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The Adventures of Terry and Anita Duvall





As most of you know, Terry and Anita Duvall lived in Vietnam for a considerable time, where they were employed by a school near Ho Chi Minh City. They wrote to us weekly about their peripatetic lives, and their letters appear here. Now that they have arrived home in the US, we continue to post their letters.

Terry and Anita also have a site where they put pictures of all of their adventures, and you can see those photo albums by clicking on MobileMe Gallery here.

Here are the letters, beginning with the most recent.




Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dear All,

We are back once again in Towanda. It is nice to be home even though it is raining cats and dogs. It is 40ºF, and we have just driven from Philadelphia for three and a half hours.

On last Saturday, I was told that on the first of the week someone would pick up the Prius and take it to the Toyota dealership. No one came to pick it up on Monday. On Tuesday I called the dealership and was told that they were too busy to work on the car until the following week. I grumbled a bit and told them I would get the work done locally. My friend, Dave, was out of the shop, but I did tell the sales man my name and told him I had a vehicle that needed work. I went out to try to start the truck, a Toyota Tacoma, after I had installed a battery. It would not start. I drive off to get a battery terminal cleaner. As I was pulling out of sight, Anita got a phone call telling her that a flatbed truck was on the way to pick up the car and the truck and that they would receive some service that day. I think my friend, Dave, had arrived at the dealership and got the ball rolling back in my direction.

The flatbed truck arrived, and we loaded the truck first then attached the tow bar to the Prius. The truck departed with both as soon as the loading process. I turned to sealing up the skylights, buying new bulbs for those, which had expired, and unpacking boxes. It was almost like Christmas except the stuff was used, and we knew who had used it.

We have barbecued each afternoon, cooking some of the food that we had missed while in Vietnam. It has been great to get reacquainted with my old friend, Mr. Grill. We have had pork ribs, pork chops, and chicken; and tonight since it is still raining, we will not grill. I am going to cook some snow crab and prepare a great green salad.

On Wednesday, I called about the vehicles and was told that the truck was ready, but the Prius needed more time. At least we did have a vehicle that was not related to Bob's tank. We drove to the dealership and collected the truck. We were told that mice had taken material from the cab of the truck and carefully stuffed it into the air cleaner and the top of the carburetor in what may have been an attempt to create a comfortable two story dwelling deep within the protection of the steel case called a truck It was a smelly mess. We are so happy that someone else was there to do the work and knew what they were doing.

The next day we drove back to Philly with me in the tank and Anita in the Tacoma. It was actually a pleasure to kiss the tank farewell even though it had come through when it was so badly needed (I hope that is enough recognition and thanks!)

On Thursday, I took Bob to dialysis while Hua Hua took a bus to New York City to purchase material for her show she is taking to Chengdu, China. After the dialysis, I was relieved of my cooking duties since Bob and Hua Hua had stopped on the way back from the clinic at the an Indian restaurant and purchased a small mountain of fantastic food.

Friday was a rest day. On Saturday we prepared to see Kun Yang Lin's new show at Painted Bride Theater in Philly. It was a spectacular show filled with great dance and song. The dancers were the same ones who had helped Hua Hua put on her show that we saw in October. We also met Xing Xin, a Chinese girl who is studying at UCONN and will perform for Hua Hua in her show in Chengdu.

On Sunday after we had a slow start on the morning. I took Xing Xin to the bus terminal in Philly. When I returned, we went for a long walk in the mall and decided to return to Towanda, where we are now. We have a fire in the fireplace. The heat is on. It is cozy once again in our little house on the river.

We start a new adventure tomorrow. Maybe the Prius will return. Maybe I will have to go get it. Maybe it will need more Tender Loving Care.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 25, 2012

Dear All,

Last week the letter came to you from Taiwan. Today we are in Towanda, Pennsylvania. It has been a busy week.

Pei Chi is a fantastic hostess. We left Taiwan and Pei Chi at the airport. We had stored a major part of our luggage at the airport since we did not need or want to carry around so much stuff. First we went to the storage area and retrieved the luggage and repacked the bags to try to equalize the weight, hoping that we would not be charged for over weight since we had to pay an arm and a leg to leave Vietnam. As it turned out, we were able to check the two bags per person, and there was no weight allowance. I tried to check my guitar, but the lady at the check-in told me that we were only allowed two bags per person. We did not have a hard case for the guitar. She was reluctant to let me pay extra. I somewhat sadly presented the guitar to Pei Chi and told her that she could learn to play. In the end we both agreed that which ever of us visited the other first would carry the instrument.

We had purchased business class tickets for the long trek across the pond, which was really over more land than water. We noticed that we were not seated next to each other. When we boarded the plane, we quickly realized that we were in individual cubicles that sported a television, a seat that unfolded into a full size bed, a stereo center, and lots of buttons to push to configure the area from a sitting to sleeping place. We wondered what the people in tourist class were doing, but not enough to go to the back of the plane and check them out. The flight was pretty painless. We arrived on the day we left Hong Kong. Hua Hua was at the airport to pick us up. Some things work out no matter how badly we mess them up.

The next few days were spent in jetlag stupors. We accomplished a few things and mostly got reacquainted with the U$A. We became semi familiar with Bob's routine. He must go for dialysis every other day.

The trip to the dialysis unit begins at about 10:00. The drive takes about 45 minutes depending upon the traffic. The dialysis unit opens at 6:00 for the first set of patients. There are spaces for 20 people. Each person is attached to a machine that pumps the blood out of the arm and into what is similar to a reverse osmosis membrane that removes the waste material from the blood and then returns the blood to the rightful owner. The process takes about 5 hours more or less. A lot of the time is used in connecting and disconnecting the individuals to the machine. There is lots of noise in the room with 20 people all being connected. Bob tunes out most of the noise with an IPod and music.

On Saturday we grabbed suitcases and Bob's Toyota tank and headed to our little home on the Susquehanna River. We spent last night in our own bed. It is still the best and most comfortable bed in the universe.

We will be here until Thursday morning when we will head back to Boothwyn to care for Bob while Hua Hua goes into New York for some much needed art culture time and making connections with some of her art friends.

If you no longer are interested in our now what is sure to become mundane, sedate, sedentary, boring, lives, please let me know. I will remove you from the list of people who still read this. If you are happy to continue with the somewhat exciting, mildly interesting, constantly changing world in which we live, take no action. We will continue to pass on our take of the world as we see it.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 18, 2012

Dear All,

We are so appreciative of the ladies, Sharon, Kim, and Kim who were so kind to provide a home base from which we could operate during the time we were no longer teaching. Without their support, we would have had to cut our holiday much shorter.

We arrived at the airport in HCMC with plenty of time. We had packed carefully. All the bags were about the same weight. It turned out that we were thirty kilos overweight. It only cost an arm and a leg to cough up the overweight charges. We had booked business class tickets, so we were given special passes to the exotic lounge area where there was free food and drink and comfortable seats. In two hours time, we we on the way to the next leg of our departure adventure.

We arrived in Taiwan and were met at the airport by Pei Chi. It was raining. We were hustled into a cab and rode to a restaurant where we were met by six of Pei Chi's colleagues. The dinner consisted of multiple hot pots of wonderful, different foods ranging from ostrich to seafoods. Since Anita and I had been fed so well on the flight, we were not really hungry; but the people were friendly and conversant. After the meal we were driven to Pei Chi's apartment. We checked e mail and were in bed for an early start the next day.

After a good night's sleep we we up and ready for the taxi, bus and high-speed train ride to Ali Shan, a mountain in south central Taiwan. We spent two days there climbing the mountain and looking at the cherry blossoms. This was supposed to be the best day for viewing the trees. The rest of the people in Taiwan thought so too, and half of the people from mainland China. We measured the number of busses by the length in combined kilometers, not the length of the bus.

The train is really flying. I am sure we are doing about 300 km per hour, since the information board in the front of the car said we were passing through 292 kmh. That is close to 180 mph. The countryside is covered with rice paddies, small hills and what appear to be some large and beautiful homes. We are not going over any hills. The tracks are level and tunnels have been bored through them.

We walked for four hours today. The mountain is crisscrossed with paths. The vegetation is lush. The flowers are spectacular. We are staying in the Kao Feng Hotel at the base of the national park. We will walk tomorrow. Anita is not sure she wants to do more than the walks we did today. It was all up or down the hills.

As it turned out the walk on the first day did us in. POOPED! We did manage to tour the old tree section the next day. There were trees that were considerably older than we, 3000 years old. My friend, Gary Baker, from Towanda would have salivated himself into a prune just looking at the beautiful trees. This was one of the most spectacular forests I have ever seen.

After much needed massages the next day, we did manage to get out for a short walk. The cherry trees were at their best. We enjoyed all of the people photographing all the trees. This is an event that is important for every Chinese person in which to be involved. We are so lucky to be, by ourselves, anyway, half Chinese. There are four types of Cherry trees that live on the mountain. It is awesome. I never thought I would use that word. The temperature difference between the top of the mountain and the valley was amazing. It was 14 C. on top of the mountain when we left and 30 C. when we reached Pei Chi's home.

The next day we were met by Pei Chi's brother. He drove us to Pei Chi's home town, Dai Nei. We spent two full days with her and her family. Each day we hopped into two of the family cars with the rest of the family in tow and proceeded to tour the area.

Unknown to us, Pei Chi had posted our picture on Facebook. We got lots of feedback from people we had not heard from in a long time.

First we found Pei Ci's mother caring of some of her many fruit trees. She is growing mangos, papaya, pineapples, guava, tomatoes, ducks and geese. Later we'd were taken to visit her mother's best friend near an area called the moonscape because of the strange dirt hills that are devoid of plant life.

We returned to the home and were whisked out to dinner at a restaurant that served jiaozi, one of our favorite Chinese treats. We returned to the house and crashed into bed.

Day two we went a bit further afield to see Shen Kou Temple. It is in the process of being built. One of the nuns took it upon herself to give us a royal tour, pointing out all the areas of interest. It was a presentation in Chinese, but I was able to understand some of it and Pei Chi was able to translate some. After lunch at a famous chicken restaurant, we headed for a salt mountain by the sea. The Taiwanese are pioneering some salt collection methods, wind generating methods, and provide a museum of the history of salt. From there we headed to see the spot where the black billed spoonbills come during their migration. We were actually able to see some at a great distance away. We headed back home,and on the way her brother decided that he would cook; so we made an abrupt change of direction and ended up at a Costco where we were able to buy some beautiful Australian steaks. He did a great job of preparing them. After dinner, we crashed into bed.

This morning we headed out to Tainan to see the Taiwan History Museum. It is a spectacular museum that has been open less than a year and at the moment charges no admission. After a long visit, we found another restaurant that served us up another one of our cravings, dan dan mien, noodles with a special sauce.

From the restaurant, we toured an old Dutch fort, now a scenic tourist spot. We are on the way to Taipei and Pei Chi's apartment now.

Pei Chi's home has been in the family for more than forty years. It is a three story house with five bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen, dining area and living area. Two years ago there was a flood in the area that filled the house about a meter deep with water on the second floor. A great deal of the house is new. The house is shared by mother and father, Pei Chi's brother, his wife and three children, and Pei Chi's sister all the time. We were added to the gaggle. It was a real feeling of warmth to be accepted into such a place, fed, transported, provided a room and beds, and some good family fun.

