My visit to the Vogsphere

There was a beep and the number 222 flashed up on the screen. ‘Won’t be long now,’ I told myself, glancing at the piece of paper in my hand marked 225. I started gathering my belongings, ensuring all my documents were in order and practising what to say in Vietnamese in my head. I was suddenly nervous, convinced I had forgotten some essential stamp or not brought enough photocopies of a particular document with me. Palms sweaty, I began to stand up ready to head to the appropriately numbered window.

There was another beep. Number 278 flashed on the screen. I sat back down.

I had been at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs since 9am. The time was now 11.30am. It had taken me an hour to figure out that, although I was in the building already, I had to apply online for an application to request for authentication of the documents I had certified by the British Embassy in Hanoi a week ago, to legalise the certification. Or something. I lost track about a month ago. Incidentally, it was the lady at the British Embassy who told me about this extra step in the process of obtaining a Vietnamese work permit, while assuring me that they spoke great English and I could definitely go by myself without any real Vietnamese ability (I can order coffee, but not sure that is particularly useful in this context). This turned out to be an unfortunate mistake, and after wandering blindly back and forth between windows for some time I realised that everyone that wasn’t being ignored had the same document. A document that I did not have. Luckily, a kind lady saw I was about to have a nervous breakdown and pointed to the computers at the back of the hall. Success!

Aided by Google Translate I successfully completed my application form and generated my number (225! Lucky 225!). Buoyed by my success, I clicked print and looked around naively for a printer. I should have known better.

After another twenty seven extremely awkward minutes (approximately), and having text all my Vietnamese friends in my phonebook for help, I called my nanny to ask her to speak to a random stranger to find out where my form had printed. Not entirely convinced she understood what I was about to do, I pounced on an unsuspecting stranger and shoved my phone in her face. Before Thoa had a chance to say hello, the lady smiled at me and told me she was going to collect her form and she would take me to get mine. Sweet relief.

Obviously, the printer was in a photocopy shop across the road (one of three identical shops).

Armed with documents up to my eyebrows, photocopied in triplicate with bonus photocopies just in case, I returned triumphantly to the hall of windows and verified my existence in said hall with my freshly printed application form, photocopies and a new outlook on life. The tv screen beeped. Number 193. Not long to go, surely..

It wasn’t this bad

The cashiers abandoned their posts (presumably lunch was beckoning). The lights were slowly turned off. The crowds dwindled. And still I sat, waiting. And waiting. And then, 225! I leapt to my feet and hurried to my assigned window, beaming. The lady behind the desk did not smile. She did not even look at my face. She took my documents and gave me a blue slip of paper with the price and tomorrow’s date on it. Then the lights turned off and they motioned to me to leave.

I will probably get my documents back tomorrow, right? Probably.



Posted in Life in Hanoi, Teaching | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments


The cicadas are deafening. And it is so peaceful.

I’m writing this entry from my living room, listening to the sound of a billion (probably two) tiny insects going nuts in the trees outside and distractedly watching Nugget, Fang, Sharky, George and the two as yet unnamed swordtails swimming around their new home next to the television. There’s a niggling feeling that I’m procrastinating on a deadline, that there is something more important that I’m supposed to be doing. But, for the first time in a year, there isn’t. Dinner has been cooked, baby has been put to bed (although continues to babble incessantly to herself on the baby monitor), fish have been fed, and PGCE has been completed.

Fish tank

A lot has happened since the last time we spoke. My last entry was 3 weeks in to the course, and I was already feeling the pressure. Needless to say, the pressure increased. Going back to school is always hard. Going back to school with a baby to look after, in a foreign country, is an uphill marathon. But I’ve done it. And I’m a little bit proud.

