Sunday, July 31, 2011

Bo-ring!

I am afraid that this blog may become less exciting once I begin working.  :P

We'll see... the blogs will probably just become less frequent BUT I hope to travel as much as I can on breaks and that should be pretty cool. Hopefully I'll make some good friends from school and we can travel together. I think a big part of making this experience a success is going to be having good friends.

This blog has been a great activity for me. I'm so thankful to be this content here thus far and it's really great to hear from family and friends back home who are reading the blog and enjoying it!

I feel like this experience is one of those things that cannot be explained to someone through a catch-up email or phone call every now and then. So much happens to me daily that I think I would feel even further away going through it and feeling as if people back home didn't understand what I'm going through. I enjoy creating new posts each day and love the comments and emails with everyone's reactions (and support!).  :)

I did it!!

It's been quite the rainy day so far today... but I've managed to get out during clear moments and sprinkles. Good thing I packed my rain boots!  :P

I've had a couple of scooter practices today. After successfully navigating the side streets again, I decided to brave the main road! Perhaps because of the sprinkles, this helped the traffic be a little less... but there was still traffic and I'm still here to type about it!

I went out and around on the main road a few times (in the US it would probably be the size of a 4-lane road with a large island in the middle) and also in a loop... from the apartment, down an alley, out onto the main road, and turning back onto our side road.

Coming back to the apartment after my first couple of times venturing out, I victoriously yelled to Mr. Nahn, "I did it!" He gave me a thumbs up, a giggle, and a few claps.  :P

After parking my bike back in the basement, I pointed to my scraped knee and told Mr. Nahn, "No more." I think he's enjoying seeing me learn how to handle the scooter.

I went across the street for lunch earlier today - same place that I ate with the local guys. I love their noodle bowl with fish. Mmmm I could eat it everyday (and I might!). The big bowl of noodles and fish in a delicious, spicy broth comes with a large plate of greens to mix in and two sauces to pour over the top. I also get the local iced tea, which most restaurants serve and it's very light and delightful :)  The iced tea is a whopping 5 cents and my entire meal stays under $2.00 at 39,000 dong. Yesss, please! I was going to take a picture of the meal... but ended up just inhaling the whole thing. Next time...  :P

As soon as I got home from lunch it started to rain again. Usually it will begin to sprinkle... and within 10 seconds it is pouring! Here's a short video of the rain from my window...
video
(I know this is probably not exciting... but I figure this blog is about my life here... and I'm livin' it through the rain!)

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Vietnamese tones

I am trying to learn Vietnamese... slowly! It is a very difficult language! Vietnamese is a tonal language... so the same word can mean many different things depending on the tones you use.

I remember going out for Vietnamese food with my good friend Andy back in Denver and decided to try out my first Vietnamese word, chao (hello), with the waiter. ...I got a really weird look and he just walked away!


Well... come to find out, I said chao with a rise in the tone at the end and this is the word for a type of liquid food - HA! He either thought I was a bit crazy or I was very impatient for food! haha


I've learned that the correct way to say "hello" is to say chao in a definitive way... with a slight decrease in tone at the end... it almost sounds abrupt in away... but at least people smile and say hello back now!


Sometimes it is frustrating for me, as I hear a word and cannot seem to make myself repeat it back the way I've heard it. I feel like I should be able to at least repeat a word that I've just heard... but it hasn't been that simple. People here are very patient and helpful.  :)

I've also been thinking a lot about how, in English, we use tones to signify emotions when we are talking. I can say hello in a calm or professional manner, using an even tone... or I can excitedly greet a friend that I haven't seen for a while with a sing-song tone.

Well, ok, I might not be the best at describing 'tones' but I think you can understand what I mean.

Sometimes I want to say hello to someone that I recognize in an excited tone... but realize that I should just stick with the definite chao. [Downward tone.]

Today I used the word, dep (meaning beautiful), about a shade of pink and the girl looooved it! haha... I am enjoying trying out my new words and seeing if people understand me.

