Archive for December, 2012

Lao Chai and Ta Van Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Trek-outside of Sa Pa Day 2 Sunday, December 30, 2012

We said we wanted an easier walk today from yesterday’s trek up and down the local hills (mountains to my legs) through the rice paddies of Lao Chai and Ta Van Village. We hiked with the Henderson, from Liverpool, who we met and trekked with yesterday, at breakfast and we all decided to have another go and village hopping. They are on the way to stay with their daughter who has started a language school in Siem Reap, Cambodia, using her own money.

So we went firstly to Ta Phin village about an hour’s drive and two hour walk from Sapa, the little hillside village located in midst of the Hoang Lien Mountains. Several tribes live peacefully here: the Kinh, Red Dao and Black Hmong people. After getting past the overnight ‘sleeper’ (we didn’t sleep due to a hard mat and a loud rattling old train) and the hour winding climb to the town the journey of exploration is fantastic.

our-guideOur guide was an 18 year from the Black H’mong people (they wear black clothing). We said to her at the start that we did not want to buy stuff because the day before we were followed and hassled so much – and we did buy a lot of stuff yesterday – we just wanted to trek and be left alone. She said whatever to everyone that came at us and we had a great day of walking, talking and of course climbing up and down so much.

I took a lot of photos of children, something I rarely do as in some places people get really upset. When we were in Guatemala we were warned not to take photos of children because they get kidnapped and sold to Americans; we could have gotten beaten, killed or worse – they would have taken our camera. But here no one seemed to mind. I have posted some in an album in Facebook and Google+ and in my Flickr account in this set http://www.flickr.com/photos/neuage/sets/72157632393552028/ and I will have more in my webpage for this trip when I get home to Dalian China next week @ http://neuage.us/2012/Vietnam

_DSC4232

Our guide, perhaps Vivvie – that is what we called her, which was close to what we think she said her name was, and she was OK with that was really good at answering our so many questions. Her English was quite good and she humoured our lame humour.

On Saturday nights in Sa Pa they have the ‘love market’. We kidded her about going tonight to it and she said ‘but no one wants me’. We of course said that was not true and when we passed some young male who looked at her we would say ‘maybe you should meet him at the love market’ and she would laugh and say no. Actually a lot of people in her tribe get married through arranged marriages and she is planned on going to Hanoi to university next year to start a teaching degree (gosh darn who in their right mind would want to do such a thing?) and come back and teach in her local village.

Here is a little about the Sa Pa love market that I borrowed and stole and amended from the world wide web; “Sa pa is famed for its “Love Market” – sort of a cross between a peacock mating ritual, a Middle Eastern arms bazaar, an Amish square dance, a bad Pavarotti concert and Bangkok’s Patpong (except here the people wear clothes). On Saturday nights, Red Dao hill tribe youths of both sexes congregate in a weekly courting rite, singing tribal versions of Loretta Lynn love songs to woo the opposite sex. The songs are highly personalized and boast of the composer’s physical attributes, domestic abilities and strong work ethic. While Dao women are indeed highly industrious, the men, it seems, prefer to spend most of their time drinking, smoking opium or sleeping, only occasionally slapping the rump of a lethargic bovine moving more slowly than they are. Few of their songs, though, are about drinking, smoking opium, sleeping or slapping rumps.” Lifted from http://www.sapatrain.com/local_market_sapa_laocai_vietnam.html

_DSC4421

We did go through the market and saw much carrying-on Saturday night – with a group of males playing instruments and dancing in the church square, see photo above.

