Friday, December 21, 2012

Today is a Goad Day...

The title of this post comes off an actual shirt we saw last week.
We've seen enough of these that we just can't help ourselves anymore - we have to write about it and laugh. Something that is quite common out here is to see misspellings and complete nonsense on clothing. As a group, us expats have had deep philosophical discussions on if this phenomenon is due to something like getting all of the reject clothes from China, or if it's like how in the USA you see cool Chinese characters on clothing and they are either total nonsense or strange words like "table" in Chinese, or if it's just the fact that they don't speak English well so they don't know what they're putting on, but ultimately it's hilarious any way you look at it.

The one that really secured it in our heads that this would be a fun event to document was a pink sweatshirt we saw, that read as follows:

Nothing like a sign of brotherly love and peace to encourage the troops to pursue their enemies, eh?

Michael has decided that he wants to photograph what he can (to my embarrassment...) but at least we can share some photos of actual shirts
On this one, if you open it full screen and zoom in a bit, you will read the words: 
love witl
pmd a way

(That last word may or may not be an "f", it might be a "t" instead, but I can't remember for sure...)

 And then, in the middle of the HCMC market, we saw this lovely example:

And then there's this shirt, which I ACTUALLY OWN. I neglected to look closely when I bought it in Saigon, but at least it's comfy! (sorry about the chest shot- that was Michael's idea of course :)  )

Alas, there have been countless ones we've seen but haven't been able to capture on camera due to something silly like driving or some other task that seems to require responsible use of hands, so yeah - here are some photos of weird grammar errors/usage on buildings, in restaurants, and even on food!

 Mmmm, so many choices....

 Don't forget to look close at the bottom right corner, because we care what you do :)

The most popular sugar replacement here (other than boxes of aspartame - not joking) is Isomalt. Which will be sure to help you prevent those nasty Diabetic people from entering your home...

Yucka Yucka Yucka

In the end, we do love the people here, and the food, and we especially love that they make us laugh - because when you move over seas you sure need it!

If Shelob and Aragog had a baby...

The Deadly Speiders....

This weekend we had quite the experience - 3 big spiders in 3 days. Saturday I was washing the kitchen window sills when what to my wondering eyes did appear? 8 long legs and black eyes much too near!! Yeah - I looked up and saw this lovely (possibly lady) - sitting right above my head (luckily on the outside):

We will call it: Shelagog. It was super freaky, as I stated on Facebook I might have screamed a bit. Totally nuts. It was probably about 5-6 inches from the top of the front legs to the end of the back ones (at least). But, it didn't move, and it was outside, so we did what most crazy US hippies might - we took a ton of photos and left it out there so it would move on. However, when it wasn't there the next day I realized the benefits of knowing where the creepies are more than not knowing. Our friends who have lived here for a few years say they haven't seen anything like it here - our neighbors said that they only saw spiders that big when they lived in Africa. We're so lucky! :-S We are thinking the spider belongs to the family of Giant Crab Spiders or a Huntsman spider, but it certainly doesn't look like the for sure Huntsman spider that wandered out from under Michael's guitar the next day:
This one was FOR SURE a Huntsman spider, a good picture of them can be found here. This one was smaller than the first, maybe only 4-5 inches in legspan or so, it's hard to tell as my memory just says "Way too big for any spider to logically be!". Apparently they are somewhat harmless to humans (may have a bit of a toxic bite but they don't bite unless they have to) - and they hunt cockroaches, which is a BIG plus - but since it was in our house we were totally freaked. We tried to catch it to put it outside, but it was too big for a glass and we didn't have a large jar or anything so we ended up having to kill the poor thing. We called over our neighbor Haroeth (who knows martial arts, our hero!) and he helped us use probably half a can of bug spray (yuck!) to no avail - 5 mins later it was still running around, so - Haroeth got the dustpan and tried to smash it, but it really wasn't working, so he ended up having to use the handle of the pan to squish it. Michael had been dancing around on the stairs like a girl, and I had been across the room standing on the couch, so we were lots of help (wink, wink).
But - to Michael's credit, the next day, when he went to take out his bike from the garage, he saw spider #3 - a "baby" hunstman spider - only about 2 inches across - a bit bigger than a US half-dollar coin I would guess. He was brave and bold and used the broom to sweep it out of the garage - he said it would hop around while he tried to get it outside, it wasn't too happy about it.

