Tuesday, November 29, 2011

My's Spa

Patrice ended up coming into My's Spa while I was there yesterday!

We ended up having a mini photo shoot:

My ("Me"), in the pink ao dai, is the owner of the spa. 
She's basically the sweetest thing on this planet... other than my mom.  :) 

Click here to see My's Spa on TripAdvisor! She's so excited about the great reviews (...about the couple negative ones... Patrice and I both told her that crazy people post along with the nice ones... and not to worry about it - her place is wonderful!). Check back to her page in a few days and hopefully my comment will be approved and posted! (Patrice has one on there already... awesome.)  :)

Monday, November 28, 2011

Cam on!

Cam on! -- Thank you! ...to Grandma for the beautiful handmade necklace that I received in the mail today!

AND for the amazing Thanksgiving spread from Lexey and Lenny!!!

Even the green Whole Foods rubberband  felt like a treat in this care package!

I just LOVE seeing a school guard walk through the library doors carrying a package with my name on it.  :)

And Sarah's reaction to the package was great: "I'm surprised they let all of that in here!" Ha - true... I'm also surprised that I didn't have to pay tax to receive it... WIN!

I continued to feel the love today when I found my favorite nail polish color at the new OPI store on Nguyen Hue... and then went for an hour-long body massage (complete with hot stones) AND mani/pedi... all for $20. 

Today is a feel-good day.  :)  I'm about to crawl into bed with a book to complete the fabulousness.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Vietnamese Drivers' Test

This afternoon I made a TRECK out to the Tan Phu District (never heard of it? ...me neither before today!) for my Vietnamese drivers' test. Shelly and I have been working on the paperwork leading up to this test for a couple weeks now.

This past Tuesday we went to the Transportation Office in District 1 with a STACK of paperwork... copies, originals, and money... and had to go through a health check. The health check was in a very bare room with just some filing cabinets, peeling paint on the walls, and a Vietnamese man sitting behind an old desk.

The man took each of our height, weight, blood pressure, heart rate... checked our teeth, AND measured our chests. (Seriously?? Seriously.)

We were then told that our test was Sunday!

In my opinion... if you're able to successfully drive yourself to the test site, you should pass based simply on that (due to both traffic and finding this place).

I laugh at the fact that each time we went to an office (and the test site), the parking attendants and guard all knew that we were there attempting to get our license... AND it was totally ok that we drove ourself to the various places. Hahaha

Anyway... today we got to the site early so we could practice a bit. Below are some pictures of the course (Shelly is in the orange top in the 2nd and 3rd photo).

We were nervous... mostly that we had to drive the site's bike, which is a manual. Neither of us have ever driven a manual before BUT it turned out way easier than we feared! The bike was already on and in gear... so we just had to keep it slow and steady and stay within the lines.

The course (which you have to do in order or else you automatically fail) included a narrow figure eight, which you were to go around 1 1/2 times, then spit out the side to head down a straightaway, then turn to weave in and out between painted lines, and finally another straightaway over mini speed bumps.

I got on the Honda Wave that I was to take the test on and found that there was no left brake handle! (Come to find out, it's a foot brake)... I was a bit thrown off and went completely OUT of the figure eight! I figured I'd already failed... but realized that the 4 judges weren't even watching me... so I got back on track and told myself to GET IT TOGETHER! Ha.

The rest of the course was pretty smooth and I finished pretty well (so I thought).

I was told to pick up my passport from the last judge... and I asked him, "So, did I pass?!?!"... to which he responded, "Yes." ...And I did a bit of a celebratory WHOOP! which got some laughs from the crowd.

Shelly passed as well!  :D  We'll be able to go back to the Transportation Office in 10 days to pick up the licenses.

My favorite part of passing the Vietnamese drivers' test?... I did it in my TUTU! ...And then took a jumping shot in the middle of the course...

Shelly and I made the drive back into the city... and stopped in the backpacker's area for some cool drinks (the waitress brought her a pitcher of beer... since she did ask for "a big one" haha).

We texted some friends and ended up with a group of 6 teachers to help share the pitcher.  :)

On our drive back to District 1, we were passing two bikes on our right and all of a sudden one of them crashed into the one in front! Shelly and I looked at one another with expressions of shock and fear... and drove on! She then said, "I think the guy was looking at your tutu!" ...Whoops! Sorry for the distraction of awesomeness.  :P

From there I went to yoga... my 4th Sunday in a row!

2011 Terry Fox Run in HCMC

This morning I participated in the Terry Fox Run.

Read about Terry Fox on this website.

 Jaye (our high school librarian) and her daughter, Quinn.


2 of our school guards carried the AIS banner.

Sarah and I wore our handmade no-sew tutus (we made then last week while she was sick with Dengue Fever... she's thankfully feeling much better now!). The tutus were a hit (and I got a few "Wow's" on the ride down to District 7 wearing my tutu on the bike!).

We tried for some jumping shots at the finish line but the timing never turned out quite right.  :P

Due to the crowd... and the heat... we walked the 5k but it was a beautiful Sunday to be out for a walk for such a great cause! From the race, a group of us went for breakfast at Kita Coffee on Nguyen Hue -- a great French-style cafe that seems to be overlooked by many foreigners (their loss!).

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lost with temples

I managed to completely turn myself around heading home from the war museum earlier today.

BUT while lost, I drove by some fantastic temples and pagodas...

I stopped a few times to ask xo om drivers the way to Phan Xich Long.

The good news is that everyone seems to understand my pronunciation of the street, Phan Xich Long.

The bad news... is that many Vietnamese seem to say 'yes' or point the direction to a certain street... even when they aren't sure! One guy definitely sent me in the opposite direction than I needed to go. BUT I realized that I was on the road heading to the airport this time... and asked another xe om driver before actually making it all the way to the airport.

This xe om driver acted out the directions with this hands and lots of Vietnamese for me and then asked, "You understand?"

I replied, "Kind of."

To which, he laughed and pointed back the way I came.

I turned around... drove right by the same guy that gave me the bogus directions... and made it to Phan Xich Long! Hoorah!

War and more

Great morning today... I went for a run in the park, a quick workout in the gym, and then Sarah met me out at the pool :)

We spent part of the afternoon at the War Remnants Museum. Sarah had visited the museum a few weeks before with her brother during Fall Break but still wanted to go through the 2nd floor.

Honestly, this museum was a bit much for me. I found the tanks and planes outside very interesting but the photographs and plaques to read on the 2nd floor were incredibly sad and horrific. It all made the war more real than it has ever been for me. Knowing people who were in the war... and now living in the south of Vietnam...

...Well, I ended up sitting in a chair and reading my book. Perhaps I'll make my way back to this museum at some point during the next year and a half... but for now, I will continue reading books and easing myself in.

Posters used during the war. 

A Japanese poster about the US involvement. 

Another interesting point that I kept thinking of today is from a book that I just finished (and really enjoyed! Descending the Dragon)... one of the Vietnamese locals told the author that the Vietnam War (or "American War") was just one war of many for Vietnam... now, the country has banked on this war for a tourism standpoint but really, the people do not hold anything against Americans and natives are over the war, like the other wars. The Vietnamese live in today... (At least that is what this one person said in the book...)