The course itself was fascinating, challenging and brought me to tears more times than I can count. I learned a ton about teaching, and about myself as a student. I learned how to balance my time; how to teach a full day after 2 hours sleep and still go home to be a parent at the end of the day. I learned how to ‘juggle’ breastfeeding and teaching (not literally, that would have been awkward for everyone involved). I learned I am still not very good at receiving constructive criticism. If you are teaching overseas and are considering a course to enhance your qualifications, I would definitely recommend the programme I did through the University of Sunderland in the UK. It was expensive, and hard work, but I know it has made me a better and more confident teacher and the skills I learned were invaluable. If you choose the post-graduate route you will complete two masters level courses, which contribute one third of a masters in education if completed within five years. Bonus. Read more about the course here.

In the meantime, our little bundle of joy grew and grew and grew. She learned to crawl very early, and was walking by 9 months. We have been equal parts sickeningly proud parents ready to call Mensa and sign her up, and exhausted shells of our former selves (just kidding, mostly). Her first word was ‘Fsshhhhh’ (hence the newly installed fish tank in the living room) , and her favourite activity is to climb up to the windows to point and wave at the dog that lives next door. She blows kisses to everyone she meets, and tantrums like a 2 year old. She still has no hair.

DSC_0824Birthday girl

Summer has arrived in Hanoi, bringing with it the soaring temperatures and electric bills we have come to expect each year. We go outside for a run around in the lane as early as possible, and try to make sure nap time coincides with the midday heat. Colin is now on summer break, whereas my school year has just begun at the Japanese school I’ve recently started working at. Outside of work, our life is settling into a new routine filled with play-dates, scraped knees and hot summer evenings. And going to bed at 9pm, because child.

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The Life of a Student-Mama

“When I have the baby and am on maternity leave, I think I’ll start studying for my Masters,” I announced one day in the teacher’s room to a friend of mine and mother of one.

I was a little bit hurt when she laughed in my face. “Just wait til the baby is here before you make any decisions like that!” She chuckled.

Once I had had the baby, I actually posted on facebook asking for new hobby ideas. We were incredibly lucky in that the little one napped pretty well once we had got into the swing of things, and I found myself bored of just sitting around waiting for her to wake up so we could back to the serious business of lying on our backs watching the ceiling fan with fascination. Luckily, I am far too lazy to actually take up any of the suggestions.

Fast forward six (yes, SIX) months, and I am living the dream. I signed up with the University of Sunderland to complete the Overseas PGCE (that’s English person speak for ‘teaching qualification’ in case you were unsure) and am 3 weeks in. And exhausted. It turns out looking after a baby is quite a different beast once they have gotten over their initial excitement of the existence of feet and have worked out how to use them, and she is far more entertaining than reading endless books about theories of knowledge. Luckily we have our amazing nanny who looks after the baby during the day while I am at school or studying, and so this thing is starting to look like it might be possible. If everything goes to plan (and when doesn’t it, I ask you?!) come May 2016 I will be a fully qualified teacher.

Going back to work/school/study has been a slow process, as I actually started working from home just an hour a day when Lexi was only 2 months old. I’ve been teaching here and there, and have slowly been building up to being away from home for longer each day. I’ve spent a couple of almost-full days at school so far as part of my course, and I never thought it would be possible to miss someone quite as much as I miss her when I’m away from home. However, she has her own little gang of friends that hang out at each other’s houses every day so I know she is having a great time without me. And nothing can beat the beaming smile that greets me when I walk into the flat after being out all day. In two weeks time I will be teaching full time as part of the PGCE, which I am both dreading and looking forward to.

The Overseas PGCE is a distance learning course designed for people teaching outside of the UK, and is attended by people quite literally all over the world. It’s been great to learn so much about school in other cultures and countries, and although it has been incredibly difficult to get back into the academic world after I graduated from my undergraduate …a few years ago… I am loving every second. I am sure that things will get tougher (this week, for example, the baby is sick with bronchitis) and when the deadlines start looming I have no doubt I will start questioning all my life choices. But for now, I am feeling excited and positive and totally not using this blog as an excuse to procrastinate.

This is not what I look like while studying. 

Nope, no procrastination here. Building forts for the baby is an important part of studying.