So, there you have it. I had heard these would be out here (kinda), but you really don't understand quite what it is like until you experience it. Woohoo for experience! (Blarg)

So halfway through December...

So, it's halfway through December and I haven't posted much, but lots has kind of happened (at least this month feels like it will last forever...) so I should post and bring everyone up to speed.
On a sunny Saturday, December 1st, we took a drive with some friends to a "waterfall" up the kind of canyons in the mountains around Da Nang. When we got there, it was completely man-made, but the drive was really beautiful. We stopped to let Michael make googley-eyes at some rocks, and our Indonesian friend Alfa showed us these crazy plants that fold up when you touch them:
It really blew our minds - we'd never seen anything like it before. In the video you hear Michael having lots of fun - I hope you can see some of them! I thought the video with him was funnier than the second one I took that had no audio... but if you comment that you can't see anything let me know and maybe I will switch them out. Our friends were giving us weird looks, but it was lots of fun.

This was a neat suspended bridge at the waterfall place - we weren't sure if the sign by it read "Do Not Cross" or not, so we decided to try it anyway and just go one at a time. It was really neat.

Otherwise, some mundane/crazy things that have happened so far this month are:
- Several occasions with no water or no power - the water pump has broken twice in the past few weeks, and after some jerry-rigging by some repairman it is working, but for how long?... buah ha ha ha ha...  Sadly, no power also equals no water, because the water pump is below our house (kind of strange for this area). But we have survived!
- We found out the insulin here is much more unpredictable than we had hoped (it's comparable to what Michael used maybe 15 years ago or more), and to get the better stuff we will likely have to leave the country. But, cross your fingers because they may be able to order a small amount for us in Ho Chi Minh City that can tide us over until we can go to Thailand or the Philippines. When he had a major episode of hypoglycemia in the middle of the night we ended up going to a bar to help us stay awake until we were sure he stabilized - it is quite an experience to go to a bar at 2AM on a Sunday morning and be the only ones not drinking (or crazy drunk for that matter), we played a dice game for about an hour and a half and then went home. It sure is different dealing with the lack of good medical care in a small city, but our friends have been a huge help in trying to find us what we need.
- Some Vietnamese friends took us bowling, which was lots of fun. The alley was maybe half the size of what you would see back in the US, and the shoes were all a bit too small, but in the end it was pretty hilarious. Most of our friends had never bowled before, so they were totally throwing the ball down the lane, and surprisingly I (Risa) got the 2nd highest score after Michael - which shoes you how sad the scores were... It was also complicated due to all of the balls having small holes as the Vietnamese have smaller fingers than us, but we got creative and it worked out fine.

- After bowling our friends took us to a really neat little Paris-inspired cafe that served a variety of herbal teas, coffees, and some French treats. It was awesome to finally get red raspberry tea again - though I admit it didn't taste quite like what I was used to before. We also tried the elder flower tea, which was neat too - little white flowers in your cup as they don't strain their teas out here. They also have live music on Saturday nights, and Michael got up and sang "Wish You Were Here", and was quite the star.

- One day while I was looking for mold in our little bookcase I saw some bugs crawling around the edges of the books - after some internet research I found out they were Booklice (they also have lots of other names, but this one seemed the most appropriate), they like to eat the mold that grows on things, particularly books, but I found them in my blender cup as well. The best way to get rid of them apparently is to microwave the books - so I did. It was really weird, but hopefully the bugs are dead now. After the books cooled I wiped down their covers with a bit of tea tree oil and put them into plastic bags with a piece of tissue with tea tree - to prevent further mold and bugs from forming hopefully. It's always an adventure here!

