Thursday, June 23, 2011

Typhoon predicted

THURSDAY 23rd June

There's no end to the excitement! Today began with a xe-om ride to the big market to meet Lina who bargained for me as I bought fabric for four new tops... 8 metres for $24. Next stop was her tailor's place for measuring etc. They'll be ready next week. After that we went to Big C and had KFC for lunch!... Vietnamese KFC... a piece of original finger-licken-good chicken with a cup of rice and 3 slices of cucumber. I hadn't been grocery shopping for a couple of weeks, so it was good to do some shopping for essentials.
Turns out this week Big C are celebrating their 20th birthday, so we were given tickets in an instant prize draw.. and I had a winning ticket. Lina and I were stoked and busting to find out what I'd won... wait for it... I won 30,000D i.e. $1.50!!  and it took the girls ages to work out how to give me my prize. After 10-15 minutes I was ready to forget it, but they came good with the cash :)

I eventually got home about 2-ish wringing wet with sweat to find out when I went to have a shower that the reason the washing machine didn't finish the cycle this morning wasn't because it had broken down again after all. It was because I hadn't turned the pump on this week and the water tank had run dry. Dumb as.
Anyhow, Mr Cuong picked me up at 3 as usual, and I continued getting lessons ready as usual. There was a weather alert that a typhoon was headed our way and it weather was very oppressive. Hot and humid even more than usual. The teenagers were all arriving at about 5 when the rain started. It bucketed down and there was plenty of lightning and high winds.  At this stage, most of the kids were still upstairs in the classrooms waiting for their lessons to start and we had the foyer to ourselves.
Nicholas, Sun, Ian and Linh
I shot a video from inside the reception area just as we had a blackout.

Frank, Linh, Ian, Loyal and Ann

There was much excitement as the storm raged and we all watched through the big glass doors.

After a while and it wasn't looking like letting up, classes were cancelled for the evening and we sat around waiting for the rain to ease so we could go home.
Everyone was very light hearted about it all... except for poor old Frank - he got caught in the storm coming to work and his pants were saturated and his shoes and socks, too. So he was paddling around barefoot with wet trousers flapping around his legs.

As for me, I was thrilled to be getting an evening off.. and not only that, the classes that Sun and Frank would have taught tonight are now the lessons that I will have to teach on Saturday night, so they gave me their worksheets etc for those lessons... woowoo... less preparation work for me!
After about an hour, the power came back on, and it eased up enough to make a run for home. Ian gave me a ride on his motorbike. The gutters were overflowing.. it was strange to see neat little piles of lychees like pyramid islands abandoned by the roadside. There was flash flooding everywhere and we had to go the long way home. Even then we rode through several patches of water 20cm deep. I am so grateful I didn't have to walk home... I would have been wading most of the way.

So I was home and dry by 6:30, the power was on, and the fridge full of fresh food! What a blessing. So I had a chat to Katie on skype and here's my blog and I even managed to upload the videos!

They wouldn't take 'No' for an answer...


There's a very popular hot-pot restaurant on Van Cau that spills out onto the footpath and now flows into the building next door most nights. There are a bunch of very cheerful, friendly young people working there, and for the last few months they've always called out 'Hello!' every time I walk past, but I've never stopped for a chat or a meal. Anyway, today after eating at Texas BarBQ with the Wednesday ladies, I was heading home and went to walk past, saying hello as usual. Several of the young waiters were eating their lunch at a table on the footpath, and they wanted me to sit down and join them. I started to say no thank you, trying to explain that I had already eaten, but they insisted, and one young man jumped up and pulled out a chair for me. So what could I do?

I sat down and they passed me a little bowl of rice and a stir-fry with bean sprouts and pork and vegies and opened up a new set of chopsticks, and I had some. We laughed a lot and managed to communicate names and some basic details, like I teach English... not much else... Several of them came over to introduce themselves and say hello.  So I got out my camera and they loved being photographed...
Huong, Diep and Diem
As soon as the camera came out, the shennanigans began (that's my hat...)