We are on the way back to the U$A tomorrow afternoon. We will go from Taipei to HongKong to JFK. We will be arriving at about ten in the evening. We will rent s car and get out of the city, find a motel and be in Towanda on Tuesday late in the morning. I hope that Karen, our almost next door neighbor, will unlock the house for our arrival.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well. This letter does not close a book, but it opens a new chapter with new friends with whom we have grown to love and respect for the way they have learned to live their lives.


Terry and Anita


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Dear All,

Now we know our plan for going home. We will arrive in Taipei at 5:00pm on March13th. The flight is EVA, flight BR 392. We depart Taipei on the 19th at 1500 hours. We will arrive in JFK in New York at 10:25 pm.

Our love affair with Vietnam is not over. It is just temporarily discontinued. I think I have a few more teaching years left in me. I want to come back. Anita does too, but not in a working capacity. I guess just a kept woman.

We have spent the last four days packing, repacking, unpacking, getting rid of, wishing we hadn't gotten rid of, giving away, and getting in a mind set to go to Taiwan for our end of holiday blow out with Pei Chi.

When we got back from diving, we were met and pushed toward a taxi by the driver. We shook him off and told him we did not want his ride. He said he was one of the supervisors, in English; so we told him where we wanted to go. He told us it would be an hour and a half ride and that it would cost 800, 000 VND. We knew better than that. It usually costs 300,00 VND and takes 45 minutes to make the trip. We did blow him off and got in the taxi queue for a pleasant return trip. The taxi drivers in HCMC are good for the most part, but there are some real losers. I pity the people who fall for the scams.

The pictures from the dive trip are posted at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. They are labeled, "The Indonesia trip". Now that I mention the trip, we decided to budget $10,000 for the entire trip. Since we cannot pay by credit card in advance from Vietnam, a minor inconvenience, I decided to take the amount out of the bank in cash and carry it with me. That all worked out just fine. When we came back to Binh Duong, I went back to the bank to put the remaining money back into my account. It turned out that I can take the money out any time I want, but I cannot deposit dollars unless I have proof that I have earned it by working for an entity that will give me a statement. I guess that means that I will be traveling with a bit of cash on hand for the rest of the trip.

The school gave us a good-bye party on Friday. We were honored by all who attended. The ladies made a video of events in which we were involved over the last few years. The show has some great laughs. Regan asked me to read some poems on Monday, our last full day in VIetnam. I will do that happily. I have three in particular that the students and I love. We are going to miss many things about VIetnam, but none more than the lovely ladies at the school who have taken such good care of us over the last two plus years.

We just finished eating dinner at Villa H20. Huyen and her husband invited us. It was a fantastic meal.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Dear All,

The Internet has been down since Wednesday. I probably I will not get a chance to send this until we get to Singapore, tomorrow afternoon.

This week has been a world of discovery. We have seen new animals every day. The variety of life here is as diverse as any place we have been since we lived in Africa. I will post pictures as soon as we get back to Binh Duong. We have seen frogfish, pipefish, moray eels, unicorn fish, long horned cow fish, nudibranches of hundreds of colors and shapes. We have seen fish with snouts, spikes, hair. Fish live here that resemble crocodiles, leaves, other fish, and pieces of coral. We have seen these fish in every imaginable size from micro to not so big. We both agree that we need two weeks here one year from July, the best season to visit. We did not take any night dives and will do so when we return.

If you are a diver, put Lembeh Strait on your list. You will not be disappointed. Nothing moves too fast. It is easy to take multiple pictures of most of the fish then sort and choose only the best of the bunch. Make sure you have a good camera with a macro setting. A big unwieldy camera and housing is not necessary. If you have a compact camera and case you will take great photos.

None of the dive sites is more than 15 minutes away from the resort, Two Fish Divers (www.twofishdivers.com). Only the wreck dive will test your ability to dive deep. Most dives are between thirty and seventy feet. There is one dive guide for every two persons. The dive guides have been excellent at finding the animals and getting the photographer is position to make the best shot.

You will not gain any weight here unless you hit the brown bottles with a vengeance. The food is lots of vegetables, fish, rice, and fruit. It is all prepared in Indonesian style. There was a pig roast one night that was worth the wait. Breakfasts are eggs to order, pancakes, cereal, rice or noodles. There is a more than generous supply of bread and toasters available.

It has been a great stay. Compared to other dive resorts, it was inexpensive. The cabin was very comfortable, even though the pillows were over stuffed. There was an abundance of hot water. The dive boats ere well laid out. They were a little narrow, but with a bit of cooperation everyone was able to get into the water fairly quickly.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita

Sent from my iPad


Sunday, 2/26/12

Dear All,

Last Sunday was the day set for departure for Indonesia. The plane was to take off just before six in the evening, so we whiled away our time doing things that needed to be done so we would be totally ready.

We headed for the airport with plenty of time to spare and arrived with waiting time galore. The check-in line opened shortly after we arrived. We checked our bags through to Singapore, since we were planning to spend the night there. We went through customs and were asked to move into a little room where I was questioned about how much money we were carrying. I told the customs people that I had ten thousand dollars since I needed to pay for the trip after arrival. They hemmed. They hawed. They produced a paper that stated that persons leaving the country were not allowed to remove more than $5000 each. Well, OK, what was the fuss? It turned out that since I had lots of leftover money from other countries that we have visited, we were over the legal limit, so to speak. They mumbled and grumbled. They went into conference. They told us that they would have to confiscate the money and come back to get it in 5 days. We told them we could not come back in 5 days. They had to go talk to their supervisor. After a wait of what felt like five minutes, though anxious minutes, they returned to tell us that we could go after we paid a fine of 20% of the value of the money over the legal limit. I agreed and started to get the money out for them to assess. Very shortly thereafter, the customs woman told us that we would have to pay a $20 fine. Financing the local officials is something we love to do. We did, quite happily; and were soon on our way to the snack bar and dinner.

We flew without incident to Singapore. Went through Immigrations and Customs without a hitch and were soon in our room in the Changi Village Hotel. We were informed that for an additional $15, we could be served breakfast. Almost in the same breath, the clerk behind the desk told us that the shuttle to the airport left at 0730 hours and the bus was first come, first served. We went to our room to be greeted with yet another see through shower, collapsed into bed, awoke the next morning, went to the airport, had breakfast and were on the plane to Manado, Indonesia.

At the airport, there was no one to Fishmeet us. There was lots of help available if we wanted to pay for it. Eventually someone showed up, and we were taken to the dock in a driving rain, put on a boat to Bukanen Island and Two Fish Dive Resort.

The resort is billed as a 5 star PADI facility. It is in the category of diving, but the amenities leave a little to be desired. We do have hot water when we want it. We have good food, but too much fish. The Internet connection is iffy. The accommodations are comfortable. Two fans keep the air moving and two electric mosquito coils keep the mossies at bay.

The dive boats are excellent. They are capable of carrying 10 persons, each two persons have their own Divemaster/guide. The dive sites are well documented and varied. The currents in the sea are fierce. When the tides are changing or the wind blows too strongly, the currents meet and clash forming whirlpools that drag divers down, upwellings that rocket divers to the surface or skim them through water at breakneck speeds. I am told this is the only time of year that the currents are so strong. I guess it is like the rains in Vietnam. You should have been here yesterday.

Tomorrow is our last day of diving here before we move to Lembeh where the muck diving begins. We have been blessed with great weather, exciting dives and met some wonderful people. This half of the trip has been superb.

The picture to the left is a Mandarin Fish. The fish was discovered by Jacques Costeau in the 50's. I have wanted to get a picture of one for a long time. As it turns out, this may be one of my best pictures ever.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita



Sunday, February 19, 2012

Dear All,

It is Sunday morning. We have had a busy, fantastic week. Interesting too!

Last Sunday we went to the airport to meet Pei Chi and her friend Meng-Chen. We waited for the flight to arrive. We waited. We waited. The flight arrived. We waited. Anita suggested that I check my e mail to see if there was a message from Pei Chi. I did. There was. She was arriving on Monday. It was a great prior organizer. We were well prepared for the next day's arrival; and when Monday came, we did it again. We were ready.

After the ladies arrived, we took a taxi to the hydrofoil and were on our way to Vung Tau. From there on the trip went according to plan. We played in the sea. We played at the amusement park. We walked. We explored the city. We played in the sea. We walked on the beach to the Christ of Vung Tau, climbed the mountain, 1000 steps; and then stood on the shoulders of the statue while overlooking the view of the city.

The days passed quickly and soon it was time to meet the hydrofoil and return to HCMC. We debarked the boat and were surrounded by taxi drivers. All of them wanted to take us to our destination, no matter where it was. We were almost picked up and carried by one driver to his car. We headed for the airport. I watched as the meter rolled over and the cost of the trip to the airport climbed to more than triple the amount that it should have been. We were being taken for a ride. Literally!!! When we arrived at the airport, we took our bags from the taxi. I handed the driver 400,000 VND, twice what the bill should have been; but less than half of the meter reading and told the driver that it was all the money he was going to get from me. He actually asked for a tip. I told him he had all he was going to get, and we walked away. I felt good about the way the situation got handled. Maybe the driver did too.

Back in Binh Duong, we started to pack for our ultimate departure from Vietnam. It will take place 4 days after we return from the Lembeh Straits, some of the world's best muck diving. We will have more of a report when we check in next Sunday. We will be at two different resorts for two weeks of diving. Our hosts will be the TwoFish.com organizers.

We will spend one week in Taiwan with Pei Chi and her family before we are home in PA. This trip of a lifetime is not going to end.

I have posted the pictures from Vung Tau and a few other selected places at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 12, 2012

Dear All,

We are back. It was a trip of 6000 km of discovery. I know that I want to come back to Vietnam. I think I still have a few more years of teaching in me. Right now our plan is to take one more SCUBA trip to Indonesia. It is a good time to visit the Lemba Straits. The last few days were spent driving. We went from Nha Trang to Phan Thiet in one fell swoop. It was a total of 250 km, by far the longest stretch of our trip. It took just over 4 hours.

We found a fantastic resort on the south side of the city quite by accident. While bumbling our way through the town, we happened to see a sign that advertised a resort of another name and followed the directions. We drove past a few resorts before deciding that we would return to the one we had first passed. We were welcomed with open hands. I say that because when they saw us pull up on the motorbike, they allowed themselves to be kicked into hyperdrive and insisted that the fee for the night be paid in advance. I am sure that the management was convinced that we would get up in the middle of the night and leave without paying the bill. The resort must have been a 5 star entity since it was the most expensive place we had stayed. The accommodations lived up to the price. We were treated royally.

The next day we were headed home. It was going to be a drive of more than one hundred kilometers, but after the day before it was a piece of cake. We arrived in Binh Duong just before noon. It was great to be back.

We have spent this week getting back in touch with our friends, shopping, and getting our ducks in a row for the upcoming departure. Pei Chi, our friend from Taiwan, and a friend of hers are arriving on Sunday. We will meet them at the airport and go directly to the hydrofoil to zoom to Vung Tao. We will spend two days there playing on the beach, going to the amusement park, and climbing the Christ of Vung Tao.

We will be headed back to the U$A at the end of March. We will need to take care of Bob while Hua Hua is in China. She has been invited to take her show, Butterfly Dreams, make a presentation to a large international group of puppeteers, and donate some of her puppet memorabilia to a new puppet museum that is opening soon.

We will also get our house in order. All the things from the basement were moved to the sun room during the flood in September. We need to sort through them and dispose of those that are not necessary. That should be an interesting time as we look at things we have not seen in many years. It will also be a bit of nostalgia as we discover things that we thought we wanted to keep and wonder why.