On a side note, I appear to have abandoned my pursuit for happiness. This doesn’t mean that I have given up on the idea entirely, but I’ve been a little busy being a student and a mum with two part time jobs. I’m still trying to find positive things wherever I go, and will definitely go back to finish it off. Probably. Later.

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We did a road trip

“When we move to Vietnam, we definitely won’t just stay in Hanoi. We will definitely do lots of exploring of the country and spend weeks on our motorbikes driving around”. 

I’m sure we said this, or something similar, when we were preparing to move. Unfortunately, as with many things, life got in the way and we have spectacularly failed to explore much of our adopted homeland. For the majority of our time here we have needed to do visa runs, which means that most of our time off work has been spent going to places outside Vietnam. Needless to say once I was heavily pregnant, long bike trips were off the menu, and now with a small one in tow I’m not too keen on the idea either.

Back in July, we made our first trip away with the baby, but once again this trip took us away from Vietnam – back to the UK in fact. Don’t get me wrong, the trip was awesome and relaxing and all the wonderful things, but it didn’t feel like travelling with the baby (the 15 hour flight notwithstanding). By the time August rolled around, Lexi had turned 4 months old and I decided enough was enough – I booked a trip away for the husband’s birthday.

Mai Chau is a beautiful little town in the mountains about 160km away from Hanoi, in Hoa Binh district. I think it is southwest, but I failed geography at school so don’t count on it. A friend recommended the gorgeous Mai Chau Lodge as being baby-friendly and reasonably priced, so I made some enquiries. They replied to my e-mails immediately, offering me a free crib (which they advertise as being extra cost online) and a special rate seeing as we were planning to celebrate a birthday. They even arranged for a ‘private car’ to pick us up from our house and drive the 4 hour journey to the lodge. This was a little steep, but totally worth it for the knowledge that we could stop whenever we needed, I could feed the munchkin in relative privacy and we wouldn’t upset any other passengers if she decided to have a screaming fit.

My fears were unfounded, and in spite of my initial concerns that the poor child’s head was going to bounce right off (Vietnam is not known for it’s smooth, well-maintained roads), we made it in one piece. And the scenery did not disappoint.

DSCN2565 DSCN2549 Scenery

The lodge itself is charming, with lovely rooms. This is lucky, because travelling with a baby does not stop that baby wanting to take her normal amount of naps. We spent a large amount of time in our charming, lovely room. There was a balcony which overlooked the main road, with a mountain directly behind. The road provided some awesome people-watching opportunities, which is lucky, because travelling with a baby does not stop that baby wanting to get up at 5am. We spent a large amount of time in the early morning watching people making their way to work and school, while waiting for the restaurant to start serving breakfast.

There is one main road with some shops and noodle stalls alongside, and the first morning we decided to take a stroll with the baby and get some drinks to fill up the fridge in the room and avoid spending a small fortune on liquids during our stay. We caused quite a stir walking up the street. We are used to Lexi getting a lot of attention from locals in Hanoi due to the fact that you don’t often see tiny white babies, but Mai Chau was on another level. We felt like celebrities. At one point, we stopped at a shop to buy some juice and out of nowhere a man appeared behind the pram, picked up the baby and ran off into the shop. Clearly we are too used to this kind of thing, as instead of panicking I got out the camera. She wasn’t bothered either, and was of course returned in one piece and completely nonplussed.

No biggie, just a random man stealing my child.

He brought her back, don’t worry.

People holding the baby was yet again the main recurring theme of our stay. The staff at the hotel were only too keen to take her off around the hotel while we ate our breakfast, lunch and dinner in peace, and she smiled at and charmed all the locals. I was even shown that one of the staff had changed her facebook profile photo to one of her posing with the baby by the swimming pool.

We did some swimming, eating and went for some walks around the lake filled with lotus flowers. We even went in a cave, which was probably the worst idea I’ve ever had.
“Of course you can take the baby! It’s totally baby friendly!”
What. a. lie.

