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Saturday, November 27, 2010

Saigon Traffic

Here is a great article in the Saigon Times by Michael Smith that sums up Saigon Traffic in a nutshell.

By Michael Smith in HCMC
I was joking the other day that I only use my brain 10% of the time - only for the most important things. In Saigon that would mean I’d have to reserve my day’s quota of brain power to survive the mayhem on the roads on my motorbike. There’s no end to the miasma of bizarre driving acts that happen out there, but I’ve tried to jot down a few of the common ones that test my reflexes and emotions.
The Vertical Merge: This is my favorite, but it horrified me when I first caught a xe om in Saigon. Instead of waiting for a gap to turn left (and lets face it – there aren’t any gaps) you just head straight at the swathe of oncoming traffic, veering slightly for the center line.
The Moving Gap: This is a roundabout maneuver that I can do slowly with some aplomb, but I have seen some maniacs and a few straight-backed Vespa- Zen girls do it at top speed without even blinking. Roundabouts present streams of traffic going at different angles, some at right angles to ourselves. To get through you have to judge the moving gap precisely. Most riders take it easy, but when you see someone do it at top speed, it’s quite impressive.
The Shepherd: Turning left at traffic lights when the oncoming motorbikes are 20 thick and 200 deep, somebody has to lead the way across. This takes some courage or stupidity as you must trust that the motorist heading at you knows that you’re coming. As soon as the leader breaks the stream of traffic, motorbikes follow in his shadow and he shepherds them across.
The “Daddy Doesn’t Know Where his Little Girl is”: The young truant with a tight fitting cowboy shirt embroidered with a skull on the back has his teenage girlfriend in red denim shorts clinging tightly around his waist, with her head on his shoulder screaming joyfully in his ear. He does the “Saigon Racer Wobble” to signal to everybody that he is going to throw himself recklessly into the wrong lane to pass.
The “I Guess You Think This is my Fault”: It normally happens near service stations on busy roads. After filling up their motorbikes people can’t be bothered doing the “Vertical Merge” so they just head up the wrong side of the road beside the curb. That’s all fine until you surprise them by coming round the next corner doing the “Blind Right” and run headfirst into them.
The Blind Right: Turning right in Saigon is a breeze, you don’t have to look. Just turn right, go as wide as you like and it’s up to anyone who is coming, to go around you.
The Double Squeeze: You are riding along ready for almost anything, but a pushcart slowly comes out on your right, pushing you towards the center line. At the same time a masked woman scooterist heads blindly out of a street on the left narrowing the gap in the center of the road like a closing elevator door.
Those are just a few but remember - with Saigon traffic the key is never to take your life or limbs for granted. It’s a jungle on the roads, and if you know the moves you can avoid an accident. It’s a type of meditation with a mantra made from swear words – totally in the moment. It brings you closer to God.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

International Week.

International week at the kids school turned into International fortnight!  It was a huge celebration of the melting pot of countries represented at the school.  It was bigger than Ben Hur.  With 2 kids in different classes I needed to clone myself with various concerts and food feasts taking place.  The ever wonderful Quyen spent a lot of time making lamingtons for all the kids to try.  Here are some pictures to sum it up.
A truly multicultural School.

So what is our national costume.  He looks like he's ready to watch the boxing day test.

His best buddy Diya.

My handsome Aussie Boy!

Quiddys class.

Christophers Aboriginal dot painting.

In the midst of International week we had a "make your own hat" day, fundraiser for a local orphanage.  I love how they continually expose the kids to the great value of giving  to others less fortunate.

Scarlett with Ms Grace, her teacher.

Quiddy performing with the big kids in the International Dance Extravaganza.  

Smile kids, it looks like a police line up!

The craze at the moment is paper aeroplanes.  The kids in Quiddys class have gone nuts for them.  So much so they had a little contest one afternoon.

Lets hope he does not get hired by Boeing with that design!

Wake up Scarlett!  Mummy and daddy are here to tell your class all about Australia.