All the pictures from the Vietnam trip are posted on http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. They are in two groups, Part One and Part two.

I am sending this early, because I will not be taking my computer to Vung Tao. I will carry the IPad, but not for writing and sending mail.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 5

Dear All,
Some observations from Anita

The Vietnamese are going to have to do serious thinking about burying the dead. Cemeteries occupy lots of land. The burial unit is made out of granite or cement and sets above ground. As people are getting richer, the burial unit is getting larger and more grand. The Vietnamese respect and honor their ancestors, but soon the dead will take up more space than the living. The big cemeteries are often on land that is not of much use for anything else such as sand dunes. However the fields have graves scattered here and there.

There are no cupolas on the houses here in the central part of Vietnam. In the north it must be as decoration and maybe as a skylight to allow more light into the upper room of the house.

Yesterday on our way to Hues, we passed at least six and maybe more, police checks. They were stopping every bus. The buses are crowded as people are trying to get back to where they work since Tet is finishing. The bus drivers were getting very quick to gather their document and jump out of the bus. (Found out from the newspaper that the police were checking for overcrowding and prices for tickets.)

Many of the temples are dedicated to people who were important in some way. Kings and warriors plus scholars have the most devoted followers. Rituals are occasionally performed.

Some of the places we have stayed haven't had very good internet. I sent the above to Terry last week, but he didn't get it until long after he sent the letter.

Some of the limestone mountains in the north are being ground up to make cement. The logo for one of the cement factories is stylize three peak mountain!

Food - we eat well. Usually two dishes is plenty. Sometimes one is enough. Reading the menu is not always helpful. We had to try fried popcorn. It turned out to be regular yellow corn kernels that had been dusted in cornstarch and then cooked in butter. The seafood has been wonderful. Terry has his card that explains in Vietnamese that he can't eat fish. Occasionally he gets some fish sauce since the locals use it on everything.

In my last letter I mistakenly said that the North Koreans occupied a part of Vietnam. That was an error. I meant North Vietnamese. No one called on this bit of misinformation. Do you suppose it is because no one really reads what I write?

The water puppet show that delayed the delivery of the letter on Sunday was really amazing. We had seats for the 6:30 show. We were the first to arrive, so we had our choice of seats. The show started shortly after two bus loads of tourists arrived. The puppets reminded me of some of the shows that we had seen in China in the 70's. The puppets needed lots of TLC maintenance. Arms did not swing. Puppets did not float properly on the water. BUT it was an interesting show.

There were 12 vignettes. Each one lasted about three minutes. They ranged from the whimsical to politically correct. Someone needs to write some new material and build some new puppets.

The puppeteers, who took a curtain call, all wore dry suits, and performed in about one meter deep water. Although we did not see the puppet controls, we are sure that they were rod puppets. The actors performed behind a slat screen. They were able to see the puppets they were operating. Since they were rod puppets, the actors were limited in the scope of their movements. It was an experience well worth the time.

Monday we went to the tombs of three kings who were the last Imperial Rulers of Vietnam, Tu Duc, Khai Dinh, and Minh Mang. All three of the tombs are large. The tomb of Khai Dinh is the most recent. It is different from the others, because it was built using cement and marble as the main building components. The three tombs filled the day.

Today we searched for the cultural relics that came from the homes of the last three rulers. We found the old palace where the relics were reported to have been kept. It was a little over two hours of walking in the rain. We found the building, but it was tightly locked. No one seems to know what has happened to the things. Maybe one day they will emerge from hiding. I guess we will have to see them in our next lives.

While we were walking, we passed by a school. It was not in session, but there was a woman on the sidewalk bending over and picking up wooden skewers, the kind that one would use for a kebab. There were hundreds of them on the sidewalk. There were hundreds of them in her hands. Do you suppose that it is possible that she was preparing for the next lunchtime? Saving a little money on skewers? Getting ready to build a model bridge? Do you ever want to eat street food in Vietnam again? As a side-bar, people in Vietnam do not use hot water to wash dishes. Most dishes are rinsed in a tub of water. Some people use soap.

The next day we retraced our tracks to Hoi An. We walked and did some gift shopping. We found a great restaurant by the river and had dinner. There were far fewer tourists in Hoi An this time. The shopkeepers were more laid back. They were much more willing to bargain, so we felt pretty good about our purchases. The people at the hotel remembered when we had come the last time, and all of them wanted to know where we had gone and what we had seen. The sun actually came out after we went over the mountain, and it stayed out for about three hours. It had been a long time since we had seen sunlight without cloud cover.

This morning we left under cloudy skies, and by the end of the first fifteen minutes, we were in the middle of one of the heaviest rains we had seen on the trip. After about an hour the sun began to push the clouds away, and we were once again in sunlight that was warm and sometimes hot. We arrived in Quang Ngai just after noon. We considered going farther, but this area of Vietnam is not as densely populated as the as areas around the rivers. It would be about another hundred kilometers before the next real civilization, so we stopped, had lunch, checked into a hotel, and will push on tomorrow to Qui Nhon tomorrow.

After we arrived I Qui Nhon, we went to the Long Beach Hotel. We had gone far enough. Since we first stayed at this hotel, they have added a small restaurant on the beach. It was great to sit in the SUN!!!!! and eat. The sun came out when we reached the top of the mountain pass on the about fifteen kilometers into the trip. We left in rain. What else is old hat!!!

We made it to Nha Trang in just two hours. There was little traffic, and most of it was going north. As we neared Nah Trang, a man passed us yelling that we were on fire. I pulled off the road as quickly as I could. I did not think I was far enough off the road, so I pushed the bike a little further off the road. I did not realize that Anita had not gotten completely off the bike. She fell into the rocks and dirt, and cut her leg. The wind blew a great cloud of smoke that covered the bike. It was coming from one of the saddle bags that we use to carry our clothes. The bungee had broken, and the bag had fallen onto the exhaust. It had melted through and was soldering away in the breeze. I opened the bag and poured water on the bottom to put out the fire. I took the clothes out of the bag. Most of them were synthetic fiber clothes and had been fused into a single garment. I lost three shirts, a bathing suit, one pair of shorts, and one pair of pants. One person did stop to help. I appreciate all the help I can get. Neither of us were damaged aside from Anita's leg. A few pieces of clothing were sacrificed to the road Gods, and we were on our way once again.

I checked in at the hotel. The lady behind the desk said, "I know you. You have been here before. I remember you." She was correct. Tomorrow we head for Phan Rang - That Cham.

After lunch we went for a hot mineral mud bath. HEAVEN!!!

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 29. 2012

Dear All,

Today, Monday, the whole city (You could read that as country.) was shut for Tet. We took an hour ride into the "modern" part of the city. The cold front that was supposed to arrive on Friday began to arrive, and we were cold. After looking at this new part of the city, we came back to the hotel to warm up. As we headed out toward the front door, the ladies who work in the hotel were smiling at us, and asked us if we would join them for the New Year's meal. We could not believe the invitation and asked again to make sure. Yes, we were invited. We had real Vietnamese food. There was pork mixed with sticky rice wrapped in banana leaves, two different chicken dishes, a dish of pickled vegetables, a boiled beef dish, a boiled pork dish, and both steamed and fried rice. We ate with the ladies for an hour. It was great to be included in their presence. After the table was cleared, one of the ladies brought out a large plate of dried fruits and vegetables that had been tossed in sugar for dessert.

Tuesday we walked and rode around Hanoi to see the city. The drivers are far less courteous than in the south. No one stops for the red lights. People smash into others like it is an every day occurrence. The only drivers that stop are the ones who get knocked off their motorbikes. The city was slowly opening. Small shops and the street sellers were quietly filling the empty spaces that were filled before Tet. The people were doing family things together. One of the most popular was posing for pictures beside the lakes. I took lots of family pictures for the people who had no other way to have a family portrait with all members included. We walked around the lake lots just to kill time and get exercise.

The next day was a driving day. We rode to Thanh Hoa about 125 km from Hanoi. The sun almost came out. There was no rain. The closer we got to the ocean the colder it became. After four hours of driving, we settled into the Sao Mai Hotel. We had been there before. It is a comfortable hotel with heat in the rooms and abundant hot water.

Thursday was another driving day. We drove to Vinh. We stayed in the same hotel as on the way to the north.

Friday we drove to Dong Hoi and stayed in the fantastic resort that we were in on the way north.

Saturday we drove to Hue, our longest single drive of the trip so far. We will spend four nights in Hue. There is lots to see. After our arrival, we walked from our hotel, The Gerbera Hotel, to the Purple Forbidden City, the old capital of Vietnam when the King still ruled. It is unfortunate that most of it was destroyed during the war with the French in the 1940's, and the Americans finished the job in the 1960's when the North Koreans held Hue.

It is warm here. We do not need extra layers of clothes. It only rained on us for the first hour of yesterday's ride. We were greeted my the general manager of the hotel when we arrived. He could not believe that we had covered as much of Vietnam as we have. He was impressed, though not enough to celebrate our arrival with champagne or free rooms.

Today we will tour the surrounding sights. We went to see the Thien Mu Pagoda. It was built in the 1600's. After that, we went to see the Temple of Literature. Not much of either was standing.

We followed that with a trip to the place where all the royal relics that adorned the palace of the Kings, but the building was being renovated. There was nothing but a sign that said, "No photographs!"

The symbol for the last rulers of Vietnam was the elephant, which used to be all over Vietnam. One of the sporting events was a fight in an arena between a tiger and an elephant. The tigers were declawed and their mouths were sewn shut. Needless to say which was the eventual winner. We did not find that venue either.

Tonight we are scheduled to see the water puppet show. We were not able to get tickets for the show in Hanoi, but we have them for the 6:30pm show here.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 22. 2012

Dear All,

On Monday we saw three temples, one Pagoda and one communal house. We decided to do the travel ourselves instead of signing on with a tour. It was a blast. We found and saw everything on our list. Dau Pagoda was established in the 200's. It was the place where Buddhism started in Vietnam. It was the center of learning for 1800 years. The original buildings are still there. But Thap Pagoda was set beside the river dike. It had a unique structure in the center of the pagoda that was very Japanese looking. The visit was much enhanced by a large group of children returning to school. Each of the wanted to say, "Hello". I do not think any of them were disappointed. The third site was Phat Tich. Monks were trained there for over 300 years. In the center of the room that housed the main pagoda was a large plate of glass that revealed underneath the original building's foundation.

Tuesday was a travel day. We drove from Bac Ninh to Lang Son. We were amazed to find a nice hotel in such an out of the way place. We signed on for one night, are some great food for lunch, dinner and breakfast. We packed up the bike and headed north toward Cao Bang. The scenery was spectacular. The mountains all seemed to be different, disconnected; and where the sides of the mountains were not vertical they were covered in lush vegetation. The morning was a little drizzled, but the road was not crowded until we came to the village markets. They are busy and bustling all the time and traffic slows to a standstill. Finally we were on our way up the first mountain pass. We were half way to our destination. As the road snaked around the mountainous, and we climbed higher, the road began to deteriorate. Soon it was a slick of mud. The slick soon turned to deep slick. Keeping the motorbike upright was starting to become more than difficult. Just as we started the descent; and Anita volunteered to walk to make the unruly bike easier to control, we met a group of four bikes coming from the opposite direction. All of them looked at us and shook their heads. The one English word they all used was, "No!". We stopped. We thought it for a few minutes. We both agreed that it was time to turn around and head back to Lang Son. Shortly after we had started back the bike did spin out of control, and we were pitched off the right side. Neither of us was hurt, but we certainly had some bruised egos. Luckily there was only one other witness. When he saw we were foreigners, and we were not injured. He drove on by and left us to our own miseries. We decided that Northern Vietnam would have to be seen in another life. We returned to the Muong Thanh Hotel and clean up the bike, clean some clothes, get some rest, and head south the next day.

