Friday, September 30, 2011

Just some trinkets of thought...

  • Most people here work six days a week and have Sunday off. Talking to my neighbor last night, I was told that I work a "Western Schedule", Monday through Friday, and I thought to myself, Thank gosh I do! My weekends aren't long enough as is. My weekends never felt long enough in the U.S. either... but now, on top regular weekend plans, I want to also explore this land and see/do as much as I can.

  • Mangos have been plentiful lately at fruit stands and I plan to take advantage of that! I stopped by the fruit lady's stand today just around the corner from my place. A new guy was working with her - I haven't seen him before and his English was surprisingly good! Turns out, he is the fruit lady's son and is going to school for agriculture in England somewhere. (I asked him how long he is in town visiting... he didn't get it... so I asked him when he is going back to England for school... and he replied, "2006"... ummm... ok - it's times like that in which I smile, nod my head and move on. He helped me buy a mango (25 cents - sweet!) and then kept talking to me for a few minutes. His mother was talking to him in Vietnamese the entire time he was talking to me in English. He did finally tell me that his mother says I am very beautiful.  :)  And then he gave me his business card - if I have any questions about the city, I am to call him. Haha. I have a feeling his mother was trying to set up a set-up.  :P

  • Speeeeaking of business cards, I'm legit now. I have my own business cards! I have no idea who I will be giving one to (although it's very common here to hand them out to new/potential friends... I've probably received 10 or 15)... but I feel very professional. Check it out - 


  • I love the adventure I'm on right now BUT I'm sick of: heavy air, traffic with no rules, work drama, constantly feeling hot/sweaty/smelly, and being so far away from... my family and friends, Denver, Koura-bear, my outdoor runs in crisp Denver air, my bicycles, the change of seasons, Thursdates, my fall clothes and boots, FALL - the season in general, Chipotle, Starbucks chai, the Food Network, and being able to count on communicating in English. Sometimes two years seems like a really long time to be here. BUT with that, I'm happy it is Saturday morning - I'm off to enjoy the weekend and looking forward to it. It's often a crazy mix of emotions.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pomelo

I picked up some pomelo fruit over the weekend - it's pretty delicious.  :)


It must be pomelo season because all of a sudden I am seeing pomelo fruit all over! Carts full of pomelo.

I wasn't sure what they were... as I was with Riki over the weekend, we walked by a fruit juice shop and she told me about them (they have many of the same fruits in Australia that I am not used to seeing in the US). I decided to buy some sliced pomelo. I think pomelo juice would be really good as well (future experiment with my juicer! Mmmm). 

I agree with the description that pomelo is like a mild grapefruit. 

...And sure enough - pomelo is native to SE Asia. Sometimes I feel silly for all that I've never heard of before! It's a lot of fun to learn about so many new things each and every day.


Yup!

Yesterday afternoon I brought fabrics to the tailor to have some new clothes made (I LOVE that!)... this weekend I'll go in for a fitting... 3 skirts, 3 pairs of work pants (I even found khaki material at the market!), and 2 tops... so excited!

Then I met up with Sarah and we both got a manicure and pedicure.  :)  Fun girl-time!

On my way home it began to sprinkle... knowing that the sky would probably open up at any second, I pulled over to the side of the road (with everyone else) and took my poncho out from under the scooter's seat. It's quite funny to see everyone pull over at once and pull on rain jackets as quickly as they can... then it's business as usual on the street!

As I pulled into the basement of my apartment building it was still just sprinkles. As I opened the door to my place on the 3rd floor, I could hear the hard, hard rain on the skylights above! I made it just in time.

This morning... same... I left for work and the sky was a dark gray (as I assume it will usually be for the next month or so). Sprinkles began when I was about 1/2-way to school. I finally pulled to the side to take my poncho our from the boot of my bike and made it to school in "rain" (nothing too hard but definitely more than sprinkles).

As soon as I opened the inside door to the library and put my bag down, I could hear the hard rain on the ceiling to the bike park just outside the windows!

[I knock on wood as I type...] I think the rainy season is on my side so far with timing.  :D

Some evening soon I will have to put on my rain boots (or wellies as I love how Sarah calls them) and go puddle jumping!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rainy Season is upon us

I think it's safe to say Saigon has entered the Rainy Season.

