Monday, August 15, 2011

and now finally...

A time to travel abroad, a time to come home
A time to write the last Lan in Nam post and a time to start a new Joburg blog.

It is in fact now the time to (uhm) say goodbye.

So here with a few last fun filled things to say:

Firstly, if you're busy sobbing away at this post (because it's the last one and not because of the bad writing) then fear not, I have a just as useful new blog called Back in Jo(y)burg. So click it like it's hot:

Then, I do actually have something useful for you if you're thinking about working and living in Hanoi, this is of course if you don't find my other deeply insightful posts useful... but here with a link to my expat interview, it's about a saffa

living in Hanoi

Then lastly thanks to everyone who kept up with my adventures, thanks to those who stumbled on this page and decided to read it anyway, I have nothing to say to those who didn't. Thanks to Germany for reading, I mention Germany because more Germans seemed to follow than South Africans, so I think that's rather amusing. Thanks to Latvia for making and appearance on my stats every now and then. I just think that's cool too.

Who knows if there will be a LAN IN NAM the sequel, at this stage I just have no idea.

And then really lastly here are a few pictures I discovered on my phone, with no particular order and mission.

Em yeu Viet Nam! xxx tạm biệt ...

afternoons at ete

In my back yard, well more in Uncle Ho's back yard

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Sleepless in Saigon

Well not right now, the title refers to my first few weeks in Vietnam when I was still in Ho Chi Minh City. I found these phone photo's I took in those first few weeks today, most of them are "look mom a Vietnamese something something" while others are basically "oooo this phone can do panorama shots...".

As this blog is coming to an end, as soon as I have the heart to write the last entry, I thought to share a few captured moments of my time in Saigon. Gets me all nostalgic about being such a fresh off the boat determined expat, traveler, tourist, explorer, country leaver or whatever label I had hanging around my terrified expression at the time. Good times.

Look mom, my first street food experience

Waking up to a fire next door and day 4 (I doubt that actually told my worrying mother about this at the time)... so, uhm, look mom a fire, from long ago.

look mom, a photo of Saigon at night

After living with showers over toilets for more than a year and a half this doesn't seem as strange as it was at the time

Fellow TEFL peeps at Le Pub

The impressive accomplishment of dining alone in a foreign country (what else is there to do other than take a picture)

Friday, July 29, 2011

Moving back and moving on, and something about growing up too

Ways I know I’m not in the Northern hemisphere anymore:

I’m freezing.

Ways I know I’m back in jolly Joburg:

Well I lock my doors.

I drive on the other side of the road, when I remember (unlike the other night’s awkward moment)

I understand just about everything, just about.

I am teased for saying ‘yeah’ instead of ‘yes’ or ‘ja’.

I have access to Mrs Balls Chutney and boerwors and biltong and Savannah Dry.

The second phase of being the leaving expat in my expert opinion is a combination of acceptance, denial, comparisons like you won’t believe, longing and reminding. So there’s the second phase in a nutshell.

Not only am I ecstatic that Ben has finally arrived in South Africa because he’s hot and I really like him but my lame Vietnamese jokes make sense again. Or call it what you will but it’s comforting to have someone who can reminisce with you about the street food and the entertaining things students used to say (back in Nam...). So, I would highly recommend a souvenir of this human form, to combat grieving leaving blues.

Indefinitely we’ll be staying in Jo’burg and try be grown ups. I take comfort in the fact that I’ll always have teaching English as an option. I love that if I so chose I’d be able to pick form half the globe to go to next, knowing that I’d be able to get a job. I still fantasize about teaching in Oman (oLan in Oman…) or Eastern Europe or South America or other parts of Asia or Vietnam again.

For now however I’ve decided that if I don’t further my studies now (as in starting next year) I’ll probably get less and less motivated to do so as time passes with the speed that it does.

Now I’m an Estate Agent (‘s assistant)… hmm would you read a blog about that????

As mentioned in my previous post I might just use Captain America here as inspiration for the next chapter of blogging. Well for me it’s entertaining to explain not only what things mean in Afrikaans but what things mean in South African (really is a language on it’s own). Showing him around from lions to townships to the impressive Cresta Shopping Mall, and seeing a different perspective of ‘my people’ through his non-South African eyes.