On Thursday we rode back to Bac Ninh. We stayed in a different hotel,The Landmark Hotel, than the one we enjoyed the first time in the city. The day started out a little cold, but by the time we had left the mountains, the sun was out and the temperature rose. Thirty minutes into the ride, the clouds closed around us. We traveled through mist till we arrived at the hotel. We are now about thirty km from Hanoi. We will go there tomorrow.

And we did. We arrived in the late morning one day ahead of our scheduled reservations. We were welcomed and given a room. We will be calling it home for the next five days.

After the check-in and some lunch, Anita settled into the room while I went to the ATM to get some money. The ATM rejected my request, spat out a piece of paper which told me to go to an HSBC Bank, give them the paper, and wait. It turned out that it had been so long since I had used the debit card that the card had been deactivated for my protection. All I had to do was show the people my passport. I did not have my passport, because security requires that the passport be held at the hotel. I grabbed a taxi and headed back to the hotel, retrieved my passport; and asked the hotel to call another cab. I waited. One of the security guards volunteered to drive me to the bank using my motor bike. He drove. I rode. The bank activated my card. We returned to the hotel. I then headed for the closest Honda shop for the 12000 km check up for the motorbike, not me. I was number nineteen in line and waited for more than an hour. The work was done. The bike was returned. I went back to the hotel for a well deserved rest.

Saturday we walked through the city and saw all the nearby sites that could be seen on a walking tour. We had lunch. We hopped on the bike to see the Old Citadel. We came back to the hotel to take it easy.

Midnight tonight begins the Tet holiday (Lunar New Year). There will be a big fireworks demonstration at 12:00 pm. I plan on sleeping through it. Everything in the city will be closed for at least three days. We will do a little more touring on the bike and have a few days of inactivity.

This morning we went to the Hanoi Hilton, the French presidential palace, the Temple of Literature, the One Pillar Pagoda. After lunch we will try to find the B 52 that landed in the lake.

This is supposed to be the dry season. It is the most rainy it has been EVER! No record show that the Red River has ever flooded at this time of year, and we were in it!

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


January 15, 2012

Dear All,
Monday and Tuesday we stayed in Ninh Binh with the soccer team from Binh Duong. We visited the largest Buddhist temple in Asia it was set on a hillside and went from the bottom of the hill to the top. It looked as though it is replacing a temple that was there before. It was a hike from bottom to the top.

On Tuesday we went to Van Long National Park and had a great boat ride through the wetland area. It was filled with beautiful birds and lots of animals. The Van Long park is being cared for by five communes. The goal of the communes is to make the park as Eco friendly as possible. They are doing a fantastic job. After the wetlands, we went to the Hua Lu Valley, where the ruling family built their retreat in the 1000's and the temple, Bich Dong Pagoda built in the 10th century. The temple was featured in the French movie Indocine.

Wednesday we moved to Nam Dinh and the Luxury Hotel. There was nothing to do there but eat across the street in a great restaurant and shop for more winter clothes for Anita. It was luxury in name only.

Thursday found us in Hai Phong at the Viet Trung Hotel. Hai Phong is the birthplace of that famous Vietnamese person you have all heard about many times, my right hand, Huyen.

Friday and Saturday we stayed in the Ha Long Plaza Hotel. We mostly relaxed after the ride then on Saturday we took a four hour boat ride around Ha Long Bay. The scenery is spectacular. One of the giant rocks that protrudes from the bay is actually a cave with fantastic draperies, stalactites, and stalagmites. The most photoed rock in the world was so surrounded by boats that we could not get close enough to take a picture, so I just took pictures of the boaters taking pictures. When we finished the boat trip, we walked the five km back to the hotel. Anita rested, and I repaired two holes in the rear tire of the motorbike.

This morniNg it was raining. Who was surprised? It rained all the way to Bac Ninh, the place where the Viet first came and the place Buddhism was first introduced. Tomorrow we will do a self tour of the area and visit some of the historical sites.

News from Anita:

It is difficult to believe that we are in the sixth week of our travels.

Do the children go to school? This is a good question because we see school aged children all of the time. Apparently school begins at 6:30 in the morning. Then sometime between 10:30 and noon, everyone goes home for lunch. There is no crossing guard or adult in sight. The children get on the bicycles and stream out of the gate onto the busy highway where the busses and trucks are rushing about. Sometimes the children go back to school in the afternoon.

A trip like this is full of surprises. We bought our ticket for the Ha Long Bay tour. Our choices were four or six hours. We decided four would be enough to get the flavor. No one mentioned that we would spend 40 minutes of the four hours walking up, down and through two caves! We had on far too many clothes for that much work. The caves were beautiful and well presented. In the second one, the workmen were getting ready for a dancing party!

We have had three days of sunshine the whole trip. We are excited when it doesn't rain! I bought some tights to wear under my slacks. I asked the clerk for really large. She held them up and stretched them out and said that they would fit me and she was right. They fit fine and are nice and warm. I also bought a turtle necked sweater and cotton socks. We bought rubber boots long ago and now with insoles they are warm. We also bought rain suits as opposed to ponchos that are open on the side. Terry has worn his out; it probably wasn't quite big enough for him. We have left the seaside and headed inland. This is supposed to be the dry season. We are ready for dry.

Most bike riders do not use their rearview mirrors to see what is behind them. They pay no attention to what is behind them. Mostly the mirrors are used for checking the face for whatever - hair, teeth, smile? You can tell how the mirror is used by the angle it is aimed. Terry uses the rearview mirror all of the time, even before he passes a bicycle or other motorbike.

Most houses in Vietnam are narrow and two or more stories. The ground level rooms are used as a small business. The upper ones are for living. There is usually a balcony facing the street on each of the upper floors. These balconies have plants and sometimes large religious figures. The roof is either flat or angled. Here in the north is another feature on many houses. Small cupolas of various designs and sizes with or without windows are plopped on top of the houses. I haven't seen any from the inside so can only guess what they look like or what they are used for. Spying on your neighbors?

I think the Buddhists and the Catholics are in competition to see who can build the tallest, biggest religious structures. Some of the Catholic churches are larger that the cathedrals in Europe. The local variety have the tallest bell towers I have seen anywhere. This past week we were at the largest Buddhist temple in Asia. It also has the largest (?) statue of Buddha. The only thing missing from the temple was monks. There were none. In the south the temples have many monks and nuns.

The adventure continues....

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


News from Anita:

It is difficult to believe that we are in the sixth week of our travels.

Do the children go to school? This is a good question because we see school aged children all of the time. Apparently school begins at 6:30 in the morning. Then sometime between 10:30 and noon, everyone goes home for lunch. There is no crossing guard or adult in sight. The children get on the bicycles and stream out of the gate onto the busy highway where the busses and trucks are rushing about. Sometimes the children go back to school in the afternoon.

A trip like this is full of surprises. We bought our ticket for the Ha Long Bay tour. Our choices were four or six hours. We decided four would be enough to get the flavor. No one mentioned that we would spend 40 minutes of the four hours walking up, down and through two caves! We had on far too many clothes for that much work. The caves were beautiful and well presented. In the second one, the workmen were getting ready for a dancing party!

We have had three days of sunshine the whole trip. We are excited when it doesn't rain! I bought some tights to wear under my slacks. I asked the clerk for really large. She held them up and stretched them out and said that they would fit me and she was right. They fit fine and are nice and warm. I also bought a turtle necked sweater and cotton socks. We bought rubber boots long ago and now with insoles they are warm. We also bought rain suits as opposed to ponchos that are open on the side. Terry has worn his out; it probably wasn't quite big enough for him. We have left the seaside and headed inland. This is supposed to be the dry season. We are ready for dry.

Most bike riders do not use their rearview mirrors to see what is behind them. They pay no attention to what is behind them. Mostly the mirrors are used for checking the face for whatever - hair, teeth, smile? You can tell how the mirror is used by the angle it is aimed. Terry uses the rearview mirror all of the time, even before he passes a bicycle or other motorbike.

Most houses in Vietnam are narrow and two or more stories. The ground level rooms are used as a small business. The upper ones are for living. There is usually a balcony facing the street on each of the upper floors. These balconies have plants and sometimes large religious figures. The roof is either flat or angled. Here in the north is another feature on many houses. Small cupolas of various designs and sizes with or without windows are plopped on top of the houses. I haven't seen any from the inside so can only guess what they look like or what they are used for. Spying on your neighbors?

I think the Buddhists and the Catholics are in competition to see who can build the tallest, biggest religious structures. Some of the Catholic churches are larger that the cathedrals in Europe. The local variety have the tallest bell towers I have seen anywhere. This past week we were at the largest Buddhist temple in Asia. It also has the largest (?) statue of Buddha. The only thing missing from the temple was monks. There were none. In the south the temples have many monks and nuns.

The adventure continues....


Sunday 1.8.12

Dear All,

Last week was basically a travel week. We had wind, rain, fog, cold every day but one. We kept wrapping ourselves in more and more clothes. The day before yesterday I broke down and bought a pair of jeans. We got Anita some new socks. We have just about figured out how to travel and stay warm.

We are now Less than 100 km from Hanoi. We are going to make it. We are in Thanh Hoa. We are spending two days here so we have time to see Nha Ho. It is one of the UNESCO Heritage sites in Vietnam. Emperor Ho was one of the emperors of long ago. He built the city in three months, and the reign lasted seven years.

So far we have been run off the road twice this week. It is not the truck drivers that are the most dangerous. It is the bus and private individuals that are the most inconsiderate. We have watched as busses and cars have passed on bridges, curves, one lane streets, and in construction sites.

The stretch of Vietnam that we have crossed is not renowned for its sights. Most of what we did was ride. We did detour to see the tunnels at Vinh Moc. They were created during the war. The town dug tunnels through the solid rock and lived in them for eight years. The holes in the rock are 45 feet underground. They are not quite tall enough for me to stand up straight. They were built to help the people supply the Vietnamese troops, and to protect the people from the bombings. As we passed through one of the many small villages, there was a sign in English that announced that there was live ordnance; and cautioned that people should take special care when they were off the beaten path. There are still farmers who lose their lives each year as they prepare the fields for planting. In the area of the tunnels, there are gigantic pock marks that cover the ground left from the bombs that we dropped.

The other site that we saw was Phong Nha Cave. It is a UNESCO world heritage site. The cave was 50km away from our hotel, so it was a wet ride to and from the cave. Once inside the cave we were dry. To get into the cave, we had to buy a ticket for a boat and a ticket to get into the cave. We boarded the boat and motored up river for about half an hour. When we reached the cave opening, the boat people shut off the motor and poled us up the river into the cave. We were able to get out of the boat twice to investigate two large rooms filled with draperies, stalactites and stalagmites. It is really spectacular.

This morning we got an early start and rode IN DRY WEATHER!!!!!!!! We went to Nha Ho, yet another UNESCO relic. We were able to see the original city wall, and the workers were digging in the soil uncovering what appeared to be the original road surface of flagstone. As they dug, they were uncovering many relics that they collected and then moved to the museum. At the rate they were going, they will soon need a larger museum.

