotion is. It is at this moment that the blood starts to gush. Karen demands to take a look at the wound. I am actually unable to see it due to it's location at the bottom of my foot, but from the alarming amount of blood, I am assuming the worst. Karen takes one look at the wound and states immediately that I must go to the hospital. It was just after midnight and I was getting ready for bed, when the accident happened. I am sitting on the stairs holding my foot together with a maxi pad soaking up the blood, while Karen attempts to reach our landlord. She explained there was an accident and we must go to the hospital right away. They walk over and arrange for a taxi. I tape up my foot with some surgical tape and the maxi pad as a bandage and hobble out to meet the taxi, leaving behind enough blood and gore to double for a slaughter house floor.
We arrive at the hospital and my landlord then runs in to wake up the staff. I am led in to a small room with saloon like swinging doors. The doctor and nurse motion for me to lie down on a metal gurney. The gurney is about five and a half feet long and my feet hang off the end. They unwrap my ingenious bandage and proceed to gasp in horror at what they find beneath. I was doing a fairly heroic job of keeping it together up until the collective gasp from the medical staff.
"Oh, werry deepy" I get from my doctor, as the nurse just nods solemnly.
For the next half-hour they meticulously poke, prod and clean the wound, while I am torn between ticklish and terrorizing pain. They bathe the wound in various liquids that burn like fire and then wipe it with gauze.
After that, it was time for the stitches. Now, I have gotten stitches on many occasions. My ankle, head, face, and hand, just to name a few, but never before on the bottom of my foot. The pain was almost a religious experience. I feel born again after going through it. They attempted to freeze the area around the cut, but they said the skin was far too thick and hard for the needle. I retorted the fact that the floor tile had no problem breaking the skin. Once again, my humour is lost in translation. The next twenty minutes or so are kind of blurry. I remember having a hard time holding my foot still while they were operating, and just watching the gekko's scurry about on the walls and trying to think of anything else but the intense pain. Once they were done torturing me they decided I needed a tetanus shot. They gave me one of those and then I was free to go. The taxi driver waited around through all of this and drove us home.
All and all, I would have to say my Vietnamese hospital experience was decidedly more intimate than any hospital experience I have ever had elsewhere.
I had to take the weekend off of work, but I shall return on Monday, a little slower, but not too bad off. The stitches come out in a week.