PS - I'm not sure if I've mentioned before, but we've maxed out the free space for photos on Risa's account, so we will be posting less photos than before so that we can use what we can of Michael's account :) If you want more photos, we can always email them if you like!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Attack of the Mold Madness Monster

All right, all right, all right, I give! I call uncle!! One of the worst things to discover when moving to the tropics from the desert has struck our house in a big way: MOLD. A four letter word in these parts for sure. Before our trip we had found some here and there without really knowing what it was - for example Michael had put some slacks in the wash that looked like he spilled something all over them, I didn't know what it was so I rubbed stain remover on it and threw it in the wash and then put it back in the closet like an idiot. Yeah, ahem, mistake numero uno.
However, by the time we got back from our trip to Ho Chi Minh it had grown into a MONSTER! Bags, belts, clothes, papers, walls, floors, doors, wood everything, leather anything, etc. was ALL moldy. I went into primo panic when I realized I had no idea how to manage such a large beast and was COMPLETELY out of my element - literally, ha! So, first thing was to mope about it for a few days. Then, I took everything out of all of the closets and the drawer that had our, now molded, documents and extra bags, and washed it all - it took about 3-4 days. Now - it was raining by this time, any idea on how hard it is to dry things when it is cold and moist? Yeah, it was nuts. I tried using the dryer once and it broke - the plug has something wrong with it apparently as it melts any outlet you plug it into - not the nicest thing to have happen when everything in the house needs to be washed. So we used the 1 fan we have and stuck it on the clothes, and it helped.
After freaking out more for a while, I got my head together enough to spray down all the moldy things that didn't go in the wash (like suitcases, blenders, headlamps, belts) with a concentrated solution of GSE (grapefruit seed extract - man I love that stuff!). My neighbor suggested baking soda for washing so I added some baking soda with the GSE and scrubbed the entire inside of the wardrobes/closets, leaving the doors open for about a week as well as leaving the fan on them for a few days to make sure it all dried.
I also took all of our extra clothes - after hand-washing the delicate ones - and put them all in ziplock bags with silica packets (thank you Miranda!) and some tissue with tea tree oil on it for the important documents. I also replaced all the wood hangers the landlord gave us with plastic ones.
I had heard they had small dehumidifier box thingies (disposable ones) at the store, and when I went there I found the last one! I was excited - and then today (a few weeks later) they finally got in a new shipment and I bought 10 and stuck them EVERYWHERE. We will see if they work, the label says they can last anywhere from 1 to 6 weeks... we will cross our fingers for 6.
The weirdest thing has got to be that anything will mold here if exposed to some moisture - even metal. Like the metal poles in the closet even. The worst day was when I realized that a lot of things in the kitchen had molded also - the water spots on the silverware were fuzzy, the doors to the pantry were fuzzy where the oils from our hands had been, same for the door, the refrigerator door, and the microwave. And the stove was covered where any oil had splashed that I hadn't noticed to wipe up. CRAZY.
At least one benefit has been that this fiasco forced us to fix the mosquito netting we hung up on the windows so that we could have the windows open as much as possible to facilitate air movement and thus keep moisture buildup down.
It's funny though, I've noticed more and more how incredibly lazy I could be about cleaning in Utah and never worry about things like mold, bugs, ants, or other strange critters as nasty comeuppance. It's certainly the brain-shift. Hopefully the mold won't return, but seeing as the window sills and everything are all molded from the rainwater, there are plenty of spores to keep me on my toes for the duration of our stay here.
 Here's our camelback bag that was by far the worst thing I was greeted with when I opened up the doors of our spare wardrobe - it seriously had like an inch of fuzzy while mold all over it.
My Indian/Nepalese style skirt was ok except for the cotton squares on it - they were covered. It was really interesting seeing what fabrics would mold and which ones wouldn't. I hate wearing synthetics, but hey, if they don't mold I might just have to include a few more in the wardrobe to be sure I have something to wear if everything needs to be washed again.

Here's a photo that helps keep me sane (at least a little bit) - it was the sunset on my drive to tutoring. The view can really be stunning sometimes :)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Thanksgiving and Trip to Ho Chi Minh City

Thanksgiving... another in a long list of holidays that just doesn't exist in Vietnam.
However - It DOES exist in American-owned Christian restaurants!  Which is why we spent our Thanksgiving lunch (we were afraid dinner would be too crowded) at the "Bread of Life".  It was amazing. Turkey, cranberry sauce, stuffing, and even apple pie.  Soooooo goooooood.  [But the pumpkin pie wasn't spiced nearly enough] If I closed my eyes, it felt like America. Except... in America we probably would have been at some wanna-be Thanksgiving buffet with my parents [and I wouldn't be eating turkey]. Ha ha ha.

