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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Food on the first two days --

The food has been wonderful so far. Pho for lunch, then for dinner we went to a restaurant next to our apartment building. No tourists anywhere. No menu in english, and no one to translate. So we ordered by pointing to one Bo (beef) and one Ga (chicken). The beef was cold slices with lots of fresh julienne cut veggies and fresh basil and watercress -- then rice paper to make our own spring rolls and dipping sauces -- yum. The chicken came out -- batter fried little round pieces with lemon grass and lime flavors -- popped one into my mouth and realized what part of the chicken we were eating -- the cartilage from the ends of the drumstick and thigh bones. Delicious but a funny texture.
Today we ate more mundane fare from my supermarket adventures yesterday. But we did take a bus to downtown/old hanoi and had wonderful drinks in a cafe there. Sivan had watermelon juice, Amali had a mango/yogurt smoothie, and I had one of the best cups of coffee I have ever tasted.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Rainy Season and Street Sounds

Today we welcome the arrival of tropical storm Nock-Ten. It poured this morning as the first wave of clouds passed through. Now there is a lull, but then it will pour again. August is the rainiest month. I will be glad to get through it. We are going out this afternoon to "Old Ha Noi" and Downtown. Ponchos are ready.
We live up on the 10th floor of a big building, but the constant beeping of horns down below is always in the background. Traffic patterns, especially at intersections are wild. A driver or scooter rider cannot wait for an opening to make a turn, he or she just heads into the mix of vehicles moving in various directions and somehow, usually, comes out on the other side intact. The difference between Ha Noi traffic and Cairo traffic is that Ha Noi is less congested, so vehicles are moving faster, and there are about 20 scooters for each car. Where we live, there aren't cyclos -- motorcycle taxis -- all over the place, just regular car taxis. We'll be taking one to downtown today.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Early morning day 1 tour of rooms and sleepy children

First morning continued

I am preparing a photo tour of our apartment. The girls are still sleeping and at about 8 am, the across the hall neighbor began to BLAST Beethoven! I walked out to say hi -- he had his inside door open and his security door closed, but did not turn around when I said hello and I did not want to yell and make him feel bad. The music is loud, but if his taste is consistent, I won't mind (although Sivan and Amali might).


We were met at the Airport by a man named Lam who took care of all our visa paperwork. Our bags arrived safely and Hang, the young woman who helps administer all the logistics for School Year Abroad Hanoi, met us outside customs. She had a van waiting for us and after a half-hour drive into the city, we arrived at our apartment at just past midnight. 7 suitcases, a huge duffelbag, a guitar, and 4 small pieces of luggage, made their way to the 10th floor apartment. The building seemed a bit dingy outside, but we entered through our doorway into a spacious living/dining/kitchen area. Furniture is simple, nice, and tasteful. There were 3 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms. We said goodbye to Hang (we're on our own for 2 days, until I meet her again at my workplace on Monday), and began to unpack. Sivan, semicompulsively began to decorate her room, while I urged the girls (until they finally complied at about 2 am) to go to sleep. I was tinkering with the modem and wireless router, trying vainly to get my vonage phone hooked up. I finally figured it out and called Aaron and Ellie Gordon, let the girls say Hi and, went to sleep at around 2:30. Woke again at 6 am, took in the views from my balcony, called my mom, and have been messing around with the computer ever since. Sivan woke briefly but went back to sleep.
There is a bran muffin from la montanita and a pink lady apple left from our trip, but nothing else to eat. We also have no kitchenware, no bedding (except for one sheet and four Korea Airlines blankets), and two tiny rolls of toilet paper. I need to do some shopping today. First impressions of the city later. I miss Becky and wonder what adventures she is having in South Africa.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

First posting -- 3 1/2 days before departure

I am remarkably at peace right now. The butterflies have settled down. Sivan and Amali have been terrific about packing and getting their rooms ready. They are making as much time as possible to visit with their friends. I played ultimate frisbee this morning and played my best game in years, even though I probably slept only 3 hours last night.
There is still a lot to do to finish packing and getting the house ready for the tenants. Becky left this morning for South Africa. She will be there two weeks with two dozen teachers, courtesy of Toyota, after which she will return to Albuquerque for five days with her parents. She will join us in Hanoi on August 17, two days after the girls start their school year at Hanoi International School.
Let me step back a bit for those who don't know what we are doing this coming year. Last fall, Becky and I decided that our dream of taking our family abroad for a year was beginning to slip away. It was now or never. We talked to our school administrators and family and decided to try. We created very professional looking .pdfs with a joint cover letter, personal statements, resumes, and rec letters and sent them out to about 200 schools. It was an arduous and totally fruitless effort. The schools that had jobs either wanted a 2 year minimum commitment or required that we fly off to San Francisco or Des Moines to interview at job fairs. Then my friend Stephanie, who teaches at Albuquerque Academy, told me about School Year Abroad -- a one-year program for American high school students. I sent our application and after a couple skype interviews was offered a position. From there life has been an intense sequence of logistical and emotional preparation.
Getting my classroom cleaned up for my replacement (a packrat like me can accumulate at lot of junk in 14 years). Getting our house ready for renting (lots of deferred maintenance could no longer be deferred). Preparing curricula -- I'll be teaching AP Environmental Science and AP Economics. Getting all the bills automated, getting all the stuff we need, etc. etc. etc...
After a trip to NYC to say goodbye to my family, we returned to Albuquerque. Becky flew to South Africa for 2 weeks while we got the packing and house work finished. Becky will return to Albuquerque for 5 days and then join us on August 17.
(Most of this blog was written 3 days before we left, but the last few short paragraphs were finished after setting up my internet in our Hanoi Apartment. The trip and first night will be the subjects of my next blog).