I regret that I didn’t invest more in learning Vietnamese, would have come in rather handy as a secret language with Ben. At least we can secretly discuss numbers, directions and a limited amount of food groups.


Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The grieving leaving expat

Ways I can tell that I’m not in Hanoi anymore…

I drink tap water.

I can’t even imagine ordering a second beer because I can’t afford it.

Waiting for the little green man to flash before I even think to cross the road, but at the same time cars stop for me at designated crossings, just strange.

Wondering why I get these judgmental looks from cashiers when I ask for a plastic bag. They don’t out right say it but I can tell they’re thinking “murder of the planet!... seriously who still uses plastic bags girlfriend.” (Hanoi would gladly provide a plastic bag at the drop of a hat, or even just bottle of water for the road)

Apart from that second beer it sounds great right? No. No! I have now left Hanoi and it hardly took 24 hours here in Switzerland for those rose tinted glasses to be thrown on. Gone is the road rage, gone is the cursing at constructions that starts at 6 in the morning 7 days a week… gone gone gone. I miss Hanoi suddenly and with passion.

I might be going through the first phase of ‘the grieving expat': romanticisation (the act of indulging in sentiment)

Hanoi as great as an experience as it was, was not always an easy city to live in, ask any expat that’s been there for a while, even though these expats, myself included would defend the city from outside criticism any day.

I think what also just adds to this longing is the fact that I’m here for a few days. Think for a second, especially if you know Hanoi, of the most possible opposite place in the world ever… Switzerland right? Right? With its order and spotlessness and its ridiculous prices. I’m almost addicted to a sense of craziness which Hanoi has gotten me used to so I’m forced to contrast facts from Hanoi to Bern/Zurich constantly.

Not that it’s fair to compare, there is no winner or loser here. Having said that I don’t think you’ll be reading about ‘Lan in SwitzerLAN’ anytime soon. Lan in Nam part 2, maybe… I’ll need to get over the unknown phases of ‘the grieving expat’ before I can soberly make such a move again. I’ll be sure to post my finding of phase 2 if I find it.

Hanoi was my home for more than a year and a half, even though it feels like a lifetime and 3 months at the same time. So of course leaving is dramatic, exciting and heartbreaking. I’ll miss so much more than I even realize now…

Right now I’m on my way home, Ben is coming with me as soon we can get dearest Bona at the Embassy to do her job and give him a temporary permit as a ‘life partner’. An American in the Northern suburbs of Joburg might be the source of my next blog muse, will see about that one.

Lan in Nam again???

Lan in SwissLan? well will think of a better name if I ever get back here... promise

Monday, June 13, 2011

The kids are alright

...not really, they are amazing!

It's been over two weeks now that I said goodbye to arguably my highlight of being a teacher in Vietnam, I had to bid my 192 Grade one and two students fair well, sad day. I have for the most part of my year and half been teaching at language center, where I mostly taught adults on week nights and kids on Saturday. This was fun for the most part, mixed in with so 'not so fun' at times.

I started teaching in the public schools around January and my regret is not having done that sooner. I'll be honest teaching young kids is not every teachers cup of tea, I hardly knew I would get so into it. However, getting paid to sing songs and help color, hoping my English native accent will rub of on the kiddies was well worth it.

I had the joy of having to teach, and I quote from the textbook, things like:

"Please don't wink"
"Do jumping jacks"
"Plant a tree"
"Take off your cap...quickly quickly"
"Please don't whistle"
"Can you play the violin?"
"I love cucumbers... yum yum yum"
"Bounce the basketball"
"Pick up the clock...slowly"
"Touch the starfish"

And the word Iguana and Umpire... so my kids can't ask what your favorite color is but they can say the word Iguana?!

All these random lines where set to annoyingly catchy tunes so I'm yet to go a day without at least one song being stuck in my head. The fun part of course comes when you and kids work together to add moves to the songs and ta-da there is half your lesson gone.

The great thing about teaching public school kids as opposed to language center kids is the fact that they absolutely looove coming to English class. I can completely understand why too. Think about how excited you would be about going to extra English lessons on your weekend? But think about excited you would be if there was a part of your school day filled with songs and a teacher that would do just about anything to amuse you??