Most of our friends enjoyed some of the food, but since we are the only Americans we hang out with, THEY didn't know what Thanksgiving was either.  Except what they had seen in movies of course (because all good cinema belongs to America).  It was weird though - they totally didn't like "putting fruit on their meat" (cranberry sauce), and nobody was fond of stuffing... more for me! [Xavier said "My weird American friends..." again! Ha!]

The following day we flew to Ho Chi Minh City and enjoyed another late Thanksgiving dinner with the LDS branch (mostly Ex Pats) there. It was awesome!  We met some super cool people, and the food was, again, amazing.  Actually, I'm sure that in America it would have just been "decent" food, but... since we've been eating almost strictly Vietnamese for the last 5 months - it was a fresh breath of air indeed. [They even had crescent rolls - CRESCENT ROLLS people!]

The rest of our trip to Ho Chi Minh City was also pretty great.  Despite the slightly moldy hotel, a bathtub that didn't drain, and prostitutes on the street, it was really nice!  Risa was pumped because they had a nice "natural foods" store [they had Bobs Red Mill and gluten-free stuff! awesome! though one pound of flax cost around $30 US] - something we haven't seen since leaving home.  We also bought a metric ton of clothes. It was super nice to get some threads that dry quickly and aren't sweltering hot (like all of our clothes in America apparently are).  And of course - a trip to Ho Chi Minh wouldn't be complete without wasting a bunch of money at the central market... Which we did. [did not, maybe only $40... on gifts for friends]

While in Ho Chi Minh, we also went to church.  CHURCH!!! Can you believe it!?  It felt so... surreal... we've been holding church in our front room for so long - it was awesome to have other people give the talks and lessons. It makes a big difference to have other members around. It was really really nice. Most of it was in Vietnamese, but they had a translator, and WE were the ones wearing the headsets during church for once. [And I interject to mention that it felt SO nice at church that Michael even fell asleep during Sacrament meeting - just like home :) ]

I should also mention that Ho Chi Minh has amazing food.  Not only do they have all the amazing Vietnamese food you can find in Da Nang [albeit at higher prices], but they also have a huge variety of other stuff too!  We ate Japanese, and Indian, and French, and American, AND Vietnamese while we were there.  Awesome. Though, Baskin Robbins is still as expensive and not-worth-it in Vietnam as it is in America.  Oh well.  Risa was also overwhelmed with awe when we saw that the French bakery had a Blendtec blender.  Girls... they're so weird...

We also went to the Zoo while we were there.  It was... kinda normal.  It was like a normal zoo on welfare.  They had a bunch of animals, but instead of having one of a lot of "different" animals, they had a lot of just a "few" animals.  Take the crocodile pits for instance.  There were probably 50 crocs all lounging around a giant pen - which was pretty cool - but you see my point.  And the "reptile house" had about 30 cages in it, but they were ALL filled with either "boas", "iguanas", or "water dragons".  That's it - it was hilarious. We kept rounding another corner thinking, "what new amazing animal will they show next?" Only to find ANOTHER green iguana. Ha ha ha.

At long last, it was time to leave.  We had acquired SO much new crap [needed clothing], that we barely fit it into the suitcases [shoulder bags].  Amazingly enough, we were still under budget for the trip [by like $15]!  That's the beauty of Vietnam. So - there you have it.  A full account of our trip to Ho Chi Minh City.  I hope you enjoyed it.  Now go do something productive AWAY from the computer. Ha ha ha.

[Post written by Michael with interjections by Risa]

Belated videos from Singapore

I was reviewing some of the old posts and realized I had promised some videos that I forgot to post. So - here they are, not the best quality (sorry!) and I think one of them is sideways because Michael forgets that our phones only work one way... but it is neat nonetheless. Enjoy!

The first video is inside the Chinese Temple in Singapore. They were having services, and it was really really astounding (I am trying to find words other than amazing to use, I think I used that word at least 10 times in the Singapore post...). Sorry it is sideways...

This second video is of a Punjab style dance troupe that performed for a dance/cultural festival they were having in the Marina Bay Amphitheater. This is just them practicing, but it shows the amazing dancing. I believe they are Sikh? Anyhew, I have a video of their night performance where they are dressed up in costume, but it's 8 minutes long so I figured the short video would be better. It was one of my favorite things in Singapore, the music is amazing and the dancing was a blast - at night they would perform then teach the accumulated crowd some of the steps. I hope you can see it ok!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Oven-Less Baking Success!