We are off tomorrow to get another taste of old Vietnam in the town of Ninh Binh, about 89 km from here.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday 1.1.12

Dear Everyone,

Happy New Year!

We left Quang Ngai and headed for Hoi An in the rain. We arrived in the rain. There were a few moments when it did not rain, and those were treasured moments.

Hoi An is the third most visited city in Vietnam. It is not a large city. It was over run with tourists. The prices everywhere reflected the "Screw the tourist!" attitude. People who are on tour do not know the true price of things here, so they are willing to pay the gouge-um prices. In spite of the crowds, we stayed for two nights. After our arrival, we walked for a couple of hours to stretch out the motorbike muscles. We looked at a vast display of things to buy for tourists. Anita had her picture taken with a local shop vendor who promptly demanded a dollar for service. I bought a Vietnam flag tie. The second day we took a tour to one of the largest former city of Cham ruins in the world, My Son. It was the cultural center of the Cham for almost a thousand years. It was a tour well worth taking.

On Wednesday, we set out for Da Nang. We stayed two nights. We started walking and went to the Cham Sculpture Museum. It was filled with relics that had been salvaged from all the Cham ruins. Some of them were really spectacular. I got some good photos. We then went back to the hotel and set out for the Marble Mountains. There are 5 of them. In the not too distant past, the mountains were mined for their marble, which is beautiful, but now the mountains have much more potential as tourist attractions. The mountains can be climbed by a foot path, or tourists have the option of taking the elevator to the beginning of the walking paths that wind around and up and down the mountains. During the American War large groups of people lived in the hundreds of caves that are inside the layers of rock. There are many temples and shrines that are in constant use. From the lookout point facing the sea we looked out over China Beach, used in the aforementioned war as a recreation area for our troops. We did run into a group of Aussies from our hotel the night before on top of the mountain.

The next day we went out to the new resort Ba Na Mountain. There we rode the longest cable car span and the highest rise in elevation in the world. The top of the mountain it was still wrapped in clouds when we arrived. By the time we left, the sky was broken clouds, and we were graced with the only sunshine of the week. At the top of the mountain, there is an amusement park that is being built under the facade of castle turrets, inside the mountain. It is three stories of amusement. It is not even close to being completed, but what is there is pretty spectacular. The trip back down the mountain lasted for thirty minutes, the same as the trip up.

Other highlights in Da Nang are the bridges that are being constructed to span from the mainland to the island. One in particular had a light show that was displayed each night at dusk until dawn. There are seven sets of colored lights that dance in fascinating patterns along the suspension cables. We watched for an hour and could not tell that a light pattern was repeated.

We left the next morning in rain gear. It rained all the way to Hue. We had taken the route to Hue that led us over the highest, longest mountain pass in Vietnam. When we arrived in town, we were approached by people on motorbikes. They were all hustling different hotels, cheap of course, and being beaten by the rain and wind, we followed one to a hotel and stayed there for the night.

The next morning, we set our sights on finding the father of Ms. Hai, the nurse from the school. His village was well off the beaten path. We did eventually find him thanks to Hai's directions. He and his wife fed us a chicken soup lunch. In the rain and clouds, it was a much needed treat. We know the chicken was a fresh one, because it was running through the yard as we arrived. When we left, it was not to be seen. Hai's father learned his English during the war. He wanted to meet us, and we had agreed to do so. He had some good practice. He said he had not spoken English since 1976. He did well. Hai's father said that this is the rainy season in this area, and sometimes they do not see the sun for two months. There is a rumor that Monday will be clear. We will keep our fingers crossed.

Another big thank you to Hai must go out; because if we had not visited her father, we would have never come to the beautiful resort called Thanh Tan. It is set at the base of the mountain that faces Mr. Tran's house. On the mountainside, there is a hot spring that feeds this resort. We were swimming in water that ranged from 39 to 43 degrees Centigrade. There is a large cooling area to make the water cool enough in which to swim. The water that enters the cooling area is at 69 degrees Centigrade. We stayed in the pools for about an hour. We are spending the night here and heading north tomorrow. On our return trip to Binh Duong, we will return to Hue to see some of the many sights that we did not see.

We did head north. We left the resort and went back too tell Hai's father goodbye then we followed the GPS'S instructions and took a road that we had not explored before other than look at it on the GPS. After about 40 minutes of dodging potholes and mud puddles, the road became impassable. I asked a man at the side of the road where I had to go to get to 1A. He pointed in the direction from which we had come and indicated that the mud ahead was waist deep. We turned back and retraced our steps to 1A. It took the 40 minutes again, but we were finally on our way to Dong Ha. After two hours of really wet travel, we found a hotel, The Mekong, dropped our anchor, had some lunch and went to find some more adequate rain gear. We both bought boots. The lady who wanted to sell me a rain suit asked for way too high a price, so I will continue to wear the poncho.


Observations from Anita:

The adventure continues.

On beds - the Vietnamese seem to prefer beds that are between twin and double. Some hotels only have this size. Fortunately, some of the 3 star and higher have larger beds. Most folks here sleep with a blanket or nothing on top. The fancier places have a douvet (blanket inside a sheet like a giant pillow case. We never know what we are going to get. Last night at the hot springs, we had a normal sized bed with a sheet and that was it. We found some blankets, but no top sheet. Tonight, we are in a 3 star hotel with regular sheets.

We do try to find a massage place every day or two. Quality and prices range dramatically. We have had wonderful massages and some very hurried ones. Some ladies offer sex too, although they haven't asked me if I want sex. Two of the ladies did rub my nipples. That was a surprise and not part of a standard massage. We haven't really found a standard massage. Some of them have a technique where in they put their hands together and then whack you up and down. This is not my favorite variety. We will keep sampling. Back to sex, this is a favorite activity. At one of our local hospitals in southern Vietnam, a few years ago had 130 abortions for every 100 live births. That hospital is now down to 80 abortions per 100 live births mainly due to education of birth control.

We are now on day 15 and for at least 10 of those we were in a beach resort. The sand is golden and not ground down. You really sand your feet when you walk on it. The waves are wind generated and not too deep. Because of the rain, we have not had our bathing suits on until yesterday at the hot springs. Our suits are not dry yet but maybe they will be ready to pack tomorrow.

I think that the Vietnamese like Christmas, because they like the image of father, mother and child. The nativity scene is displayed everywhere. The season also gives people a reason to decorate, although fake snow flakes are quite a sight. Now everyone can decorate for Tet.

We have had no trouble finding a room. One place that opened last year said that they still had not had a busy time.

We have our order in for sunshine tomorrow! Hopefully the sun will shine on us. AD

We are thinking of you all. We hope that the new year brings goodness into your lives, and happiness into your soul.


Terry and Anita


Sunday 12.25.11

Merry Christmas, Everyone!

Monday we set out for Mui Ne. There were no problems. We arrived in the afternoon. One of the things that we wanted to do was see the sleeping Buddha. We did. I got some great pictures of it. I decided to download the pictures from my camera to the IPad. I realized that I had left my camera connection cable in Binh Duong. I then figured out that I could use the card reader that came with the cable connection package. I downloaded the photos. I was very proud of me so far. I checked the photos. Some we great others would need to go. I decided to empty the card for a fresh start the next day. I did. I looked at the pictures on the IPad again and realized that I had two sets of the same photos. I decided to remove one of the sets of photos. I thought I had done that. It turned out that I had removed all the photos. Day one to three were lost. I am learning how to use the IPad.

On Tuesday we left Mui Ne and headed to the north. We stayed the night in Phan Rang. We had a nice hotel, the Gia Vu 1. It rained for the second half of the day, so we picked the hotel without looking at the neighborhood. Since this was a fairly new area of town, there was no restaurant nearby. We asked at the desk where we could eat and we were given a card for a noodle shop. We actually found the place, had some good noodle soup with chicken, met a man who said he could get us jobs teaching English tomorrow. We respectfully declined.

The next morning we found the Chan ruins just west of the city. The ruins are the place that was used to worship one of the last kings of the country. They are still used for some celebrations. We returned to the hotel, packed up and headed north to Cam Ranh where the U$A had a large air base during the American War.

There were no hotels of note in Cam Ranh, so we pushed on to Nha Trang. We found a nice hotel with a view of the sea. The next morning we were on the way to Tuy Hoa, another city on the coast. There were no tourists there. It is a beautiful spot. It has a beach that is easily 5 kilometers long. The wind blows directly into the beach and the waves break with a regular curl. It is a far better area than Mui Ne. There were no other tourists. The owner of the hotel stopped and chatted for a while. He is Vietnamese and made his money in the Netherlands. He came to the area to build a hotel in preparation for the tourist boom that is sweeping Vietnam. We were two of the three guests in the hotel, the Long Beach Hotel. What a fantastic find! The hotel is beautiful. The setting is perfect. Now someone other than us has to find it.

Today we are in Quy Nhon after a breathtaking drive up the coast. The wind and rain were pretty relentless until we stopped. Then the sun came out. The sea coast is spectacular it rises high into towering mountains on the left side of the road. We are once again in a beachside hotel on the seventh floor overlooking the deserted beach.

This morning, Christmas, we are headed from Sa Huynh Resort to Quang Ngai. It should take about two hours. For the past two days we have battled strong north winds that had gusts up to 30 km per hour. It rained most of yesterday. The scenery is spectacular, but the weather does not make it easy to take pictures. The wind has died a bit this morning. The trip may be a bit more interesting and enjoyable not fighting wind and rain.

The resort has a four star rating with two star amenities. With the exception of the cook, most of the staff do not speak English. The most maddening thing is the Vietnamese reluctance to try to understand what the ugly foreigner is saying in less than passable Vietnamese. Last night we wanted a bottle of wine with our dinner. Trying to explain "Vang DaLat" proved to be impossible. It was not until I went back to the room and brought our own bottle of wine that the staff understood what we wanted. Then, of course, they did not have any; so we opened our own.

We are now in Guang Ngai. We are here just for the night. Tomorrow we head for Hoi An. We will spend at least two days taking some tours to see My Son. There are Cham ruins there that are supposed to be pretty spectacular.

We are 100 km short of the halfway to Hanoi point. Not too bad for 900 km on the road.

We are thinking of you all and do wish you all a Merry Christmas.


Terry and Anita

Sent from my iPad


Sunday 12.18.11

Dear All,

Monday we attended the graduation ceremony for our friend Dong. It was a memorable event. She was really happy to have an end to the long process of sitting in classes. We only took a few hundred pictures which she promptly put on her Facebook page. If you are a Facebook user, you can find them on her home page. She is "Wintermarbles".

The rest of the week Anita planned our trip to Hanoi while I ran errands that needed to be run. The most important one was the making of big pieces of paper into smaller pieces to simulate snowflakes. Lam and I cut for at least 3 hours total. We used the paper inside a balloon made out of plastic tarps after it was inflated by a big, powerful fan. The students had a great time having "snowball" fights inside the balloon. We could fit 10 people at a time into the balloon. A good time was had by all. The gala event was held to celebrate the last day of the school term.

On Saturday we set off on our trip to Hanoi. We are now in the middle of our second day. Our first day was used to travel from Binh Duong to Ho Coc, a small town on the sea coast. There is a hot spring and mud bath near by that we wanted to experience, but it was way too expensive and over the top in terms of commercialization; so we found the place looked, and came back to the Ven Ven hotel for the night. It too was over priced, but we stayed anyway since it was the least of the overpriced hotels.

