Motorbikes, bubble tea, and monsoon rains have all become a part of our new normal here in Saigon, Vietnam. I can’t believe it has been two months since I first arrived here! It has been an odd mix of both slow and fast, from waiting through quarantine then jumping into my new job and everything that came after. We’ve had a wonderful time these past few weeks setting up house and settling into our new life here. Here are some of the highlights
At the beginning of September we had a day off of school for a local holiday. We joined some new friends at a fancy spa in our area for a day at the pool, and then went for dinner and some drinks in town.
While we were out that day I saw a family releasing fish into a lake. This is Buddist tradition that represents compassion and invites good karma.
I’ve had a fabulous time going to some different workshops over the past month. My friend Brianna and I attended a macrame workshop at a little tea house in our area where I finally learned the art of large-scale macrame by making a plant hanger. I’ve taken to this craft immediately and completed two more since then.
We also attended a candle making workshop. We learned about scents and waxes and mixed our own signature fragrance into our own candles.
Brianna and I also peeled ourselves out of bed early one Saturday to attend a traditional Vietnamese Opera. It was quite the experience trying to guess the storylines and adapting to the music.
We have wheels! One of Kim’s dreams has been to have a motorbike of her own to zip around town on so about two weeks ago we made it happen! Our new bike we are just renting for now. Some people rent the entire time they live here to make it easier for maintenance and repairs. We don’t have a plan at this point but are happy to just have a little red bike to take around town. So everyone, please meet Rizzo! On our first weekend of having her, we took her out around our area and ended up finding Kim's favorite Vietnamese breakfast dish:
A big part of this month has been in setting up our house. Our apartment came furnished so we haven’t had to buy many big items thankfully. But it was a big day when we got night side tables and lamps for the bedroom. There are so many little things that go into moving into a new space and I’ve been trying to be conscientious about what we are buying. I want to love every item in our home. I was surprised to discover that it is a big online ordering culture here. But somethings you just need to see in person. I was delighted to stumble upon this basket store while we were out adventuring the other day. It had the *perfect* laundry baskets that I was looking for.
I also might be a little obsessed with buying plants. All the plants. And gorgeous pots to put them in. The plant nurseries here are just endless jungles of greens. It feels like when I was adventuring through the Ecuadorian rainforest.
Speaking of adventuring, we’ve had a lovely time of it. Here are some spots we found while wandering around District 1 (the heart of the city)
And this past weekend we went to District 5 (chinatown), where we had hand-pulled noodles and found Bead Land. It is a small alleyway overflowing with beads, jewelry making supplies, every kind of thread/yarn/string/rope imaginable, and so much more! I am certain I will be needing to return to this area
One evening we were lucky enough to go on a mini-street-food tour with one of my colleagues. We tried a few different local dishes. I’ve been so impressed with the vegetarian options here! There are so many local vegetarian and vegan restaurants! It’s nice to be able to have vegetarian versions of the local dishes as well as some tasty fusion ones.
We’ve had more lovely gatherings with lovely people. Newbies brunches, double date nights, and even High Tea.
We went to the movie theater the other weekend and ended up in a "love cinema" where all of the seats were actually full sized beds! 🙈😂 We were the only ones in the theater at the time, not sure how I'd feel about what others would be getting up to 😬😉Don't worry, the mattress was plastic and looked very clean.
In other news, Kim got a badly needed haircut.
A few last snaps from the last few weeks.
It’s funny how quickly we adapt to changes. I feel so settled into this new life already. Sure, there are many areas to still sort out (like my home art studio) but in so many ways it all feels normal now. I’m deeply missing my friends from Istanbul and my family and friends back home but I'm glad to have found some fabulous people here in Saigon who are amazing additions to my expat family.
I kicked off the weekend with my Annual Art Club Lock-In. Friday night 20 of my 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students joined me and two other chaperones for a night of art making and shenanigans. This event is truly the highlight of my teaching year, it allows me to connect with my most dedicated art students and celebrate what brings us together - ART! My youngest sister Autumn was able to join us for the night also!
Saturday Kim joined Josh and his other groomsmen to get fitted for their tuxes to wear at Amanda and Josh's wedding ceremony. After a LONG nap on Saturday (the Art Club kids stayed up until 5am and I peeled them out of bed at 7am for family breakfast) Kim and I joined our friends Nikki and Katrina for their first bonfire of the summer.