Upon arriving in mid-July I expected it to rain much more than it did... but I was assured by returning teachers that September and October would bring the monsoons.

The past month or so, it was not unusual to have a good, hard spout of rain in the afternoon or evening...

Now, however, the past week has brought rain at any time throughout the day. It's funny to see the students get all excited (some actually cheer!) when it begins to rain outside during the school day... I would think they'd be used to it and view it as more of a downer than something to cheer about.

It's a good thing last Friday was a professional development day and there were no students because it was raining - hard - in the morning and everyone was soaked coming in to school. I had my rain poncho on and rolled my pants up for the drive in... but my bum was still wet for the better part of the morning! Ha!

Last night it got really dark very quickly and I ran out to grab a banh mi from the cart on corner before it began to rain... good thing too - as soon as I got back up to my place with the sandwich it started to pour. It's crazy how fast the rain can come.

I woke up twice early this morning... because of the volume of the hard rain! I'm glad that the skies were just gray, but otherwise clear, by the time I drove to school... other than huge puddles (and getting sprayed a bit by other bikes), I made it to school dry enough.

...We'll see how October goes - being the bulk of the rainy season - and then I've heard that November through February, the weather should be "beautiful".  :)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Pen Pals

Sarah and I have been working with Hattie - a good friend of mine teaching in Colorado at the school I was at the past two years - to set up pen pals between our students.

I'm really excited to see how this develops... the students here are really into it so far. We plan to send our first letters and pictures electronically to Leroy Drive this afternoon!

Below is a video that I put together to show the Leroy Drive students a bit about the students here and our school...

Sarah and I showed it to her students this morning and their reaction was great (a bit of cringing when they saw themselves on the screen, giggling, and even clapping)!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fish Massage

Kathleen and I went for a "fish massage" today after school...




These are Turkish fish that eat the dead skin cells from your feet. It was quite nerve-wracking putting my feet into the water at first and seeing all the fish swim towards them! After the first few minutes, however, it became bearable in an almost comfortable, ticklish way. It was a weird feeling having the fish nip my feet! The weirdest was probably when the fish nipped between my toes.  :P





Before the 'massage' we were given a cinnamon foot bath - and that was really nice! The fish massage went on for 30 minutes... and we were given amazingly strong, delicious ginger tea to sip.  :)  From there, we went into a nice little room for what we thought was supposed to be a 30-minute foot massage (more in the traditional sense of a foot massage than the fish one)...


They came in and put some kind of eye things on us... and then began the foot massage. It was quite rough (like the body massages)... and included the legs... then the arms and hands... and THEN we were told to turn over! haha. The "foot" massage seemed to keep going on and on...

The funny part was that we were fully clothed the entire time and yet I was then given a back massage... making it a body massage all together. THEN ...out came the hot stones.  :D  My favorite! We were basically given an hour-long full body massage with hot stones... it was an awesome surprise.

We were at the Blue Moon Spa for two hours! It was quite a lovely afternoon.

Ostrich riding... fish massages... I'm excited to see what is next for me to try!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Noodle Hair

Today was the second time I heard my hair be described as "noodles" haha - I love it! 

My hair has been called many things... but I've never heard it related to noodles... makes sense though.  :)

"It looks like noodles."

When I first arrived in HCMC and was walking home from a cafe, I passed a group of Vietnamese teenagers and two American women that I recognized from my hotel. Later that day I ran into one of the ladies in the lobby and we talked for a bit. The two ladies are from Florida and one of them adopted a baby from Vietnam years ago... now they come back each year to visit and bring kids from the child's hometown (further North) to Ho Chi Minh for a weekend trip.

While talking, one of the women told me that when they passed me earlier, one of the boys in their group said that my hair looks like noodles! HA! That's the perfect way to describe it (...on a good hair day in this humidity).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Monday, September 19, 2011

than lan weirdo

Last night I heard noises that sounded as if dishes were  being pushed around or lightly clanking together in the kitchen.

I realized it was probably my than lan pets!

Sure enough, I found this guy...


