Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A picture for Erica P

by Karissa

back row: Mary, Lisa
front row: (starting in yellow) Jessica, Allison, Peter, Kevin

This is a beginner class I had earlier this year. Charmers, they were. I had a lot of fun with them. Their English level is so low that I did a lot of acting and dancing to explain things. I should be really, really good at any kind of charades after this year of almost daily practice.

Pardon me for not remembering all their names. I've had a lot of students this year. Courses are 12 weeks long, at the longest, and I usually have about 8 classes of different students each week.

I'm always starting and finishing classes. There are no semesters. Classes just start whenever another one ends.

Oh, and students join the class whenever. We've had several times that students join only two weeks for the tests. We still don't understand completely. Yes, they want to practice their English (and don't want to wait until a new class starts--besides another school might have a class starting sooner). But my question is: how much do they pay?

Erica P, yes, this picture is for you. Thanks for posting the 'lovely' picture of me on your blog :D

Monday, May 23, 2011

A literal translation

We used to order this. It was called 'lam rau' or something like that. Basically, it means 'five vegetables. On the far left you have okra. On the far right you have carrots. So far so good. At the 'bottom' of the plate is a sort of sweet potato (yellow) and the lighter color vegetable is a regular potato. Dip these vegetables in fish oil (yes, fish oil) and you're good to go.

What about vegetable number 'lam'?

It is quite possibly the worst thing we have eaten in Vietnam. And we've had some crazy things (cow tail, pig stomach, congealed blood, lots of sushi, seafood, etc).

Kho qua.

Pronounced: coe kwah

I mean, it even looks terrible. Reminds me of King Nezzy from Veggie Tales. (Nezzy? The one from Daniel and the Bunny).

They can make it look not so terrible. Here it almost looks like little flowers.

It is a terrible tasting vegetable. It's worse than eating a banana peel. But, if you eat a banana peel, you're on your way to experiencing kho qua.

It's bitter. It sucks the moisture from you mouth. It has a lasting taste. It gives you terrible facial expressions.

Kho qua is translated as 'bitter melon'.

I said we used to order this. We really like the other vegetables on the plate, especially dipped in the fish oil (yup, fish oil). We learned the name of the horrible vegetable and the word for 'no'. So the next time we were at the restaurant, we ordered: "lam rau, khong kho qua" (five vegetables, no bitter melon)

Oh, should life be so easy!

We got double kho qua and they skipped the yummy, sweet potato.

Never again.

If you ever get the chance to try kho qua, don't. Or do, but make sure someone is there to take your picture. And show me the picture.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Eating Out

A first for me today. And a probably 7th or so. But I haven't blogged about either of them, so the stories will probably both be firsts for you.

Song and I had lunch today at a vegetarian restaurant. I'm guessing they're quite busy on the 1st, 2nd, 14th and 15th of each lunar month. That's when the Buddhist's "fast", meaning, they don't eat meat.

Today was none of those days.

But it was incredibly hot today. I think it hit 99, which means the 'feel like' temperature is much hotter. We've all but quit running.

Well, Eric has an injured tailbone. He's not doing much walking or evening sitting for that matter. He lays down and he stands up.

Back to the hot, vegetarian restaurant. This was Song's 5th time there so she knew a little about the place, including that there are three floors of tables. So, she asked in English if we could eat up there. We could. She wanted that floor because it's enclosed and has a/c.

The room didn't look like it's used much, but it did have tables and chairs. Our host closed the balcony doors and turned on the a/c with her remote and turned on a fan. Easy does it.

Song ordered for us. She always does as she knows what's good and she's paying (we swap lunch for piano lessons). We had seaweed soup, fried tofu, a mushroom and Chinese kale thing and deep friend (sweet) spring rolls. With rice, of course.

When we got our bill, there was an extra item on the receipt. Song recounted our dishes and looked over the receipt again. Now, if the receipt had been in English, this would have been easy.

Because we would have noticed: Air conditioning: 15,000VND

That's right. We paid for the comfort of air conditioning.

We went on our merry way. Me, merry because I didn't have to pay for something which I thought was incredibly ridiculous. Are they even thinking about repeat guests? And Song, because she had heard about a/c charges before and she's just so laid back.

Tonight, after Eric's class ended at 8:45pm, we were looking for some comfort food. Eric's tailbone isn't feeling any better yet and American food is, well, comforting. So we went to the only American chain restaurant in our city of a million people: KFC.

I ordered my usual. Two Caesar Go-Go's and a salad. Eric ordered a Zinger-a spicy chicken burger.

Sorry, no chicken, shrimp burger?
Ha, no thanks.
No chicken?
Yes. (this means no)
We'll wait the seven minutes.
No chicken.
Okay. Uhm. I'll have 5 chicken strips.
Yes. (this means yes)

We get our food and since we got it 'take away' I double checked the bag (I've worked fast food enough and eaten enough fast food to just check).

Three chicken strips.

Excuse me. We ordered five chicken strips, but there's only three.
We only have three.
So you changed my order without telling me? Can I see my receipt?

We left with three chicken strips and without a 'comforting' experience at our local KFC.

