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Friday, June 15, 2012

After 10 months getting around the city on bicycle, we decided to rent a motorbike for our last three weeks. It's convenient to just hop on the motorbike and take our daughters where they need to go.  It's also cheaper -- renting a motorbike is just $55 a month, but we were spending more than that just to have Amali driven by motorcycle taxi back and forth to her school. 

But I wouldn't have done otherwise.  I figured out that I have averaged 8-10 miles per day on my bike.  Mutiplied by about 270 days that we were here in Hanoi, and I have clocked about 2,500 miles by bicycle.  I feel more fit than I have in years.  One of the things I will miss most is living without a motor vehicle.  I love filling the basket on my bike with groceries.  I feel safer on my bike too.  despite their complete lack of consideration and disregard for safety here, people still generally yield to bicycles. 

The streets are lawless -- red lights are mere suggestions.  When people do stop for a red light (about 4 seconds after it turns red, red numbers begin to count down until the next green.  But no one waits for the green -- at about 3 seconds before, they begin to ride into the intersection, weaving in and out of the oncoming left turns and the people who've continued into the intersection after their lights went red.  Most intersections have no signals -- you just have to time it -- so that you don't hit the oncoming or turning traffic, and  hopefully avoid pedestrians as well.  There is no such thing as a stop sign, and you can turn left or right from any side of any intersection without stopping or yielding.  My peripheral vision was well trained this year.  
Esther Kovari and I traveled to My Chau for a couple days.  In the evening we were treated to a folk dance performance by the Ethnic White Thai people of the village.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sivan's firework birthday candles were a hit!
Amali going for the ball! 

What a great year for her -- being in a school with only 25 kids per grade has given her opportunities to play sports, perform music, and take on leadership responsibilities.  She has grown with the experience.  She came a child and returns a young woman.

Well, sometimes.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The pineapple lady in the alley by my building


Planning the return

   Record heat wave in Hanoi -- It is early May.  Normally the temperature hovers in the low 30s.  But this week we had four days of  >39 Celcius, with a 42 C maximum on Weds.  Air Conditioners can only do so much against the heat in uninsulated buildings.  The swimming pools opened this week and yesterday Becky and I lifted at the gym for a half hour and then moved to the pool where we swam for another 45 minutes.  I hope to make this routine, time permitting.

   But we have shifted gears here, from "living the expat life" to "planning our return."  Becky is looking at new teaching positions in APS, I am planning how I will approach my new role as Coordinator of Environmental Initiatives at Sandia Prep.  Amali has begun studying for her Bat Mitzvah, both girls are trying to figure out their "sleepover schedule" to visit with friends when they return. 

   I have spent hours, mostly late at night when the internet is faster and people are awake in the West making travel arrangements and summer plans for our family. 

   Here is how our summer is shaping up:

   Becky and I finish school in late May.  Our friend Esther comes to visit and she and Becky travel together, while I stay home and pack lunches and shop for food and withhold allowances and experience all the other joys of parenting teenagers.

   Sivan and Amali finish school on June 15 and board their plane on June 17 for the 27 hour ordeal back to ABQ via Tokyo and Dallas.  They have two four-hour layovers.  Am I worried?  They are too old for unaccompanied minor services, but are they old enough to go it alone?  I am confident that they are.

   Becky and I will not return to the US until July 5.  We are trying to figure out where we want to travel.  We could keep it really cheap and travel over land through Laos and Cambodia.  Or we can take a reasonably cheap flight to Kuala Lumpur and relax on the beaches of Malaysia.  Or we can spend a bit more and visit the Myanmar before it gets spoiled after it completely opens up to tourism.  Tough choices are better than no choices.  

   The girls will stay with their grandparents and arrange for visits with friends.  After 8 days, Sivan will board a plane for New York on June 26.  She will head up to Camp Naaleh, near Oneonta in Upstate NY (a recently revived incarnation of the camp her father and aunts attended in their youth) for 3 1/2 weeks. 

   Amali will go up to Hummingbird Music Camp in Jemez Springs for two weeks beginning July 1, after which she will go to Comedy Camp for a week at The Box theater.  Then Chuck and Amali will fly to NYC on August 21 and pick Sivan up from camp on Aug. 22.  Back to Brooklyn and then Sivan heads back to ABQ on Aug. 25.  Chuck and Amali hang out with the NY cousins a few more days and then drive up to Maine to visit the Connecticut cousins.  Then back to NM on Aug 2.  One more week and then Folk Dance Camp -- at least the girls will go.  Then back to School on Aug 13 for Chuck and Becky, Aug 14 for the girls. 

   Somewhere in there we have to make time to visit dentists, orthodontists, pediatricians, veterinarians, rabbis, cantors, DMV and driving schools (for Sivan), principals, and friends.  No problem.  (Mostly, we expect friends to come to us).

   I have had to buy health insurance for a couple months, and have begun shopping for a second car -- Toyota Prius, Honda Fit, or Mazda 2?  Any other votes? 

Keep cool.

Chuck

Big Vietnamese roly-polies displayed on the mountain path to the Perfume Pagoda in Hanoi