We started out this morning for Mui Ne. On the way we passed the largest sleeping Buddha in south east Asia. Since it is nearly 50 kilometers away from our hotel in Mui Ne, we decided to stay two nights in the hotel; and return to the Buddha tomorrow morning. We are staying in the same hotel we stayed in over a year ago when we made our trip to Da Lat. The people running the hotel, the Mai Am Resort, recognized us from our last stay. We were both amazed.

It looks like we will be taking between two and three weeks to get to Hanoi. The IPad is fantastic as a GPS. It is doing a great job of finding us when we have been misplaced.

We did find out that there are no more areas in Northern Vietnam that are closed to tourism, so we will be spending more time in the north than we had originally planned. There are many sights that we keep learning about as we continue our tour.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dear All,

My apologies for not being well prepared for last week's letter. Hopefully this is a new beginning. I now have an App that can handle a group mailing.

A week ago Friday, we headed for Cat Tien National Park for the Forest Floor Resort and later Madagiu Resort. We spent the better part of the week investigating both places.

Forest Floor Resort is set beside a part of the Song Dong Nai where there are a beautiful set of rapids to watch as one has a drink in the evening, or a meal on the deck. We stayed in a semi-rigid tent that had a king size bed, king size mosquito net, hot water shower, air conditioning and a fan to move the air when there was electricity. In the front of the tent there was a deck that overlooked the rapids and some of the vegetation that grows in the jungle, and it was jungle. We spent the afternoon of the first day relaxing the rear which was not used to riding for 4 hours.

Day two saw us up at an early hour for breakfast and afterward, a tour of the rehabilitation center for the primates called gibbons and loris. We were able to see the process of rehab from th first step to the last. It is a long and difficult task to wean the primates wawy from human dependancy to being able to be released into the wild where the animals had to survive on their own. The program seems to be meeting with some success. In the afternoon we took a two hour walk down the road to see what we could see.

Day two we took a walking tour to the honeybear rehab unit where we learned about the difficulties of rehabing bears to the wild. The process is similar to the primates. The animals are slowly removed from human contact until they're able to survive on their own. In the afternoon we took a 22km round trip walk to see "Heaven Rapid". That is what it was. A single rapid. There was a lot of moving water. On the way we did see some larger primates and listened to lots of new bird sounds.

The last morning we walked to "Uncle Dong's" tree, a 4 to 6 hundred year old tree in the forest. After the walk we packed up and headed to Madagui Resort.

Madagiu is more modern and less primitive than Forest Floor. It is basically a giant resort that is growing faster than the maintenance guys can take care of what is there. Unfortunately, the state of most to the resort is barely adequate for someone with high expectations. Luckily we were prepared to walk around all the paths and walkways that the resort had. We covered lots of territory and saw everything that the resort had to offer. One of the most positive notes was that the food was excellent.

We returned to Binh Duong on Friday and have spent the last two days getting ready for our next trip which will begin at the end of this week. We will taking the BIG PLUNGE and head for Hanoi and beyond. The trip will last for five or six weeks.

We hope you are all well. We are having fun,


Terry and Anita


And, a note from Anita...

We had five great days in the small remaining forests of southern Vietnam. The whole southern section of Vietnam used to be covered in forests. Then came the French for 100 years. Then we Americans dropped Agent Orange all over the place. Thirty million people now live in the area and the forests are feeling the pressure. Fortunately, the government has formed many National Parks and had good people running them. I mean people with the opposite idea of most Vietnamese people who think everything should be killed and eaten or used. Unfortunately it is too late for the rhinoceros, and maybe for the elephants too. The birds and smaller animals are finding a wonderful home and the local people are learning to value their surroundings. That is the biggest job of those in charge is to convince everyone that they can make more money from showing everything to tourists rather than pouching and selling.

First we stayed at Forest Floor in the Cat Tien National Park. We had a tent with electricity and took many walks and enjoyed the cooler air and quietness. Second we stayed in a Vietnamese resort where we enjoyed the food, the walking and various activities that they have available.

We are getting better at traveling. Terry is great at driving the bike. He gives everyone else plenty of room. Route 20 which we were on for 70 kms was partially built by the Americans back then and has not been brought up to date. One lane each was is supposed to handle busses, trucks, cars and all of those motor bikes. We are hoping that this was the second worse road in Vietnam. (We were on the worst one in the Mekong Delta!)

The iPad is remarkable. Dong helped Terry get the iPad set up to use cell phone towers to triangulate. We can see exactly where we are on the map! It is wonderful to use! We will get more time on the card to connect the computer to the internet so we can be in better shape to communicate as we head off.

It is not too late if anyone wants to join us!


Sunday, November 27, 2011

Dear All,

At the end of last week, Regan informed me that the company had hired someone from South Africa to teach in my place. He told me that I was far too verbal in pointing out the weaknesses in the corporation and the school. I am not disappointed in terms of not teaching at the school, even though Regan did ask me to teach one more week, because the new teacher will not be there for another week. I will do it for the kids and the teachers at the school. I am most disappointed that this may signal an end to our relationship with Vietnam and the people that we have come to know, support and love. All three of these things will continue, even if at a great distance. I will explore a few other windows of opportunity as the time allows, but I do not have too much hope at this point.

While I have been working at the school, Anita has been exploring more yoga, reading, and generally living the life of a decadent woman. I think she loves it. She deserves it after all these years.

I did not tell you that two weeks ago Peter Baker, the head of all the schools, came to visit and give a pep talk to all of us. Basically he said that if the parents complain that the fees are too high, they should move to another school, because this school's fees are very low. Our school is a "Ford" and the other schools that charge the high fees are "Mercedes". I love the inanity of this man. For those of you who do not remember The Peter Principle from the 1960's, this man is the embodiment of the premise of the book. "Eventually all people rise to their own level of incompetence and most do not realize that it has happened. Those who do recognize the progression take the steps necessary to make corrections." Walking proof is alive in Vietnam.

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving. We entertained Dong, Lam, Will, Sharon, Kim and ourselves with a dinner served at 1:00 on Saturday. We had a turkey, stuffing, cranberry with candied ginger, green beans with plain ginger and mushrooms, white mashed potato, turkey gravy, sweet potato with marshmallow, apple pie, wine, beer, and great stories. We are going to feast on turkey sandwiches tonight. The only thing missing were the Bowl Games.

We picked up two more rattan chairs for Sharon after breakfast this morning then Anita and I found Eastern International University in New Binh Duong City, and Twin Doves Golf Course, a new course that will have its grand opening next Saturday.

Next week we will head out on Sunday for Cat Tien. the largest national park in Vietnam. We will spend a few days exploring the area before returning to attend the gala event at the Song Be Golf Resort.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 20, 2011

Dear All,

The week flew by. It was fun. I think the children learned some things. I was not really able to do my own things since I was substituting. At the end of the week, Regan asked me to do one more week and added that he wished I could stay longer. I told him I would do one more week. If he wanted me any longer, he would have to convince the company that I should be overseas hire. If that were the case I would stay longer. I guess I will know by the end of the week where I stand with the company. I am ready to travel with Anita if nothing materializes. I can elaborate more when I know something definitive. We have not discussed a length of time that would meet all our expectations.

I was training the ladies at Song Be Golf course in swimming over the last few months, because they are going to participate in a pirate extravaganza to celebrate the holiday season. Anita and I want to watch the show, so we are not going to start any trip to Hanoi until after the show. School may interfere. Who knows.

The rainy season has started to abate. We do not get rain every day any more. It is hot and humid. The only time we are really comfortable outside is when we are riding the scooter.

We are planning to do a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday. We will be inviting our friends from school and all the overseas hire teachers. I have a turkey and most of the other items are available in various supermarkets. We will be getting things started on Thursday, so we can be prepared when the day comes.

We wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. We hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Dear All,

Last Friday morning I was approached by Regan, the school head, who asked me if I could fill in for one of the teachers that day. At the end of the day, he asked me if I could fill in for a week or two. I agreed to do so.

On Wednesday Anita and I donated an American flag to the school. Regan wanted flags from all the countries that are or have been represented. I do not know where they will displayed.

After the donation took place, Anita and I headed for the downtown to locate the driver's license issuing building. We found the address. There was no building. We searched. It just was not there. I went back to the place that Huyen and I tried to get the paperwork done and were told to go back to the address that we had investigated earlier in the morning. We went back. I got off the bike and started to look. There was an alley. I followed the alley. Every house in the alley had the number 252, the same number for which we were looking. I finally took out my driver's license and started waving it to anyone who would let me close enough to show them the card. They all pointed to the next alley. Sure enough all the doors in that alley had the number 252. The first official looking building turned out to be a school. We parked the bike there. The bike guard came over to us and pointed down the alley to another building. It was number, You guessed it., 252. It had closed for lunch at 12:00. We arrived at 12:02. We waited.

At 1:00 the door opened. we went in and were guided up the stairs where I approached a woman behind a counter. She took my paperwork and then explained that I needed photocopies of the documents. Luckily there was a copy machine downstairs. Each copy cost 1000 VND, about 5 U$A cents. After filing all the papers, I was given a paper that instructed me to return on the 17th with the old license, passport, residence card, and work permit. That is going to happen next Thursday. I hope.

Today I went to Hanh Phuc Hospital to discover that Dr. Pham is not coming back to the hospital and is going to try to set up clinics in Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong Delta. His plan for an English teacher was vetoed. I have one more option for getting a job here. I will follow up on it soon.

Anita has planned some great trips. I do not want anything to interfere again. We are going to just have to hold onto the plan and follow it no matter what happens after this week or so of teaching.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are all well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Dear All,

The week has flown by. Neither of us suffered jet lag, so we were off and running from the first day back.

On Monday, I started my swimming lessons at the Song Bei Golf course. I have had between one and 12 students. I have been teaching every week day from 5 to 6pm. On Tuesday and Thursday I have been tutoring a former student of mine. I am not sure why. She is a brilliant girl and really does not need the extra stuff, but her mother wants it.

When I asked Huyen what she wanted from the U$A, she said to bring back something that was unique about the country. I took some photos of the Towanda and Wysox area as it was shrouded in the mist and fog from typical fall mornings, and had them printed on 8 1/2 by 11 paper and bound into a book. I think she liked the scenes. I took particular care to photograph an apple tree beside the road near my home. It was still bearing fruit, big, red apples. She had never seen an apple tree before. She may have liked that one the best. I also bought back some hickory nuts and a couple of black walnuts that I found. I think she liked them as well.

Many of the teachers wanted to see the video of Hua Hua's show. Some of them sat through the whole show, others were not as interested. Those who watched the whole thing were impressed that there was a message in the show even though there were no spoken words.

I thought I was going to have no problem getting my driver's license renewed. I could have not been farther from the truth. Huyen and I went into Ho Chi Minh City to get the license renewed with great hopes. Unfortunately the building was not where it was supposed to be according to the map, so we wasted about 30 minutes finding it. It is a government building, so when you take a motor or bicycle through the gate, you must push it with the motor turned off. (A sign of respect.) We pushed and went into the building. There we found out that I needed 4 photos that were 3cm by 4cm. I also needed to have my new driver's license translated by an official, government translator, and the translation must have the official government seal. Tomorrow I will start on the translation. I have no idea how long this process will last, but I am going to try to get it done in a week.