Last night I used mua (rain) with Phuong and she was pretty impressed.  :P

Anyway... my Vietnamese skills are definitely not impressive yet. But I will use that word - YET. I'm going to keep working at it and maybe by the end of my two-year contract I'll be able to say an entire sentence and someone will be able to understand it! (Sigh... long gaze into space as I think of future goals.) haha

Friday, July 29, 2011

French toast!

I bought eggs last week - which was a huge step for me since they are not refrigerated here. My dad's response to that is, "They're not refrigerated when they come out of the hen, are they?" haha... very true. Well, I bought them but had yet to use them.

I decided I would make french toast this morning. I was hoping that the end product would at least somewhat resemble french toast - and hoorah! I was happily surprised :)
And now I'll have leftovers too! This will be a great meal when I need comfort food to remind me of home. I was even able to find syrup at one of the grocery stores that I went to yesterday. ...I figure I can do a grilled cheese with tomato and spinach too! mmmm

After breakfast my mission was to find a photo store (not sure where the Photo Store Street is yet) to get passport photos. I was told by school to bring 24 passport photos with me... which I did... but the typical size for a passport photo in the US is significantly bigger than here. Yesterday, the doctor's office kind of laughed at the 2 photos I gave them and said they were so big!

Louise, the elementary librarian said that I will need the smaller sized photos for my residency card... so I figured I'd want to get on it and have them ready to go when the time comes.

I haven't seen any photo stores on the main street near my place so I decided to walk in the opposite direction than I'm used to. I passed by the Yamaha shop that Mai likes and asked a few people for a photo store. One guy took me to someone's house... it turns out that the guy is a photographer for advertising - haha - close! He directed me to a shop around the corner that does do passport photos though... success!
I was able to get 10 passport photos... which is perfect. I will keep trying to use my big US ones when I can but at least I will have the smaller ones if a place is more specific. So far I've had to give passport photos in the airport for my Visa and at the doctor's office. I believe each time I travel in and out of the country I will have to use them too... not sure.

Here's the size difference... VN passport photos are only 3 x 4cm.

I walked past this place on a really busy road! It reminded me of WaterWorld in Denver... :P

Here are some photos of the street that I walked down on my way home...



Now I think I'm going to head out for a manicure and then the cafe for a latte and a date with my Kindle.  :)  Aaaand of course some practice time on the scooter! A relaxing day sounds great since work stuff begins Monday!

Sword fight!

Speaking of making new friends...
...I became acquainted with this little guy in District 1 today. He reminds me a lot of my gecko friend that I ate breakfast with in the garden a few days ago.  :P

Phuong brought me Vietnamese candy!...

It's pretty delicious. Very chewy "pickled sesame gum". It was so sweet of her.  :)

This morning I passed a sports center when walking through District 1 and thought this was cool:
video

The quality of this one is not as good... but he has a sword!...
video

Ao dai, please :)

Today was a busy, but fun, day...

First, I went into District 1 for my health check in order to get a work permit (not really part of the fun in my day). The doctor's appointment was a bit unusual, but fine and I'm glad it's over with.

On my way to checking out a couple of "Western" grocery stores I stopped to have pho for lunch... mmmm... can't get enough pho! ...And spent a bit more time in District 1 before hopping on a xe om (motorbike taxi) to head home.

The xo om driver got ridiculously lost bringing me home from District 1 (a 10 minute commute) and it ended up taking me close to an hour to make it home. I ended up directing him (apparently, even though I didn't know where the heck we were at that point, I still had a better sense of direction)... and can't wait to be able to zip around on my own! When we made it to my place, he was laughing that it was so close and pointing back the way we had been. Uhh, yeah. He also tried to charge me more because he got lost!

Soon after returning home, Phuong (library assistant) came to see the apartment and then we went out fabric shopping for an ao dai for myself. We visited many fabric shops and it was a lot of fun, although overwhelming!

