Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Beaches, cows and windows

We took this picture at China Beach, the afternoon of Christmas. It was over 80 degrees that day! We did buy a couple Santa hats, but they didn't fit on our heads. An Australian family at the beach was kind enough to take our picture and let us borrow their 'non' (the triangle hat I'm wearing).

At the end of November the Vietnam team (of 19 people) had our fall retreat. We flew south to Ho Chi Minh City and got on a bus and drove the 5-7 hours to our hotel on the beach in Mui Ne. This picture was taken at one of our stops. I saw this cow out the window, so I got off the bus and jumped on.

Then I jumped off and kissed the cow while three of my teammates got on. Because, why not?

This is one of the windows in our bedroom. We don't have a dryer and until about a month ago, we only had about 15 feet of clothesline. So we used the bars on our windows to hang our things to dry.
As of yesterday, Facebook is being blocked in our location. Hopefully some smart computer person can figure out what numbers we need to punch into our computer to get past it. When we first got here, we couldn't get on either until we inputted a bunch of numbers.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Last time it happened it was June

I got my semi-annual haircut today.

For 160,000VND I got:
hair wash: 50,000 (or $2.50)
hair cut: 70,000 (or $3.50)
hair dried and styled: 40,000 (or $2.00)Here's a web cam shot of it. I put it up in a barrett.

I felt like royalty when I had two people blow drying my hair at the same time.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's true, it a big deal

by Karissa

Last night Eric and I attended the Christmas eve service of two of our students. More on that later (it was amazing!) Before the service, while we were sitting in the pew my student's mom chose for us (third from the front), two other girls, sisters, moved to the pew behind us to talk with us.

The older sister introduced herself and said she was studying Chinese in university. Then she introduced her younger sister, saying she's in high school and has a sponsor, Mrs (German name) from Germany. She went on to explain that there are four girls in her family (which is large for Vietnam) and just their mother (dad no longer in the picture, don't know why). Her mom was sitting beside them and is somewhat disabled. She can see, but only has one eye.

I about fell off the pew when in her very initial introductions of her sister she told me that her sister had a sponsor. I have been sponsoring children through compassion for the last seven years and at this point have two girls, Angeline and Tidde. While we were growing up we had five Compassion kids: Alice, Thomas, Laxmi, Sini Joy and Dadeline (and if you asked any of my siblings the names of our Compassion kids they would all know as we pr*yed for them all the time). I think Dad and Shirley are still sponsoring a couple that haven't graduated out of the program yet. I've even volunteered for Compassion. And yet, while I would say I'm very familiar with Compassion and the work they do, I never REALLY saw it from the perspective of a sponsored child until last night.

I guess I felt it was somewhat of a private thing for the child, or maybe even an embarrassing thing, to have a sponsor. But last night, when the older sister said it with joy and even pride, those thoughts disappeared. It's a really big deal to have a sponsor.

I'm going to post this and then write a letter to each of my sponsored girls.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Coffee and tea and clothes alterations

by Karissa

This morning I finally made it to a tailor in my city. Nicky, a fellow teacher with ESI, brought me to Mr. Loi's shop. And he's all he's cracked up to be. At about 60 years old, he has 30 years of tailor-ing experience and excellent English.

Before that? He studied engineering and technology in Southern Vietnam and worked with gas and oil on ships in the ocean. He worked with Norwegians, so when the Russians came in with their oil/gas company, sometime in the late 70s, he had to find a new job because the engineering position didn't pay well (I didn't catch all the details). The man he was living with was a tailor and taught him the art.

Mr. Loi moved up to Da Nang (our city) later and is probably the most popular tailor for the foreigners (we Americans, Australians, Koreans, French, Brits, Canadians, Germans, Hungarians, etc). He's also very popular with the locals. The biggest holiday in Vietnam is the lunar new year, called Tet, and this year it's February 3rd. The tradition is to get new clothes made for Tet. He's very busy right now!