I had already wasted more than an hour of Huyen's time, and it was Friday; so we headed back to Binh Duong where she found an official government building that had a translator section. She told me that I could take all my paperwork there, and someone would be able to speak English to help me get it translated. Tomorrow I will find out. The trip back and the government building stop wasted another hour or so. The second government building where the translation will take place did not allow me to go inside, because I was wearing shorts. Huyen explained that to get into the building, I need to wear long pants that cover my ankles. She said it does not matter what kind of cover, like pajamas, as long as they are long. I am thinking about what I need to wear.

Just before our aforementioned foray into the city, we attended a farewell lunch for Ms. Ly, the teacher whose place Huyen will take. Huyen starts a new job as an official teacher of K-1 students on Monday, so I really cut into her preparation time. I will be forever grateful for the time she has shared with me to help ease the frustration of bureaucracy. I am sure that she will be ready. She is an excellent teacher. She was recently awarded her teaching certificate at a recent school function.

The other project that I had asked Huyen to help me with was installing a different horn on the motorbike. I had researched the internet and bought the loudest horn I could find for a motorbike. I do not like to have the same meep, meep, meep sound that all the other motorbikes have. No one listens to it. Now I have a horn that sounds like a semi-tractor trailer. People listen and avoid. It makes life a little easier.

Today we went out for our usual breakfast out at the Golf Club. Sharon, our friend, who allows us to share her apartment went with us. It is getting to be old times again. It is great to be back.

Anita is planning our next trip. We will be motorbiking to Cat Tien, a National Park for animals. Unfortunately the remaining Sumatran rhinos that were the reason for being for the park recently died. We may see them, but not in a live state. There are supposed to be lots of birds and butterflies. We hope to be off at the end of next week. The trip will take about a week to complete.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 30, 2011

Dear All,

We are back in Binh Duong. We started our journey at noon on Thursday. We visited Bob in the rehab facility. He was in great spirits and was as coherent as we had seen since we had arrived in Philadelphia. After a short visit, we set out for the Newark, New Jersey airport. It took just over two hours to get there in a driving rain. We said see you in about six months and were soon waiting to check in at the ticked sales. We were informed that the tickets were not issued until 7:30. That was only a 2 1/2 hour wait. So we waited.

It turned out that the attendant who was setting up the ticket booths was from the Da Lat area in VIetnam, so we had a long conversation about living and traveling in Vietnam. When the ticket sales began, he made sure that we were in the front of the line to be issued the tickets. The flight was supposed t leave at 11:30, but it was not until just after midnight that we actually boarded the plane. Our flight lasted 8 hours to Anchorage, Alaska. There we waited for two hours while the plane was refueled. We dragged ourselves onto the plane and rode for 9 hours to Taiwan. We waited two hours and boarded the plane to HCMC. The flight lasted three hours. We crawled off the plane and slithered our way to the taxi line which seemed like forever. Our taxi ride was an hour back to the apartment. Sharon met us there. There was a sign hanging on the fence, which the read, "Welcome Home IPad and Terry and Anita."

Sharon had moved out of the apartment on the third floor and into a first floor apartment, because the landlord did not want to take the time or spend the money to insure that his foreign renters were properly registered with the authorities. All of our belongings that we had left behind were stacked or piled or boxed or bagged carefully and filled the room. We cleared the bed, and finished unpacking and putting away this morning. We went out for lunch in a restaurant we had never tried before. It was great food. I took Sharon to find a bicycle. She rode home on it, so I completed my errands and came home in time to finish this letter off.

Jet lag has set in, but we are going to fight it as best we can.

We are thinking of you and hope you are well.

Love to you all.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Dear All,

It is Saturday evening. We spent the last two days moving Bob from Jefferson Hospital in downtown Philadelphia to Devon Manor, a rehabilitation center much closer to Boothwyn. HH is off at the rehab hospital to feed Bob, her husband. She had me cook baby back ribs, fried potatoes with onions and garlic, and she packed a veggie or two. She will probably be home about 9:00 tonight.

This week has been recovery from the late nights with HH's show and trying to get the last minute stuff ready for our trip back to Vietnam. We are almost there. We are going to need to buy an extra suitcase to carry all the stuff back. There were some requests for things that would be nice to have, and there are some presents for those who have been promised.

I think we are both ready to get back. I have some swimming lessons to get caught up on. Maybe there will be some tutoring as well. I have been asked to help out with an afternoon activity at school, Shadow Mask puppetry. I have agreed to do so. It will start after the end of term break in the second week of November. I will have a chance to work with Huyen. It will be great to help her out after all she has done for me during our life in Binh Duong.

Bart Roccoberton, a professor at The University of Connecticut, HH's director, friend of many years, and fellow world wide traveller, was here to help HH out with her show. He discovered a beer called "Midas Touch". The recipe for the beer is based on the residue found in some old amphorae from ancient Rome. It is available here at the largest liquor store I have ever seen. I managed to snap some pictures of the insides of the market before I was gently told that the management frowned upon that sort of thing. It is potent stuff. If you are ever driving south on U$ 95, take the first exit in Delaware, Naamen's Road. Turn into the shopping area immediately on the right. Look to the back of parking area on the left. It will stagger your imagination. (And your wallet if you go in.)

I have purchased an IPad. It is really fun. One of the APP''s for it is called "Pandora", another "Bart find". It is free. It is customizable. After you have the APP, you can choose an artist to whom you like to listen, and it will play his songs and other artists with a similar style. It is all free. Great music never was so easy or cheap. I hope there are other people who like Leo Kottke otherwise I might be an outcast when I am carrying.

It is now Sunday morning. We are getting ready to have a jiaozi fest. HH had invited some of our friends. It is 2º Celcius this morning. I actually broke down and bought a set of sweat pants and sweat shirt. Vietnam is looking better all the time. It is still Sunday in Vietnam. I want this to get out on time.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Monday, October 17, 2011

Dear All,

It is Saturday afternoon. It is Sunday morning in Vietnam. I am at a disadvantage when it comes to getting a letter published on Sunday morning in the U$A, because I do not have the extra time zones to play with.

We have spent this week helping Hua Hua get ready for her show. Thursday night was the dress rehearsal and last night was opening night. The show will have tonight for its last performance. So far the shows have been fantastic. Hua Hua has teamed with Kun Yang and his dance troupe. The dancers needed to learn to work with the puppets. Learning to work with the puppets is more than just carrying them across the stage. The puppet operator must be able to interact with the puppets as though they are human. This interaction brings life to the puppets. Most of the dancers have done a great job at learning how to interact. Only a few of them were too self-centered to be able to let go of the dancer's persona and connect with the puppet. Hua Hua is a genius when it comes to combining movement, music, dance and puppets. I hope I will have a DVD to share with those interested in seeing her show.

The weather here is getting cooler. It is comfortable to sleep with the windows open at night. The leaves are changing rapidly, but do not have much color this year. I must admit that I do miss this climate, but not the lack of humidity. I guess one cannot have both.

The traffic here in the Philadelphia area is incredible. I do not see how people get from one place to another on time. There is highway work on both the northbound and the southbound main artery that carries people to and from the city. What should take 45 minutes to drive can take over two hours on any given day. The worst part of it is that there is no predictable time that the traffic will be better or worse.

It is now Sunday, late in the morning. Bart, Hua Hua's teacher, director, mentor, and friend has just left. He came to Boothwyn for the week to help Hua Hua and the cast members polish the show. The polish showed last night. There was a standing ovation from the audience at the end of the performance. I videotaped three sessions of the show. Hua Hua will take the tapes, combine and mix them into a DVD. Her ability to edit video material is yet another facet of her that continues to amaze all who see her work.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well. LG


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 9, 2011

Dear All,

This week has certainly flown by. We have spent some time in Pennsylvania with our family. It was great to see my Aunt Betty. Her husband, Uncle Don, passed away a few months ago. It was good to see that she is moving ahead with her life. We were lucky enough to stay with her for the days we were in Towanda.

We are heading back to Boothwyn, Pa. to help Hua Hua complete the final touches for her show that opens in the Annenberg theater on Friday night.

We were also lucky to see my sister and brother in law and their new home that is almost completed. They have been staying in our home while theirs was being built. It is almost complete. We had a quick tour of the building. It is going to be a beautiful house when it is completed.

We both wanted to get our driver's licenses renewed. We went to the drivers' license office and were told that we could not renew the licenses since they had not gone out of date. We explained that they would no longer be valid when we went back to Vietnam. They told us to apply on line. We have done so and now must wait until the paperwork clears Harrisburg, Pennsylvania's state capitol. It might be done in time. We may need to make another trip to Towanda to complete the necessary issuance of the photographs.

Monday is our wedding anniversary. We do not have any plans yet. Who could believe that we have been married for 44 years.

While in Towanda, we visited our friends, Dan and Karen. For those of you who have followed the weather news, you know that only a few weeks ago hurricane Lee blasted the east coast. Our hometown was particularly hard hit with 84 hours of continuous rain. The Susquehanna River rose and flooded lots of farmers' fields, people's houses along the river and generally wreaked havoc. Luckily our house only got about 15 inches of ground water in the basement. Dan and Karen, just 300 meters down river from our house got buried in mud and water that covered the first floor of their house. They were still without power and were attempting to clean out the mess. They were in relatively good spirits considering what has to be done.

The biggest thing that we have noticed coming back to Pennsylvania is the lack of humidity. We have both dried out. I need Chapstick. I need moisturizer for my skin. We both cannot believe how dry it is after being in a humid climate for more than two years. I must say that the humid climate is much more comfortable.

Today, Sunday, we are off for a little more shopping this morning. Later today I will go to see the rehearsal of Hua Hua's show. She wants me to video it, so I need to look to see what should be done.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Dear Everyone,

Here is the finale of our trip through the Mekong delta. It was a fantastic trip. We are both looking forward to completing our plans to go north and visit the other half of Vietnam.

We are in Chau Doc for two nights. We are in a hotel called the Chou Pho. It is a 3 star hotel and all its prices are quoted in dollars. It is way more expensive than we had expected. I guess the management of the hotel is taking its lead from Cambodia where the general population expects to be paid in dollars.

We got a late start so I could go to the bank to get some VND. After collecting some cash, we headed for the foot of Nui Sam. (Mount Sam) We parked the bike at the bottom of the mountain and started up the footpath one step at a time. It took almost 1½ hours to climb to the top. There are hundreds of little places to pray as the path winds up the mountain. Every one of them has sticks of burning incense in them, and almost every one of them has one or more persons making an offering or a prayer. Inside all the larger temples that dot the hillside there is a monk or a nun who sits beside the altar and gently taps a gong as the mendicants work their way through their prayers.

By the time we made it to the top, we had perspired all of the water we had consumed on the way up and before leaving. We were as wet as if we had been standing in a rainstorm. At the top of the mountain we were greeted with a spectacular view of the Mekong River in full flood stage. Looking toward Cambodia, there was nothing but water and some standing trees. Here and there were unfortunate buildings that had not been placed on long enough stilts and were submerged at different levels.

The walk back down the mountain took less than half an hour. We dripped our way to the motorbike and were warmly greeted by all the bikers who tried to get us to ride to the top with them rather than having us walk. There were many nods of approval as we fired up the bike and headed down the road that encircles the base of Sam. There are temples all the way around the base of the mountain and a monument to the American War heroes who lost their lives defending the country. I noticed a road that was more patched than road and saw a sign that said it was the road to the top of the mountain. We made a U turn and headed up the mountain by bike just to say we had done it.

Tomorrow we will get on one of the better highways in Vietnam and head south to Can Thu, one of the largest cities in the Mekong. It will be at least a 3-hour bike ride.