I saw this woman in the local stream washing her clothes and I am not sure what she thinks of being single by the words on the back of tee shirt

_DSC4335

I asked Vivvie lots of questions – I don’t remember many at the moment but some were:

“Are there police/law-enforcement people in your village?” She said there wasn’t and the village didn’t need them. Having lived in the States for 40-plus years and Australia some 22 years and now China it is difficult thinking that a society could exist without law enforcement. What is wrong with a village where people do the right thing? Surely they should have automatic rapid-firing machine guns like they do in the States available to everyone. Surely there are people who murder, rape, steal and generally misbehave. I think all the villagers should go live in New York City or any city in the States for a year to learn how to live with other humans. She said she was a Buddhist, of course that explains it – one of those hippy-like religions where people respect each other and don’t kill animals for food or each other for sport. Those tripped out belief systems where people care for one another and work together. No wonder the Yanks bombed Hanoi and Vivvie said they bombed Sa Pa too – we cannot have people running around like this who respect one another and who look after their environment and who are not materialistic wanting more and more. Can you imagine being happy living in a house like this?

_DSC4293

Really, look how stressed out these kids look who are not playing on their iPhones or laptops

_DSC4274

_DSC4280_DSC4302_DSC4327Vivvie said there people have been in this area for about 1500 years doing pretty much the same stuff. What has changed in the villages, or most of them, is that they have electricity and television but most people do not watch and they are too busy living life to stay inside and spend time on the Internet and watching TV. Tourism is changing life in that people have money but she did not say much about what they do extra in the past few years with the influx of Westerners. She said she thought she would get paid ten-dollars for today’s tour – which was about five hours with us. The Hendersons and we each gave her five bucks which equals her day’s salary. She refused the money but we insisted.

She said that when a woman got married she had to live with the husband in his village. There is intermarriage between villages but it is the husband’s village that is home. She said she would not get married until after her uni but at 18 years old and not having lived in a city I wonder how much of that will remain. She said when people do leave the village they almost all come back.  Even though she seemed quite liberated she said most definitely she would live with her husband’s tribe if she married someone from another village.

There are a lot of languages but I think about six main ones in this area and they do not understand other languages but they all learn Vietnamese and now English. So they communicate with each other.

One thing that is so different from our glorious Western ways is that people barter and help each other out in emergency no wonder America was out bombing them and the communists hated them. There seems to be a lot of tension between the communists and the H’mong people though I think it is the ones in Laos that have had the most trouble according to the Internet.

Last year there was snow for the first time in memory or some-such-time-period and a lot of water buffalo died. They are expensive and a primary part of the life in the villages. The people have gotten together to help each other out giving rice and etc._DSC4300

Of course we were interested in how does one buy land and live in such a great environment. Apparently one can buy land and live here – something worth exploring.

We bought a lot over the three days here and got a large embroidered  bag from the Flower Hmong

As usual everyone seems so short…_DSC4255

Well off to Hanoi and another overnight train.

I am sure I will write more about our visit to Sa Pa but this is all for today.

Lao Chai Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012 Sa Pa, Vietnam

We trekked to two villages today. The first was Lao Chai village, 6 km from the centre town, where the H’mong people are living. The trek was through rice fields and quite steep. The most difficult part was walking and balancing on the edge of the terraced rice paddies. In my embarrassment of being 65 a village girl had to hold my hand over quite a long stretch that was about six inches wide and straight down a long ways on the right and into the water on the left. I managed to slip into the water several times but the girl kept me from falling down the mountain. Narda had a girl with a baby on her back holding her from slipping down the side.

_DSC3983

We took about two hours to get down to the bottom to the beginning of the Muong Hoa valley. Our guide who collected us from where we are staying this week; the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel (http://thaibinhhotel.com/), was from the H’mong tribe and she spoke good English. She had her baby strapped to her back the whole way and was really a good guide and a steady hand to Narda over some of the slippery and muddy parts of the path.

We had lunch at her village and went on to to Ta Van Village which borders Lao Chai Village.

A better description is from http://www.allsapatours.com/sapa-vietnam/Ta-Van-Village.html, “Ta Van means “a big turning road” like a basket brim, or tripod-leg line. Vast terrace fields with unique position of a big turning road become a landscape and a destination of Ta Van. Seo Mi Ti scenery-old pine forest, a half day of sloping road away from township centre, is also a particularly interesting eco-tourist site of Ta Van. And Ta van has become an integral tourist site for ecological excursions in Sapa.”