We stopped by his shop and before I even showed him the clothes I wanted him to allter, we talked for a while and his wife even ordered coffee for us from a nearby coffee shop. She walked over to the coffee shop, ordered and came back. A few minutes later, someone from the coffee shop walked over with a tray of our coffee drinks (cafe sua for me, bat sui for Nicky) and tea for everyone. We were there for over an hour and the 'tailoring' part of it took less than five minutes. I didn't even put on the clothes I brought. He just measured me and then marked on my clothes.

I plan to get some clothes made here--first up? Sweat pants!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Last night Eric and I went to the food court at the local mall for supper. I think it's the only mall and only food court (American style--sort of) in our city. We enjoyed bacon/mushroom/green pepper Risotto from Mr. Pizza and then visited our friends who live on the 13th floor of the building. Their daughter just turned 8 and they had a lot of cake left over. :)

We got home around 11:30pm or so. We walked into the bedroom and I heard really soft music. Now, hearing music while we're at home is very normal. We have hundreds of neighbors within earshot (I promise I'm not exaggerating, our house shares walls with three houses and just one of those houses has at least 8 people living in it) and we certainly hear their karaoke most mornings and evenings. But the music I heard was classical and really quiet and it sounded like it was coming from in our room.

I put my ear to my computer but the music had stopped... then it started again. It was coming from my computer. I had a few windows open: yahoo mail, Facebook, and skype. I could affect the volume by my volume controls. One by one I closed each window and the music kept playing. Finally all the windows were closed and the music kept playing. I opened iTunes, it didn't show anything playing, closed iTunes and the music kept playing.

Finally, I restarted my computer. When it came back on, the music had stopped.


Any ideas as to what happened?

Monday, December 13, 2010

by Karissa

Thanksgiving isn't celebrated as a holiday in Vietnam, or in most countries for that matter. But holidays, traditions and culture don't leave the American living abroad and so we joined with several Americans (and other foreigners) and celebrated Thanksgiving...

by playing touch football on the beach.

I designated myself as photographer.

Eric would like you to know that no one was injured...

And that his team won.

After quick showers at home to remove much acquired sand, we gathered at a Kentucky family's home for Thanksgiving dinner.

Here we are clapping for the many hours (days!) of work that went into planning, setting up, cooking, preparing, etc.


Here are some of the dedicated chefs and helpers.

Pre-dinner hungriness.

There were 33 people in attendance and 3 cooked turkeys. Oven size and numbers are very limited and the local Costco type store was asked to cook the turkeys for the second year. They said yes, again. It was wonderful to have turkey on Thanksgiving day!

Here is the buffet of Thanksgiving yummers. It was fantastic and had a bit of southern flavour, including a broccoli/egg dish. My favourite food item was the corn casserole. I'm going out on a limb and saying Eric's favourite part was the turkey. :)

Thursday, December 9, 2010


by Karissa

We skyped with my California brother's family a few days ago. We met their baby when he was four days old. Now he's almost 5 months old!

Their two and a half year old son told us some of the animals they saw at the San Diego zoo.

Here he is acting out an elephant.

Here is he telling us how many animals he saw.

Derrick swears they saw more than five.

Derrick asked him to show us his muscles.

And then pulled his shirt sleeve up and said, really they're tickle muscles.

Here I'm (Karissa) dancing.

And this his reaction to my moves.
You didn't really think I'd put pictures of me dancing online a second time, did you?

I've been giving out the link to our wedding dance to the staff at AVIEC, the English center where we teach. They love it! My boss said to me yesterday while she was at her desk and I was photocopying: "Karissa, I smile when I think of your wedding dance."

Have you seen our wedding dance yet?

In other noteworthy news:
A conversation Eric & I had last night:

Eric: Karissa, who are you calling on skype?
Karissa: What? Are you serious?
Eric: Yeah, who are you calling on skype? I heard the sound skype makes when you're video calling someone.
Karissa: That was my stomach!

I guess I'm not completely used to the food, yet.

This is one of our favourite, regular dishes. French fries? Not this time (though we eat those on occasion when we bring our own salt). This is fried squid, eaten with mayo and hot sauce. The tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce? A very typical edible garnish.

Here we're eating at a restaurant/bar near the hotel we lived in the first month. We're rolling pieces of meat (spicy beef) into the lettuce leaves and then dipping in a celery and salt mix. It's one of our favourite things to eat!