Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Cruisin'

We continued to wear our Christmas hats on the motorbikes!

We made a lot of friends on our ride from dinner to the fabric market! ...Especially by beeping Jingle Bells every now and then.  ...And giving a jolly, "Merry Christmas!" to our neighbors at red lights...  :)

Outside the Tan Dinh Market in District 3:


Today doesn't really feel like Christmas... it is still in the 90's and humid in Saigon... but decorations and Christmas music are all over the city. Apparently Vietnam loves the Christmas fad.

(...So do Lenny and Lexey.)  :P

We returned from Siem Reap, Cambodia last night and Lexey landed in Saigon today! I'll be posting pictures from our Angkor Wat trip soon... buuut tomorrow we have an early AM flight to Hanoi and we'll be doing a 2-day, 1-night cruise in Ha Long Bay (one of the new Seven Wonders of the World). ...Can't wait!

This afternoon we had a great Christmas dinner at Au Parc... with our Christmas hats!

Happy Christmas from the Maiorani's!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Maiorani Fish Massage

We went for a fish massage one morning... hilarious  :P

Mom wasn't so sure about the fish at first but she ended up loving it.  :)

Dad squealed a bit at first but was very brave!...

...But had to take breaks once in a while.  :P

The turkish fish loved Lenny's feet, haha.

...Aaaand then they all went to Mom!

Street Photos

Since my mom and dad arrived in Saigon two days ago, we've had fun exploring the city! Lenny rented a Yamaha Nuovo motorbike and has been my mom's xe om, while I've been driving my dad.  :)  The 4 of us are having way too much fun cruising around through the traffic!

We had breakfast at Au Parc this morning. My mom had a cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee with milk)...

And Lenny ordered yogurt with honey...

Street tailor:

We leave tomorrow morning for Siem Reap, Cambodia! I'm excited to get back to this area and explore more... with my family this time!

Mom and Dad are here!!

My parents arrived in Saigon late Sunday night and we grabbed drinks in my neighborhood before heading to bed... there were crowds out at the local cafes watching the British soccer game so we joined them...

I'm so glad they're here!!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mr. Nhan... the poser

Lenny and I had a laugh when the time-lapse video paused here...

hahaha... Love Mr. Nhan!

I then practiced my own locals' pose in front of the post office this morning and got laughed at by some tourists...

Lenny's posted some other great pictures from our Sunday morning here...

...Now we're off to a local cafe for some cafe sua da (iced coffee with milk)! Tambiet!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Traffic... time-lapsed

Below is a time-lapse video that Lenny and I created of the traffic on a Saturday morning in Saigon.

Lenny and I cruised around and ran errands for most of the morning... (The video is 20x's normal speed.)

Lenny also posted the video and  some great photos on his blog, here...

Soup Lady

Lenny and I ate lunch under the banyon tree at the Soup Lady's restaurant:

Soup Lady.
She buys meats and fish at the market each morning, makes one huge pot of soup, and serves it until it is gone! ...And it's amazing.

Soup of the day with tra da (iced tea)...

Lenny's here!

I picked Lenny up from the airport on my motorbike yesterday and we've had fun cruising around the city since!

This morning there was live music playing outside the Opera House:

Dong Khoi Street is being decorated for Tet holiday coming up...

We had breakfast at L'usine... this is the backdrop...   

The Maiorani's are in Saigon! (Mom and Dad arrive tomorrow.)  :D

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Secret Pals

I decided to set up Secret Pals at the middle school... I wasn't sure if the teachers would be that into it... but it turned out really well! 13 of us participated and I think everyone enjoyed it... it's always fun to find a little treat on your desk.  :) 

Each day for a week we gave a small something to our pals... and Friday we went out to Pacharan for a drink and the final gift/reveal.

Shelly's Secret Pal was Jim, our principal! (She had no idea it was him.)  :P

I was Lester's Secret Pal (he's our Mandarin teacher)... he had no idea!

Ryan... checking out what Patrice got him...

Jeff was Patrice's Secret Pal and gave her a certificate for a mojito on him!
So cute  :)

Michael opening his present from Sarah.  :)

Some people were out of town... but we had a good turnout at Pacharan and it was nice to get together for a holiday drink!

...and we ended up at Elbow Room

Every Wednesday a group of teachers from the middle school go out to a new restaurant for what's been termed Pink Lady Wednesday. It originally began with a small group of ladies (plus two male teachers) who live in District 7 and have a bit of a drive to school each day. They would travel as a pack and jokingly called themselves the Pink Ladies (yes... think Grease).

My favorite was on Halloween - Donna, Shelly, and Elizabeth - three of the Pink Ladies, dressed up as such and had the principal's assistant translate Pink Ladies into Vietnamese... it turned out to mean, ladies who wear pink - so cute!

WELL... when Donna changed the font of the translation to print out badges as part of their costumes, one of the dots under a letter disappeared... which then changed the translation to say, really old ladies who wear pink, hahahahaha. FINALLY, about 1/2-way through the day, a student told Shelly and we all had a good laugh over that.

Anyway - last Wednesday we decided to go to a place called Quing - we read that it was a cute wine bar. On our way, Shelly and I picked up our driver's licenses!