Lunch was good with the only complaint being the constant harassment from children selling stuff. We did purchase a bed spread and some other embroidered things from our guide’s mother. The bed spread she said took three-months to make, OK so we believe things but it was well done and the mother (in the photos below) was making them whilst we were  there and a lot of work goes into these things. We paid 700 dongs about $35 US and for a handmade spread that seemed cheap. They die the fabric with indigo plants that make it go green. The fabric is soaked for months; the longer it is in the dye the darker. We picked some of the plants and it instantly makes skin turn green. Our guide is on the left below and her mother is holding the baby after hours on the back of the mother as we climbed down the mountain.

_DSC4145

I am not sure how much the villages are affected by the tourist coming through. They are better off and have built schools off the proceeds so we are doing our little bit. The village by Western standards are quite poor and I am not sure we could live like they do for very long which probably illustrates our materialistic ways.

There are six major groups in the Sa Pa area each speaks their own language though they share Vietnamese they do not understand the other village’s languages. Each village has its own culture and beliefs. Our guide is Buddhist and she married a fellow from another village. Some villages are Christian some have no beliefs – which is impossible because we all believe something or the other – but they all co-exist and have for I suppose many hundreds if not thousands of years. Apparently they were not affected by the American war in the 1960s and early 1970s and the government has pretty much left them alone, probably because they are so isolated and non-threatening. This is really something to see; we, with all our Western beliefs and wants and to see tribes living like they have for so long makes one believe that society may continue. They will be still here when all the Christians, Muslims, Jews and spiritualists of many hues destroy themselves. The teenagers do not run off to Hanoi but stay in their villages and keep the traditions going.

_DSC4104I took 188 photos and a lot of video today and I am trying to select the best 20 or 30 or maybe 50 for today’s album which I am uploading to Facebook, Google+ and a few other photostreaming sites.

This is the view from our hotel room

_DSC4169

We have two more days here and hope to get to the other villages. The weather has been fantastic.

_DSC4011

Lao Chai Village, Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Friday, December 28, 2012 Sa Pa, Vietnam

We trekked to two villages today. The first was Lao Chai village, 6 km from the centre town, where the H’mong people are living. The trek was through rice fields and quite steep. The most difficult part was walking and balancing on the edge of the terraced rice paddies. In my embarrassment of being 65 a village girl had to hold my hand over quite a long stretch that was about six inches wide and straight down a long ways on the right and into the water on the left. I managed to slip into the water several times but the girl kept me from falling down the mountain. Narda had a girl with a baby on her back holding her from slipping down the side.

_DSC3983

We took about two hours to get down to the bottom to the beginning of the Muong Hoa valley. Our guide who collected us from where we are staying this week; the Thai Binh Sapa Hotel (http://thaibinhhotel.com/), was from the H’mong tribe and she spoke good English. She had her baby strapped to her back the whole way and was really a good guide and a steady hand to Narda over some of the slippery and muddy parts of the path.

We had lunch at her village and went on to to Ta Van Village which borders Lao Chai Village.

A better description is from http://www.allsapatours.com/sapa-vietnam/Ta-Van-Village.html, “Ta Van means “a big turning road” like a basket brim, or tripod-leg line. Vast terrace fields with unique position of a big turning road become a landscape and a destination of Ta Van. Seo Mi Ti scenery-old pine forest, a half day of sloping road away from township centre, is also a particularly interesting eco-tourist site of Ta Van. And Ta van has become an integral tourist site for ecological excursions in Sapa.”