The cave was big and dark and filled with bats. Exactly my kind of place. Unfortunately, the second part of the tour involved climbing a rusty ladder and then clambouring in and out of smaller chambers. I decided to pass on this second part, and agreed to stay in the main chamber with the baby and wait for the rest of the group. Totally forgetting that the husband took the baby sling with him. I don’t know if you’ve ever hung out in a cave with a 4 month old baby, but it’s pretty creepy. And it stank. Bat poo is pretty unpleasant stuff.

6 kilos of child gets heavy fairly quickly, particularly when there is nowhere to sit or put the baby down. She promptly fell asleep, leaving me to wander around the cave in the dark, waiting for the rest of the group to return. I did manage to scare a French family who clearly weren’t expecting to find a solitary mother and baby combo standing in the middle of the darkness wearing a stupid plastic hard hat.

Not a fan of the hard hat

All in all our trip was fantastic, and only marred slightly by a three hour screaming fit on our last night. By the time she had finished screaming and went to sleep, we were so scared of waking her up and starting her off again that we just sat in silence in the dark, at 8pm. We clearly still have a lot to figure out with this parenting thing.

Still, first holiday to a public hotel with the baby, check. First few meals in a restaurant with baby, check. Swimming, check. Caving, check. She has been on a plane to the UK and spent a weekend in the mountains in Vietnam.

More scenery

Not bad for a 5 month old.

If I have sold you on visiting Mai Chau (you totally should), check out the lodge here.

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Happy Happy Joy Joy 33 – 54

I think this project is working. Either that, or moving house was the best thing we ever did. Whatever it is, I am starting to feel much more positive about Hanoi again. I have started noticing, and appreciating, the little things that make this place so quirky and fun to live in.

I was at the bar a few nights ago and met a couple who were in Hanoi to make films. They didn’t have a specific film to make, so they were very interested in why we all chose to adopt Hanoi as our home – presumably so they could make a blockbuster starring all of us and make our fortune. I was offered to them as a good example of someone to talk about Hanoi, having just had my first baby here and considering I have had somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the place. Unfortunately, when I gave her my reasons for loving Hanoi she didn’t seem too impressed as my answers were too ‘generic’. It is very difficult to put into words why this city has become our home, but hopefully these pictures will help explain it. Apologies for the abundance of food related imagery.

#033 Fresh Fruit
The fruit here is plentiful, cheap and delicious.

#034 Moving Day
We arrived here two years ago with a suitcase each. We have accumulated a lot of stuff.

#035 Sofa Snuggles
Our new place is pretty awesome. WITH PLANTS.

#036 Wildlife
Our new place is FULL of these little guys.

#037 Morning smiles
Because why not?

#038 Morning Coffee
This is our local cafe. Vietnamese coffee rocks, but is especially good when drunk outside sitting on tiny little bamboo stools.

#039 Mohawk Birds
These guys are all over Hanoi. The owners all gather together in the morning or afternoon with their birds and put the cages next to each other so the birds can socialise while the men catch up on the morning news and have their coffee.

#040 Where’s Lumpy?
Erm, yeeeeah.

#041 Pop-Up Cafe
This is our local cafe once closed up for the day.

#042 Big Mangos


#043 Hanoi, sponsored by Wrigley’s.

#044 Birds of a Feather
We went for a walk in a park. These two guys were casually driving around with birds of prey attached to their sticks by fishing line.

#045 No Picking
Who wants to see a flower cry? NO-ONE, that’s who.

#046 Dads

#047 Tuan

At least, I think that was his name. My friend and I were taking a walk around the lake with our babies and this lovely guy offered to take a picture for us. Two foreigners with little white babies walking around the lake caused quite a stir, apparently.

#048 Nem Rán

#049 Mangosteens
Fruit of the Gods.

#050 Custard Apples
Taste nothing like custard, nor apples. So delicious.

#051 Flag
There has never been a bigger flag than this flag.

#052 Cookie Fail

 think I have mentioned before, we are not bakers. Here is some proof.