Sunday morning started with our (Kim's) famous tacos, breakfast style : ) We spent some time trying to track down answers for our many questions regarding getting the pets over to Burma. After being on hold for ever we finally got to talk to someone from Korean Air who told us that we in fact did not have to import the pets into Korea if we are only changing flights (as long as it is with the same carrier). WOOHOO! So we finally sent the itinerary to my school, I posted a screen shot below. It will be almost 30 hours in transit with only 4 of those being layovers. It is going to be a looooooooong journey that's for sure. To celebrate we got ourselves some FroYo from the new place in town : )
The warmer weather finally arrived on Monday when it got up to 85* out. To celebrate we had an impromptu swimming excursion with some of the family. Dad ran around and threw everyone in the water which was just warm enough to be comfortable. We ate pineapple, threw sticks for the dogs, and enjoyed thawing out after the brutal winter we have had.
The rest of the week for me involved staying very late to grade a couple nights as well as attending a retirement gathering for my principal, George Sincerbeaux. A great leader, I could not have asked for a more supportive administrator to work with for the past two years. He is going to be very missed by everyone at Rowe.
For Date Night this week we grabbed my little bro, Drew, and headed to a new Chinese food place in town. Set up with a buffet, we enjoyed tastes of a variety of our favorite oriental foods - including sushi!! We were very impressed with the quality and would defiantly return if the opportunity arose.
While Kim was busy catering an event at work I was able to FINALLY start packing!! Although I didn't make it very far I managed to turn the house into shambles in the process. I doubt very highly that we will have a clean house ever again before we move. Since about 90% of the items in the house are technically mine it is going to be a lot of work on my part to go through everything and decide what needs to be packed for storage, what can be given away, and what few items will be going with us.
We started thinking about what items we will be taking with us. We have decided not to ship anything over and just take what we can bring in suitcases on the plane with us. I have no idea how well this is going to work out but that is the plan right now. We have begun a packing list of items that we are going to bring with us. Right now it is no way complete but it is a start:
Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer in Maine (and I am sure many other states). For the long weekend we took to the woods for camping with Amanda, Josh, and Meg. We decided to stay close and went to a new campground in Turner called Martin Stream Campground. Arriving Friday night I could feel the stress leave my body as we pulled into our plot of land. Our tent cowered in size under the other tents as we squeezed our air mattress into it leaving only enough room for Ellie's bed, but of course it didn't matter. Nothing mattered, even the fact that we forgot to bring cooking tools and fashioned our own fork and spatula out of wood and tinfoil. I managed to start the fire all by myself one morning : ) We spent the weekend relaxing, drinking, kayaking, talking, and having a wonderful time.
On Monday we joined the family at my Dad's house for a BBQ. It's these little things that I know we are going to miss when we are in Burma.
Kim has been fighting a battle with eczema of the hands for over a decade now. Her hands flare up every couple months and when they do her palms become itchy, dry, peeling, and extreamly painful. On our way back into town on Monday we noticed that they were getting inflamed more than what normally happens during a break out. About a year ago she was hospitalized for a week from an infection that got into her hands and spread to her blood stream. With this in mind we decided it was best to head straight for the ER and it was a good thing we did. The doctor informed us that it was indeed infected and spreading up her arm again. They immediately put her on IV antibiotics and had her go back after 8 hours for another dose. She then spent Tuesday in a soft cast to help the inflammation go down. Although her hands are still broken out at this point, we are happy to report that there are no longer any signs of infection. Our hopes are that when we are in Burma she will be working with her hands less and will be able to give them time to rest and heal.
Wednesday afternoon, while Kim was getting her next round of immunizations, I joined some of my fellow teachers at farewell dinner for a retiring co-worker. It was a lovely afternoon with great people and a fantastic view to boot.
For Date Night Thursday, we picked up burritos from Guthries and ate in : )
Myanmar wise we have been scoring the internet for more information on traveling with our pets and finding the right itinerary to match. Hopefully we will have some progress on this next week because this is the last week of school for ISM and I'm sure people will be harder to get ahold of after they get out.
I did get an email from the HR officer I have been communicating with at ISM about the military coop that has recently occurred in Thailand. It reassured me knowing they are aware and on top of things of this nature. Here is the email:
Alisa & Kim
Two expats living, teaching, and eating their way across this beautiful world