Yay! Success!
Sorry - I am really thrilled with myself so you all have to bear with my rant on learning how to bake without an oven. Plus, with Michael gone on a manager retreat this weekend, I don't have much to preoccupy my time - ha ha ha ha ha... :)
I was determined to attempt Pumpkin Chocolate Chip cookies, but, I realized that small cookies would be difficult, so I decided to make a Pumpkin Chocolate Chip bread/cake instead. Instead of chocolate chips I bought a 72% cacao chocolate bar and chopped it up - primarily because the only chocolate chips I have seen here were huge 5lb bags at Metro, and I didn't want to pay for/have that many chocolate chips. I bought a small bowl as well that would fit in my large pot, and some parchment paper for the top. I admit, I was inspired by Gordon Ramsey and his YouTube Christmas Pudding Video as those were the only cues I had on how to steam things. Anyway, in case you'd ever like to steam something, here are plenty of photos to help you along:
 Here is my bread/cake batter in the bowl I purchased to fit in my pot. I had buttered it to make sure the cake would come out ok.
 I put a circle of parchment paper on top, and tied it on with the really terrible dental floss I bought here before we were lovingly sent some from the states (it's so bad, it's not waxed at all so it shreds on your teeth really easily, but I digress), and I put on a rubber band just to be sure it would stay on. (PS - can you see the awesome (and dirty) measuring cups in the background mess? Thank you Miranda!! If you hadn't sent me those none of this would be possible!)
 Here is the bowl in the pot, propped up on some jar lids. I put some aluminum foil strips under the bowl so it would be easier to lift out later.
 After about 40 minutes of steaming, I peeked and saw this! I was surprised because the recipe said to bake it for at least 45-50 minutes, with most comments stating that it took a lot longer to bake. It was springy and I stuck a toothpick in it and it came out clean, so I called it done!
 Here's how the top looked when I took off the parchment paper. It was kind of tacky like a steamed bun, but it was really cool!
 And finally - the finished product. I was rather impressed that the chocolate bits stayed so dispersed throughout the batter, back home a lot of the time everything would sink to the bottom. The cake came out of the bowl with no problems or sticking at all, it was really neat.
 Here's the inside. It was really moist, but after it cooled it sliced well and held together really well too. The only thing I will change next time is to double the spices, you couldn't really taste them, which made me sad, and the quality of chocolate wasn't so good, but it worked! And quicker than baking was supposed to, and without heating up my entire house. Hooray! I have succeeded in baking without an oven! Oh, and I must give a BIG thank-you to my neighbor Alfa who gave me some baking soda, apparently it's illegal or something now here and they don't sell it anymore, and she lovingly gave me some of hers she brought from her last trip home to Indonesia. Baking soda is definitely something I can't jerry-rig myself, so thanks Alfa!

Friday, November 9, 2012

November Nibbles and Crazy Attempt at Pumpkin Pie

Ok, well November is here - as is crazy weather and weirdness. The end of October into November has been difficult as my severe culture shock ebbed into a relapse of major depression, but thanks to a miracle (most likely prayers and support from all of you), I woke up one day not so depressed, so we are hoping for better things this month. It has been raining like mad a few days, followed by lots of warm, beautiful days, and who knows what tomorrow will bring.
Michael has had some nasty sickness attacking his throat this past week, but large amounts of garlic, essential oils, and other supplements I brought proved the winner and he is feeling better, although being able to trail his location based on smell was not pleasant. Seriously - he even brushed his teeth a few times and he still smelled like garlic. But at least the swelling is gone and he's feeling good again. (I think probiotics have been my saving grace for not getting sick yet - knock on wood).
Anyhew, with the pumpkins we carved for Halloween, I decided I wanted to attempt making Pumpkin Pie. Problem was, I have no oven. So, I remembered hearing about baking cake in a rice cooker, so I figured "Why not Pie?" I googled it and some people had been successful (albeit with much fancier rice cookers than my 55,000 VND model), so we decided to try it.
After steaming the pumpkin-looking squash things in a jerry rigged steamer (my biggest pot with a plastic colander inside as I had no steamer basket), we scraped it through a sieve to smoosh it, and we mixed up the batter and made the crust using recipes from this website. I thought there was way too much sugar in the crust and the pie mix, but we tried it anyway. Here are my photos:
 Here is my first attempt, with the pie crust in the rice cooker pan, that had been all buttered, and ready to go.
 First attempt - trying to cook. I had read about people having to keep the COOK button down on their rice cookers, so after a few different tries I found this solution. (If you don't use a rice cooker, it cooks based on weight or something so, when baking, it may not stay depressed all the time, so you have to do it manually).
In the end..... the crust started to burn after 10 minutes or so and it made a big mess - but the filling was pretty good, although a little under done, and there was a bit of crust that wasn't burned that was pretty tasty. It was a nasty mess so I took no photo. But, I still had some dough and filling left over, so the next day we tried again.
This time, I decided to try cooking the crust and pie separate, the crust in the skillet and the filling by steaming.

