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Just a quick one… September 22, 2006

Posted by somelikeitscott in Blogroll, Uncategorized.
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So, I bought a wireless router last weekend, and in the process of trying to configure my home DSL connection, I buggered up everything. Not only do I still not have wi-fi working at home, I don’t have a working Internet connection, period. That’s what I get for trying to reconfigure the modem myself.

I mention this to help explain my failing to deliver on the promised posts of last Sunday. I will make up for it this weekend.

Incidentally, for those of you who use an aggregator or feed reader to check for news and weblog updates, the feed for this site is:

https://somelikeitscott.wordpress.com/feed

If you tire of manually checking back here all the time, inputting the above address into an RSS reader will allow you to automatically be made aware of updates.

I also wanted to quickly reassure everyone that Aviva is safe and doing fine in Thailand. She’s pretty excited about everything that’s going on there right now. She sure picked an interesting time to go. Check out her own weblog – Let’s Go Everywhere – to read her updates on the situation.

Until next time…

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Kristi appreciation post… September 19, 2006

Posted by somelikeitscott in Blogroll, Expat, Hanoi, Uncategorized, Vietnam.
1 comment so far

OK, so I have to give some love to my sister.  She’s a pretty awesome lady, and I’ll tell you why.  She just bought a new Apple Macbook (I’m a little jealous…), and it came with a free iPod Nano. Since she already has an iPod, she graciously offered the slick new one to her handsome yet utterly iPodless brother.  Isn’t she a peach?

Now, the fact that I live in Vietnam and she in Canada posed some problems in getting the device to me.  I knew I wanted it shipped out here, but to be perfectly frank, I do not trust the post system in Vietnam.  I’ve heard too many stories about people receiving items that have had their packaging savaged, and from time to time, stuff just disappears.  Aviva was to receive at least one package from home that never arrived.

My other concern was that even if the iPod were to reach me successfully, chances are I would have had to pay extremely steep import duties on it, nearly equivalent to the cost of the device itself!  Luckily, the company I work for has a subsidiary in Hong Kong, so I was able to have it shipped there, where it was picked up by one of my colleagues and hand-carried back to me in Hanoi.  A circuitous route, perhaps, but the end result: music and podcasts on the go!

So, to all the people who played a part in this, my mom who took care of the shipping, Leona in HK who received the package and kept it safe for me, Liang who carried it back to me and, especially, Kristi without whose kind heart and generosity, I would still be stuck in the bygone era of CDs.  Thanks love!  Hope school is going well!

Until next time…

An unfocussed post… September 17, 2006

Posted by somelikeitscott in Blogroll, Expat, Hanoi, Uncategorized, Vietnam.
2 comments

I write, today, from Puku Café, which is possibly my favourite spot in all of Hanoi. It’s a great little hole in the wall café, frequented largely by ex-pats, with good food and a great atmosphere. The place is not super well known to tourists, largely because you have to pass down a dark foreboding corridor to reach it, but I think that’s part if the charm.

Puku occupies two levels of a typical concrete Hanoi housing block, but with its smart configuration of comfy couches, tables and soft benches, it is possibly the homiest hangout in the city. The owner, Hoa – who also has a small jewelry store and a hotel in Hanoi – is a lovely woman with a multitude of talents. Every month, she lets a different local artist – Vietnamese or otherwise – show their work in the café. The exhibits, which vary from painting to photography to mixed media, are hit and miss but always unique.

The menu features a mix of western style breakfast and lunch food – all of it very good – and is served by an extremely friendly staff of bright young Vietnamese students. They’re the kind of people who know you by name and are always smiling. It makes for a very cozy and easy-going atmosphere. Aviva and I used to occasionally bring Phuong along to breakfast, and every time we didn’t, Hoa would ask us where she was and why she didn’t come along. Hoa also has a small Chihuahua, named Happy, who visits from time to time. Phuong and Happy are good friends.

I had an amusing time at home this morning. When I first went outside with the Chihuahua, I was approached by a kindly white-haired Vietnamese man, named Trung. He asked me, en Anglais, if the dog is mine. I replied that indeed she is and that I have a cat, as well. He then told me that his family has a bit of a mouse infestation, and they’ve been thinking of getting a cat. I assured him that I’ve seen no mice in my house and, as an added bonus, Kien also devours cockroaches (occasionally, I’ll find just the legs scattered across the floor; good cat).

