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Posted by on May 22, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 9 comments

Oh the changes we have made!

I knew that living in Vietnam would change us. I just didn’t know how. Looking back at our lives a year and a half ago we didn’t dream this is where we would be. Here is the rundown.

We have changed how we eat. When you live someplace where fruit and vegetables are plentiful and cheap, and where processed foods, cheeses, and some of my favorite dishes are expensive or otherwise hard to come by, you have to adjust. A kilo of carrots runs about 5,000 dong – .23 cents. Cucumbers, tomatoes, bananas, melons, mangos – all are cheap and plentiful when in season. We have cut back on meat – eating mostly chicken when we do eat meat. Interestingly lettuce has a very short life span so our salads usually consist of tomatoes, cucumbers and whatever else I have in the fridge.


We drink less. Wine is expensive, and drinking the way I like to drink (splitting a bottle every night) was a little much. It has been 6 weeks since we cut back and we notice our wallets are a bit more flush, waistlines slimmer – and we just feel better. I just heard a report that put me in the top 20% of drinkers in the US. How embarrassing – I thought everyone drank that much. Here is link to a similar article.

My new wine

My new wine – detox water

What – no car! I have found out we can live without a car.  This is a good thing because we won’t have one when we return.  Taxi’s are fairly cheap, we can go longer distances via train or bus for less than $10. When it isn’t blazing hot we like to walk or ride our bikes.  As summer has hit us hard (May – October) we probably won’t be getting as much exercise as we did during the cooler months.

Seen on one of our bike rides

Seen on one of our bike rides

We meditate. Another new habit that we started about the same time we cut back on the wine.  I had been trying and trying to meditate and wasn’t very successful so I asked my husband if he wanted to join me.  To my surprise he said yes! For about 5 weeks we have been meditating almost every day, and we look forward to it.  There are many guided meditations on YouTube (which works in Vietnam, unlike many websites) and we enjoy the quiet time together and usually have a good talk afterwards about any enlightenment we felt.

A whole new relationship. I have always felt really lucky about my relationship with my husband.  We like each other, we enjoy being together and don’t fight very often.  We have similar values which helps.  When you are in a country with very few other native English speakers you have to rely on each other even more.  We have enjoyed exploring Vietnam, riding our bikes into new neighborhoods and trying new food.  If possible it has brought us much closer and we are much kinder to each other.  When one of us is gone for more than a few days the loneliness is unbearable.

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We are damn lucky. We live in a country where everyone has the right to vote.  Imagine living where there is no choice. Officials are appointed, not elected.  Government workers often get their jobs based on who you know or how much you are able to pay for the position (usually a years salary). Life for a disadvantaged youth here without connections or the ability to pay doesn’t offer much hope. Protesting is frowned upon and often the leaders are put in prison and not heard of again – or at least for many months.  Even with the stupid anarchists I cheered our May Day protests.   I give thanks for our interfering government that makes us pay taxes and provides us with so much.

There aren't a lot of options for these young women from Sapa.

There aren’t a lot of options for these young woman from Sapa.

Love the people. I have such an appreciation for the Vietnamese people. They are very proud of being Vietnamese with good reason.  4000 years of war – can you imagine?  The generation X’ers here haven’t had to live with war, one of the first in a long time.  Their traditions are important to them and followed, even living with your mother-in-law if you happen to be married to the eldest son.  It makes sense, who is going to take care of mom and dad?  @brettupchurch, I hope you are paying attention.

You can get by with so much less.  Before moving here we downsized, and then downsized again believing it was better to replace than pay for storage.  Now I wonder about replacing.  Do we really need all that stuff?  My closet has about 30 items – such freedom.  When you don’t have so much to choose from it much easier to make a decision.  We have 4 plates, bowls and sets of silverware.  Makes it hard to throw a party but it works for us.

I miss my family.  Walking with my dad at Bellevue Square, having coffee with my mom and sisters, taking a hike with my daughters, getting schooled in cooking by my youngest son.  Most of all those beautiful little granddaughters.  Grandchildren are such a gift.  They grow too fast.  Time flies and we aren’t there to witness the changes, that is difficult for me.

with the kids at wedding

our crazy, awesome kids

All in all moving here has been good for us.  Both of us have lost weight and lowered our blood pressure dramatically. Looking at the USA from the outside gives a much different perspective.   Do I regret our move?  Not at all, but I really miss you guys.


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Posted by on May 11, 2015 in Life Reimagined, Vietnam | 0 comments

Happy Mother’s Day – If you are feeling down or just need a laugh, read on

From an earlier, happier Mother's Day

From an earlier, happier Mother’s Day

You have to have a good sense of humor when living in a developing country because as I mention often, things are different here.  I have had many experiences which remind me to be thankful for our government’s intervention and endless regulations.  It is hard to believe but when you don’t have them you can miss them.

I hope you get a kick out of my mom’s day story. I am currently drowning my sorrows and hope by the time I done telling you about my day, I will also be ready to laugh.

For the first time in over a year John got invited to play golf, and of course it was today – mom’s day. I was actually ok with it. We have been really busy the last week trying to get ready for everything that is happening this coming week; so a day to myself was just the gift I needed. (After a year of prep John’s project has its long anticipated launch with a team coming out from Seattle as well as a visit from Vietnam government officials, US Embassy and the usual suspects. We have a super busy week coming up).

I did some shopping in the morning and hoped to relax and watch a movie at home. Unfortunately the internet cable to Vietnam got cut (AGAIN) so the internet is spotty at best so that wasn’t going to work. I decided to try one of the local hotels for a massage. I know going into a massage here to always have low expectations; really low expectations. Today was no different. The picture for the massage at this hotel looked pretty good online, they were highly rated in the government’s newest “things to do in Hai Phong; and John had stayed at the hotel for about 3 weeks and they were good to him and also good to us when we have needed to ask someone for information.

Photo from hotel website

Photo from hotel website

As soon as I arrived I had a feeling I should run but decided to stick it out – my expectations were low, right? I was led from the reception area through the ladies room where a couple of Vietnamese ladies were enjoying the spa. I went into the massage room and was told to wait there. Usually at a Vietnamese massage place they ask you to undress but provide you with shorts and a top to wear. Not here – I was told to undress and get on the table (face up) which I did with the massage therapist watching. I wasn’t surprised that there wasn’t a sheet to allow for some modesty, but I was really wishing for one.

actual room photo

actual room photo

Out of the 15 or so massages I have had in Vietnam this is the first time I could tell that my massage person (can’t really call her a therapist) had no training. I am not sure what in the sam hill she was doing but it wasn’t anything like a massage. More like poking and prodding and of course cracking my toes and fingers. On and on it went and I kept wondering how I could end it early. When it finally came time to do my face I realized that there is where her skills were. It felt so good and I was finally relaxing and enjoying the massage when she turned, coughed into her hands and went right back to work.

At the end of the massage she waited in the room for a tip. I explained I only had large bills and would get change out front. As she watched me get dressed she straightened the sheet and towels and left them on the bed!!!!!

I came right home and took a long, hot shower and then poured myself a large glass of wine.

first of several glasses of wine

first of several glasses of wine

If your mom’s day didn’t go exactly as planned – just think, you could have had my day.

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