PLACES (of the earth & mind)

wrapping up

I just left you hanging there in Vietnam, didn't I? No, we didn't decide to pack up and move there. I just got a little lazy about the updates. After Vietnam was a wonderful 4 day stay in the Smiley Kingdom of Cambodia to visit with some of the happiest people I've ever met. Happiness, as we all know is relative - especially in the context of Cambodia. But the Cambodian's joy was sure contagious.

It was the closest to the equator I've ever been, and hotter than sin, but I'm sure I will be back there.

So, In a whirlwind tour, we got back from Vietnam and Cambodia, our cousins from England came to visit for two weeks...

I graduated from grad school...

we went to Tokyo...

had our photos taken by the talented chef and photographer Aviva... (Photos to come. REALLY AWESOME PHOTOS to come.)

...and now I sit here on my rented Government couch, pooped and in need to some strong coffee. In a mere matter of weeks (7!) we will be on the road AGAIN. This time for good. John, Gunner and I are moving West (East?) to Spokane Washington. I haven't fully processed this, but I need to because this house is going to be a nightmare to pack.

Now that I'm done with my schooling for now, I can enjoy some pleasure reading, so I've joined this website "GoodReads" which I'm totally hooked on now for reviews and recommendations. I changed the Widget at the left to reflect what I've now reading, and you can become friends with me to see all of my recent books. Click on the books to the left to go to the site.

Oh and PS, Gunner says "hi". Actually, no, wait- I believe he actually said "fill my bowl with milk or I will claw your face off." They sound very similar. Gotta run.



Perhaps because my last trip allowed for weeks at a time to absorb a city, this 5 day tour of Vietnam seemed like a whirlwind. First of all, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is as developed as Seoul, as it seemed to us. The streets are incredibly clean, there are gorgeous buildings boh new and old. Despite it's socialist roots, Vietnam seems to be hurling itself at the market economy with breakneck speed. The streets are completely dominated by endless throngs of motorbikes, some carrying entire families. Much like India, there is little regard for traffic signals, but the lack of errant bovine makes the ride a little more predictable, I'd assume. Walking around the city streets at night felt a little like New York City in the peak of summer. Much like in India, life happens on the street, from gambling to gossiping to slurping up their famous Pho soup on mini plastic stools.

Up north in UNESCO Heratage City of Hoi An, the unyielding temperature had us stopping for a zesty beverage about every hour or so. John got some shirts made at one of the tailoring shops. Hoi An mirrored a phenomenon I noticed in India: in each town, there are only three or four different kinds of souvenirs to buy, and every single shop carries them. In Hoi An, literally every third shop was a tailor with the exact same clothing in the display. Same fabric, same samples. So after a few blocks, the average shopper gets either gets bored, or is able to bargain down a new wardrobe to practically nothing. It seems the locals would be better served by adding some variety. Say a basket shop or something. To carry home all the newly sewn clothes. While hoi an was lovely and picturesque, it did appear to be expressly created for tourists.  

After we could take no more shopping we drove off to explore the marble mountains, these three lumps of marble jutting out of a flat expanse of nothingness. From the peak there is a lovely view of China beach. The hike to the top (more likely the raging heat) almost put me in a bad mood, but the Giant cave inside was one of the most serene and awe inspiring places I've been. 


Hoi An

Greetings from hoi an! Located half the way up the Vietnam coast from Ho Chi minh city. We were in HCM city for half the day yesterday and it was smolderingly hot. We stayed at the historic Majestic Hotel on the river. Last night we arrived  at our gorgeous hotel, on recommendation fro Lu and Tracey. The lush grounds sweep around a beautiful pool and line the oceanside. Every hotel here offers complementary breakfast buffet. The tropical fruits! The cheeses! The pastries! If there is anything good (anything at all) that can come out of Frech colonization it's a tradition of delicious breads and pastries. 

I have to say, though, that as we are swept down the absolutely crazy streets in our air conditioned SUV, dodging oncoming mo-peds, I keep looking longingly at the congregating locals on the side of the road. Backpacking on my previous trip, I seemed to be traveling in a different dimension. John and I are both looking for a little more "authentic" Vietnam and hopefully we'll find it in the historic city of Hoi An today! Get this, you can even work for a day at a local farm, and as excited as I was about his, John did not really consider that to be good use of our limited vacation time. I'm going to try to convince him to rent bikes today, but the madness of he mo-ped circus has him a little nervous. I say, if you want to live like the locals, you gotta be closer to the ground.


Away we go!


That's right kids, it's adventure time again! Vietnam & Cambodia, here we come. I'll be blogging along the way so stay tuned...



winding up and winding down

I am cramming for my comprehensive tests this week. I wish I could say that I'm cramming for my comprehensive tests this month or this quarter, but like most things in my life, I am doing it at the very last minute. This entails going over dozens and dozens of my typed notes and papers, and thinking to myself "wow, this stuff's pretty good. Fascinating, really. I wish I had the FAINTEST IDEA WHAT ANY OF IT MEANS." This is the inherent dilemma with being a student for 20-some odd years. For self-preservation's sake, you master the art of cramming all the info onto a temporary cerebrum loading bay, spilling it all onto a few bluebooks, then purging it immediately upon exiting the classroom that evening. A shot or two of sake always helps clean up the remnants. There's just no other way to do it. The typical brain simply cannot hold that much information - especially when other things, like the lyrics to 'Parent's Just Don't Understand" or every line in the Sound of Music simple REFUSE to dislodge themselves from the grey matter. I'm starting to wonder how useful this method of education really is, and if it has qualified me to do anything but, well, pass a test. I can always retake if I fail. And retake again. Cringe.

John and I are planning what will be the second to last of our Asian-persuasion-vacations. This one to Vietnam and Cambodia. Let's just sit here an reflect on my current situation. I live on the beach in Okinawa where my grandfather fought about 60 years ago, and I'm planning a vacation to a place that only 4 decades ago saw one of the longest wars in American history. I'm not sure what this says about American history or American foreign policy. (Although I probably should...NEED TO STUDY.) It's just amazing how the world can change in a few generations. Can any of you imagine in 25 years planning a spa vacation in Iraq? Or learning to mountain climb in Afghanistan? I said to my mom when telling her about my trip to Vietnam, "I'm so lucky to be able to travel there!" She remarked that she didn't really call that "lucky." No doubt for her generation, Vietnam was a place you tried to stay away from. And the world turns. One of my favorite places in Korea was the demilitarized zone, where you could actually take a tram down into the tunnels dug by the North Koreans. I do like history in my vacations. Even it if it is tragic and relatively recent. I like to walk on the bleeding edge of how the world is changing. Beyond all that, I hear that the Vietnamese people are wonderful and that they really do like Americans.
We are working largely off the itinerary of our friends Lu and Tracey (who just got engaged, yay!). They went to Vietnam a couple years ago and raved about it. Who would have thought our lives would have taken us from a tiny apartment in West LA to traipsing around Asia in only two years?
Our friends the Bowmans introduced us to a man who brews his own beer here on the island. It was scrumptious, and it inspired John to attempt a batch of his own. We purchased all the equipment and now there is a giant vat of honey-cream ale brewing in our dark and temperate bedroom closet. Washington state is apparently the birthplace of Microbrewery, and so we figured we should get a head start learning the process. Will also be a good way to entice new friends once we get there. I'm looking forward to renditions of pumpkin beer in the fall and cranberry ale come the holiday season.


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