Getting used to the idea.  Nice Mozzie bite on her face.

Daddy explaining all the important stuff.  The kids were great.  We jumped like kangaroos, laughed like kookaburras and slept like koalas.

Getting the kids to do some Aboriginal Dot Art on some cut out boomerangs.

They were surprisingly good at it!

Then off to make some koala masks.  Thanks Tan!

Scarletts turn to dress up.  Bindi Irwin eat your heart out.

She is such a poser.

They all look so beautiful and colourful in their costumes.

Parading for the adoring crowd.

Scarletts class

Phew, all over.  Stay tuned and I'll post some video of Christopher's dancing and Scarletts singing.  They were both great and I was very proud!

The have's and the have nots.

Always a city of contrasts.   The have's and the have nots, the old and the new, all existing side by side.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Heavy Heart

This time last year I was just finishing up work and frantically doing the last minute packing to prepare the family for an exciting 10 weeks living in Cambodia.  Tonight my heart aches for these beautiful people.  They are amazing, strong, proud and resilient....but how much must they take?  To see so many tragically taken away, particularly the youth,  the young kids out there who are trying to rebuild a somewhat tattered country, leaves me feeling sick.  It is nearly impossible to look at this photo.  May Buddha hold you close.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Teachers Day

Today is Teachers Day.  What is that I hear you ask?  Well it's a BIG deal here.  I mean REALLY BIG.  This holiday allows students to express their respect to their teacher. Education is the road to success here and it is never taken for granted.  Students begin preparing a week in advance, and many classes usually prepare literature and art to welcome teachers' day, while other students prepare foods and flowers for the parties held at their schools. Students usually visit their teachers at their homes to offer flowers and small gifts, or organize trips with their teachers and classmates. Former students also pay respect to their former teachers on this day.  The kids bought small gifts for their teachers yesterday (all six of them!) and Nick and I also bought a gift for our language teachers.  Co Hai, my teacher, has the patience of a saint!  Between me slaughtering the language and my frequent last minute "I can't make it to class today" texts, I don't know how she puts up with me.  We actually get along really well and spend a great deal of time laughing at the differences between out cultures AND the similarities of husbands and kids.  When she turned up at class yesterday she looked beautiful in her Ao Yai and was obviously enjoying some well earned respect.  Thank you Co Hai!  Or should I say.....Cảm ơn bạn Cờ Hải. Bạn là một giáo viên tuyệt vời ngay cả khi tôi không phải là một sinh viên tuyệt vời! (Thank you Co Hai.  You are a wonderful teacher even if I am not a great student!)

Kids Book Review: Book Launch Blog Tour - Live Question Time with Tania!

Kids Book Review: Book Launch Blog Tour - Live Question Time with Tania!
Ever wondered what it is like to be an author.  How hard is it to get published?  Can you make a living from it?  What inspires people to write?  Find out all of the fascinating facts LIVE online when Tania McCartney answers all of your questions and more.  Tania has published 6 books including the highly successful "Riley" series for kids.  Pop on over and say hi!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A hidden gem

One of the things I love the most about living here is finding quirky places off the tourist route.  It's that little sense of adventure you feel when you find that spot that takes a little more navigating to get to. Todays example.....

Down the little art lane in Dong Khoi 
Go through the motorbike parking lot and up the dodgy stairs.
Walk along surprisingly pretty outdoor hallway.
View from top of stairway.

Find yourself here!

......enjoying this!  A real unexpected find.  Food was lovely.  Great baguettes and coffee with little pastries to die for.  There is also a gift shop attached to the back.  A tad expensive for my taste but if you are after original pieces....perfect!

This was the favourite bit for me.  This is the view from the porch area.  It overlooks the "real" Vietnam and gives you a bit of a glimpse of how people really live here.  No refurbishment, no sales pitch, just real houses that look the same as they probably did more years ago than I care to think about.  Ahhh.....just a little taste of the good old days.