We have moved to Seoul, Korea. Click here to follow our new adventures.

11 June 2012

Goodbye Vietnam

Our last day in Saigon. We had breakfast with friends at The Gourmet Shop, walked around SSIS campus sharing memories and saying goodbye to classrooms, playgrounds and a few people still on campus. Lauren had lunch with a good friend while I began the packing process. While I was at home, our beloved housekeeper, Ms. Quay came over to say goodbye. Right before she left, she said "Monsieur, Madame, Trevor, Colin" and pointed to her heart. Then she turned away and peddled down our tree-lined street on her old, green bike. We love you too Ms. Quay!

We finished packing, had a couple other visits with friends and then caught a taxi to our favorite Pho shop to end our two years exactly as we started it, with delicious bowls of beef Pho and tropical juice drinks.

We have appreciated knowing there are people out there reading what we post and hope we can continue to keep in touch with you all through our new blog from Seoul. To all our friends in Saigon: thanks for everything. You will be sorely missed. To everyone else: we hope to see you this summer and/or possibly during your visit to Seoul in the next couple years!

09 June 2012

Leaving. Step 4: Boxes

A lot of cardboard goes into these transitions. Today we had seven super-efficient men working from 8:30 am to 4:00pm to prepare are belongings for shipment to Korea. We spent our day holed-up in our guest room to stay out of the way.

Turns out just about everything we "need" to be settled fits into 106 boxes.

Forts! When all your toys are in boxes, you have to get creative.

We are so blessed that these two guys enjoy each other's company so much.
No matter what we put them through, they find ways to be creative
and pass the time having a blast together. Next challenge: long plane trips!

03 June 2012

Leaving. Step 3: Lasts

We're living a life of "lasts": last meals at favorite restaurants, last trips to CitiMart on our bikes, last classes with students, last times with good friends. While all are very enjoyable events, each is tinged with a thin layer of sadness. We laugh and enjoy the moment, forgetting for a bit that it is the last. Then, when it is time to go we hug and walk away with the feeling in our stomach that what we just experienced was more poignant than all the others. Here is a sample of photographed lasts and a video of one of my favorites from last week.

Last round of Sunday frolf with great friends: Mike, Shane, Mike and Stacey. 
It was "Vietnam-hot" this day but the gin and tonics 
we filled our travel mugs with helped.

Last order of dumplings at the Sandy Bottom Pool.

Last Saigon Pedal Pushers bike ride into the country
with Mike, Brett, Elaine, Lisa, David and Stacey (not pictured)

Last haircut at Happy Hair & Nails. Likely the worst haircuts 
we've ever gotten, but at $3.00 a piece including...

...a shampoo and scalp massage (and occasional, surprising cucumber facial)
you really can't complain. Colin and I made this a regular father-son outing. 

Last parties. This week has found us out with friends almost every night of the week. 
This party, at our friends Brett and Heather's place, was a bottle party set up 
to help us with the half-used bottles we were not allowed to ship to Seoul.

So sad.
It was amazing how many other people also had half-used bottles to contribute.
This turned into our good-bye party. Could not have imagined a better send-off.
We'll miss how tight the SSIS community is and how often they all got together
to enjoy each other's company.

(apologies for the poor sound quality)
My last bike ride. I did this ride every other day at 5:00am.
Each morning I passed a man doing stretches on the top of this tiny bridge.
He always waved and enthusiastically said "Good Morning!".
Great way to start the day.

While we'll miss each of these and especially the people associated with them, we know we are in for many more both at home this summer and in our next adventures in Seoul. We also know that we have cemented friendships here with people that will last a lifetime. We lead such charmed lives.

24 May 2012

Vietnam Alphabet M

M = Mui Ne, mangoes and milestones

We have loved our two short weekends in Mui Ne (Moy Nay). Mui Ne was a place to be calm, to soak in all the blues and greens of the sky and ocean and to be astonished by red and sculptured sand.

Ms. Quay and Ms. Thuy discovered that we love mangoes, and they buy them for us by the bagful when they're in season. Thuy has even brought them back from visits to the countryside on her motorbike. We eat bowls of them, make smoothies and salsa, and put them on Thai sticky rice.  We have even learned to enjoy slices of hard, tart green mangoes, though we skip the chili dipping salt.

