Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Last Goodbyes

Well, time flies when you're having fun, but I'm pretty sure someone mucked up my calendar because I still haven't come go terms with the fact that I'll be on a plane home tomorrow. I may be out of line saying this, but I don't think the other girls have had as much of a positive experience in the home stay department. As Hue CONSTANTLY tell me, she is "the best host sister I could ever meet". And she really is. She's made this trip infinitely better. I don't know what I could ever do to repay her and her family for the kindness and generosity they've shown, and their genuine acceptance of a random white girl into their home. We had our last dinner tonight, and it was a bittersweet occasion. Hue was translating everything the parents were saying. Things along the lines of me having to bring my entire family back to Vietnam, and Hue's mum telling me that I'm her second daughter, or more affectionately, her 'white daughter'. I've had to pinky promise Hue about 6 times that I'll come back. Which means I really DO have to come back, because I mean, I can't break a pinky promise. Those things are legit.

I had to say goodbye to everyone at school today as well as the Aussie teachers we've become quite close to. Two teachers in particular, Maddy, who was always happy to chat with us, and let us hang in her classes, and Bevan who guided us throughout the entire trip. If either of you ever read this, thank you for everything. You've been so wonderful to us. Saying goodbye to students we've struck up friendships with was sad too. We got a few gifts and lots of hugs, and I'll miss seeing their smiling/gawking faces every day as the white girls walk past.

So it's been a month. It's been amazing, scary, fun, tough, challenging, rewarding, enriching and completely and utterly unforgettable. If I take one memory out of high school, it won't be my ATAR, or even what I learnt in my classes. It will be this trip and Hue and the incredible hospitality they showed me. To know that I'll always have a friend in Hanoi is beyond awesome and I've told Hue she's always welcome at our house (that cool, mum? Yeah? Great.)

On top of everything, I was given a beautiful parting gift by my family. A stunning silver bracelet. It was beyond amazing of them, and the only thing I could think to do when the mum gave it to me, was to give her a giant bear hug.

The beautiful gift I got

While this trip has had its ups and downs, I regret not organizing to stay for longer. This country continues to astound me and amaze me and I can't wait to come back. All I can say is, Vietnam hasn't seen the last of me yet.

The Family

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I Hate You, Mick

A harsh title? Perhaps. Hate is a strong word, I know that. But I utterly loathe Mick.

I feel obliged to explain who Mick is. Mick is Hue's dog. I don't know what breed, he's kinda big. If ugly and mean was a breed, that would be Mick. Now, I'm not really an animal person. I like kittens and puppies and such. I don't have anything against animals (except birds, because they want to eat my soul), but Mick has lost my respect.

When I first arrived, I pitied Mick. I mean, a relatively big dog, stuck indoors, never allowed out and fed rice. I looked past the flea bitten backside, and saw things from his perspective, and I felt bad for him.

After only a few days of being here, I accidentally walked into his wee on the balcony. Strike one. But 'hey', I thought. 'that's my fault'.

However when I walked in his liquid excretion again, in my room, I got a little irritated. Once, fine. I called in the housekeeper and she cleaned it up for me, and all was well. See, at this point, I didn't like Mick, but I didn't dislike him. I felt no feelings for this particular dog.

But again, in my room. And again, and again and again and again. 9 times and counting. Always in my room. Always in the same place (right in the door way where unsuspecting young girls might walk in it). I have been trying to remember to shut my door, but other people go in there, and I forget and the door is hard to shut, so, I get yellow coloured tiles.

If this was a habit that's been going on for years, I might be a little more willing to let this go. But Mick has never once peed in Hue's room before I moved in there. So, I don't know if it's a sign that he likes me, or hates me, or even if he's trying to mark his territory on me, but either way, that's the story of how I came to hate Mick.

But things other than that have been going on too. Friday was just a normal day. I went across the road with some of the young Aussie teachers from VAS and another close by school. It's nice being able to converse properly with adults and discuss all our different experiences of vietnam and it's culture. We got bûn cha, which is a delicious noodle soup. Oh, it's amazing. Saturday brought school (wah) and in the afternoon, Hue took me to the zoo. And we got to go on motorbikes woo! The zoo wasn't as bad as I'd heard, AND we got to go in this cool rubber bubble In the lake (I'll put up pics). While the animals don't get perhaps as much freedom as they do in Australian zoos, it was still fun. Hue thinks its hilarious every time I get hit on. We have this joke where whenever someone yells out to me, I tell her they're yelling to her. We also tell people we're sisters. People don't believe us though. I don't know why.

