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 :)