The first 5 minutes of class, usually after I receive a good amount of hugs, playful punches and pictures would include a routine of doing Kung Fu Panda and Ben 10 moves, followed by the Macarena and then the alphabet song (because you know I was actually teaching a language). Not going to be doing much of that in my next job, but more on that later.

I must add that teaching would not be half as pleasant were it not for the help of the teachers assistant, a teacher that can help with the translation when needed and discipline more needed. Having not to be strict while trying to be the best teacher ever helps a lot. Only problem is that if there's a lesson without a TA it's near impossible to convince the kids that discipline means more fun, just not going to happen.

I was convinced as a kid that my teachers had favorites, ... but now being a teacher myself I simply know that it was true. My favorites where usually the trouble makers, how unfair is that.

My students amused me every single day I taught them, let it be said, there is no such thing as a dull day when you're teaching these kids. Yes yes I know it's easy for me to say that now, weeks after having to wake up early and be energetic before I was even fully awake. After all that I only have good memories of teaching young kids.

Let me end with this, before I get way too carried away, teaching these kids will forever be one of my favorite memories of Vietnam.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Hanoi of small things

I didn't really plan for this to be a photo blog, but in my rush to photograph the city as the weeks turn themselves into days I have decided to share more. The fact that it is near impossible to log onto Facebook and just create one album after the other and my lack of Flicker knowledge leaves me no choice but to flood my own space, cause after all it is 'my space'. umh.

Anyway, one of my favourite things about Hanoi is that it's so visually stimulating, always and everywhere. The small things, the corners and walls and tea pots and little chairs, I'd do a whole post on Hanoi chairs... The power lines, the fruits and hats and flowers and.. get the picture?

So here with the bits of small Hanoi:

Sunday, May 15, 2011

walks around the block and lamentations of a sentamentalist

Well, hello there rainy season.

Fact: Driving a motorbike in the rain sucks.
Fact: Listening to the down pour on the tin roofs surrounding my room is amazing.

As I’m writing this I have CNN on in the background, they’re doing a travel segment on Hanoi, something tightens in my heart. I seem to be having a bit of a reverse emotional ride with this city and all it so colorfully offers.

In the weeks counting down I find myself being amused and amazed with uniquely Hanoian things that I have come to take for granted over the last year and half. I’m have to stop my mind and all it’s sentimentalism to get carried away at regret of not doing more.

“How did I not spend more afternoons taking a stroll around the Botanical gardens with all it’s green (trees) and white (brides) and patterns (grandma pajamas)”

“Why didn’t I try more street food”

“How did we only discover taking drives out of the city like last week!!!?!”

“I should have totally given small clothes shops more attention” (I think as I purchase a gorgeous mid length skirt with cherries on it at a cheery 6usd)

"Spa! come on Lanette"

“ I should have gone with public schools earlier, I loooove my Grade 1 and 2 classes. Love.”

“All those photo’s I never took”

The list can go on and on from the big important things to the small quirky things. I don’t get too down for long, I’m reminded of the fact that I was living a very different life here than I would have at home, I wasn’t a tourist for 19 months. (but I kind of was) Although having said that, Hanoi is so gracious when it comes to being interesting around every corner.

A few days ago I decided to go for a walk with my camera, something I don’t do often , cause a camera around your neck instantly strips you of any expat cred, and I have been working hard on my cred. I thought wearing shower slippers in my walk would balance this out. True story. I don’t have enough Vietnamese to show off otherwise, I real shame after being here for so long.

Here are just a few things from my walk around the block.

Firstly the shower slippers. Sexy stuff.

The cherry skirt shop, just down the alley from where I live.

Two very common outfits in Hanoi, the standard conical hat and in the background the sun escaping Ninja by sunlight and pretty light skinned lady by non-sunlight ( I assume).

Young (ahem) gentlemen inviting me to join them for a nice tin of red bull and good conversation I’m sure.

After being told ‘no photo’ … But I’m just that bad ass.

Ladies of leisure

Some more afternoon exercise.

Love for the Uncle.


One of my favorite things about Hanoi walls

random right...