Sunday started out lazily with a sleep in and wandering over to a phó place for lunch. In the late arvo, the family and I hit up the town. With a bar/restaurant overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake to get some drinks, then a seafood restaurant for dinner (all by motorbike!). At the restaurant, the family we're genuinely trying to convince me to stay another month. They were talking logistics and flights and everything, and if I didn't have flights for the Gold Coast booked, I would seriously consider their offer. We came to the agreement of, not staying now, but maybe coming back for a month next summer holidays, or Hue coming to stay with us, they asked me to bring the whole family along with me if I come. I was incredibly flattered at my family's generosity and genuine like for me. This will only make it all the more difficult to leave in a few days, though. After that conversation, Hue tells me we're going to the cousin's university party. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a little excited. I was imagining music and dancing and such, but I think the definition of 'party' might be a little distorted, because, ehile there was music and dancing, it was in fact a concert to celebrate 10 years of the universities existence, featuring acts from the students. Bored, we went and got ice cream and went for a night time walk around the Lake instead. Turned out to be a really good night.

Yesterday we got a private meeting with the Australian ambassador, due to some strings being pulled by our old principal. I felt pretty important having a intimate gathering with the ambassador. He even gave me a book (just what I wanted!) all about Vietnam and Australia's relations. It was then back to school for some classes and phó for lunch.

I write this on the bus on the way to school... for the last time. Today's my last full day over here, and I'm of two minds about the whole thing. I do want to stay, but I also want to get home to see friends and family and eat steak and use toilet paper, you know? Tough choices and tough goodbyes.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Day in the Old Quarter

Well yesterday was a blast, and there was even some icecream involved, albeit less that the previous day. Yesterday, the girls and myself didn't have to wear uniform, because when we got to school, we were allowed to hop in a taxi, just the three of us, and head to the Old Quarter, tourist central, where all the tacky shops are; just what we wanted!

I think out of all the exchanges, Vietnam is the best for many reasons, (I'm not biased, I swear!) but a main reason is how much freedom we get. Us girls can pretty much do what we want when we want, as long as we go to some classes every so often and we're always safe. So this shopping trip was a real test of our maturity and independence. One that, I think, we passed.

So, that's how we ended up being dropped off in the Old Quarter. Because I live near there and Hue had taken me a few times, I had a rough and vague idea of where everything was, but it was mostly just a matter of seeing where we ended up.

We quickly learnt that as soon as three young, unaccompanied white girls walk into a shop, the prices suddenly increase. So we realized that we have to haggle with them. 30,000 for this? I think not. Make it 15,000 or I'll go buy it somewhere else.
And funnily enough that tends to get them to drop the price. Threatening to go elsewhere will usually do the trick. If not, we have another technique, but it only works if you're buying multiple items. They give a price. You halve it. They reject. You go up a bit. They go down from their price a bit. You go up a tiny bit more and say that's your final offer. They will usually say something like "too low, I cannot give you that." so that's when you say that you'll have to put one back, because you can't afford that. They always break and give them to you for the price you want then.

My favourite was when I went to buy some fake Rayban glasses. You don't want to mess with bargaining Kate, she's pretty rude. I point to the glasses and ask how much (in Vietnamese!) and he tells me they're 100,000 vnd (about $4.50). Well this was too expensive, so I say "look, I'm not paying that, it's too much. I know you can do better. "
"I can do no better!"
"look, i bought these" as I point to the glasses on my head that I got for 60,000 at the night markets 2 weeks ago, "for 60 next door." (note that there's about 10 shops in a row that just sell glasses)
Anyway, he tell me he can do 70,000. I repeat what I said, so he says "okay, okay, I gave for 60!"
But $3 is too much for Kate, so I tell him that I know he can do 50, cause if he can't, I'm sure next door will, so I'll go talk to them.

And that's how I got glasses for 50,000.

But basically, everything's more expensive for us. Even the taxis have different rates for tourists as they do residents.

After shopping at the cheap tourist shops, we headed over to the more expensive shops, like MAC, Clinique and Playboy. Id like to point out that Playboy just sold clothes.... We then went to an .... Ice cream shop. BUT IT WAS LIKE, FAMOUS ICE CREAM, WE HAD TO GO. Anyway, it was actually phenomenal ice cream.