[Side note: You will often find an entire street consisting of the same kind of shops. For example, this afternoon we went to the street with all of the fabric stores. We also passed a street with all stores carrying Western-style wedding dresses. When I first arrived in Vietnam and was in the taxi heading to the hotel we drove down the street with stores selling safe boxes. There is (what I call) Helmet Shop Street, Flower Shop Street, Eye Glasses Shop Street, etc... they keep the businesses all near each other! Of course, you will find a stray helmet store here or there but for the most part, if you want a selection, you had better go to the street for the item you're looking for. I hope to find "Toaster Shop Street" soon.]

Back on track...


Phuong is so sweet. We definitely have different tastes in fabrics but I ended up with a beautiful 'traditional' fabric that we both like a lot and it should be perfect for holidays and big celebrations. I will hold out on further details until it is ready in a few weeks and I'll post pictures! ...This link will take you to a website that shows some modern ao dai.

Click here for a Wikipedia article about ao dai. 

Phuong said that all students in public schools wear a white ao dai everyday. Teachers also wear ao dai but can wear any color. The girls in my hotel wore blue ao dai as their uniforms. Both a bride and groom wear very fancy ao dai when getting married (and they can be any color). They also have special hats for this occasion. Click here for some pictures of wedding ao dai. Phuong and I went into a beautiful shop with ao dai for weddings... so beautiful! 

After buying the fabric we went to a tailor (recommended to me by a friend from home and the place seems great - they specialize in tailor-made ao dai!). I can hardly wait for my fitting to see my ao dai! It'll be special to have one.  :)


I took Phuong out for ice cream at Bud's, near my place, as a thank you for spending the time to help me out and driving me all over. Of course, it started raining while we were there, so we quickly got back to the apartment and waited for the rain to let up so she could head home. Phuong leaves on a bus late tonight for Dalat - her aunt and many cousins live there and she will go for one week before school begins. Her bus leaves at 11:00pm and she plans to arrive around 6:00 or 7:00am. She says that it is a beautiful city in the mountains. I definitely want to visit Dalat at some point... I have heard others talk about it as well and it sounds great... cooler than HCMC too!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Uggghhhh

I woke up this morning and had just made myself breakfast when I saw this by my bed...

I know that there are bugs and things here... even some of the most poisonous snakes and spiders live in Vietnam... BUT I want my apartment, my home, to be my [clean] safe haven! 

I also know that I should be able to handle something like this... buuut I went downstairs and got Mr. Nhan. I was telling him that there was a big bug in my room... knowing that he couldn't understand me, but I think when I kind of shivered and said, "Uggghhhhh" it was pretty universal and he got the gist the situation.

Mr. Nhan is my hero for the morning.

Mu'a

I just got in from another scooter practice session. I took Giang's advice to take the turns sloooowly but our narrow alley makes actually learning to drive this thing pretty hard. Mr. Nhan motioned for me to go down the side street (still not busy but definitely not our dead end alley). It felt great! I cruised along with a few other scooters here and there and even got to use my blinker to turn around.  :)

There were 5 children playing in our alley that kept eyeing me... finally one of the girls said hello and asked what my name is. She said that she learns English in school. They were really cute - barefoot and playing tag in the street.

After parking my bike in the basement, I got my phrasebook and showed Mr. Nhan that I felt I did "better" today. Then I sat outside with him for a few minutes but told him that it looked like it was going to [check my phrasebook...] mưa, rain. Sure enough, not 5 minutes later there were some sprinkles on the pavement and then it let loose.

I'm back inside now and may try cooking some of the vegetable spring rolls that I bought for dinner.

Two-week mark!

Chào! (Hello!)  :)

Today marks two-weeks in Vietnam... and one-week since moving into the apartment.  :)

I feel very proud of myself for how much I've accomplished and learned in this short period of time. AND happy that I've felt so at peace with being here. I know there will be ups and downs over these next two years but I hope to continue feeling this good overall.