 Here's my skillet all buttered up.
 Crust in the pan, it was kind of hard getting it thin enough but not burning it - our gas stove is not the best, neither are the pans here - they are all SUPER thin, so everything cooks really fast or burns.
 This is how my crust turned out, kinda soft in some parts, but the thinner middle was flaky at least.
 Here's the filling, in the rice pot, in a large pot of water. I put a bigger lid on top of this and cooked it for about an hour and a half. It seemed to work!
 Here is the filling all steamed, it looked like pumpkin pie at least, the fork came out clean!
The hardest part was getting the pie filling on the crust. It wasn't a pretty process so I waited until it looked appetizing before taking a photo. It kind of glopped all over and we had to spread it out, but in the end - success! My next attempt - steamed pumpkin chocolate chip cookies. It's daring, but we can dream, right?
**UPDATE** After sitting in the fridge overnight the pie tasted JUST like it had been cooked together, and much more tasty than the night before :)

All right, sorry for the long dialogue. I was proud of myself, despite the nasty burned failure, if you couldn't tell. Anyhew, on to other ditties so far this month.
Crazy Things I Saw:
A Dog On A Scooter - Seriously. I was on the side of the road and saw this dog-like head coming at me about wheel level, and it was a whole dog! The owner had a scooter with a flat floor between the seat and the front, like a Vespa, and the dog was sitting there between his legs. It wasn't a small dog either, it was a medium-sized black dog, about the size of an English Spaniel I would say. Totally nuts!
We also had some more visits from the neighborhood kitties - sadly we haven't seen them in a week now, but they did come and sleep on a towel we left out and eat some more food. Here are some photos of other stuff going on:
 I went to Metro, the huge Costco-like store here in town, to find spices for pumpkin pie, and they had a lot of Christmas decorations out! They were even playing X-mas music, I got to hear Jingle Bells in Vietnamese! Really weird. We might get a tree for xmas, the really big ones were about 1,5 million VND, but the smaller ones are a bit better priced. It's crazy, if you want a package of 3-4 stuffed Santa figures it was about 500,000 VND.
Out to diner at Luna Pub for our friend Xavier's b-day this week, one of Mike's co-workers ordered a pizza that came out like this -
 Yes, that is an egg in the midde of the pizza. No, we had NO IDEA why. Luna is an Italian place that has pretty good western food, but we still had no idea why with the egg.
And last, but not least - we got a lovely package from Mom and Pop Nielsen today, SO HAPPY! They sent us a lovely postcard with Mike Sr. and a desert lizard from Moab or St. George on the front, dental floss (I finally found it here but it is really expensive, thank you!!), peanut butter M&M's - Michael's favorite kind, Halloween stickers (the girls at the office loved them), glucose tabs for Michael (still trying to figure out this diabetes thing with inferior medical supplies), some of our Zelda games, some guitar strings for a friend, and, just to torture me I'm sure - sugar free Worther's for Michael ('cuz it makes him stink...) - from Pop Nielsen. We love you guys!!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Halloween Vietnam style and Highlights from October