Lunch was good with the only complaint being the constant harassment from children selling stuff. We did purchase a bed spread and some other embroidered things from our guide’s mother. The bed spread she said took three-months to make, OK so we believe things but it was well done and the mother (in the photos below) was making them whilst we were  there and a lot of work goes into these things. We paid 700 dongs about $35 US and for a handmade spread that seemed cheap. They die the fabric with indigo plants that make it go green. The fabric is soaked for months; the longer it is in the dye the darker. We picked some of the plants and it instantly makes skin turn green. Our guide is on the left below and her mother is holding the baby after hours on the back of the mother as we climbed down the mountain.

_DSC4145

I am not sure how much the villages are affected by the tourist coming through. They are better off and have built schools off the proceeds so we are doing our little bit. The village by Western standards are quite poor and I am not sure we could live like they do for very long which probably illustrates our materialistic ways.

There are six major groups in the Sa Pa area each speaks their own language though they share Vietnamese they do not understand the other village’s languages. Each village has its own culture and beliefs. Our guide is Buddhist and she married a fellow from another village. Some villages are Christian some have no beliefs – which is impossible because we all believe something or the other – but they all co-exist and have for I suppose many hundreds if not thousands of years. Apparently they were not affected by the American war in the 1960s and early 1970s and the government has pretty much left them alone, probably because they are so isolated and non-threatening. This is really something to see; we, with all our Western beliefs and wants and to see tribes living like they have for so long makes one believe that society may continue. They will be still here when all the Christians, Muslims, Jews and spiritualists of many hues destroy themselves. The teenagers do not run off to Hanoi but stay in their villages and keep the traditions going.

_DSC4104I took 188 photos and a lot of video today and I am trying to select the best 20 or 30 or maybe 50 for today’s album which I am uploading to Facebook, Google+ and a few other photostreaming sites.

This is the view from our hotel room

_DSC4169

We have two more days here and hope to get to the other villages. The weather has been fantastic.

_DSC4011

Sa Pa, Vietnam

Monday, December 31st, 2012

Thursday, December 27, 2012 Sapa

The train did not look anything like the photos but rather a world-war II vintage of a China train (just my opinion). We got the first class soft sleepers though the translation in Vietnamese of the word soft is a hard one inch mat on a metal frame. Four of us in the room; most of the tourist as always in Nam were Australian and Dutch. In our ‘first-class-sleeper’ the Dutch were friendly and they exchanged with Narda stories and drank beer. The two in our room were a young couple from Canada and they promptly put in earplugs and went to sleep.

_DSC3856

I struggled to get a couple hours of sleep as the train made as much noise and shook as much as possible on the track. I am not at all complaining and happily, worse for wear, we dragged out sorry asses out of the train at six am.

Our hotel room was not ready so we went walking for five hours then got into our room and slept two hours and went out walking again. Sapa, I suppose for this time of year – though it could be year-round, was in the clouds or in our terms, foggy. We will probably rent motor scooters tomorrow but the fact that we can see barely a meter in front of us may curb our cycling enthusiasm.

The local tribe people who are constantly selling their goods no matter how many times no comes out; they follow you down the street and keep selling, are quite colourful and a big part of their business is trekking – or we do the trekking and follow them to their village. It is all supposed to be quite the thing to do here but some villages are ten kilometers away and we feel like it has been a trek going a dozen blocks. It is very mountainous. Sapa is like an outlet mall for ‘The North Face’ brand of clothes. Shop after shop sells coats that would sell in the States for hundreds of dollars for $25 – $35 US. Narda bought ‘The Northface’ walking shoes and I got waterproof pants with their ‘gore-tex’ insulation for like 900,000 dongs or $42 for the lot. The pants cost close to a hundred in shops in the West. ‘The North Face’ brand are made in Vietnam so I suppose we are helping the local economy. We did other stuff to help the local economy and fill our suitcases by buying other stuff that we could probably do without.

_DSC3886

The above picture shows how foggy it is here and this is with an extreme close-up.

I have heaps of photos in my Facebook and Google+ and they will be at

http://neuage.us/2012/vietnam next week once we are back in China. And videos too as I cannot edit them on this computer.