After that we caught a taxi to Hanoi Towers, where we treated ourselves to some beauty treatments, (we are girls, after all) before catching a taxi back to school.

Later that night I helped Hue make a present for a friend, then we chilled out on her bed. We were chilling out and gossiping, and soon enough we both fell asleep, fully clothed on her bed. We had a very sisterly night, full of female bonding and doing hair. So much fun. It does bother me I have about 6 days left, I've become to close to Hue it'll be like losing a best friend. I just have to make the most of the time we have left, I suppose.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Best Day Ever

Tuesday rolled along, the last full week of our stay here at VAS. Gaby lives near a large western style shopping centre, and so when she came to school today to tell us that she found a shop that sells Cadbury, we were over the moon. so for lunch we caught a taxi to the shops, got some lunch, and went to the shop and sold Cadbury. However, we saw a lot more than that, and found so many familiar items. Seeing as I already have a whole block of Cadbury at home, and I wasn't in a chocolate mood, we passed on that option. HOWEVER, we found some New Zealand Natural ice cream. We found little tubs, what you'd call individual portions, and the tubs got bigger from there. Feeling adventurous, we decided that hater gon' hate, so we got a 475 mL tub... each. Yes yes, I know, I'm gonna get diabetes, but you know, that was delicious ice cream so, I couldn't care less. While tossing it up, Gaby said "you only live once.", which was enough for us to all grab one. Being the rebellious teens we are, we pinched little spoons from the little tubs, and used them for our half a litre tubs. We needed a place to sit down, so we went ver to Gaby's place, which has a swimming pool, that, for sme reason, had been drained. So, naturally, we got our icecream and comically small spoons and sat in the middle of the empty pool. (see attached photos). After that, Angela managed to spill ice cream on her shirt, so we went to the bathroom, and I ventured through a wall of bamboo to find a little playground. I won't go into details, but I got stuck in a tube, and we pretended we were waiting for the pandas to come ( because, plant bamboo and pandas will come, right?). We then went back to Gabs house for a bit, and then we caught a taxi back to school. We then gave a presentation about how awesome Australia and exchange is, and were surprised by the amount if interest the girls showed, and we had a good afternoon with them afterword, playing cards and chatting about boys. Typical girly stuff, really.

It sounds weird, to have an awesome day eating ice cream and dnming in the nap rooms, but it truly was a wonderful day.

Our new best friends
The bamboo fence I crawled through 
being classy
"i love you, house"

Yet Another Update

Hey hey, it's been a while, loyal followers. Firstly, an update on the kitty. While alive, it's tied up at the back if the store, so they haven't eaten it.... yet. I'm not getting over this. Vietnam owes me for the psychological damage this whole event has caused.

None the less, crying over dead, or soon to be dead cats isn't all I've been up to over here. Saturday here was Teachers Day.

What? You've never heard of Teachers Day? That's appalling! Lol, jks, I hadn't either. Teachers Day over here is a big deal. If it was in Australia, I know that we'd write it off as another hallmark holiday, but it's a huge thing here. The school gym underwent 2 days of preparation, like setting up a stage, and getting the sound system up and running, as well as hanging banners and stringing little Vietnamese and Australian flags across the roof. The primary school celebrated it on Friday, because they don't have Saturday school. I went and sat in on their celebrations. There were dances and skits from each teacher, and many dances and songs from students. Everything had undergone so much rehearsal and costumes were made just for the event.

The florists here must make a fortune, because all day on Friday and Saturday, parents were coming to the school with expensive looking, and grand bouquets of flowers for their children's favourite teachers. The teachers couldn't carry them all! It was bedlam!

Saturday was the high school's celebrations. Earlier that week, the teacher in charge of us girls, had asked me if I'd like to perform on Teachers Day. Being unaware of the enormity of the event, I'd willingly said yes, thinking it would just be in front of the teachers. So I later discovered I was to be performing in the coveted concert for the teachers, and I was stoked. It would be in front of the whole school and all these special guests.

Now I feel like people will be wondering what song I sang. I almost don't want to say. I WAS going to sing Cee Lo Green's 'Forget You', but upon finding out how big of a deal Teachers Day was, I felt that perhaps, that song held an inappropriate sentiment. So, with little choice, I flicked through the karaoke I had on my iPad, to find a song that filled the requirements I'd been asked to consider, of 'well know' and 'cheesy'. So, in the end, I sang 'The Climb' by good ol, Miley. I feel embarrassed. People are going to think my repertoire is just Miley and Bieber. It's terrible.