...We are so legit. And we love the two ladies at this office... they just giggle and laugh their way through helping us.  :)  Now we'll need to look into buying insurance... which I hear is $12 per year... perrrrfect.

The transportation office is on the same street as Quing... but Pasteur St. is one-way... going the wrong way. It took us about 3 times circling around blocks to get far enough down Pasteur to find Quing.

We parked out bikes and thought... this is the cute wine bar? ...Not so cute. The guys inside were pretty sketchy looking and the room was filled with smoke.

Parking my bike, I opened the boot to put my helmet inside... and put my keys right with it! I realized what I had done as soon as I closed the boot... so Elizabeth and I played Charades with the parking attendant to tell her that I locked my keys inside. At the same moment, the parking attendant and 3 guys who were standing around watching us said, "Ohhhhhh!" and took out phones to begin calling a guy to unlock it for me.

Ohhh Vietnam.  :)  Within 2 minutes, a guy pulled up on a bike, he had a cigarette in one hand and a box full of his tools in the other. The tools were basically small hangers of various sizes. He had the boot of my bike unlocked in less than 2 minutes... which Elizabeth photographed... and we were on our way!

Good thing to know it is that easy to break into my bike!  :P

While all of this was going on, Shelly was able to get some Christmas shopping done... her students had told her that Pasteur Street is also "Video Game Shop Street" - she got video games for 30,000 dong each ($1.50)! Perrrrfect.

After the people at Quing were so great with helping me unlock my bike... we decided to not stay! This was not the cute wine bar we expected for the afternoon. I recommended we go to a restaurant about a block and a half down the same street that I like, The Elbow Room... but, of course, it is located going the wrong way down the one-way again! Ha!

Instead of circling around the block yet again through the traffic of Saigon, we braved the street the wrong way. (I should mention that going the wrong way down a one-way street is not uncommon in this city... I do so everyday on my way to work!)

The Elbow Room was great... good atmosphere... good wine... good food... and great company.  :)  I love the Pink Lady Wednesdays!

Christmas Book Tree

Happy holidays!  

I'm pretty proud of this.   :)  ...and have loved students' reactions when they walk into the library and see the Christmas Book Tree!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Saigon Fun and Amazing Moments

After school on Monday I went to the Backpacker area, Pham Ngu Lao, to do some shopping with Donna (our art teacher) and Elizabeth (our counselor) on Bui Vien Street. I had a lot of fun hanging out with these two.  :)

The wiring in this city is almost as crazy as the traffic!

Ha... this shrine was above the entrance to an alley... and Elizabeth and I liked the disco ball included!

We had dinner at a great Indian restaurant called Baba's. There was a family there - father is from England, mother is from Australia, and they have two young boys - one is almost 5 years-old and the other is one. They have been traveling for 5 months... (been to Thailand, Burma, Laos, and now Vietnam) and plan to travel for another 7 or something!

The 5-year old had an awesome conversation with us... and at one point he told us that if we were speaking Vietnamese, he would not be able to understand us. We laughed and said that we cannot understand people speaking Vietnamese either! He then wanted us to teach him every Vietnamese word that we do know (a very short list...). We counted to five (mot, hai, ba, bon, nam), said hello (xin chao), goodbye (tambiet), thank you (cam on), etc... but our favorite (and the phrase that impresses the Vietnamese the most) is han gap lai (see you again).

This little boy practiced saying han gap lai a few times... and when we left a little while later we were saying goodbye to the family and he asked how to say "see you again"... the next moment was one of those moments that I hope to never forget and I hope it comes across even somewhat as amazing in words as it really was...

As this little boy asked us how to say "see you again" in Vietnamese, he was standing in the entrance to the restaurant and we were just stepping out onto the sidewalk. We all replied, Han gap lai to him... and he then waved and yelled, Han gap lai! to us... to which we all replied, Han gap lai! back... and ALL the Vietnamese around just started cracking up, smiling, and speaking to each other in rapid Vietnamese about what had just happened.  :P 

Sunday Breakfast Club

We went to Jaspa's as usual for Sunday breakfast... buy-one-get-one-free breakfasts and bottomless latas is a win-win. From breakfast, Shelly, her daughter - Sienna, Sarah, and I went to look at some ao dai fabrics... a Sunday-Funday for sure!

I love the balloon bikes. On my way to breakfast I wanted to take this guy's picture... and then he wanted me to buy one of the balloons. ...I figured it was perfect since I was heading to a breakfast date with a 3-year old!

Seriously... he's riding towards me right now (see him?! ...even if you're able to spot him... do you think he can see where he's going?? haha)


Driving off... but he kept looking backwards for me... and when I drove past, he pointed at me and said, "You!" haha... Yes, me!

The balloon doll is a winner with Sienna :)

We stopped by the Christmas market at the pink church on Hai Ba Trung...

Hahahaha... who wants to put a giant random-baby poster in their place??

Sarah and Sienna in front of a fabric shop filled with ao dai fabrics...

Sienna is a star in Saigon!

Lunch time...

Sarah - feeling right at home...