Walking home from lunch today, it seemed as if everyone was saying hello to me and recognized me!  I live in a close-knit neighborhood (I taught Mai what close-knit means earlier today, haha), which I enjoy. There's no way I can blend in here, so it's nice to be in a place that people recognize me and smile instead of gaping and giggling.  :P

The lady that I bought lychee from earlier today on the street kept saying something about đẹp to me and I did not understand. A girl came up to buy a watermelon and translated it for me - beautiful. Awww - sweet! She was telling me that I am beautiful... then she overcharged me for the fruit. haha

She loved when I said, cảm ơn and tạm biệt ... meaning thank you and goodbye. Those are basics that I've grown comfortable with. She giggled and said it to her friend - that I actually said thank you and goodbye in Vietnamese! Very cute... maybe if I continue to go back to her, she won't charge me double just because I'm a foreigner.  :P

I tried out new words today at lunch and the waiter loved it! I asked for the menuthực đơn, and the check (or to pay the bill)... tinh tien. I've also been practicing how to ask for my latte to be hot (nóng), or iced (đá).

The waiter was surprised at first and said, "You speak Vietnamese very well!" (I was surprised, myself, that he knew that much English!) I laughed and said that I only know a little and am still learning. (If only he knew that I used almost all of my words with him, haha.)

The hardest is that, even though they are the same letters we use, words are not pronounced how you would think when reading it. People are good at saying something (a few times) and letting me try to repeat it.

Giang, my 'friend' at the Yamaha shop (like Vy, the realtor, I wish I could really be friends with him and keep hanging out even after our 'business' together is done... but c'est la vie... haha... throwing some French in there! Anyway...) said that many foreigners come to live in Vietnam and get by for years without learning any Vietnamese. I do not want to be that foreigner. Although it is slow going, I am learning words here and there... putting them down as notes in my phone and notebook... and trying not be too nervous to actually use them. So far so good! (It's also good that I have no problem laughing at myself if I mess up!)

I picked up this small mug today...

They use glasses for coffee and hot drinks but you cannot hold them because they get so hot. I wanted a little tea mug for the apartment and thought that this one looked cute even though I had no idea what it said.

Using Google Translator, the mug basically says: Love as hot as when the sun rises high. I love it!  :)

Beautiful number

Mai, Mr. Nhan, and I went to the local police today to register my scooter. It was an interesting experience. It felt more like a DMV and we waited almost an hour for a man to come help us. Once it was finally our turn, Mai told me that I could pay more for a "beautiful number". I did not understand what this meant and she tried explaining it to me... but I had to "decide quickly"...

I ended up paying $55 for an 8 number, as she called it.


Afterwards, she explained it to me more and I think I've got it now... Chinese numerology is very important to the Vietnamese. If I pay to have a license plate with a lucky number, I will be able to sell it for more when the time comes.

A 7 cost less than an 8... and a 9 is the most expensive... or I could take my chances and not pay a thing.

Well, following Mai's advice, I paid for an 8. ...Now that I've read a bit about it, I'm glad that I did!

I especially found the following Wikipedia article interesting and I think that the 8 sounds best... better than a 9 even!

Wikipedia Article - Chinese Numerology

Basically, if the license plate numbers add up to 8, that is lucky, or "beautiful".

Buuuuut there were no "8" numbers today... the guy and Mai are going to go back tomorrow to try. The whole thing is a bit funny to me but I understand the importance better now. Parts of this culture are beautiful... it's fun to learn about it... even if it feels I'm often learning the hard way.  :P

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yamaha Cuxi!!

I bought a scooter today! I've been researching into it a lot and both Mai (landlord) and Mr. Nhan (security guard) have been a lot of help. I decided to go with the Yamaha Cuxi. It is small in size and does not go super fast; it is fuel efficient and has a nice-sized storage compartment under the seat. The bike even came with a helmet and rain jacket.  :)


[That's Mr. Nhan in the blue shirt.]  :)



This is the basement, where everyone in the building can park their bikes. Mr. Nhan's "room" is on the left side of the door. When he is on duty, he can hang out and nap in there... the gate is open now because we were going out to ride but usually it is closed and locked. 

I think I have a prime parking spot... right next to Mr. Nhan's bike!  :)

Mine's the 2nd one in... so cute!

