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Posted by on Jul 27, 2014 in Vietnam | 1 comment

Getting acclimated –

Life is always an adventure and my trip to Viet Nam was no disappointment.  The night before I left, Seattle was hit by thunderstorms.  It sounded great and made for some awesome sleeping weather, but unfortunately the storms didn’t clear up in time for my flight and my first flight was delayed long enough to make me miss my connection to Tokyo.  Alaska Airlines came to the rescue and put me on a flight to LA, then Hong Kong and finally arriving in Hanoi 12 hours after my original flight was due to arrive.
It was great to be back in Viet Nam.  I wish I had taken video of our taxi ride from the airport to the hotel. It is indescribable, you have to experience it yourself.  The good thing is everyone looks out for everyone else – it doesn’t always seem like it as they are passing on the shoulder, driving with two cars in one lane and narrowly missing trucks and motorcycles as they squeeze through to get to their destination.  I don’t see road rage or accidents. I am sure they happen, but it doesn’t seem like it happens very often. The video below is from a much tamer ride from the Hanoi to Hai Phong.
Hanoi has grown since my last visit in 2007. It is much busier and more sophisticated than before.  The people are still very friendly and school children love to practice their English on us calling out “Hello” as we walk by.
We went out to a place for lunch that I remembered going to with Christina and Maggie many years ago. But it was hot and by the time we checked into our awesome suite at the Melia Hotel, I was a sweaty, stinking mess. My husband on the other hand seemed quite cool and collected. After a short nap we walked to Hoan Kiem Lake and had dinner on a roof top restaurant.  Made it back to the hotel and slept great from about 11pm to 7am.
The following day about an hour before our driver was to pick us for the drive to Hai Phong, the wind came up and the rain came down hard.  The rain stopped just as we were having the bags loaded into the van. It was pretty clear most of the way until we got to our home and another downpour showered us as we unloaded my many bags and boxes.  A group of boys were playing soccer out on the street when we arrived and I saw one of them lay down in the street which was quickly filling with water as the rain came down hard. He laughed, jumped up, shook himself off and went on with the game.
Our home is a four story “villa” located near one of the many rivers in Hai Phong and down a couple of buildings from a Karaoke bar. There are empty lots (very narrow) on each side of us but a house behind us.  Even though our home is 4 stories, the other houses on our street rise way above ours.  I hope I get to meet some of our neighbors and see the insides of their homes at some point. Can’t imagine what they do with all the room. I think I will have to study my Vietnamese a little bit first.
It is hot, hot, hot here.  John said it took him about 3 weeks to feel acclimated.  I am trying my best to get outside as often as possible and walk.  Today’s walk was a little too much during the heat of the day. We headed home after lunch for a siesta and will try again this evening.
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Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 in Vietnam | 0 comments

COUNTDOWN (T minus 96 and counting)

And so the countdown continues as we are now only 4 days away from (Typhoon) Dawn’s arrival in Hanoi… finally! This will be such a game changer in the best of ways. So looking forward to Thursday and heading to Hanoi for meetings and then picking up Dawn at the airport Thursday night!

So in the last 3 weeks work continues to progress, albeit slowly. I’ve had to learn a lot more patience and the necessity to hurry up and slooooooow way down. But progress nonetheless. Waiting for one more local government agreement to be signed off on before I can sign a lease on an office and hire on my assistant, so 

As far as missing home and family; so difficult at times. I miss the states, I miss Seattle; and I miss my family so damn much. And the kids have their own lives now and its hard to connect as often as I would like. I miss them so much and yes I miss Bubba, more than I thought I would, damn. And yes the food.. this place is Mexican food barren. But they do have decent barbeque and okay pizza and you can find burgers and fries but none of that is quite the same as back home. On the other hand, plenty of their own delicious food; still discovering wonderful dishes and great restaurants. And yes I do miss a few of my favorites TV shows that so far I can’t figure out how to get streamed. Gotta figure that out. But we do get HBO and Cinemax (about a year behind in programming), FOX Sports and then there’s BBC and CNN. Oh and some Premier League Futbol and some cartoons (Tom and Jerry are big here) as well.