#053 Peanut Butter Cake
My baking has improved.

#054 Favourites

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The Pursuit of Happiness – UK Style

Sorry this has been slightly delayed. Here are some pictures of things that made me happy while we were in England recently. I will do a proper post about our trip sometime in the next year.

#016 Airport Sunrise
Our 1am departure was delayed until 7am. Luckily, we were advised of this change well in advance, so we were able to avoid sitting in the airport for 6 extra hours. Unluckily, this delay was extended by a further hour once we were sat at the gate. Fortunately we were sat opposite a huge glass wall, and got to witness this beautiful sunrise while we waited for our flight.

#017 Early Morning Flowers
My parents moved house while visiting us in Hanoi last October, as I may have mentioned. Technically, my brother moved my parents house, because they were visiting us in Hanoi. Nonetheless, this was the first visit back to my hometown where I wasn’t going to be staying in the family home that has been a part of my life since I was 3 months old. The best thing about the new house is the garden, which we had fun taking the baby for walks around every morning in the early sunshine to smell the flowers. She was a fan.

#018 Big Black Bird
This is a big black bird (a rook, perhaps?) on the beach in Seaford, where we visited my Grandma. I will do a separate post about Lexi meeting her Great Gran, and there were lots of happy shots to choose from, but I think this is my favourite.

#019 Bestfriendandbaby
My two favourite girls.

#020 DUCKS
Keen to give the offspring a chance to do lots of normal English kid things, we took her to the park to feed the ducks. She couldn’t have cared less, but we enjoyed ourselves.

#021 Independence Day
I was brought up in a VERY British family, but they thoroughly enjoyed celebrating the fourth of July with a big old BBQ, blueberry pancakes and American bunting, ‘because there’s an American in the family now’ (forgetting, obviously, that there has been an American in the family for 2 and a half years already….).

I should have included the baby for scale, as this bottle is actually the size of TWO BOTTLES.  And it is devil wine which is the best wine.

#023 Sophie Le Giraffe
I woke up one morning to find that somebody had put the giraffe to bed. How considerate.

#024 Formula 1
Watching the formula 1 with Grandpa.

#025 Tummy Time!
Nobody hates tummy time more than my child, until Granny got involved and made all the toys join in. Not sure who enjoyed this game more.

#026 96 Years Apart
We visited my grandma twice, so that she got to see the cute one as much as possible. Unfortunately, she chose this day to become obsessed with sticking her tongue out at every opportunity (the baby, not the grandma). Slightly awkward.

#027 Sleepy Elf
I don’t think this one really needs an explanation.

#028 Sunglasses
Neither does this one.

Or this. My family does BBQs properly.

#030 Vintage Chic

This one probably does need explaining. The outfit belonged to my older brother and then to me. Yes, it is brown corduroy dungarees. The bassinet belonged to my father when he was a baby smaller than Lexi, and was then handed down to my brother and then me. Unfortunately she was a little too big to sleep in it during our stay, but we had to take a billion photos of her in it, because history. She wasn’t very impressed.

#031 Bagpuss
I gave this toy bagpuss to my mum many many years ago. It made me extremely happy on our last day to discover it still lives in her car.

#032 Home
After two wonderful weeks, and two very long and mildly traumatic flights, we arrived home to our house and the baby breathed a huge sigh of relief to be back in familiar surroundings. I didn’t have the heart to tell her it was only for two days..

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Happy Days 8-14 +1

Another week, another shipment of happiness is coming your way.

I didn’t manage to get out much this week as I’m not a fan of melting and the heat index went way up again in the last few days. Now that we are moving out of our house (which I have done little but complain about for the past 12 months) I figure it’s finally time to try and see the place in a more positive light, so here are my ‘happy in the house’ pictures from the last week…

#008 Tiny Lizard

Because it is a tiny lizard. Running up the wall of our staircase.

