Welcome Ava Elizabeth

I’m very excited to report that Sunday evening, halfway through the Oscars, my sister gave birth to her second child, Ava Elizabeth.

Ava was 18″ 6 lbs, 7 ounces (45.7 cm / 2.92 kg) at birth and both mother and niece are doing well.  This morning niece #1 is going to go visit Mom and kid sister in the hospital.  Jenn’s done a lot of work trying to prepare Emily for her new sibling, so we’ll see how Emily reacts.

On other news, I arrived in San Francisco on Saturday morning after a relatively painless 20-hour journey from Bangkok.  I was fortunate that on both the BKK-NRT and NRT-SFO legs of the trip I had friends from UA working the flight.

Actually, BKK-NRT was someone I had only heard about from Tawn, but had never met: a former regional flight attendant who moved to the Narita base many years ago.  He had heard my name, and recognized me on the passenger manifest.

On the NRT-SFO leg, I was very fortunate that another friend swapped his schedule to work the trip, since I was seated in Economy class.  Using classy discretion, he made sure that my wine was from First Class, warm nuts appeared with that wine, and my breakfast before arrival was a nice fruit place that had come from a galley further forward in the plane!  Thanks!

Of course, my preference would have been to have Tawn on my flight – but since that wasn’t possible, I’ll settle for other friends instead.

The weather is wet and rainy here in SF, and while I’m glad to be visiting I sure wish I was back in warm Bangkok!

 

 

One Day Left in Bangkok

Tuesday evening, Ryan’s last day in Bangkok, we met up with a friend from Airliners.net, Jack, and went to Vertigo – the rooftop bar and restaurant on the 69th story of the Westin Banyan Tree hotel.  It was a swanky place to take in the view and enjoy lychee martinis, celebrating Ryan’s trip and also having a chance to meet Jack for the first time.  Jack (sorry, no picture to post) is Thai but graduated from KU and still lives in Kansas City working for Sprint.  Of course, I only met him after I moved to Bangkok so was unable to take advantage of his Thai restaurant recommendations in KC while I lived there!  For all of you still in KC, Thai Orchid is the place to go, not Thai Place.


Ryan made it to the airport in one piece, I believe, although I haven’t heard from him yet so don’t know if he really is back at home or got stuck in Taipei.  It was nice having him in town and getting to spend more time with him than I have in a decade or more.  I’ll look forward to meeting his girlfriend, Sabrina, when I’m in SF.


Yesterday was my final examination for Module 3 of Thai language classes.  Knowing that I was going to repeat the class anyways, I didn’t bother pressuring myself over the test.  Quite relaxing to walk in and not have any beads of sweat on my brow.  Other students who will also repeat the class didn’t even show up for the test: there were four absences in a class of 12.  Sure enough, I knew what I knew and didn’t know what I already knew I didn’t know.  And now that I know what is on the test, I’ll be able to better prepare over the next two months for it.


After the test I met up with Dave and Monty, who are back in town after visiting Chiang Mai, Phuket, and Ko Phiphi.  Mentioning them previously, they are friends of Tod’s and another Thai guy in SF that Tawn knows.  They’re a great couple and I’m glad we had another chance to hang out before they return home to SF on Saturday.  Sounds like Chiang Mai was fun but their Phuket and Ko Phiphi experiences could have been more enjoyable. 


Tomorrow morning (Saturday) I fly out bright and early to San Francisco.  I’m spending three weeks there working with the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival, followed by one week back in Kansas City so I can see my family and my new niece or nephew who should be born any day now.


So that leaves today to get everything done: packing, laundry, pick up dry cleaning, water plants (and hope Tawn remembers to keep watering them!), purchase a replacement water filter for the clothes washer, etc.  Busy!


 

Saigon Journal Part 3

Here are a selection of photos from my trip to Ho Chi Minh City, along with a few that were taken in the days before the trip while we had several guests in town.

Notes and impressions from the Saigon trip are in two brief entries: Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

P1200830

A Buddhist monk reads a book while riding the Chao Praya river taxi in Thailand.  A farang tourist stands behind him.  The taxis run up and down the river like a boat, stopping a designated piers.  Conductors onboard carry a metal cylinder containing coins and receipts, just like on the Bangkok buses.  Because of their prohibition from touching or being touched by women, monks have a reserved space at the back of the boat where they can stand.

P1200830

Ryan and Tod riding in the long-tail boat we hired to get us back down the Chao Praya in record time.  A normal river taxi would have been 30 minutes; the long-tail boat got us there in 10 and afforded us an excellent view.  We were bouncing along the water so fast that we could have water skiied behind.

