Thursday, May 31, 2007


In the Western world we are no strangers to those wee invaders in our homes. We have all had spiders, ants, earwigs and heaven forbid a mouse in our house. It is near impossible to keep them out. It doesn't matter if you live in a house, apartment or Condo, you will have something unwanted crawling, slithering or running around in your home. This is to be expected, and we deal with it the best we can.
We have given our 30 days notice to our landlord. You have all heard me talk of spiders. Anyone and everyone who has ever met me is aware that I am terrified of spiders. We have found and killed if possible, many spiders in our house since we arrived in Vietnam. This is not the reason for our leaving. We have found ants, centipedes, crickets, Gekko's by the dozen and not to mention the myriad of unidentified flying irritation that we encounter. Again, it is to be expected. So what, you may be asking yourselves, what is it that has pushed you from the home you have made together for the past eight months in Vietnam? What can be so bad that you will go through the stress and effort of finding a new house or apartment to live in? Well, as the title says...Toads.
Now hear this! I am not now nor have I ever been afraid of any reptiles. The toads don't scare me at all, they repulse me. Toads are just wrong. And, by the way, that is toadssss, plural. I can not accept that toads are coming in to my home. Karen agrees with me that we can accept many things in Vietnam as just "Comes with the territory" so to speak, but we cannot, however, deal with toads in our house.
What's the difference? Some of you may be asking, between a toad and a gekko, is a reptile while the other is an amphibian, and Gekkos can climb walls while toads just hop around drunkenly. Why do the toads bother you so much more than the gekko's? To that question I have to answer...I don't know, but they just do! There is something so utterly repugnant about finding toads in your kitchen that I don't think I can adequately describe the feeling of revulsion that comes over me.
Hell, I used to catch frogs, toads, snakes and salamanders when I was a child, but this is my home and I will have it no longer. We are hitting the road and looking for a new place to set up shop. We know what we are doing now and we will keep our eyes open for the loudspeakers as well. Here's hoping that the new place will be toad, loudspeaker and frog free.
Bye for now,

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Work, Work, Work, Happy Birthday & Goodbye

With the end in sight, it is all about the hours for Karen and I. I am working almost 40 hours a week. ( Big deal, you are thinking) I know, it doesn't sound like much, but that is 40 teaching hours. If you were to add up the unpaid preperation time, the hours would be much more impressive. Also, keep in mind that full-time in Asia for Foreigners is 20 hours a week. Karen, for her part, is working two jobs, Her kindergarten gig through the week and still teaching at Cleverlearn with me. We only have one night a week were we allow ourselves to go out and have some fun. That is Thursday Night Quiz Night at a local Irish Pub called Finnigans.( I hear the echoes of the word " GAY " floating over the land and sea between me and my friends at home who may be reading this) That's right, Quiz Night! I guess Karen and I are becomming more mature in our leisurely persuits, considering our idea of a fun evening out is answering trivia questions.
There was one other evening we allowed ourselves. It was a mighty combo celabration that had Karens birthday, Marty's birthday and Marty&Mel's farewell all rolled in to one night on the town. Karen and I joined Marty and Mel at a local restaurant for dinner before meeting up at Cleverlearn with the individuals stuck working on a Friday evening. From there we all made our way to a local Karaoke bar, where for the following two hours sang our fool heads off, stopping only long enough to enjoy some cake supplied by the lovely Mai Linh, and an occasional sip of beer.
We were thrown out of the Karaoke bar promply at midnight due to some upcoming elections, and a newfound pengant for the rules and regulations. It was at this point that some of the less enthusiastic members of our group left us for home. Those of us with stronger constitutions continued on, going to Half-Man, Half-Noodle and finally The Spotted Cow.
All and all it was a wonderful evening, quite possibly one of our best in Vietnam. So Happy Birthday Karen, Happy Birthday Marty and Marty and Mel, We wish you all the best on your continued travells through the wilds of Canada.