#009 Dr Seuss
I never really read Dr Seuss when I was growing up, so I had no idea of just how good these books are. We have been collecting books to read to the munchkin since she was about 1.5 months old, and her bedtime story is one of her favourite times of the day. One day this week the husband came home from grocery shopping with a bag full of these books and an enormous smile on his face. We promptly sat and read every single one to the baby. We definitely have not found ourselves reading them aloud to each other, while the baby sleeps in her own bedroom. 

#010 Elephant/Rhino Erection Hat with veil
I don’t know why this hat exists, but I am so happy that it does.

#011 Super Baby
Those are not my knees.

#012 Dream Big, Pig
This is printed on the bottom of our baby bath. It caught my eye at bath time the other night, and has made me happy ever since.

#013 Suzuki GN125 by West Lake
I love this bike. I love this lake. Enough said.

#014 Our New Lane
We went to sign the contract for our new place yesterday, as I may have mentioned already. This is what our new street looks like.

#015 Bonus Wine!
So I can’t count, and didn’t realise I had already taken enough happy pictures this week. I am clearly just so full of happy, it is brimming over into next week.
We seem to have gotten into a pretty solid bedtime routine over the last month, which means that once the small one is in bed, mama and daddy can relax with a glass of the good stuff. I drank ZERO alcohol throughout my entire pregnancy, so I reckon I deserve the odd glass *bottle* every now and then.

Stay tuned for the next instalment of happiness, direct from the UK. Depending on how the flight goes, next weeks post may be a little bit empty… Please wish us luck!

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The times they are a changin’

It’s nearly 2am and I’m wide awake.

Contrary to previous posts it has little to do with the new little person in my life, and a lot to do with all the other exciting things that are happening. Things are changing, and almost overnight I have started to feel sort of like an adult. A bit. A mini adult.

We found a new apartment. We weren’t supposed to be moving, but I have developed a mild addiction to property websites lately and the lack of natural light and ridiculous number of rooms that we never venture inside in our current house are starting to get to me. The husband agreed that I was allowed to casually look for a new place with a very strict list of requirements, and if I didn’t find somewhere that exactly fit our budget and shopping list of items (apparently it is asking a little too much to find a garden villa with a swimming pool for $300 a month…) then we would stay where we are. Receiving the green light to start apartment-hunting, I got busy. In a casual way of course. With no real expectation of finding this mythical perfect new home for our little family. Until I did.

Due to our strict list of requirements, I had actually only been to view one apartment in the last two weeks and this one apartment turned out to be a massive disappointment. Dejected, I went back to viewing places far outside of our budget on the internet. I shot off a few e-mails fully expecting to be given the ‘We have nothing for you here’ treatment, and waited. No less than TWO minutes later I received a reply and the following morning I was tearing around West Lake following a young and trendy Vietnamese guy with tall hair and a pink shirt to look at apartments. And I fell in love (with an apartment, not the tall hair).

I sent the husband to visit my new love to see if he shared my opinion. He did. A few hours after our first meeting, we had agreed a price and a time to go back the following day to sign the contracts. We move in on the 15th of July. EEEEK!

DSCN1844This is what next door looks like. Sort of.

Now my brain is awash with lists of things we need to pack, things we need to sell, broken things that can’t be fixed, broken things that can be fixed, what can be packed onto the back of a motorbike and what will need a van…. In Brighton we were professional movers. Changing salaries, changing relationships and changing tastes in pubs meant that we moved fairly regularly. In fact, I think I lived in three different houses over a twelve month period at some point. But moving in Brighton is easy, provided you are willing to part with 90% of your salary and part of your soul in exchange for a shoebox. In Hanoi, everything is transported on motorbikes. There is no such thing as ‘Nice Man, Big Van’ for hire, and gathering a bunch of friends to help shift your furniture in exchange for beer and pizza in amongst the boxes in your new shoebox doesn’t really happen here. Expats, by their nature, tend not to accumulate a lot of stuff. So moving here isn’t supposed to be a big deal.

VanNone of this here.

I am not your typical expat.