Regardless, I got up when my name was called on Saturday, and must admit, felt a bit like a celebrity, because about 4 words into the sing, I was cut off by a cheer from the crowd like "omg, the white girl's singing!". They were by far the most enthusiastic audience I've ever performed for (but mind you, I work the nursing one circuit a lot, so that's not hard to beat). Anyway, I got a huge applause, and was asked to sing again on the bus, by a girl from the year 6 class I sang Bieber to. I felt like saying "I'm not a jukebox...", but felt that could be taken the wrong way. Or the right way. Either way, I wasn't in a position to sing today, due to me having contracted a cold from somewhere. But don't worry, I asked Hue, and colds are common, so it's not some horrible sickness.

Sunday, we didn't do much, or anything, really. I had headaches and temperatures all day so I had a sleep in, then we all kinda bummed around all day and had a nap and soon enough the day was gone. I don't see it as a day lost though, I certainly needed it.

You may notice my posts are getting less and less frequent. There's a simple reason for that, and that is me getting more and more lazy. It's a shame, but it's the reality.

Speaking of laziness, I may not be the neatest person, but I need to step up my game, because they must think I'm awful. Pretty much, if you don't clean up, straight away, the housekeeper will come do it. A weird thing to complain about, but I don't like her cleaning my room. I got up on Sunday, leaving my clothes all over the floor, and my bed unmade, as well as things all over the desk and shoes everywhere in my room. I went downstairs to get Internet for a bit, cause everyone was still asleep. Now believe it or not (mum), but, I had every intention of coming back to clean up my mess. But after 15 minutes, I come back, and my room is spotless! Everything's been folded and put in my suitcase, and my bed has been made, everything straightened and tidy. And while it's appreciated, I feel bad! I mean, I know she's the housekeeper, but no one should have the responsibility of having to clean up my dirty washing! Not only that, but she always packs things away into weird places that, while creates a fun game of hide and seek when i need to find them, is rather inconveniencing.

I also have to quickly mention what was served up for dinner the other night. Now, I try anything. I ate pig stomach and intestine to prove that point, but I actually could not look at last night's dinner without feeling sick. It was chicken fetus. It was sickening, and they were dipping it in sauce! I have a strong stomach but I couldn't deal with that. That's probably the worst thing I've seen while here.

So to sum up this blog post, a cat is still alive, I sang Miley Cyrus in front of the school, the housekeeper keeps cleaning my stuff, and i didnt eat something we had for dinner. Wow, as you can see, I'm dealing with the big problems over here. Well, anyway, ta ta for now!
Just a shop with cool lights
We fit right in....

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why Kittens?

A few days ago, the girls and I took one of our regular trips to the store down the road from the school., to pick up our essential. Oreos, Pepsi and rip-off Pringles. Yum! Anyway, we get there and there's this cat.

I love cats.

Now this cat, wasn't an ordinary cat. If the cat equivalent of Miranda Kerr and the cat equivalent of Ryan Reynolds had a cat baby, this would be their cat baby. Or um, kitten, I think is the proper word. Anyway, my point is, the cat was so gorgeous, it looked only s few weeks old. Small enough that I could pick it up with one hand and cuddle it (NOTE: I can feel some judgment coming my way, for picking up and cuddling a random cat in a developing countries. But like I said, this cat was different). It was a tabby cat,neigh whiskers and soft fur and little paws, with little claws that couldn't break my skin, and little ears and big eyes and- did I mention I love cats? ( Like that.

Anyway, we were playing with it, and the shopkeeper was dangling something in front of it and it was bounding around, and we all fell in love with it. We all promised to come back and visit our new best friend.

So the next day, we were in a class with Maddy, one of our favourite teachers, who's from Sydney, and not that much older than us. After class, we were talking and we mentioned how we were gonna go up the road to visit our new friend. We then gushed about this amazing kitten while Maddy started looking uncomfortable. She stops us and says "um, you know that they're gonna eat it, right?"

The girls and I exchanged looks of terror and were like "no, they wouldnt eat our friend, Maddy, gosh!". She then went on to explain how cats who are in shops like that, usually get eaten.

After that conversation, we went straight to the shop, and tried asking where the cat was to the shopkeeper using actions and broken English. Well, he said "cat? Hahahaha" and laughs sadistically.