That is a rubberband in its mouth! Weirdo.

The rubberband had been in the small bowls that you can see on the right. The than lan must have crawled into the bowls to get the rubberband... hence, the noise.

This morning I found the rubberband sitting in the same corner of the kitchen counter. haha

Love me a Banh Mi

A banh mi is a Vietnamese sandwich. They differ among regions but are traditionally made with a baguette roll that is a combination of rice and wheat flour. The bread is nice and light with a crunchy, golden crust.

Most commonly, a banh mi is filled with sliced pickled carrots and diakon radishes, cucumbers cut lengthwise, chili peppers, pate (mixture of ground meat and fat minced into a paste), and a variety of meats.

They are often topped with salt, pepper, and either soy sauce or hot sauce. Many banh mi carts will also spread chicken liver paste on the sandwich as well.

(Some of you are probably reading this thinking, Stacia is eating this stuff??? haha... no, no... read on...)

While reading up on banh mi, I read about breakfast banh mi filled with scrambled eggs... mmmm... I might check tomorrow morning to see if the banh mi cart on the corner near me has one of these sandwiches.

I've started going to the banh mi cart near me for a quick dinner. The first time I asked for a banh mi an chay (vegetarian). The ladies behind the cart looked at me as if to say, "An chay?? Then what are we going to put in it??" haha.

I stuck my ground with the an chay idea... at first she tried to hand me just the baguette... but they ended up making one for me by loading on the meats as usual... which I promptly took off at home.

The second time I went to the banh mi cart and asked for an chay, she did put in only the carrots, diakon, and cucumber... but they put just a bit on of each. At home, I added more cucumber and tomato slices - delish!

NOW... tonight I went back for my third time and I am a regular! She saw me coming, told the girl making the sandwiches something with an chay in it and loaded on the veggies! It was perfect.

Here's my delicious banh mi:



BUT the best part is the price... a regular banh mi is either 12,000 or 15,000 dong (depending on which meats you put in it I guess??)... my banh mi an chay costs just 3,000 dong (less than 20 cents). 3,000 dong is what the plain baguette cost... I love that she's charging me as if it is just the roll... she probably thinks it's pretty silly.

Sarah and I also had a banh mi a couple weeks ago that had cucumber, tomato, hot sauce, and hardboiled eggs that were marinated in coconut milk (sounds super weird but was super delicious).  :)

Interesting fact from Wikipedia: The Oxford English Dictionary added, banh mi, on March 24, 2011. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Splendid Saturday :)

Ahhhhh I loved my Saturday.

The morning started off with my book, a latte, and a wonderful cafe - L'usine...
I'm currently reading, The Breadwinner Trilogy, and it's amazing so far.
The story is set in Afghanistan. A 7th grader recommended it to me - his parents are both new teachers at AIS as well (other two campuses) and have taught in Kuwait and Bangladesh before here. 

My bookmark is near and dear to me (even though it's a laminated post-it haha)... this quote was told to me years ago by my friend, Dave Dowd, and it has stuck with me since... basically - enjoy the little things; enjoy the everyday things; enjoy life.

The other side of my bookmark says, "A happy person is a good person." My dad told me this when I began my first year of teaching... and, especially in my current situation of teaching and living abroad, the attitude I decide to have is a big part of my happiness and future successes.


All week Sarah and I were looking forward to our Spa Day coming up... and it finally arrived.  :)

We went to a wonderful spa, L'Apothiquaire, in District 3. The tree-lined drive up to the mansion started the feelings of peace and relaxation...

 We were given tea...

We went into the sauna and steam room... I was pampered with a mani/pedi... and then a 1-hour facial. So, so nice.

We even spent some time relaxing by the pool and reading :)  ...really, this day was pretty perfect.





This french-style spa is beautiful and we figure we deserve to treat ourselves once a month or so! I love that a fancy day like this is actually affordable too!

Leaving the spa we went for quite a long scooter ride - it was great! We went into An Phu, the district next to Binh Thanh (where my school is). We had a wonderful lunch at The Deck... right on the river!


Mmmmm we both had the apple-carrot-ginger juice.
["I'll take 3 more, please!"]