I seem to accumulate stuff like the shelves accumulate dust (a lot, due to my failure at being a good 1950s housewife and do things like dusting). Now that we have a kid we have even more stuff. How will we move it all? Who knows. I have two weeks to figure it out, but we won’t actually be here so I can’t actually do anything about it yet. First, I must pack for our trip.

In two days time we are flying to England to visit family (a sentence which, due to ridiculous bureaucracy I didn’t think I would be able to say until sometime in 2020, but that’s another post for another time). We haven’t really told anyone about the trip, as we have a very limited amount of time to spend with the family and won’t be going to Brighton where most of our friends are. We have to carry the baby on our lap. For thirteen hours. I think the baby has just started showing symptoms of teething, meaning our normally smiley and contented baby now has three settings: Eating, Drooling and Screaming… The flight is thirteen hours. I’m mildly terrified.

Once we are home, we will need to pack up our house and move it all to our new place. We will be joined by our newly hired nanny, and some newly acquired house plants. I will be embarking on my PGCE which starts in September and will qualify me as a proper teacher.  I don’t know if and where I will be working for the new school year. I don’t know where the husband will be working for the new school year. I don’t know how we are going to survive a thirteen hour flight with a possibly-teething 3 month old. I don’t know how are are going to move all of the things.

But I get to do all of these things in a pretty awesome city with my pretty awesome husband and baby in our pretty awesome new flat.

DSCN1731Obligatory baby-with-a-moustache picture

Life is pretty good right now.

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100 Happy Hanoi Days 1 – 7

So in my last post I talked about becoming Hanoid and needing to do something to remind myself of all the good things about living out here in Vietnam, and Hanoi in particular. Over the last week I have begun to take more notice of the things around me and what makes me smile. It seems to have had a positive effect so far… Let’s see if I can keep it up for a second week in a row.

#001 Peach Cobbler
I had never had peach cobbler before, much less tried to make it. In Hanoi. Where tinned peaches cost more than champagne (maybe). It took me 5 different shopping trips to 6 different shops but I prevailed, and I created this beauty. Why does this make me happy? Because I FOUND TINNED PEACHES IN HANOI. Win.

#002 Lotus Flower
On day 2 I decided to take a drive in the sunshine around West Lake, and was happy to find all the lotus ponds covered in leaves and beginning to flower. This put a smile on my face. “Ah hah! Happy picture number 2!” declared I, parking my bike on the wrong side of the road without indicating, leaving my keys in the ignition and my helmet perched on the handlebars (another thing I love about Hanoi… see? I can’t stop!). I snapped away, and as I turned to leave triumphantly, a young Vietnamese couple pulled up next to me. While his girlfriend giggled, the young man mischievously jumped over the barrier and knelt at the side of the lake, picking lotus flowers for his lady love. Once he had presented them to her, he balanced a leaf on his head and grinned at me. I grinned back. “Dep Qua!” I told him, in my most fluent of Vietnamese. He thanked me, and then handed me one of the flowers. He insisted on me putting it in my handbag so it would not get damaged on my drive home, and then the two of them drove off too quickly for me to get a picture of them. So I took a picture of my lotus flower instead. This happy project seems to be working so far.

#003 Cows
These happy chappies  live a little way down our lane. I don’t think this picture really needs any justification.

#004 Kinder Eggs
Because nothing says happiness better than a small chocolate egg filled with an assemble-it-yourself red plastic dinosaur.

#005 Thoa
One of the things we took into account when deciding whether or not to expand our family while in Hanoi was that we would be able to afford childcare. This is Thoa, who will begin working for us in the middle of July, ready for my return to work. The baby doesn’t look too impressed in this picture, but she assured me that she is very excited to hang out with Thoa while I am at work.
Disclaimer: I know I said I would limit myself to one baby photo per week, but this one does not count. She happens to be IN the picture, but it is not OF her. 