In Vietnam, milestones (really kilometer stones) are actually like stones by the side of the road and painted with the names of various destinations and their distances from the stone.  There are very few other signs along the roadways.

This milestone is unusual, being in the middle of the sidewalk. They're more often on the shoulder of a major road. The distance marked is zero because we were waiting in line with our bikes at a ferry crossing.  The markers are about 18 in. wide and 2 or 2 1/2 feet tall.  The perspective might seem a little strange because those chairs are really only about 14 inches off the ground. They're on every sidewalk that doesn't already have little red stools.

23 May 2012

Leaving. Step 2: Eat & Drink With Friends

This is the only silver lining to leaving a place: it tends to bring people together to eat and drink. We have shared some amazing meals with some even more amazing people these past weeks.

David showing strong form as we kick off my guys night out
going-away evening at an ostrich BBQ. In full disclosure, he did find a half-eaten
scorpion under his chair and thought maybe it was mine, which went missing.
Oh what a night...

Jackson boys showing similar form, but with pizza at our
favorite neighborhood joint with their friend Asher.

Enjoying an early morning brew during a pit-stop on our long bike ride.
"Mot, Hai, Ba...Yo!" - likely the most exuberant toast out there.

Fine dining at La Villa, an amazing French restaurant Lauren discovered.
Her taste in food is only surpassed by her taste in friends.

What a blessing that we have met such awesome people during our travels. Also, in the international community it is more likely "when" not "if" you'll see good friends again. We are thankful for that.

21 May 2012

Leaving. Step 1: Sell Your Stuff

First things to go went to a great home: our good friends Brian and Madi who welcomed their son, Torin, only about a week after this shot was taken. Gone are a toy organizer, nightstands, dressers and some plants.  This moving vehicle is about as large as they get in Saigon. 

This photo really does not capture how remarkable this man was. This little desk weighs a ton. The guy in back is our school's head gardener and the guy with the desk is his brother. "He's very, very strong," the gardener said. They were both laughing as I was taking this photo.

It is this strange mix of relief and sadness when you start to sell your stuff. You are slowly cutting your ties to a place and the move suddenly becomes real. After all your fierce efforts to settle and create a home you are slowly dismantling it. I don't even like that desk but I couldn't help getting a little sentimental as he drove off and I thought of the pictures Colin drew while sitting at it in the sun and the Lego creations that were proudly displayed on it.

Arriving is fun but leaving is hard.

19 May 2012

Coast to the Coast

A week ago we embarked on a bike ride from Saigon to Can Gio, about 65 kilometers away on the coast. It was possibly the longest ride Lauren and I have ever done, so it was kind of a big deal for us. Saturday morning we filled our Camelbacks, left the kids with Ms. Thuy and headed off to meet eight of our good friends.

We left from our local bike shop, Saigon Cycles at 6:30am to beat the heat.

20k in found us at a small ferry dock. We squeezed on the ferry
with more motorbikes than you'd think could (should?) fit on that boat.

While on the ferry Lauren took this photo of either a barefoot motorbike rider
or our buddy's gin and juice water bottle. Both photo-worthy.

8:30am...stopped for delicious Pho...

...and 333 beers and coffee sua da. It was really hot.

A short while later, we pulled off the road for some hammock time and more beers.
I know, we're doing this right, aren't we? It was really hot.

Then it was time to hit the road.

Now, this should be a photo of us, after 65k of riding checking into our resort. It isn't.
This is a photo of us realizing the woman behind the counter will NOT budge on her demand that
we all have our passports and visas. We didn't. After a lot of back and forth, we headed 6k down
the road to the only other place in town. Fortunately they were willing to bend the rules.

Once there...
...we watched a dramatic storm come in,
found some statues, lounged by the pool and
shared stories over meals.

The ride home was a bit more focused. We stopped less frequently and made great time. Lauren and I both felt a great sense of accomplishment when we finally pulled in front of our house Sunday afternoon. This trip was a perfect mix of amazing experiences with incredible people. That's our goal these last few weeks.