He then asked me where I’m from and was pleased when I replied that I am Canadian. Apparently, he’s spent the past three years working at the Vietnamese embassy in Ottawa.

“A little bit cold there, eh?” I commented.

He paused and smiled before responding, “A little? I think VERY cold!”

We had a mutual chuckle before he continued, “Very beautiful, though.”

I smiled. I think it’s so funny the way that Vietnamese people, when they’re making small talk, always want to know what you think about their country. Of course, I always tell them that I think it’s very beautiful and filled with wonderful people (I do think that, by the way), and it always seems to make their day.

“Oh really?” they always say, their faces alight, their voices rising in that slightly shrill uniquely Vietnamese rising tone.

But, you know, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear Trung say, too, that Canada is very beautiful. Really, we’re all the same.

Then, I learned the unfortunate reason that Trung finds himself back in Hanoi; he has just been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. He seemed to me to be holding up OK, but you could clearly see the sadness and fear lurking below the surface. I tried to reassure him that he likely still has many good years ahead of him. He replied that his greatest fear is that he will become bed ridden and a burden on his family. That just about broke my heart. I told him about my Great Aunt Rosie, who had Parkinson’s for many years and maintained a very good quality of life for much of that time. In Rosie’s case, I believe it was being close to her family that allowed her to hang on for as long as she did – and, of course, the medication. That seemed to perk Trung up a bit. He is also bolstered by the hope of new and better medications coming available in the future.

He thanked me and went away smiling. I think I helped to raise his spirits, however briefly. Part of me wishes he were still in Canada where he could take advantage of a decent health care system, but I think it’s important for him to be near his family. I hope to see him again. His English is the best I’ve encountered from a Vietnamese person in my neighbourhood. There are many who speak English – I live in a fairly affluent part of town – but they seem to be shy to try it out on a foreigner. By contrast, the ones who speak no English at all are forever yapping at me in Vietnamese.

One of my favourites is an older lady who is always outside with her grandson. He’s a handsome little fella – Em Dep Trai – always riding around on his little bicycle. He likes to look at Phuong as she runs around the street but doesn’t like her to get too close. He seems to like me too, though I am something of an enigma to him. Today, as I was bringing the motorbike out of the house, he came scampering up to the front door and just stared at me. I said, “Hello,” and smiled at him. Then, I noticed he had his flip-flops on the wrong feet. I pointed to them and tried to explain that he may be more comfortable if he switched them around. Making very poor progress explaining this verbally, I began to take off my shoes to mime the action. Well, that was enough strange behaviour from the white man. He ran off, calling for his grandmother.

“Ba Oi! The foreigner with the dog is doing very strange things…He kept pointing to my feet and then he started to take his shoes off outside. I don’t get white people.”

Me neither, little buddy, me neither. He often waves to me but never smiles. Funny little guy. I definitely like him better than the ankle biters in my old neighbourhood, who would run into the kitchen, open the fridge and abscond with all my yoghurt, all the while their mother standing outside, watching the whole thing go down…

Vietnamese families really have a special character. Kids are allowed to run wild here – little Princes, they are – until they reach about 12 or 13, and then they’re immediately expected to buckle down and behave. There’s a belief that when a child wants something, you should never tell them “No.” All the older people remember the time of rationing when they had to stand in line for hours just to get their measly cup of rice and 100 g of meat for the week. Now, as the standard of living is going up – though not for everyone – people are very reluctant to deny their children anything. If he wants to stuff his face with chocolate, so be it. The next generation is going to have an obesity problem that will equal or exceed that in the west. Especially now that KFCs have opened up in both Saigon and Hanoi. Combine that with the government’s whole-hearted embracing of private health care and there’s plenty of reason for concern.

So, enough rambling for now. Sorry for the long post on no clear topic. Look for entries this week on my job and the traffic situation in Vietnam.

In the meantime, enjoy a small selection of pictures taken at Puku. At some later date, I will endeavour to post some that give a better view of the place. For anyone living in, moving to or just visiting Hanoi, I highly recommend it. It feels like a little touch of home.

I made to sure to bring my parents to Puku when they visited me in Hanoi.

Aviva took this shot of Phuong, as a puppy, in her bag and me in the background.

Mmmm…Vietnamese coffee is out of this world.

Until next time…

You sunk my Bronenosets September 12, 2006

Posted by somelikeitscott in Blogroll, Eisenstein, Expat, Film, Hanoi, Uncategorized, Vietnam.
4 comments

So, I went by the ole bootleg DVD store the other night in search of something classic.