We took the baby swimming. Sort of. We put her in a swimsuit that made her look a little bit like a pimp, and we sat with her near the baby pool. She tolerated being dipped in the water once or twice, but was much more interested in trying to stand on our laps. We will try again next week.

#007 Shadows
A new fun game we have discovered (one which will come in very useful during those power cuts that are getting more and more frequent… can we blame that one on sharks?) is turning off the lights and shining a torch on the ceiling fan. Like any normal parents we have a blue toy cat and a mobile made of turtles dangling from our ceiling fan, and these make very cool patterns for the baby to watch on the ceiling. Hours of fun.

Tune in next week for more happiness.

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Thunder storms, Power cuts and #100HappyHanoiDays

I’ve been feeling Hanoid lately. I’ve talked about this phenomenon before, but in case you weren’t paying attention, I will explain. Living in Hanoi is awesome. It is beautiful, fun and fascinating. It smells amazing. The people are friendly and the traffic is exciting. Lakes are plentiful and beers are cheap. Thunderstorms are impressive, and the sun always shines. We live in a tropical climate with FOUR DIFFERENT SEASONS. It is fun to go to the market and buy the weirdest vegetable you can find and then leave it in the fridge for two months because you don’t know how to cook it. You can buy broccoli and Nutella. You can eat a hundred dollar steak and wash it down with a 25 cent beer. Chickens wonder the streets freely.

DSCN1580 People being friendly by a lake.

It can also be ugly, boring and dull. It smells of fish sauce and burning plastic. The people are cold and the language awkward. The traffic is terrifying. Lakes are polluted and beers are warm. Thunderstorms cause power cuts and the sun is too hot to leave the house with the baby before 4pm. Mouldy March is a thing. Dogs are kept in tiny, dirty cages at the back of cafes. Sometimes you just want to go to Tesco.

20141214_170048Chickens also come in bags on the backs of motorbikes

Living here can be a challenge.

The good usually far outweighs the bad, but sometimes the bad can just get to you.  It is a difficult feeling to describe, as you aren’t really homesick and you definitely don’t want to leave. Not really. You just need to take some time out to remind yourself of all the good stuff. You are Hanoid.

Couple this feeling with the baby blues, serious lack of sleep and going stir crazy from being cooped up in the house too much (owing to the soaring temperatures and the new baby in your life) and apparently your blog can end up sounding a tad less positive than you intended.

In an attempt to rectify this situation (and to try and blog a bit more regularly while I’m not working full time), I have decided to embark on a project. You may remember the #100HappyDays bandwagon that the majority of people in facebook land jumped on, but rarely completed. I have decided to give it a go, but focusing on things that make me happy about living in Hanoi. The idea is to take one photo a day, for 100 days, of something that made you happy that day. It can be anything, but for the purposes of this not becoming a ‘mommyblog’ I am going to limit myself to one baby photo per week.

20150606_084911 Happy face.

I will try and post these photos weekly, but I probably won’t. I’ll do my best.

In other news, Hanoi has experienced more thunder storms in the last week than I think I have experienced in my entire adult life. The weather here is EPIC, and the thunder we have been hearing has been positively apocolyptic. And the baby has slept through ALL BUT ONE. The one that she was awake for, I took her up to the roof so we could watch the storm clouds roll in and feel the wind pick up. After a while the rain got a bit heavier so we decided to continue watching from inside. Which was lucky, because about 20 minutes later half of next doors roof flew off.

20150613_170927 Watching the storm

Hanoi is a mess of electrical cables, and these have been known to fall down across your path just by being looked at funny. So imagine, if you will, 100kmh winds attacking these flimsy piles of cables. We spent much of the last week in the dark.

Unfortunately, so far my attempts at persuading the husband that in the event of a power cut we must immediately evacuate and head for the Intercontinental for the night, FOR THE BABY, have been unsuccessful. I am persistent, as are the power cuts, so I am hoping that one day I will be triumphantly braving the wind and the rain and dodging the falling power cables with the buggy, on my way to an evening of luxurious electricity and room service.

Wish me luck.

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