We stopped at a market on the way home and both got some produce. I picked up tomatoes, a cucumber, an onion, garlic, and parsley to make salsa... I got all of my produce for about 20 cents! (Then, of course, my bag of Tostitos cost around $5.00 haha.)


The salsa came out deliciously fantastic! It includes:
  • Tomatoes
  • Cucumber
  • Onion
  • Garlic
  • Black beans
  • Parsley
  • Cumin
  • Salt and pepper
I will definitely be making this again... and again... and again...

THEN I made a late-night snack: peanut butter banana smoothie (with honey and yogurt)... A-mazing.  :D

Last year in Denver I had fun trying new recipes and finding healthy foods / dishes that worked for me. It feels like I'm kind of starting over here - as I figure out which ingredients and foods I am able to find... but it's fun and I'm enjoying it.  :)  I even found a box of Twinings Indian Spiced Chai at Veggy's market... It was my first time at this store and included a few more finds that I haven't seen elsewhere.  Yahoo!

Saturday, September 17, 2011

TGIF Fun

I went to the Caravelle Hotel -- a nice, big hotel in District 1 next to the Opera House -- after school. I was to meet the other librarians from international schools in HCMC.

We planned to meet in the restaurant on the 9th floor. I arrived early and took the chance take in the view and then sit in a comfy chair and read my book for a while. ...And I ordered a delicious peach green tea smoothie!


...Notre Dame Cathedral.




It was really nice to get together with the librarians from other schools in the city! Being able to talk Library Talk and hear the similarities and differences between the different schools feels good. A few couldn't make it but we had a great group...
Next to me is Jaye, the AIS high school librarian (my school, different campus). 
Then, it's Rochelle - the librarian at the British International School (BIS) and the one that I got together with for dinner a couple of weeks ago - she's from Buffalo, NY!
At the head of the table is Louise, the AIS elementary librarian (my school, different campus).
Josephine is in the white blouse and is also new (like me!) at the International School Ho Chi Minh City (ISHCMC).
Nell is in the blue patterned dress and is the librarian at International School Saigon Pearl that I'm doing Reading Buddies with.  :)
And last but not least is Angela, across from me, the librarian at Saigon South International School (SSIS). She has been at SSIS for 4 years and heads-up our group emails and get-togethers.

Then I had more fun with my camera and the views...


(The land of cranes.)





...Notre Dame Cathedral.




From the librarian 'meeting' I met my new friend, Kat, for dinner here (I read about this place online and wanted to try it out)...


I met Kat in a coffee shop last week... I liked her cute orange wedge shoes! She had just arrived in Saigon two days ago... and will live here for a couple of years as well. Kat works in the textile merchandising side of a shoe company from Sweden - the factory is here and they export all of the shoes back to Sweden. I wish there was a way to get them here - her shoes are so cute! We talked for a few minutes and exchanged numbers. 

It was fun to get together with her and I really liked this place we went to - great atmosphere and style... aaand yummy food. I'll definitely go again.

It was a great Friday evening :D

AIS Spelling Bee

Yesterday --Friday-- was the school Spelling Bee! Sarah and I put the event together and I think it went well.

Every student in the school participates in a class Spelling Bee during their language arts class. The top two students from each class moves on to the grade-level Bee (8 students in each - 6th, 7th, and 8th grades)... and then the top two winners from each grade compete in the Final Bee.

Grade-level Bees...

6th Grade:


 

7th Grade:


8th Grade:

Some students even had signs to cheer on their classmates!

The Final Bee: 




We had certificates for each student that qualified for the grade-level Bees... and then trophies and dictionaries for the top three students at the Final Bee.

My favorite part was at the end - Anh, an 8th grader, won the 2011 AIS Spelling Bee! As each of the top three students collected their prizes some students in the crowd were actually boo-ing (NOT my favorite part)... Well... Anh literally grabbed the microphone from Wes, our principal, and said with great power: "For those of you who are boo-ing me, if you did not want me to win, then you should have been up here competing against me!" HA! I loved it. To be honest, I was terrified when I saw her grab the mic from Wes' hand... and then I was so proud of her! SO true Anh! Congrats for the win.  :)