Interpret that how you will, and while suicide is no joke, if they eat or have eaten my cat, I may lose the will to live just a little. WHY, VIETNAM? WHAT'S WRONG WITH COWS? WHY PREY ON TINY KITTENS?

-produce harmful chemicals int the atmosphere and aren't pretty.
- It's a scientific fact* that when enraged, cows are known to become killing machines, attacking humans and stealing their wealth

- cute
- harmless
- um, its a kitten, what more do I need to say??

To conclude. People shouldn't eat kittens. Especially kittens that are my friends. Not cool, guys. Not cool.

We went back today and he still wasn't there. I'm losing hope. Today is a bleak day for humanity.

* not an actual scientific fact

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Terrifying Encounter with the Biebs

You know you love me.
I know you care.
Just shout whenever,
And I'll be there.
You want my love.
You want my heart.
And we will never ever ever be apart.

I know what you're thinking. "Really Kate? Justin Bieber? That's just offensive to every sense!"
And I agree. Please don't hate me. Or judge me. I guess I should get to the point of the story.

Well, Gaby, Angela and I were in a year 6 class, and they're studying Shrek. To further this, and improve their dictation abilities, the class were listening to 'Firework' by Katy Perry. Now I love that song, so once all the kids had filled in the blanks, the teacher said "let's all sing through it together!". S us girls and the teacher started and the class followed. Here, Angela leans over to the teacher, and says "Kate's a singer, you should get her to sing for the class!". So, once we finished Katy Perry, miss marry told the class "Kate is a professional singer, and she's going to sing for you all!"

Now I don't like to admit this, but as a joke, I said "how about I sing baby!". And well, that idea stuck. So next things I know, I'm in front of the whole class, with 'Baby' playing, and I sing along. The class enjoyed it and they even joined in for the choruses. This is humiliating, and I can't believe I'm putting this on the internet forever, but I knew every word, and when I started perfectly reciting the rap in the middle, I knew that starting tomorrow, I needed a life.

And that is my story.

I didn't have an appropriate photo of this unspeakable event, so I had to resort to my creativity and make one. Enjoy.

PS. I keep making goat noises.

I should do art

Monday, November 14, 2011

Ha Long Bay and Johnetta the Goat

Its been like, 5 days since i last uploaded. But don't worry, you can stop crying and unfurl from your fetal position, for I present to you, my next blog post.

The weekend began on Friday night, where Hue and I spent about 3 hours discussing the big questions in life and pretty much having a huge dnm. It was really awesome. When we talk, there's hardly any problem caused by the language barrier. Over the past 2 weeks, she really has become like a best friend to me, and I'll never forget her kindness, even once the exchange is over. Well now that soppy bits over, I shall continue with my tale. It was an early morning on Saturday... 5 am. Well, it was meant to be up at 5, for a 5:40 departure, but I was awoken at 5:35, so time was limited . Anyway, we got on the mini bus that the three families had hired, and we went to pick gaby and Angela's families, and we were off. It took about 3 hours to get there, but at about half way we stopped at a big restaurant cafe thing for some phó noodles and a bathroom break. However, when I saw the bathrooms, I decided I could hold on. There were little squat toilets, all in a row, with no doors or walls between them. Now I love the Vietnamese people, but not enough that I'm prepared to share that experience with them. Anyway, getting back on the bus, we had about 10 Vietnamese people come up and take our photos and yell to us and wave. I've never felt more like a celebrity. Anyway back on the bus and an hour and a half later, we arrive at our beautiful, very western styled hotel. There was a slight problem we faced though. Being non-vietnamese, gab, Angela and myself needed to provide visa and passport details, or else we weren't allowed to stay in the hotel. I think it's almost funny that no one else had to do this, but, being foreign, or 'tây"as the Vietnamese say, we had to provide proof that we are allowed in the country, and our visas wont expire during our one night stay. Now, not being told any of this, none of us brought our passports, and I knew my number, but not my other passport details and it was all a bit of a disaster. However, gaby saved the day when she remembered she had an email with all that info in it, so, end of the day, we didn't have to sleep on the bus, yay! That afternoon, we went to a beach, and frolicked on the sand for a few hours, taking photos and absorbing some vitamin D. Oh, and I dropped my camera. In the sand. So it doesn't work. Angry would be an understatement. However, I now have a reason to buy a new camera ( mine was, while reliable and sturdy, a 3 year old brick). Luckily Gab and Ange both have pretty hard core cameras so I can get lots of pics off them. That night, we went out to a seafood restaurant. We had lots of yummy food, and the prospect of snails finally caught up to us, and we tried them. As well as mussels. Mussels weren't too bad and snails were... interesting. Very chewy. After that we went to the Ha Long night markets then headed to the hotel. We got straight into bed once we got back, cause we were pretty tired.