And that is it for today.

Christmas Day Hanoi

Monday, December 31st, 2012

25 December 2012 Christmas Day Hanoi

As I forgot to add this URL the last blog I scribbled out whilst dashing to a plane in Hoi An here it is http://blog.travelpod.com/members/3bybike We met this couple and their about ten-year old daughter at our hotel. They left Denmark last June and rode through Europe, Thailand, Cambodia and now Vietnam on their way to Australia then to South America on a year-long trek. I traveled with my two boys back in the 1992s but we took planes and trains from Australia through the States, England, France and Germany. They were 8 and 10 at the time and I was a single parent trying to keep track of us; I should have taken a bike built for three and trekked around with them instead of going the comfortable, but by no means easy, way.

After days out in the thicket of humans, and an evening in, after finishing the Book Thief and receiving yet again Shantaram for Christmas – I had read the first hundred pages a year ago and didn’t like it, I will give it another go. But not being in a reading mood I will try and blog. Not sure why I do, I get something like three maybe five hits when I blog so I know I am not writing for anyone else. Nevertheless – to remember, I tell myself – take notes.

Christmas Eve, how does a city get so crowded? It was not a weekend, and do communists even care about Christmas – wait they do; why give up an opportunity to sell just because of beliefs?

We decided to purchase a Christmas Tree and have Brendan and his girlfriend over for The Day. There was more Christmas crap than in the States at a Christmas store bankruptcy sale…

_DSC3656

It was a bit of a chore but we did get a little tree with stuff on it for about three US dollars and a string of blinking lights for another buck; 20 dongs which now sits blinking crazily away in our house.

_DSC3713

Our house is a three stories affair. The first floor is a bit of a garage for us, Brendan parks his motor scooter there when visiting and there is a bit of a bar or coffee area there. It was or sometimes maybe, a café; we don’t know, we are renting it through airbandb (https://www.airbnb.com/) as we have in other cities (Melbourne, and Harlem in NYC). The lounge/living space is on the 2nd floor with a kitchen and the bedroom is on the third floor. We have balconies overlooking Truc Bach Lake and West Lake (Ho Tay). The narrow house is on Nguyen Truong To and easy walking distance to the old section, easy if you are not us. We managed to take over an hour to walk the 20 minute walk getting lost all the way last night, Christmas Eve. Of course with so many people out it took more than an hour to get home.

The house is good though with a few things that would have been better; they did not leave a quilt or blankets and we huddled under sheets and bath towels and we ran out of cooking gas the first day and the shower doesn’t work but there is a stove in the café downstairs that we were able to fire up. We had a candlelit dinner on the balcony on Christmas Eve with Brendan, girlfriend and us…

dinner-resized

Life is good here; a combination of hustle and fast and slow. On the way back from Brendan’s house this afternoon the taxi driver tried to tell us the 72,000 dong fair was 72,000,000 something like going from $3.50 to $35. When we purchase fruit, mango being our favourite, the price really jumps. This is a cheap place but sellers quickly change prices. Often though the price is like 10,000 dong more, like fifty-cents, and in our world vs. their world to us it is not much but to them….

Last night we ate at a local-like place, meaning there were no other westerners in the place and they had a menu with various ways to have your dog prepared. Grilled and boiled were the most popular. I like dogs but I cannot imagine eating one. But I don’t eat any animals and it is for the same reason, I like animals and I am not going to eat something smarter than me. It all started out for religious/spiritual/metaphysical reasons back in the 1960s but even then I think I thought eating an animal was a bit barbaric without the other reasons. I have never come at it since. I believe I have gotten rid of every fiber of religious/spiritual/metaphysical bits out of me so not eating meat is not based on beliefs as I basically don’t have any; though of course every thought is a belief of some sort. I suppose just the image of killing an animal to eat it is too gross for me to contemplate eating one. (perhaps this is why no one reads my blogs, I am too opinionated – of course no one reading my blogs does not prove this because if no one reads my blog then no one would know I may be too opinionated.