Aaaaand, of course, I've already had my 1st crash. I hope it's my only!! I planned to practice driving up and down our small alley until I am comfortable with the bike. Since it is very narrow, you have to turn very slowly... well... I turned the gas a bit hard and the bike spun out.  :O  Thank God I'm fine (other than this knee) and, overall, the bike is fine as well! I broke the lefthand brake so we went back to the shop. It took 5 minutes and cost $2.00 to fix - seriously! But I felt terrible. I already planned to really take my time with it, but even more so now. It was a big purchase for me and the traffic is nothing to take lightly here... I will keep practicing and pay a xe om driver to take me to and from work each day for the time being. Sheesh.

Here I am cruising (before the crash):
video

Mai usually goes to a Yamaha shop that's near our building but Mr. Nhan and I ended up at a Yamaha shop in District 1 a few days ago when we were shopping around. I like the one that we found because there is a young guy there that went to school in Australia and speaks English really well.

Mai did take me to her shop today to buy the bike and I finally told her that I just wasn't as comfortable at that shop and wanted to go back to where Mr. Nhan and I had been. Mr. Nhan seemed to agree (he took out the guy's card from the shop to show the address...) and so off we went. It turns out that Mai was really happy with the shop that we found too! She said it was a good deal (they sold me the bike for 4 million less than the other shop said the price was) and the costumer service at this one is great... I get free scooter washes for life!  :P  I trust Mai's perceptions and am happy that she liked this shop. Who knows? - maybe she'll keep going back to this one now!

Giang (sounds like "Yang") is the guy at the shop - he's great! When Mr. Nhan and I showed back up to have the brake fixed, he came in thinking we had been there that whole time waiting for the bike! Ha... I told him what happened and he seemed concerned - and amazed that there was no more damage done to the bike than just the brake... seriously not a scratch even though it turned completely sideways! He gave me some tips and I told him that I hope to not see him again for a while :P

Mmm dragon fruit

I finally got around to eating some of my dragon fruit today. Mmmm... it tastes like a pear and a kiwi put together.



Tuesday, July 26, 2011

friends - bạn bè

The two Australian teachers that I met the other night at dinner came to my place tonight and then we went out for dinner. I really love these two already! - Riki and Saleshni.

I feel like we've hit it off from the start and I hope our friendship continues.  :)  They will be classroom teachers at the elementary school and we live quite a distance from each other (they are good friends that applied together and will live together) but I feel like it'll be fine if we want to make it work.

They are so sweet!! They brought these gorgeous orchids and a bottle of wine over for my place! ...So thoughtful.


We had some wine and then headed out for a bite to eat. It was great conversation and laughs the whole time.  :)

Spicy tea / Pretty flowers

A Denver friend of mine, Kevin, went to college with Danny - he grew up in Hanoi, Vietnam and now lives in Taiwan. Danny and I met up this morning for breakfast. I had a lot of fun with him! We went to Napoly Cafe in District 1 and I will definitely go back to this place again.

After breakfast I went by the Ben Thanh market to try and buy some spices. I ended up not finding spices but I did get some tea that smells great. I was hoping for dry leaf chai and ended up with something that I think is close to chai... and they called it "spicy tea".

I also got these beautiful roses... 14 roses for $2.00... I plan to have fresh flowers in my apartment at all times! I love it!

And found these great wooden bowls...
It was a fun morning!

Two nights ago when I got caught in the rain meeting up with James... I found the US Consulate:
(The security guard did NOT want me taking pictures... so I quickly got one once I had crossed the street.)  :P

And this is a picture of the inside of the Tax Trade Center - I like shopping here. It is a market with everything - tourist-y knick-knacks, clothing, and a grocery store. The prices are fixed so I don't have to hassle with bargaining or worry about getting ripped off (and it's air conditioned!).

Monday, July 25, 2011

Un-traffic-rules

I had breakfast at a crepe place yesterday morning and had the perfect window seat overlooking a main intersection in my neighborhood. I was fascinated watching the traffic weave together. There are some traffic lights in the city but not many - I have not seen any in my area... and this is a rather big intersection! This traffic is nothing compared to the center of HCMC in District 1.
video

I saw these 3 girls go into the restaurant across the street... so cute... probably out for a Sunday morning girlfriends' brunch. I saw them come out and decided to video the 3 of them on the scooter... it's not unusual to see 3 or 4 people packed onto a scooter!
video

And then there was this father and his young son. The father put the son on the scooter and then put on the mask for pollution (most people wear them here... some are full face hoods) and his baseball hat... and they're off!
video

"In" with the locals!