The next morning, we had a western and Vietnamese breakfast. Then headed off to get on the boat for a cruise around the bay. We'd heard how the boats are a little reckless with their driving but we weren't too worried. The boat took off and I was literally stunned by the beauty of the bay. On Saturday morning it had been announced as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world, so we went on a great weekend. Anyway, we got off the boat on one of the 300 hundred islands and got to walk through this amazing cave. It was huge and seemed to go on and on. It was lit with coloured spotlights to increase the impressiveness of it all. Back on the boat, we continued along the bay. It was here that the driving ability of our captain came into question, when we were taking a photo and he wasn't watching where we were going, so we were only about 10 metres from a rock island, and the quick turn we did to avoid the rock, landed us facing another boat and missing it by about 1 metre. After recovering from that, we had some lunch. Fresh fish that we had watched being taken from the net and beaten with a club til it died. Now, I'm the furthest thing from a vegetarian, but even I felt a little guilty when this fish was placed in front of me. But, honestly it was delicious. Probably the best fish I've ever had. Murder has never been to tasty. I feel like a terrible person for saying that.

Anyway, we're half way through eating, I'm looking out the window, and I hear this screaming. After hearing it a few times, I say "can anyone hear that screaming?". Five seconds later, CRASH! The boat shakes and we realize that we've hit another boat. Just a small fishing boat, and at first we thought that the people on the boat were in serious trouble, and that we'd turned their little boat into kindling. However, we reversed and the boat was, while bent a bit, relatively unharmed, as were the people on it. They followed us and came aboard, and it was, needless to say, a little scary.

Once we were back on dry land, we got on the bus to head home. An hour or so into the trip, we hit a traffic jam, which meant the what should be 3 your trip, took over 7. Fun times all around.

Now you read the title of this post and were probably very confused. Well firstly, I'd just like to say that this is one of those awkward times when someone tries to explain their in-joke to you, and all you can think is "wow... That's really not that funny". Well, you had to be there. Anyway, firstly, about a week ago, ange and I were using an app on my iPad to make your voice squeaky, and we were giggling and I said that she was cheating on her boyfriend Johnny.... With Johnetta. So that's how Johnetta happened. And somehow in the past week, i took over the alter ego, of being Johnetta, Angela's secret girlfriend.

Anyway, on the way home we stopped at a restaurant, which we later found out was a goat restaurant. So we ate goat, well I did, but the other girls weren't so eager. Anyway, by this point in the day, we were so overtired, we'd gotten ourselves into a dreamlike, everything-is-funny, almost drunkenlike state of tiredness, where nothing made sense, but it did make us laugh. Somehow the joke of my being Johnetta, turned into me being Johnetta the goat. Upon reflection, it was definitely funnier last night. But not only did we eat goat, I partook in a food that should've had warning bells when no one would tell me what part of the pig it came from. But, being in the state of mind that I was, I had a bite and downed it with coke, to later find out it was the small intestine of the pig. Nearly 5 minutes after eating it, when i found this out, I nearly threw up. I was disgusted that hue hadn't warned me. Regardless, I survived it, and am alive today, so it was obviously edible. In terms of new foods, I had an interesting weekend.

Our family got dropped off at 11, and I have never been so tired in my life. Today at school we've decided to not go to classes, but to sleep and prepare a presentation we have to give to year 10 tomorrow. So I will get on with that now, and leave you with some pictures to tide you over til my next post.

XOXO gossip goat

some of the rocks in the cave
View from Hotel
My beautiful host sister
Chilling on the boat
This guy wanted my photo. I posed for his camera... then mine.
We could totally pass for sisters
the three girls at Ha Long

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What Are You Looking At?


I know I may have said that earlier, and out up a photo, but the sun isn't just visible, it's actually CASTING SHADOWS! SHADOWS, PEOPLE!