_DSC3701

I shot this photo on the way to the shop this afternoon. Who could possible want to kill them and eat them?

What I often wonder is how people seem so happy when surely they are not making big bucks? A lot of people have so little. A lot of people walk around all day selling stuff from what they carry. For example I watched this woman with her fruit and nuts and she walked down our street a few times with no one buying anything. After a while she stopped and chatted with some folks for a bit then picked up her baskets and went on. She was always smiling or at least not appearing too gloomy. Of course she did not know I was tracking here with a 300 mm lens on my pricey Nikon camera from the comfort of my balcony drinking my overpriced flavoured soy-milk.

_DSC3715

We have had a good stay. We did not go to any tourist stops this time in Hanoi, we did a lot of that last year. We just had a little living here time. Tomorrow we are off to Sapa on the overnight train for almost a week then back here for New Years a couple of days then back to cold Dalian, China to work enough to get our sorry asses to Australia in February. Life is good and if it really did end back on the 21st as so many believed it would then whatever dimension we are living in is quite good.

_DSC3669

Hoi An, Vietnam

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

Friday, December 21, 2012

So quickly to find our life is not as adventuresome as the next person to pass by. Everywhere we travel their life is so unique and interesting but we no complain. Getting on our bikes this morning to look at local house rentals; we had heard a house goes for about $400 a month and who would not want to live here? We met a couple with a ten-year old girl traveling the world for a year on bikes. From Denmark they started last July coming down through Europe and the past several months biking through Asia. The father and girl have a tandem bike with the girl in front and all their belongings for a year with them. They are telling stories about how Cambodia is the poorest of the Asian countries they had been through. They told how large areas were just huge rubbish dumps and as they rode and air-conditioned tourist buses went by they were constantly surprised at the poverty and pollution. Of course we were those tourists flying around Cambodia on air-conditioned buses a couple of years ago. I had some relatives that were missionaries in Vietnam and Cambodia and growing up in New York I was drowned with their stories of poverty in those places. This couple with the child will be travelling for a year through Southeast Asia, Australia then South America. Maybe that is what I should have done with my kids. Next time I see the travelers I will grab their blog address and put it on here knowing their blog will be so much more interesting than mine.

It is quite the change from -15 C when we left Dalian last Saturday to spend winter break in Vietnam. Great to be away from Standards Based Testing which in various muddled forms our school is trying to initiate so we can be up there with American education (Students in Shanghai who recently took international exams for the first time outscored every other school system in the world. In the same test, American students ranked 25th in math, 17th in science and 14th in reading.) Not sure why ISS – our umbrella organization is so driven to force us into a failed system. Nevertheless after many starts and way too many mindless meetings we got our unit plans in before leaving. I suppose to further the American education we will need to give our students a laptop, bullet-proof vest and schoolbag and a gun on the first day of school. I am sure there will be a rubric and standard for gun handling. Probably part of the physical education program. Our school is surrounded by a large fence and we have guards everywhere though I have not seen any with guns. Of course we are not in America so we are safe.

Hanoi was hot, like in the high 20s and I think around 32 the first day. That is centigrade not Fahrenheit. We stayed at the Green Mango which we did not like as much as last year’s place but breakfast was good and for only a couple of nights it was not the end of the world. Actually speaking of the end of the world; we have been in Hoi An for the past five days and every evening there has been end of the world movies.  Last night we watched the ending of the Body Snatchers and the night before we saw some of The Day of the Locust and before that there was some desert thing and some climate and other snuff us out on the 21st of December tales. Tonight we were are watching Hellboys and Armageddon; unfortunately, I feel to sleep half way through Armageddon though Narda said Bruce Willis saved the world by exploding a nuclear warhead into an asteroid. Thanks Bruce for letting us live to see another day.