For lunch today I went to a place across the street that Mai, my landlord, said is good. I sat down at a table but ended up joining 6 Vietnamese men on their lunch break! They motioned for me to go sit with them and were all excited.

One of the guys spoke a bit of English but most of the meal was spent with them speaking to each other (about me)... they seemed very nice and kept trying to help me out. One of them put sprouts, basil, etc. into my pho for me... another opened a napkin to give to me... and they kept motioning what I should do with the various sauces. haha... it was fun but definitely awkward. One of the guys was trying to tell me something and then came up with the words "good friend"! haha... sweet.  :)

It was pretty cool to sit and drink iced tea with the locals.  :)

I love my neighborhood. Everyone is so friendly! A group of children saw me earlier today as I rounded a corner on the sidewalk and they got all excited. One of them began saying, "Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!" in English!! I do think that word is spreading here about an American redhead having just moved to the neighborhood.  :P

I am trying my best to learn when people are friendly, nice, and welcoming... and when people are laughing at me or taking advantage of me. I'm sure that I am not always reading situations the right way, but I do think that trying not to take things personally will be best for me.

Disappearing entrance...

Last night I met up with James and his girlfriend. He is going to work at the elementary school and moved from Parker, CO.

I took a motorbike taxi into District 1 and ran a few errands before meeting them at the hotel. As I was about 2 blocks from the hotel, the sky opened up and I could barely get my raincoat on before already being drenched!

We waited for about 20 minutes for a taxi before deciding to head directly across the street for dinner. The three of us were drenched just from crossing the street! Usually there are taxis lined up, waiting for you... but apparently when it rains, you have to get one quickly or you're out of luck. I hope I am able to find a ride to and from work when the weather is bad (but we'll deal with that when it comes).

At dinner, I met two Australian girls that will be working at the elementary school with James. They seem great! It was so nice to be in a group and just hang out. Sometimes I find myself sitting in a cafe and wishing I could text friends from home just to say hello - but I guess that will come in time with friends here.

I was heading back to my place around 10:00pm and it was still raining but not very hard. I asked the hotel doorman for a  Xe ôm (motorbike taxi) and he did find a man but when they heard where I wanted to go (my place is a bit of a drive on a motorbike in the rain)... they both laughed at me and spoke in Vietnamese... but I kept hearing the word, "taxi". He did end up giving me a ride on his bike... and it all worked out fine but I know for sure that they were laughing at me (which I often feel might be happening here).  :P

Upon reaching my apartment, I realized that the entrance with the front steps had disappeared!! It took me a second of worried shock to realize that I was, thankfully, at my place but a big garage door is apparently shut at night. The gate to the basement was locked... but I figured there had to be a way in, as I was not told about a curfew!

I ended up ringing a doorbell on the side of the basement gate and Mr. Nhan (the building's security guard) let me in... he was sleeping in the little room on the side of the garage.  :P  I guess this is how it's supposed to work if I come back late at night, but I will ask Mai (my landlord) next time I see her.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Outside the comfort zone...

I picked up lunch from the corner near my apartment today. Mai had shown me the food [pictured below] yesterday and said that it is good. The lady sells it out of a steamer cart on the sidewalk... it is my first time buying and eating something from a street stand.

I've always been very iffy about meats. When I was little, if I saw my mom working with uncooked meat when in the process of making dinner, I couldn't bring myself to eat it. I've gotten better but am still (probably freakishly) quirky about my meats. If anything will help me broaden my comfort levels... this experience will!

A big part of making this experience a success, in my eyes, is to learn and immerse myself in the culture here... including the local foods.