All right, so while we saw some Halloween stores and costumes in Malaysia and Singapore, sadly there just isn't much of anything here in Vietnam. Gameloft tried to get something going by having a costume contest, but we were so tired after getting home from our trip that Michael was unable to participate - that and they had the contest/celebration the day BEFORE Halloween, on the 30th of October. It was weird. In the end - Michael said that all 6 people who ended up dressing up (6 out of about 300+ people) were dressed as Zombies. E for Effort, right? And then to celebrate the occasion the office gave out Cheese flavored wafers (like wafer cookies back home but with cheese instead of chocolate or vanilla frosting stuff - kinda strange) and fruit (Vietnamese don't really like candy). So Happy Halloween Vietnam style!
Our friends that were celebrating were going to a pub where foreigners accumulate called the Golden Pine - they were having a costume party there with lots of alcohol - but we didn't feel like that would be a good place for us so we had our own festivities at home. I made apple cider, and our neighbors Harouth and Alfa joined us for some pumpkin carving, treats, and a viewing of The Nightmare Before Christmas (our first download from the internet, woot!).
Here's a view of the cider - man it made the house smell good! It also made us very homesick to smell the spices of fall and look outside and see palm trees and sun...

Momma Nielsen sent us a really cute Halloween card and postcard for our fridge, and I got a little creative with some oranges that were on sale this week. I was attempting to draw on them with a pen, but in the end they turned out better than I expected.
Here's a photo of one candy bowl - lots of M&M's and Power Ranger Chocolates! Some of the rangers were milk chocolate flavored wax, and some were white chocolate flavored wax, but it was really fun!
Here's our table with the movie, bowls of candy (I experimented and bought a few different things from the store, none turned out too good sadly enough), and the weird pumpkin-looking-squash-things we were determined to carve anyway.
Me attempting to carve the squash.

Me and the finished product! I was quite pleased with my little face. It was lots of fun, and it looked like some variety of pumpkin.
Here are our two pumpkins on the doorstep, Michael did the one on the left.

After Harouth and Alfa came over, Michael helped Harouth carve a Batman symbol. Harouth is Dutch and had lived in the US for a few years when he was younger, but had never carved a pumpkin before, so it was an experience for him. It was a lot of fun.
"Hey! What are you looking at?"
I put the pumpkins in the fridge to use later, and the light lined up just right!
Alfa is such an amazing cook. With only an hour notice or so she whipped up a batch of finger cookies for our get-together. They have raisins for fingernails and they were some of the best lemon cookies I have ever had. It really pays off to live next to someone who is so good at cooking!

Here are some Highlights from the month of October -
michael chewing on a frog leg
cats on the porch
anything else in the photo folder
Can you tell what this is? It's Michael's new favorite food - the name rhymes with Bog and it would normally be using that appendage to hop around... Frog legs, anyone? I still can't bring myself to eat something I have always considered a pet and too cute to eat...
We were visited by a lovely mother cat and her two kittens this month, we are trying to feed them as they are skin and bones, so hopefully they will come around more. Here is one of the babies.
Here is the other baby. He was really skittish. What amazed me was that even though they were all noticeably hungry, the mother cat waited until both the kittens had eaten their fill before she went over to the food pile and ate. It was really touching.
Now we know where these came from - this is our kitchen table. We don't get them anymore though since we put a mosquito net in the window.
There was a tropical storm warning early this month for our area that kind of got me all freaked out. So, I did what I'd been taught to do - I made 72hr kits! Our friends said if the storm actually hit (a lot of the time the warnings don't mean a storm will come) we could be without power or water for a few days, which means no toilet, shower, or anything. To prevent issues, we now have enough food for 3 days for each of us - not huge meals but easy enough to carry - and there's about 10 5 liter bottles full of tap water to use for sanitary purposes stored under the stairs. I feel like a real Prepper now! The oreos are just in suggestion to have one fun treat in the kit to help you feel more normal - plus I always keep some sugar on hand for Michael in emergency situations. :)
Women's Day was celebrated across Vietnam this month. These flowers were really pretty when they were alive - a gift from Michael. I actually liked the holiday - it celebrates all women, regardless of if they are mothers, secretaries, married or single, you just have to be a woman and you get a present. It's pretty big out here, Michael was even assigned to pick out a gift for someone at work. They gave him 200,000 VND to spend - he ended up getting a fishbowl with some fish in it - and apparently it was a really sought-after prize for the ladies at work.
About the same time our kitties were coming around, Xavier and Geraldine had a really young baby kitten dropped at their door in a rainstorm last week. He was SO cute! It was fun to play with him during lunch, he was so popular at work they had over 20 people request to keep him as Xav and Geraldine are allergic. The new owner was rather excited. We were offered him early in the morning, but alas, we haven't made up our minds about trying to keep an animal clean, safe, and fed while we are here. But, maybe in the future.