When I was in a cult order, 1969 – 1978, there was a lot of narrative about the Mayan Calendar. One of our leaders even wrote the pope to alert him of the end times saying it was vital to sync our calendars together to prepare us for when the shit hits the fan sometime in the future; in 2012 on December 21.  Then as an astrologer during the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and up until 2003 (my son committing suicide put an end to such stupid belief systems) I believed in this nonsense.  So what does one do after waiting for more than 40 years for an event to happen? Well if it was not for some bloody roosters in the backyard I would have slept longer but at 6 am I sat in a sort of naked state in front of my window and posted Facebook photos of our trip so far. Outside the window another beautiful day waiting for our exploration and as soon as Narda wakes up and we have another breakfast of fresh fruit and museli we will be off into the world around Hoi Ann. I think we will rent motorcycles today.  We rode bikes every day so far, four days, and my butt hurts so something more comfortable will be great. By the way, today, the 21st, the world did not end. What this should tell everyone is that we can only live in the moment that no one has ever predicted the future and no one ever will because the future is based on what we do now and what we do now is always so changeable. Oh well such as life, insecure people believe in and hang on to non-realistic teachings. The whole human race is crawling forward at roughly the same speed and no one is really more evolved than anyone else so believing that someone does is really detrimental to one’s growth.

In Hoi An we are at the Orchard Garden Homestay for a week. It had top marks in trip advisor and we have not been a bit disappointed. We have a bungalow on the second floor.

view from our bedroom

Last night they gave a party to all the guests, about 20 of us. People across from us are from Adelaide, and just a suburb away from our home at that, some New Zealanders, Dutch – lots of Dutch here; Narda being from Holland and an Australian she got to be from the two main groupings in this town, and a couple from Poland and some folks from Brittan. We had a full meal and wine. The hospitality is really good.

So I found material I liked – to replicate a shirt I saw back in October when we spent a week in Yantai; a shirt of two materials doing alternate things, a plaid panel and a solid panel with opposite sleeves and cuffs and collar.

The tie I bought at a street shop for 60 dongs, about 3 dollars. I will make a series of them – suits my thinking; swatches of patches sewn into a non-coherent form making up a whole – it has always explained me now I can wear my personality on my sleeve. Next I will go to more colour and try for three then four swatches.  “Clothes created from multiple thoughts – some which even are capable of co-inhabiting.

Narda has a different approach; she is more organized and fashionable and found her fashion in the same material market that I did.

She drew out both our set of clothes so I suppose in the Narda-Terrell slumber-assisted living over 65 sort of consciousness we possess she would be the designer.

my-shirt

Narda found some rock-the-boat material, designed it and showed the chic chick the three layers she wanted for her over 55 party-poser win.

Of course designing and having our clothes made does not take from our –its-good-for-the-economy purchasing sprees we embrace in the local clothes and jewelry markets. Not actually sure why I found 5 new shirts and some ties in  my shopping party bag when I  lighted home,  one flowery shirt of which Narda claims if I wear she will not be privy to my existence, has taken my fancy.

_DSC3498Dongs are the trendy choice here though they will take the US dollar. 20,000 dongs equals 96 cents USA. We rented a scooter for a day for 100,000 dongs – five US dollars. Travelling roads the width of a footpath we stopped at little one room houses that had a shop front for our Vietnamese coffee. We have been drinking coffee this way for more than a year since last being here. At home a spoonful of sweet condensed milk is enough; here they put a lot more. We got our little metal drip coffee maker last time in Nam and not able to get Vietnamese coffee in China we get our beans ground just right to make pretty much the same cuppa. Of course the best coffee is supposed to be Weasel Coffee or ca phe chon. The coffee beans that have been carefully selected and digested by a weasel, then used to make coffee. Yumm!