Huong is a typical Vietnamese girl... they are all shapely and quite gorgeous.

And the boys are garrolous and charming as well as good looking!

After saying goodbye, I headed for home. The cafe at the end of my lane has been completely re-built over the last 6 weeks, and opened for business today. So I took a photo to show all the floral tributes sent by well-wishers.
It used to be E.T. Cafe, and now it has been re-established as A.T.Cafe.

Once again, the people in the 'kitchen' outside the restaurant on the left saw me with my camera out, so they posed for a photo too...

So even though it was so hot I was dripping, the walk home is always cheerful!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Just dropped down to the market round the corner...

TUESDAY 21st June

Three blogs in three days!! Oh my goodness!  I went for a walk early this morning down to the market not far from home. It's in the opposite direction to school, so the only other time I've been there was with Lina the morning she gave us a cooking lesson. Anyway, I always have my camera with me, and when I saw these ducks I couldn't resist taking a photo...
I can count seven.... On the left under the blue umbrella is the girl I bought bread from and the man on the right tried to rip me off on the watermelon... he wanted 30,000D a kilo ($1.50), so I bought some from another vendor for 6,000D.
This delightful lass sold me three loaves of bread, even though I only asked for two - just as well I have an empty freezer! I bought a cob of corn, and a couple of sweet little pineapples from the lady next to her.

I bought a handful of scallions from this man for 10 cents.

I walked back through the bustle and also bought tomatoes (50 cents a kilo) and a cucumber (1 cent)

Now if I just had Seamen's recipe, I could cook up these scuttling little crabs...
 they're fresh - still very much alive, in fact!

Fascinating as a simple shopping expedition is in Hai Phong, something much more thrilling happened this morning. I was reading the book of Numbers and I came across this passage, which I've read and prayed countless times before, but this morning I saw it in a whole new light!

The Blessing    Numbers 6:23 - 27
The LORD said to Moses,  “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to them:
The LORD bless you and keep you;
The LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
The LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

So they will put My Name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.'

Now, here's the revelation... As believers, we (the priests) are called to bless the children (the Israelites)... I already got that... but did you ever really look at the last verse? In praying that blessing over our children we put the Lord's Name on them and the awesome promise that follows is that He will bless them!!! With God's name on them, they are covered. He marks them as His children and all that that entails. Regardless of earthly circumstances, The Name of the Lord is on them, and the blessings will follow.  Isn't that just HUGE!!! ... makes me go all goose-bumpy just thinking about it.  

Monday, June 20, 2011

Crocodile, anyone?... No? Then how about cake?...

MONDAY 20th June

This morning Helle and Andes picked me up at 8am and we went across Hai Phong to visit 283 Crocodile Farm...
This is the entrance, and the company car that we came in.  It has beautiful gardens everywhere, and must look amazing when the orchids are all in bloom.


Here's Andes under a pomelo (grapefruit) tree.

This fruit is durian (the very smelly one)... these are too immature to smell yet.

I don't know what these are, but they are hard and shny, like a gourd.

Everywhere you look, there's something interesting... even a few orchids

And of course, plenty of crocodiles... they have 4,000 “xiem” crocodiles (a species called Siamensis from Thailand) as well as a restaurant, Nam Phuong Queen which serves dishes of crocodile meat. There’s also a small workshop making items (wallets, belts, etc.) out of crocodile leather
This young one was about 2.5 metres long.

There was only one really big croc there, but I didn't get to see him, because he was submerged. The breeding females were all about 3 metres long and were set apart with lots of tropical forest where they could make nests for laying their eggs. (I tried to photograph them, but my camera kept auto focussing on the wire fence...  I must find out how to bypass that feature.)

These Pacific Black Ducks might have been swimming on our dam last year... they should have stayed there...
After we went through the crocodile farm, we headed into the restaurant so we could sample crocodile meat. At the door was a display of wine jars featuring a disturbing variety of creatures believed to have a beneficial effect on humans...
These two are snake wine and spotted deer wine

bear and monitor lizard

Would you believe ... ostrich...!