Anyway, now that that excitements over I shall continue with my post. Since Sunday night when I wrote my last post, I can't say that an awful lot has really happened, but I'll fill you in anyway. Monday was Hue's birthday. She turned 17. I had a present and card prepared so it was fun giving her my presents. I was looking forward to seeing how the Vietnamese celebrate birthdays. Hue said she didn't have a party, so her friends don't give her presents. I didn't see her parents give her presents either, but her dad took her to buy a new phone.

In the night, we had a bit of a party upstairs, with the people who live downstairs and work in the shop, the housekeeper, the family and all the others who work in the shop who Hues family is quite close with. They all came upstairs and we sat on the tiles in a circle, lit the candles on the cake and sang 'happy birthday'.... in english.... I thought it was weird that these people ant speak a word of english, but they'll say 'happy birthday' over and over. Quite strange indeed. It was good cake though, and it was followed up by an array of different fruits the mum had prepared.

Hue and I have been getting on so well. She did my nails again last night and we were having a deep and meaningful about her life and friends and the big questions. Then I did her hair, and she did mine (I'll attach a picture, it was hilarious). I think that whoever matched up hue and I, did a damn good job. I will genuinely miss her when I'm have to go.

But other than that, we haven't done anything too exciting. However, us girls noticed something really weird yesterday. Like usual, we went across the road for lunch. To fill a bit of a void, we went to s cafe that we know sells western food. It's a nice cafe with good food, and a good atmosphere, and we'd been there once before. On that occasion, we sat more in the corner, so the problem was minimized. Yesterday, we sat right in front of the kitchen. Now, in Australia, without being a waitress, I know the basic drill. You sit down, they bring you your menu, you decide, they come back in a bit, you tell them what you want, they collect your menus, they bring your food. Easy. They only come to your table a few times. The waitresses here, or maybe just the waitresses at this cafe, do not understand this 'only coming when necessary' concept. We walk in, sit down, they bring us a menu..... and don't leave. The stand there, pen in hand, right next to you, waiting for your order. Which makes you feel uncomfortable at the least. Not only that, because it's not that busy of a cafe, there were spare waitresses, who stand against the wall, about a metre away from us, watching us.

C'mon guys, I know we're white, but this is just annoying.

I tried explaining to them, "give us 5 minutes" or "come back later", but not speaking English, they just give us a blank look and continue waiting. It's a good tactic I guess, if you want your customers to hurry their selection process. I don't hi I've ever picked a meal so quickly. Then we had to order drinks. I've learnt that if it's too hard to explain, just don't get it. That applies t a lot of things over here, actually. Anyway, last time I was at this cafe, I ordered a coke. So when it came to drinks, I said "a coke." she said, "no". Thinking this was just one of the common things that kept happening I said "oh, okay, we'll a pepsi then".
"no. We no have. You have 7up."
"..... Okay I'll have 7up then."
The other girls saw my battle, sand so when she turned her glare of decisiveness upon the others, they quickly said "7up please"
I don't even really like 7up.

Anyway, With ordering done, we got out our iPads/laptops to get the wifi password, because this was in fact, a wifi cafe. They happily typed it in for us, then went and stood against the wall. You know, the wall one metre away from us? Where they could (if they understood english) hear every word, and see everything that we were looking at in the Internet? Yeah. That wall. And they stood there, watching us, the. entire. time. It just to the point where we wanted to leave, because it was so awkward. I mean, we've gotten used to being stared at, but never so intently for such a long period of time. It was a good meal, and we even got an ice cream, but I don't think we'll be going back there... ever. I told my friend about this, and they were like "oh it's not too bad, you're overreacting". Perhaps I am, but how about I come to your house at dinner, stand a metre away from you and watch every mouthful you take. Then you tell me if I'm overreacting. That's right, bam.

Hmmm, now that that rant is over, I don't have much more to say. One thing I've noticed here is my deteriorating english. By the time I get back, I may need to change from advanced English next year, down to standard. I've stopped speaking in completely grammatically correct sentences. It's easier not to. In the sense that it usually means I don't have to repeat myself. I've also stopped using contractions as they confuse people. Yesterday before school, I found myself asking hue " we will go now?". Yeah, and that's after one and half weeks, so I will probably revert to illiteracy by the end of the month.

Well on that note of anticipation for that, I must go off to class now. Ta ta! I'm off to the beauty salon! ( that was a special joke for my brother's benefit, so mum, make sure he sees it)

I'm attaching some photos of interesting things I've seen over here, including a guy on a bike (who nearly killed us), and a poster I made in year 5, and the back of a shirt of a year 5 boy.