It still boggles my mind that you can go to KFC and they won't have chicken. We've had this... oh, probably 5 out of the 10 times we've gone to a KFC this year.

We left KFC and went to what we call 'the factory'. It's a foodstall that cranks out sandwiches on baguettes in about a minute and there are about 5 or 6 people in an assembly line. We love them. Sandwiches are 13,000 each and are really tasty.

Oh Vietnam.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

He's okay but hurting

Eric's doing alright and healing, but he's banged up and has a sore tailbone, side and back (along with the scrapes and bruises). He was able to find one or two 'comfortable' positions, so he went back and forth between those through the night.

As his faithful nurse, I slept through the whole night.

After he got hit and fell over, he still had about 40 minutes of driving to get back home. That can't be good for open road rash.

He was t-boned by another motorbike, which ripped through his khaki shorts. The motorbike had a basket, so he's got some hashmark bruises and scrapes on his thigh.

That area and his tailbone hurt the most. He's moving pretty slowly.

I've always understood why we need male nurses. Now I've experienced it. If Eric needs help sitting up, I help, and it works, but he's still doing most of the work.

We don't have any bandages, anti-septic cream, guaze, etc, but Eric remembered that our friend Jeremiah has a First Aid kit. I texted him and within a few minutes he had left what he was doing, went home, picked up the kit and brought it to our house. Thanks Jer-dawg!

What happened? Eric went to turn left and the other motorbike tried to pass him on the left. He got it in the thigh.

I haven't really looked at the motorbike. Once Eric got home he went upstairs to his bed and we cleaned out his scrapes (not sure what other word to use). He didn't really lose blood. No wounds that need stitches. It's the injury that scrapes off the first few layers of skin, so there's easily dirt and stuff just in there.

Yuck. I'm grossing myself out. But we got him cleaned up as best we could.

Back to the motorbike. We've always planned to sell it at the end of the year, and still will, but it's gone down in resale value now. And that's not fun.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Rat 2.0

We thought we got rid of our rat once and for all.

But yesterday evening I saw that a zip lock bag with a small baguette (very common here--French influence) had been torn open and a large chunk was missing.

"Eric... come see..."

We were leaving the next day for a few days so we decided to completely close up the house for the night and see if we found poop the next day. If yes, we have a rat in the house. If not, no and we'll keep the house "sealed" for our trip.

We woke up to no poop. Well, except for in a bowl that was hanging on the wall. Weird. Gross. So I cleaned my pear in a cereal bowl instead. We have to soak our produce in water mixed with "Veggie" (an acidic liquid) so it's safe to eat.

I know it's really, really gross to have a rat and/or rat poop in your house and to know it's been running on your counter and kitchen table. It is gross. We've had a few huge spiders, 6 cockroaches (well under the average) and several geckos. Yeah, it's gross. And we just kind of deal with it and move on. You gotta do what you gotta do.

If we were in the states and the same thing(s) happened, yeah, we'd deal with things differently.


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Eric took up drumming in the past four months or so. He's good, especially for a beginner. I love listening to him practice (drums or guitar). He's drummed at DIF (Da Nang International Fellowship) a few times and it adds so much to the w+rship team. He's also led w+rship several times. I've either sung or played piano while he leads.

We really like our small fellowship. On any given Sunday there are around 40-55 people. There is Sunday School for the kids and that usually has about 8-10 kids. Vietnamese people are not allowed to attend our fellowship unless they are married to a foreigner. There are three couples that have that situations that come to DIF sometimes. They also have Vietnamese church options. :)

Usually there are short term volunteers with some organization so we're always meeting new people. And people who are longer term (3 months, 6 months, 9 months) are coming and going and the long termers of course are coming and going on home service or even out to the country side for something for the week or weekend. We represent several countries and nationalities: American, Canadian, Australian, French, Filipino, South Korean and English are the ones that come to mind.

We've been so blessed by the probably 10 or so different people who have preached throughout our 10 months here. Every week, with different styles, we hear truth. We're encouraged, we're challenged, we're sent out to love and to serve.

Our year has been challenging for us and our ch+rch has been such a source of encouragement, friendship and truth. Our Sundays are busy and tiring (almost every week we're serving in some way), but we really are refreshed by this body of Chr+st in our lives right now.

We're going to miss this fellowship and the blessings of the small, revolving door community that it is. I've said before in a newletter or pr+yer letter, I love the revolving door. It creates an atmosphere of inclusion. We know people will probably only be here for a short time so the first week they are here they are invited to lunch and cell phone numbers are shared. Often within a few weeks they are serving in some capacity. There are lots of going away parties (and birthday parties). I love welcoming people on their first Sunday. We actually have a role at DIF called "host" who opens each service and welcome visitors from the 'pulpit'. I love being the host and then talking with the people afterwards. I feel like DIF is totally 'my turf' and I want others to feel that way about DIF as soon as possible.

I'm really excited to see where this leads Eric and me as we return to the states.

Just in case you're wondering: we don't know where we'll move to so of course we have no idea what ch+rch we'll join. We do have a return date: Tuesday, June 14th. More on that later.