I think this one contains the genitalia of a male spotted deer

So, anyway, on to the crocodile meat... this stir fry was delicious. A little chewy but a pleasant flavour
and this kebab was chargrilled crocodile meat and onion. I would happily eat crocodile meat again. It isn't a particularly strong flavour, and the texture is like any other meat.

Above the restaurant was a small museum displaying pottery and other artefacts
The sign says these pots date back to the 1st  - 2nd centuries!

The potter who misfired these bowls wasn't as good a craftsman as the metalsmith who made the crocodile and the cooking pots!

Apparently the skull is a fossilised rhinocerus

This is all memorabilia from the French colonial era

After the Museum, we checked out the gift shop with crocodile skin products.
Gorgeous handbags.. out of my league at $200-$300

Stuffed crocodile, anyone?  No? Well how about these furry little fellas...
Protected native fauna did I hear you say?... too late, they're already stuffed.

I can understand why Helle always takes visitors here, it's a very interesting place, with much to look at. Apparently if you're here when the babies are hatching, they'll even let you hold the egg as they emerge. Wouldn't that be a thrilling experience? 

On the way home, we stopped off at a tailor to pick up some shorts Helle had ordered last week. The tailor is an old man and his work is beautiful. I was so impressed with Helle's new shorts, I ordered some new pants for myself so I can throw away the monstrosities I had made when I arrived here. I had a very pleasant surprise when he was measuring me... I've lost more that 15 cm around my hips... Yeaaaaa... They'll be ready next week.

Then we stopped off at a cake shop. Helle bought 2 cakes to take to her husband's work this afternoon for a treat...
This one...
and this one... The cakes are sponge, iced with mock cream. The roses are white chocolate, and the chocolate is real and delicious. I know, because I lashed out, spent $1 and bought a little one for myself...
Waddayarekun... cute, eh? 

I bought some fruit, too...
Lychees, mangosteens, apples, and some bean-filled do-nutty bun things.

So after all that excitement, I got home and it was only 10:30am!  Needless to say, I put on the jug and made a cuppa and had a couple of the donutty things. I had to wait till 12:30 my time for Jordan to get home from school so she and Bailey could see my little cake before I tried it... Very rich! It will last a couple of days in the fridge. Then after my little indulgence, Mr Cuong phoned to say he is busy, so I'll have to walk to school this afternoon after all. Probably just as well.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Buffet at Seamen No2

SUNDAY 19th June

This evening the teaching staff from VAIE all went to the other Seamen Restaurant in the centre of the city to celebrate several birthdays, including mine, Nicholas' and the director, Mr Hung (Mountain), as well as the arrival of Ian (from Australia), Gene and the four new Teaching Assistants - Loyal, Harvey, Lillie and Snowy.

We enjoyed another feast of delicious food.. not just seafood this time...
The restaurant is down a laneway... this is Gene and her daughter Becki 'looking glamorous' for the picture.  I'll show you the general photos first, then the many food photos for the enthusiasts (so you know if you are over looking at food photos, you won't be missing anything if you don't see them all!...)
this is all of us
and here's the restaurant

These are my first two platefulls:

That's Duck Soup in the little bowl on the right

So now it's just photo after photo of some of the food on offer...

pork...                     and crabs...

this is a duck soup

These sea snails on the left were stuffed with a delicious mixture of snail and other ingredients, then stuffed back into the shells with a piece of lemon grass behind the stuffing so you could easily pull it out...

How cool is this carved pumpkin??

and of course, there's always dessert...

And that about does it.  Amazing that you see so few overweight Vietnamese people when they cook such delicious food.  I have decided it's because their normal daily diet always consists of fresh food... nothing pre-packaged full of artificial flavours and colours... lots of rice and vegetables, and only small quantities of meat - seafood is eaten much more often than meat. And of course, what we ate tonight is reserved for celebrations, it's certainly not normal fare for us locals!