Monday, November 7, 2011

For Nan

I'd like to start this post with a special dedication to someone who I know will probably be one of the first to read it.

Nan, I didn't forget your birthday, I SWEAR I didn't! I was just really busy and by the time I got a chance to email you, it was 1 am over there, so I am very sorry and I hope your birthday was great and enjoy being.. well I'm not gonna say how old you are, but I hope you enjoy your new age :)

I was also asked to give the Sullivan's a quick shout out, cause I wasabi got them all briefly on Skype. So here you are jane, a special mention haha. You should feel very lucky to be on such an elite and well known blog at this, I mean I have like over 600 visitors haha. Anyway it was good seeing all your faces, especially Emma's, 'cause she's adorable

Okay now vietnam related things. Well Hue took Gaby and I out to dinner, and we were gonna order snails but we didn't end up doing that. We had some delicious rice paper rolls, and a hot pot... With yummy chucks of fish head. That's one of the weirder things I've eaten while here , others include fresh squid,duck liver and the other day for breakfast I had these famous noodles with chunks of solidified cows blood... yum.

Other than that it's all things I've noticed here is that when you eat with friends you do 'cheers' a lot. Not when it's just us and the small family, but going out to dinner on Friday, gaby and I counted that my host dad and all his friends that we went with clinked glasses 17 times over the course of the meal. I asked hue, and she said its to wish luck and happiness and good fortune. I guess they think the more you do it the higher your chances of luck? Every sip of beer would require a cheers and it was almost funny for Gab and I to watch.

Another big difference is the attitude to alcohol here. While at home, being 16 I'm not allowed to drink and while many 16 year olds do, it's not legal and uts normally not done around adults. Whereas here, I've been offered beer at home regularly, so has Angela. Spirits are just sold on the shelves in supermarkets, next to Hello Panda cookies and juice. A large bottle of vodka here is about $8. I don't have a lot of experience buying grog, but I think that's pretty. Heap, mind you everything's cheap here. But there's no drinking culture like in Australia. There's little drunkenness and binge drinking isn't really an issue. I think being exposed to alcohol their whole life being able to go out and drink doesn't have the same appeal as in Aus. The drinking culture here is that of drinking lots in a short amount of time, then not again. For example, my host dad will often drink 2 beers over dinner, but then stop, and that's all he'll drink. The teacher looking after us at VAS, mr Marshall told us that some teachers will often down a few beers at lunch, then stop. In aus, we might drink 6 beers, but over the course of the whole afternoon, so it's a bit different here.

I know I've talked about taxis before, but just to stress how cheap they are, the average rate is 11000 vnd per km. so about 50 cents. Pretty good rate. I still get the urge to reach for a seat belt every time I get in a taxi, but awks for me cause they don't have any...

Saturday we went to the temple of literature, which was very very beautiful. We also went shopping and went to the night markets again. I have like, 5 teenage boys I need to buy gifts for, and I have no idea what to get them, so if anyone has any suggestions, they would be MORE than welcome. Yesterday, I went to the movies here. I saw Real Steel, which actually wasn't that bad. It was in English with Vietnamese subtitles so, good for me at least.

Oh, and the other day I got up at 6 am and went to school. "so?" I hear you ask. "thats no big deal."

Well it was a Saturday. Why would anyone make students go to school on a Saturday, I do not know. It's a wacky system, with only one day off, where at least half the students do tutoring anyway.

So that's my complaining done, and now I shall leave on a funny note. This was last week, and while I don't think she reads my blog, Gab, if you see this, I apologies for making it public, but I think the world needs to know. In year 11 English,we were playing this game where we were given a letter and had to come up with things forgot retain categories. The categories were things like, 'a boys name in English' and 'a city' and 'a fruit or vegetable'. Well we were given the letter 'e' and when gaby's group was asked if they got one for fruit or veg, she proudly yelled out 'EGG!'. At first the class (including Angela and I) wasn't sure if she was joking. But she wasn't. She then tried to convince the whole class that egg is a vegetable. So since then, the amount of "hey look, there's an egg! Let's go plant it so an egg tree will grow!" and "if you have egg tonight, try and save the seeds so I can plant my own egg tree" and of course "hey look a veggie patch. I wonder if there's any eggs growing under the soil there?". So basically, we've been giving her hell.
Gaby, it doesn't mean we don't love you. It just means you're unintentionally one of the funniest people I've ever met. Love ya.