Some highlights of the last couple of weeks…

I was fortunate enough to spend some time with my Kids Without Borders colleagues and friends Son and Judy Pham and their humanitarian group from Seattle. An amazing dinner in Hanoi and a wonderful morning with the group and our kids at the Hoa Phoung orphanage here in Hanoi. A truly humbling experience that makes you appreciate what you have and at the same time feel guilty for not giving back more. Oh yes, and they brought me my care package of Mt. Si coffee from my lovely bride; I found a coffee pot and now I’m enjoying fresh brewed good ole American (even better, Seattle) coffee. Ahhhh the difference the little guilty pleasures can make.

Had one day where the power was out after a night of thunder and hard rain, and a long morning of meetings I stepped out of the taxi in front of my house and i dropped my phone into a deep puddle of rain. Dead phone… After immediately consulting Facebook for expert advice I went to the market to get a bag of rice. As I stood laboring over the decision of which rice would be best, a very nice young (95 years young ) woman walked up and smiled (obviously flirting); and pointed to a particularly hearty and rich looking rice. How she knew that that particular strain of rice would work the best is beyond me. After a few hours in the rice… wallah, phone worked (and still does).
What a relief!

On that same day after all of my meetings and my phone trauma I was mentally exhausted but I had been invited to go see of all things a Venezuelan musical group perform at the Haiphong Opera House (beautiful venue). Wasn’t going to go but I decided what the heck; I could seriously use some culture. Glad I went, great performance and I got to sit and chat with Venezuelan ambassador who turned out to be quite the character. 

And then to top it all off my first typhoon made its appearance this weekend. Super Typhoon Ramussen hit northern Vietnam after causing havoc in the Philippines, but by the time it got to us here it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. After one scary night and day, and a lot of wind and rain, all is good.

Enjoy the related pics!

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Posted by on Jul 10, 2014 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Countdown . . .

Ok – it has been awhile.  I spent a crushing two weeks after leaving my job setting up a combined estate sale for our items as well as my parents who are downsizing after 50 plus years.  My last day of work was  June 13, on June 14 we started moving boxes and boxes of stuff (with help from family and two hired hunks from Evergreen Moving in Spanaway) to our home which we have been renting from my sister. That same day my sister moved her bedroom furniture in and she and her husband were back in their home after an almost 2 year absence.  So now we had my sister and her husband, me and my three international students living in the house which was full of boxes and furniture which needed to be staged and marked for an estate sale. We were soon joined by the parents of one of the students who were visiting for graduation. A full house and difficult transition for someone who doesn’t handle clutter very well.
I have had an estate sale before but we hired Sisters – a local antique shop and estate sale business to handle the sale.  For some reason I didn’t even think of doing that this time.  A huge mistake!  Even though we had plenty of help from my brother in law, sister, and especially my daughter Christina it was days and days of work to research and mark the tools, china, furniture, books, kitchen items and everything that you acquire over the years.
On Tuesday June 24 I started with a friends and family sale – the reason for this was to push myself to make sure I was ready and to learn how I was going to handle the days where we were open to the public.  I learned a good lesson at the sale.  My husband bought a few Starbucks mugs from other cities when he was traveling.  To be honest, I never really liked the mugs, we didn’t have room for them in the cupboard and what we didn’t need was more mugs. I was so happy to get rid of them and listed them for .50 each. My dear friend said, “Really Dawn?  You are only charging .50 cents each?”  Yes – take them off my hands.  She calmly bought them and informed me a few days later she sold one of them for $45.  During the sale I had my cell phone and laptop and looked up any items I wasn’t sure about. Even with that  – people in the know got some great deals on our behalf. 
For our last sale with Sisters taking a 50% profit we cleared $3000, took the weekend off and came home to everything taken care of.  Doing it ourselves we put in well over 100 hours of combined labor and research, made $2000 and spent a couple of days cleaning.  Even with that our expenses were almost 40% after I bought food for our helpers and decided to pay my daughter for her help.  We also needed to hire helpers to move what was left out of the house and into the carport to be picked up later for a Habitat for Humanity sale and dump fees for everything else. I really wished I would of remembered to contact Sisters once again. 

After finishing the cleaning on Sunday evening I treated myself to steak dinner which I brought home from the Keg – unfortunately I forgot I no longer had silverware and couldn’t cut my steak, thankfully the wine was great.  The next morning I headed out to Victor, ID to spend a wonderful 6 days with my son and his beautiful family.

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