I did enjoy this... but, not gonna lie, I got 1/2-way through and couldn't eat any more. I was afraid the meat was uncooked... and the egg was a bit chewy (I've read it is made with a quail egg). They have a smaller version with no egg... I think I will try that next time. If I do not get sick, I will have this again - the meat tasted good and the doughy bread is sweet and delicious!



It is called, banh bao, and I guess I would describe it as a [huge!] Vietnamese steamed dumpling/bun.

...Cheap lunch! ...mine cost 15,000 dong... about 70 cents.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

My digs...

This is my street...

Phuong said that my street means jasmine (tra) - I like that!

My building... (my place is the very top one)

Zoomed in on my place...

Inside the entrance of my building... (there is a 'garage' on the basement level too)

Other side of the entrance...

I love the style, feel, and little touches to this building!

And we have fishies!

The gym on the ground floor :)

Other side of the gym...

HCMC TV

There's a channel here called StarWorld... it seems to have all English-speaking shows (mostly popular reality ones) from the US, Britain, and Australia... here's an article about the channel on Wikipedia:
Click here for StarWorld's Wikipedia article.

There was a British show on called Got to Dance and I got a kick out of these two guys:
Click here to watch the video.

If you can find the intro. about these two that they played before this finale performance, it's very cute. :)

Update for the girls...

[Update]... the mani/pedi turned out really well! I like their color selection and the grand total came to $4.00! They even have massage chairs, which is always a treat. The salon is called Lavenders and is very nice!

Upon entering, I noticed that everyone's shoes are left outside and the guard watches them. As I took my sandals off, the guard opened a locker and gave me some flip flops to wear inside.

The girl that did my nails was very quiet at first (I was too, I guess)... but then we began talking a bit and she is learning English in school. Her name is Thi (sounds like "tea"). She told me that I am "so lovely" - so sweet! haha... I'm going to be happy to go back to her and this salon on a regular basis.  :)

Well, of course, leaving the salon with my newly painted (wet) nails... I tried to be careful about taking the flip flops off and putting my sandals back on but I botched up a toenail or two (typical me). I sat on a step and attempted to smooth it out (it really wasn't that bad)... Thi came out and noticed and was so cute about the whole thing! She ran inside, got the polish and fixed it for me right on the step outside!

School

I will be working at the American International School in Ho Chi Minh City, at the middle school level.

Here are pictures from school that I took yesterday...

The entrance to school, inside the front gate.

The library is right inside the front door.

The (small!) library looking out from my desk.

 
Phuong and I each have a computer here...

I doubt I'll ever be in as nice of a library as Leroy Drive again... but I DO love that I still have an entire wall of windows.  :)  ...The shelves under the windows are the nonfiction books and the wall of books along the back wall are the fiction books.

Looking towards the front of the library. I guess all 20 of the laptops were stolen last year at some point!! Phuong said they are getting more in for us. 

Newly ordered books that won't fit on the shelves. ...A problem that this librarian loves.  :)

Fiction books shelved on top of one another!

Part of my shelving plan is to add shelving units, 3 shelves high, at the end of each of these computer / work tables on the left. We will move the Reader collections and Vietnamese books (on the right) to the new shelves... shift the graphic books down... and then spread the fiction books out with the newly made space.  (It all makes sense to me at least haha... and Phuong seems to think that it will work well too!)

The other part of the shelving plan is to add one more shelf above these, along the entire length of the windows. We can then spread out the nonfiction books and (hopefully) have room for the collection to grow as well.

I've already decorated my computer station with pictures and other goodies from home!  :)

In order to get more shelves, Phuong said that I should find pictures online like what I want... then Logisitics will order some from a Vietnamese company. Phuong took the pictures and measurements that I came up with, filled out a form that is in English and Vietnamese, the Principal signed the form, Phuong then took it to Logisitics and we hope to have the shelves sometime towards the beginning of school (students start on August 15th).

It can be difficult coming in to a new school and having ideas but not being sure how school really works, etc. Phuong has been wonderful in explaining things to me and confirming my idea for the new shelves (there will be a lot of rearranging to be done!). She also said that the Principal really liked the shelving idea and thinks it's "great" - that made me feel pretty good so far!