P1200830

Chris eating pho – beef noodle soup – the afternoon of our arrival in Ho Chi Minh City.  Tawn had to complete a press release for work, so he stayed at the hotel and Ryan and I started exploring nearby.  Just a few blocks away we ran into a pho shop on the corner and enjoyed two bowls of soup and two bottles of water for only 30,000 Dong – about US$2.00.

P1200830

Ryan posing at the impressive stained glass windows at the Italian villa-style Fine Arts Museum in Ho Chi Minh City.  While most of the art was limited to certain political themes, a wide range of styles and skills were demonstrated.

P1200830

A young man sits atop a soon-to-be-installed sewer pipe along the waterfront in Ho Chi Minh City.  Young people were the optimistic face of the future and we regularly encountered children who wanted to talk with us or be in our pictures.

P1200830

Young lovers along the riverfront shortly after sunset.  Young couples have little privacy as most live with their families until marriage (and often afterwards, too), so they seek out private time in very public places.  The main parks were also quite busy in the evenings as couples perched on motor bike seats, talking and just holding each other – a rare public display of affection.

P1200830

Outside the Reunification Palace, Tawn is mobbed by a group of school children who are eager to be photographed.  Reunification Palace was formerly the Presidential Palace and it is preserved almost exactly as it was on April 30, 1975 when North Vietnamese tanks crashed through the main gates (those two tanks are still parked on the lawn outside the building) and the South Vietnamese government finally fell.

P1200830

Tawn takes a turn grilling dinner at a popular outdoor restaurant.  Our half-kilo of fresh shrimp arrived in a plastic grocery bag, still kicking.  The waiter showed us how to snap their main nerve with a toothpick before throwing them on the grill to cook, otherwise they’d squirm and jump off the grill.

P1200830

Much of Ho Chi Minh City’s commerce takes place on the streets.  Here, a barber has set up shop next to a wall, hanging a tarp overhead for shade and using a vintage barbershop chair. 

His young customer shows some trepidation about getting what turns out to be a very short haircut.  People everywhere were very friendly and happy to pose for photographs.

P1200830

Motorbikes were ubiquitous in HCMC.  What was most surprising was the number of people they carried.  Carpooling (for lack of a beter word) is the norm, and it wasn’t unusual to see an entire family riding one bike.  The album link below has more photos of groups on motorbikes.

P1200830

One of the things that most sparked Ryan’s childhood memories was the flavors of his childhood.  Here, we stop for fresh-pressed sugar cane juice, available from vendors thorughout the city.  Ryan said that the sugar cane juice in Viet Nam tastes different from that he’s had elsewhere in the world.

Making Friends in Saigon:

P1200830

Sunday evening I was taking time-exposure pictures of the Hotel de Ville, the Communist Party headquarters.  There were many families strolling about and as I took the pictures, several youngsters came over to see what I was doing. 

P1200830

One in particular, about five years old, was very keen to help take the pictures.  Between a combination of gestures I showed him what button to push and he took this second picture of another boy and his father standing in front of the Hotel de Ville.

P1200830

When I asked if he wanted me to take a picture of him and his sister, he looked at me with all seriousness and said, “no, thank you.”  So we continued taking pictures.  His sister, unable to get a chance to try because of her brother’s enthusiasm, wandered off in front of the camera.  I turned on the flash and had her brother snap another picture; his sister was surprised by the flash and came running over to see what happened. 

P1200830

Once the picture appeared on screen they both squealed with delight, and then the young boy decided he, too, wanted his picture taken.  Afterwards, I asked the father whether they had an email address so I could send the pictures to them.  Unfortunately, they have “no computer” and it didn’t occur to me to get a mail address so I could print out the photos and send them to the family.  If anyone reading this knows anyone in Ho Chi Minh City, send the link to them and maybe we can track these children down!

P1200830

Ryan and I with a vendor who sells Vietnamese sandwiches.  The rolls and pate fillings are undoubtedly influenced by the French, and provided another flavor memorie for Ryan.  He went back for a second sandwich a few minutes later.  The vendor spoke English well and kept insisting that we would make her very happy if we bought a third sandwich from her.

P1200830

Flowers at the Marriaman Hindu Temple – the only Hindu temple in HCMC serving a Hindu population estimated at about 60 people.  It is also considered an auspicious site for other religions, though. 

P1200830

We visited one afternoon around sunset and again the next day, captivated by the brilliant colors. 

When we returned to the temple the next day, a young lady and her toddler were playing at the front entrance.  The toddler was very outgoing, throwing a pen at me and then coming over and hugging my legs.  Later, he was playing with blocks on the tile floor and smiled for this picture.  His mother had him running around without a diaper, so I wanted to be careful to avoid taking any pictures that could be misinterpreted by any suspicious authorities.