Sunday, April 22, 2012


There is always something interesting happening. Here are some snippets from the last couple of weeks...

Xuân and I went to visit the ladies down the lane as arranged (or so we thought...) and it turns out they had forgotten. (Xuân says that is not unusual!), but we were welcomed warmly and ended up at Lan's place. They had celebrated her daughter's engagement the day before with about a hundred people at the house, and there were piles of bride gifts... cakes, tea, beer etc everywhere, and gorgeous flowers. I got to hold her grandson for a bit... SO adorable...

Thang came over from across the lane ... this is her with the baby...

Then we sat down at the kitchen table and enjoyed the family lunch with Lan and her daughters.

You can see some of the gorgeous flowers behind Lan. They finished up lunch with tea, fresh fruit and 'wedding cake'... and gave me some to take home!

This photo is looking out the front door. You can see the girls preparing vegetables there. Whereas in Australia, all our food preparation is done inside in the kitchen, here in Viet Nam, all the mundane tasks like preparing the vegetables is done on the front doorstep, so there is a wonderful sense of community.
These are the two different cakes Lan gave me ... Moon cake at the back (scrumptious) and 'couples cake', which is a bit like a sticky mango jelly with bean curd inside... also very tasty. I shared it with Xuân, Khánh and Quỳnh when they came over for an IELTS lesson that night.

IELTS or International English Language Testing Service is an internationally recognised level of attainment in English and it's not easy to get a high score. A couple of nights a week Khánh picks me up after work and they come over for a lesson... it's pretty late - we finish at 11pm! I don't know many Aussies who would be keen enough to have a lesson at that hour!

Will has a new puppy. Since he's from Ireland, not Australia, he'll be able to take her with him when he goes.

How cute is she!

The other morning after our Vietnamese class, Khánh introduced us to a different vegetarian restaurant. The food was excellent and only 20,000d each ($1)

Sometimes it can be rather trying sharing house...

Speaking of places to live, last week Khánh and I went to visit Andrea, one of the Wednesday Texas-BarBQ ladies in her apartment on the 17th floor of the Parkson building.  As you can see, it is ultra modern and very comfortable...

with a fabulous view as well.  Andrea is Chilean and her husband, Reinhard, is German, and she had offered to help Khánh out by practicing speaking German with him. They talked about this and that and again I was reminded how much easier it would be for me to learn German than it is to learn Vietnamese. I can still recognise words and phrases from 45 years ago when I was at school!

Andrea's hobby is tapestry, and she has these gorgeous alpaca wool tapestry rugs on the floor that she has made (or is making). Reinhard came home from work before we left. He is here working at the Siemens factory and they should be here till the end of the year. His German is of course natural, so he kindly has arranged to get together with Khánh every couple of weeks for some conversation practice.

With the canteen at VAIE not doing meals while Bich is away, it has been a bit of a hassle getting dinner. The other day, Emma and I walked down the road to find somewhere convenient and ended up at this wonderful little restaurant selling bánh đa cua , a Hải Phòng specialty...

Now that is every bit as delicious as it looks. Emma reckons she could live off this one dish every day for the rest of her life...!  At 20,000d and just around the corner from school, we will definitely be eating there on a regular basis!

On Saturday, the day before the big picnic, Tinh came to Hải Phòng to attend his graduation ceremony. He came to visit me between classes and we ducked out for Bún Chả.  I'm so sorry I didn't grab my camera and take his picture before we left the house, because he looked so mature and handsome... a man of the world, no longer a student. But we were rushing because I had a class to teach in 40 minutes... and the photos I took simply do not do him justice. Nevertheless, here we are having Bún Chả.  He's holding his Engineering Degree (Ship Building). His friend Xuân joined us

Mm-mm-mm  Bún Chả!

This very friendly man is a carpenter. He works every day in the small space in front of his house and always gives me a cheery wave when I walk past as I walk down the alley. He made me a new little wooden ramp (for wheeling the bikes in through the front door) - the one we had was all rotten and falling to bits. Xuân and I took the mungy old one to show him and within a few hours he'd made a new one and it cost me $2.50.  Now we're old mates.

My dear friend Helle is moving to China next week, so I joined her for a trip to Hanoi one more time. She had to go to the vet's to get certificates for her cats (Russian Van) so she can take them with her. She has an ipad, and it was pretty amazing to see how incredibly easy it is to communicate these days... emailing documents from here to China for processing while we were driving to the restaurant!  We went to Helle's favourite Italian restaurant, Luna D'autunno.

She ordered her usual margherita pizza and I thought I'd try the pesto gnochi.
My Mum taught me 'If you can't say nothin nice about nobody, don't say nothin at all', so applying that principle I will only say that I didn't finish it and I won't order it again.

But to finish on a positive food note, this is my dinner from last night at Meagan's... rice, tofu with tomatoes and meat and morning glory. I polished this lot off no worries! (and it cost only 15,000dong!!!)

Ah, Việt Nam!

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