I was after Captain Blood, an early Errol Flynn adventure on the high seas recommended by Aviva’s brother-in-law, Rob, and his friend Doug on their weekly podcast “WTF Do We Know?” [1] I didn’t actually find Captain Blood, so I went home with Robin Hood, as well as Walk the Line, On the Waterfront and another film that I was attracted to by the DVD sleeve. It seems to be some sort of naval action movie – an adventure on the high seas perhaps – and it has a rough and tumble looking cast. I haven’t watched the DVD yet, but the jacket has me super stoked. It’s called, Battleship Potemkin. Check it out:

I mean, Harvey Keitel? The guy is awesome, and I’ve heard his performance in this movie is legendary. I’m really in the mood for an action extravaganza, and judging by the sinking battleship and ample smattering of bullet holes on the DVD sleeve, I think I’m in for a real treat! As if the front cover didn’t have me excited enough, get a load of the synopsis printed on the back:

The film description changes in that 1905 takes place on a battleship gold, that warship is originally the navy’s pride, but on connecting the meals of a few month very bad, the meat is all full, the soldier of water were die by the military officer shot because of complain the meals, cause to revolt from here. The warship arrives the virtuous stone stairs of to accept the people’s food replenishment, but the infantry arrive to the suppression, taking place the bloodbath on the stairs.

Wow. Sounds like non-stop action.

In all seriousness [2], you have to give this bootleg shop credit for even stocking Battleship Potemkin. Although, I suppose Vietnam and the Soviet Union did enjoy a close relationship for many years (never underestimate the Vietnamese desire to really stick it to China). The same shop also stocks Alexander Nevsky. I have to admit that I fell asleep during that one when we watched it in school, but I’ll definitely give the DVD another shot. For $1, how can you go wrong, especially when the film is reputed to have some of the most incomparably beautiful footage ever seen onscreen? It’s cheaper than even RENTING a movie in Canada, for crying out loud. Suckers.

Until next time…

1. The topics discussed tend to inhabit the realm of high geekery – look out for the episode dedicated to Dungeons and Dragons – but are often entertaining and can be downloaded at http://www.wtfradio.ca and through iTunes.

2. The film was actually made in 1925, and depending on whom you ask, is the greatest thing ever committed to celluloid.

Home sweet Hanoi… September 11, 2006

Posted by somelikeitscott in Blogroll, Expat, Hanoi, Uncategorized, Vietnam.
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I had a great time with Aviva in Bangkok. It’s such an interesting city, and there’s so much going on (maybe too much). Admittedly, I found myself desiring to stay, but Sunday evening, I boarded my Thai Airways flight back to Hanoi.Having said that, it never ceases to amaze me how much like home Hanoi feels every time I return. Sure, I can barely communicate with my taxi driver, and the stop start weave swerve honk honk ride into the city makes me nauseous, but I hardly mind, so satisfying it is to go “home.” And of course, there’s the anticipation of seeing my furry little friends, Phuong and Kien. The Chihuahua went crazy when I arrived. The screeching and yelping began when she heard me fumbling with my keys from the other side of the door. When the door finally opened, she launched herself into my gut and scaled my torso to deliver one of her patented tongue baths complete with frequent nose biting. She was a very content looking dog for the rest of the evening, happily gnawing on one of the treats I brought her. The cat was also pleased to see me and let me know. He is one loud bastard.

The most unexpected thing about returning home is that I barely recognized the place. It was so clean! I owe that to my new housemate and her wonderful maid. I have yet to meet the woman, but she is apparently already quite familiar with me and all my possessions. Apparently, she’s also a very good cook, so I’m really looking forward to having her around. My new housemate, Elodie, is also very nice. She’s a French architect, and I think she’ll be around until around February. She’s friendly, and we have similar taste in movies, so I think she’ll be a good person with whom to share the house.

So, now it’s back to the ole 9-5 (or 8:30-6:30 to be more accurate) and whatever else it is I do way out here in ‘Nam. When I figure out exactly what that is, I’ll let you all know.

I don’t have anything else to say just now, so instead enjoy some pictures.

Until next time…

Xe May Self Portrait

To reassure all the worrisome women in my life, I don’t make a habit of taking photos while I’m driving the motorbike.

Nuns on the Run

There’s nothing quite so Zen as nuns on a motorbike.

Declare Peace

One of Aviva’s last meals in Hanoi.