The Last Supper (l-r Fergus, Marty, Mel & Karen )

The Birthday Cake ( Mai Linh & Beverly )

Full House in the Karaoke Room

Toward the end of a long night ( Ed, Karen & Mel )

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

I Thrive Upon The Misery

Viet'friggin'Nam,you wretchid, misbegotten country. It all piles up, so thoroughly obnoxious in its endless harrassment of the Merlins. Each day brings forth new trials and tribulations for us to endure and overcome.
Let me begin with our home. We loved it at first, with it's many balconies and outdoor areas. We had a lovely view of a lake that was mere meters from our front door, and the blissful respite of the awful calamity that is the streets of Hanoi. Peaceful, tranquil and pleasant, it was to be our haven from the din and our temporary escape from Vietnam. Unfortunately that was not to last.
The lake was drained a few short weeks past our arrival, and has yet to be refilled. There is a resort that is being built on the lake and the construction goes in to the wee hours of the morning. In the place of the lake there is now a grassy, swampy, stagnant little field that has become over run with bullfrogs.
What started off as a puzzleing noise shortly after the lake was dammed, leaving us scratching our heads and pondering the strange sound that was echoing off of the lake. It kind of sounded like a cross between a small barking dog and a duck, except it was maddeningly loud. Night after night this strange noise was growing exponentially until there was no relief from the endless wall of noise flowing from the swamp. Bullfrogs! They were provided with a perfect wetland breeding ground that has seen a bumper crop. There are so many baby frogs hopping out of the swamp, accross the road and in to everyones yards that I kill a dozen or so every evening while I am driving toward the house. It is not my intention to kill these baby frogs and toads, but after a few nights of pointless swerving I just gave up, as there is no way to avoid them. So after my 400 meter dash down the narrow road to our house where I am popping frogs like plastic bubble wrap, the entire way, I find myself parking my bike. Then as I shut off my engine, the roar of the frogs hits me.
This is bad enough in itself. But, add to that a loudspeaker posted on a power pole directly in front of our house that begins a Vietnamese rant at 8am that lasts long in to the morning. I have no idea what it is stating but I am sure it is some kind of Socialist propaganda. Every once and a while some awful warbleing Vietnamese music will blast out of the speakers as well. The longest run was just last Sunday. YES, Sunday! Where it started at 8am and didn't stop until mid afternoon. It is so loud that in our bedroom with the doors and windows shut and the AC rattleing it is still as clear and loud as if it were playing in our own room.
Karen and I have already talked about aquiring a shotgun to end this awful annoyance once and for all. We are at the end of our rope. Due to it's location, throwing rocks or bricks at it is not an option as there are houses directly across the street from us and we would hit the houses if we missed the speaker.
So now, as we count the days until we are finally rid of this awful country, seemingly designed to frustrate and annoy the Western visitor, we can only hope that we will find some peace and quiet in these last remaining months.
Pray for us,

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

It's looking like a Year.

Karen and I have talked tentatively about leaving Vietnam. It is getting quite old at this point and we are not enjoying it nearly as much as we did in the beginning. Vietnam has an oppressive quality that gets under your skin after a while. We have decided to stick it out for a few months and make as much money as we can, so we can leave and find a new place to live. It is unfortunate that it has to be this way, as Vietnam is a beautiful country and has many great things to offer. The downside is the people. I have seen things, dear friends and readers, things that I can never unsee. If only there was an enema for the memory. I expected a different culture and different ideals from the Vietnamese people, but what I got is so much more than I bargained for.
Karen, poor Karen, she has seen the dirtiest part of Vietnam, and I mean that quite litterally. To her utmost dismay, Karen was unfortunate enough to be stuck at a red light in the backseat of a taxi, on her way to work, when she noticed a grown man directly beside her, defacating in to the gutter. Yep. I love her with all of my heart, and I can say quite honestly, I am glad it was her and not me.
Don't get me wrong, I have seen my share of truly disgusting behavior, just nothing as extreme as that. I feel that I have changed in Vietnam, I have become desensitized to things that no man or woman should be desinsitized to. There are things I just can't bring myself to write about. Yet.
After all is said and done, it will be a year in Nam, and I am happy we did it but will not be back for a visit anytime soon. I left Taiwan saying we would be back as soon as we could,and I still plan on returning there, But I've had my fun in Vietnam and now it's time to move along. It was an experience I will not soon forget, in the way that you always remember the truly traumatic experiences in your life.
Bye for now,