_DSC3504

We were at dinner a couple of nights ago, the only ones at the restaurant when we were asked if we were staying for the dancing. Of course we said we did not feel like dancing we had just come for dinner. Though somehow we were transferred from our balcony eating spot to the main dining room with a stage and being the only ones there we felt most self-conscious when the dancing started –  cham dance, it is the ethnic Cham people, who are from this area who do these dances though we did not have enough knowledge to have a clue what was going on. . It went on for an hour – four girls, who changed customs four times showed us four dances. Another couple came in for a drink, from Queensland, of course it is mostly Australians here, then left after one dance so it was us wanting to leave but being too polite we stayed.  I have no idea what the dances were about; one they had water pots on their heads, and two they had big umbrellas and another was something about a fertility dance that they seemed as embarrassed dancing as we did watching.

I did make a good contact with a local Water Buffalo, even making a video of him that I said would be on youtube which made him most excited but I deleted it by mistake and only have a portrait to show for my efforts.

_DSC3473

Hoi An, like all poorer places in the world sees tourists as dollar signs. It is impossible to sit at a meal or have a coffee or even walk down the street without the parade of people trying to sell beads and trinkets. It is not as bad as some cities we have been to but it does wear on you.

We did go for an hour boat ride for 100,000 dongs, again less than five dollars. The driver was the same age as me, 65, and he did look the worst for wear making me realize that our lives are probably a bit easier in the long run. Narda drove the boat for about 20 minutes. At first the driver was not sure about her wanting to take over but as most males soon realize it is usually best to give her what she wants and after a few nervous moments the guy went to the back of the boat and relaxed as we went motoring down the river, Narda at the helm.

_DSC3344

Narda the boat driver
Narda the boat driver

The big way to hustle tourists here is through friendly banter; ‘where are you from?’ of course we say China and some laugh and some walk away but we are from China – it is where my drawer of socks and jocks are so that is home. The second question is ‘do you have children?’ then if we are foolish enough to say yes and start talking about them out comes the trinkets, or maybe we would like a massage, or a boat ride or usually some clothes made. Already our suitcase is double what it was when we came here and we get too much made for us back at Campus Village as it is. My most recent big garment is a cape. The talk of the school. Even the guards stop and look and second graders say I look like Batman, Count Dracula, and etc. I wore it to a school dinner and fellow teacher, Pat Herding, asked if it was Narda’s – that hurt – for a half second – but I love it. It comes down to my knees, has a hood and is wool with silk lining and even pockets inside. With the material it cost $60 US. I will take a photo when we get back and post it.

Last weekend we were in Hanoi and we are going there tomorrow for Christmas then on to Sapa on the overnight train for a few days, taking the overnight train back to Hanoi for New Years and a couple of days later back to Campus Village to work on Standards Based lesson plans. Talk about taking the fun out of education and taking away creative learning. One thing I have done is change my classroom from a table learning space to a more comfortable interactive sphere of learning. I took out desks dragged in a couple of sofas – of course without asking because administration only knows how to say no, and put a rug in and a coffee table and I have a great space. I project on the wall some clips that references our learning – I am teaching video broadcast journalism in my high school course then we have discussions, and I bring in a laptop cart of utrabooks and some kids sit on the sofa and some go to a couple of tables I have in another area of the room and we get more done than we use to. I still have to take my class to the computer lab some days for programming work because the software is only on the desktops at this time but I feel the learning environment supports a student centred learning and I still manage to integrate the standards.

In Hanoi last week we were there to hang with Narda’s son Brendan and meet his girlfriend.  The weather was great. Apparently it had been cold and raining then the days we were there it was so hot. It was all good. Now we get to spend Christmas with them. Usually we go to Australia for Christmas so this will be our first one in a while not there.

I have taken heaps of video and photos but my laptop stayed home and I do not have the programs on Narda’s so I will wait until we get back to do videos and make a webpage for this trip, probably. When I do everything will be at http://neuage.us/2012/vietnam after 6 January 2013.

_DSC3364