All along the roads the Mekong River is flooded. There have been heavy rains in Cambodia and the flooding is far greater than people expected. Lots of houses are partially under water.

Actually the ride was a bit longer. We left the hotel at 8:30 and headed down the road. After about 90 minutes of driving, I realized that our passports had not been returned to us. U turn time! We retrieved the passports and set out once again. We stayed ahead of the rain all the way. We arrived at Can Thu at about 4:00. It was a long day and neither of us was too excited about doing much. We found our hotel, the Ninh Kieu Hotel.

One interesting sight we saw was a boat that was stuck under a bridge. I am sure it was because the level of the river was so high. The captain, driver, of the boat certainly had a quizzical look on his face as if to say, "I have always gone under this bridge every day. What is going on?" The police were investigating.

As we took a short wander downtown, we were surprised to see the amount of water in the streets. After a while we discovered that the water in the streets was flowing down the streets. The street was being fed by the drains along the road. The river was over its banks in the middle of town, and it was filling up the roads. We headed back to the room. Today we learned that the water had crested over 2 meters above the flood stage.

After a short rest we wandered down to the patio for a beer. It was raining. We hid under an umbrella and enjoyed our beer. We set out to get a massage. This hotel was the first place that charged us an exorbitant price and offered us very little in the way of services. We returned to the desk and got our money back, went to the room; and watched TV until it was time to go to bed. When we got up this morning it was still raining.

It took us more than 30 minutes to find our road out of town. People just point out a direction and tell you that is the way. Most of them were wrong. We finally got some good help at a motorbike sales. No one spoke English, but they had a long conversation and drew us a map, which worked. We are now in My Tho in a hotel. It is a room with a bed. It is enough. It rained about half the trip. We were in and out of rain gear more than once.

The next day we were on our way to HCMC. The trip was actually coming to an end. We arrived home at about 10:30 am in full sunshine, a real treat after the last two days of drizzle. We both unpacked and did loads of wash. I was able to run to school, after a much-needed shower, to say hello to all of my favorite ladies. It was great to be back in familiar, comfortable territory.

Monday we are on our way to the U$A. We will be in Philadelphia and Towanda. One goal is to touch base with our family, Hua Hua and Bob, and check our house that was partially flooded in the hurricane. The main reason that we are back is to see Hua Hua's show at the Annenberg Theater. You can check out the billing at http://www.pennpresents.org. Look for Hua Hua Zhang. We are so proud of her for the effort that she has made. We can hardly wait to see the show.

The pictures have been posted at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. Look for the caption, Mekong River 2 Week Trip. (Second Row Down Third from the left)

Note from Anita:

This is a typical day of our journey: get up when we wake up, usually before six. I do an hour of yoga while Terry catches up with the world on the internet. We breakfast about 7:30 or 8:00. Then we pack up and head out on the motorbike. Most days we drove about 100 kilometers (60 miles). The day of the forgotten passports, we drove about 200 kilometers. (120 miles) We would lunch in the new town and then sightsee or rest. I took my kindle with four new books on it. Late afternoon we would find a massage. Then it is beer time and dinner time. By 9 we were in bed so we would be ready to head out the next day. About every four days, we would stay in the same place two nights so we could get laundry done. I don't know if you would call this roughing it, but it works for us.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita

Sunday, September 25, 2011

We left Tra Vinh early, 7:30. We traveled for three hours to Soc Trang. There were two ferry crossings. We spent about 1 and a half hours ferrying. The first ferry was the longest since we got there just as the previous one departed. The captain of the boat wanted to make the ride as profitable as possible, so we waited what seemed like an hour; but in reality it must have been 30 minutes. Since this was our second ferry ride, I should have been an old hand at it; but I have not mastered the art of spinning the motorbike around on the kickstand. I think people were shaking their heads as I fumbled the bike into position. (I won't mention that I was not any better on the second ferry.)

We found the one three star hotel in Soc Trang. It was not too difficult. It is a beautiful hotel called Ngoc Phuong. There may be three other guests staying here. It has a swimming pool for kids and one for adults, massage, tennis, karaoke, Jacuzzi, steam bath, and bar and restaurant. I do not understand why the guest population is so small.

Our friend from Taiwan, Pei Chi, sent us some moon cakes and dried mango for the Moon Festival. We enjoyed the moon cakes on the night of the Moon Festival. Now the dried mango is coming in very handily. Whenever we are feeling a little hungry, it is easy to open the back pack and take out a piece or two of the mango and enjoy it as we head down the road.

After a short wander around the premises, we had lunch. It was excellent. The taste must have been Vietnamese. We had never had it before. The food consisted of chicken, cut up Asian style, and bok choi fried in garlic and oil. We had our own pitcher of iced Vietnamese tea. The window beside our table overlooked the water that surrounded the dining area on two sides. It was called a floating restaurant. While we were waiting for the lunch, people came by and threw in small loaves of bread called banh mi. Half a loaf of bread disappeared in one splash of a fish's tail. That fish and many of his brothers and sisters schooling in the water under the bread were gigantic. Many of them could top the scales at 3 kilos. (7 pounds)

After lunch we headed to some of the many temples in the area. The first temple that we saw, Theravada Pagoda, we were not supposed to miss it according to the guide books. Someone famous is buried there. We do not know more than that. Next we went to the Temple called Chua Doi. It is the temple that provides trees for a super large colony of fruit bats. We watched the bats for a while then one of the monks walked over to us and started to talk to us in English. He was dropped off at the temple when he was a baby and has been there for 26 years. After the temple tours, we returned to the hotel for a rest and a swim. We will eat dinner here tonight and breakfast buffet in the morning. We will then be heading out for Ca Mau to the south on LO 1A about 130km away.

We got a good start on the day. We drove to find the bird sanctuary in Bac Kieu. We found a sign in English that said it was the entry to the tourist area. We drove 20km out the road and did not see a bird. We stopped once on the way and were told to continue in the same direction for 5km more. We did that. At the end of 5km we stopped and asked where the bird sanctuary was. Most of the people had never heard of it. Then two little old ladies started to smile and talk an a million miles a minute. We were told that we needed to go back 7km to the sanctuary. We turned around and headed back. After 7km we stopped again and asked and were told to go back the way we had come 10km. We decided that no one knew where the place was. Most of them did not know anything about it. After more than an hour looking, we decided to head for Ca Mau.

We arrived on the outskirts of Ca Mau just as a light rain started to fall. When it got heaver, we put on rain gear. Soon after we put on the ponchos, the sun came out. We took them off. We had chosen a hotel to stay in over the internet, but we had not made a reservation. When we found the hotel, we were told that they had no rooms. The second hotel gave the same response. The third hotel, Hai Chau Hotel, had a room. We will spend the night here and head out to Rach Gia. It will be our longest day on the bike, about 160km. If we survive that, we will be fine the rest of the trip.

The rain continued most of the night. It was still raining when we got up. As we ate breakfast the rain turned into a downpour. As we packed up the bike the downpour turned into a nightmare. We put on our rain clothes and headed out of town to the north. We drove about 15 minutes, and I realized that we had not filled the gas tank. I have this deathly fear of running out of gas and pushing the bike, so we turned around and found the nearest gas station. We started back to the north again. We drove for 5 hours through rain, sunshine, drizzle, sunshine, rain, sunshine, drizzle, sunshine….You get the idea.

We arrived in Rach Gia just after 12:00. We found the hotel only having to ask directions twice. It is a 4 star hotel that has been open for 6 months. Personally I think someone should revoke 2 of the stars until they can get all the elevators working, can be ready for guests in the dining room, do not have to move guests from one room to another because of mechanical problems….. I think you understand. We plan on one night then we will move further up the road to a beach area. There are lots of hotels, according to the guide book.

We are now in Hon Chong. It was about 90km of driving and took 3 hours, because the road is narrow. There are guest houses, but few hotels. We have chosen the Hon Trem Resort. You can check it out here.


I think we will stay for two nights. We will explore the area tomorrow to see what is here. I hope there are some things to see. There may be two other guests at the hotel. I was told to park our bike outside the entrance so it could be more easily watched.

There is a small temple about 200 meters from the entrance to the hotel. It is pretty run down, but there are some monks. Some of the insides of the buildings are well taken care of. The altars are all set and there is incense burning at each one of them.

The one road is lined with shanty houses. Dogs maintain their territories and pigs patrol the street. All the animals are looking for food. Some of the sidewalk is covered with rice yet to be hulled and drying in the sun. Each of the little houses is used selling something. Most of them are related to fishing and things from the sea. The others are sort of a general store front with living quarters in the back. Every little shanty has a television and a satellite dish. The people are friendly and all have smiles for us strangers with the pointed noses.

At the end of the road there is another small temple. It is incredibly active. There are people making offerings all over the place. The neat thing about the temple is that at the far right side of the building is an opening that is formed by a rock formation. When you go through the opening, it becomes another altar and temple inside the mountain. The path continues to the other side of the mountain where one can get a completely different view. Going to the temple is the one thing that visitors are supposed to do here at this site. Seeing the temple is worth the day's rest. It is really a spiritual site.

We are off tomorrow for Ha Tien. It is about 50km to the town. We will see what is available there. Ha Tien is as far west as you can go in Vietnam and still stay on the mainland.

This morning we drove to Ha TIen. It took an hour and a half. We arrived and as we crossed the bridge into town we saw the hotel that we had chosen the night before. It is called the Ha Tien Hotel. We have a large room with two double beds. I think it is going to cost 100,000 for the night. That is one tenth of what we paid for a night at the Hon Trem. After we arrived and checked in, we asked how we could see some sights, and we were told that we could see them by motorbike. We were given directions and off we went.

Mui Nai Beach was the first stop. It may be the only developed sandy beach on the west side of Vietnam. It is about 2km long and the entire stretch of beach is lined with places to eat and drink beer. It was a nice walk.

From the beach we headed for Thach Hang Cave. It is the site of an ancient temple inside a cave, which is inside a finger of rock that sticks out of the paddy fields like a great thumb. It houses Thach Dong Temple, an exceptionally active place of worship. All Buddhist and built on the same plan as the temples in Cambodia. At the entrance to the temple, stands a monument called the Steele of Hatred. It was set in place to memorialize the 130 people that the Khmer Rouge massacred in the 1970's.

We returned to the hotel for lunch, and after lunch set out again on the motorbike in a similar but different direction to find Phu Dong Temple and Mac Cuu tomb. They are both in the same place. The tomb is 300 meters up a hillside. There are steps up the 300 meters that are at minimum a 30 cm (12 inch) step up for each one. It was a hike. At the top was a granite slab with and altar set up on top to hold incense. Mac Cuu was a Chinese man who set up a port city here in the 1600's. It was one of the most important ports in the early days of sea travel. Phu Dong Temple rests just below the 300 meter hike and is a very active place. The road was filled with tour busses and people.

With our list of sights completed, Anita went back to the room to rest, and I went to get the motor bike washed.

Tomorrow we head east to Chau Doc. It will be a 3 to 4 hour trip if the roads are good.

We are in Chau Doc. Tomorrow we will visit Sam Mountain.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dear All,

We are on the way for our next adventure. We left Binh Duong and the school after saying, “See you again.” Huyen was there to take a parting picture and record the beginning of the trip.

We left at 10:30. We were ready earlier, but I had made arrangements to leave at 10:30 and did not tell Anita, the day began on a rocky note. The longest part of the trip was winding our way through morning traffic to the Western outskirts of HCMC. Once we were out of its clutches, the road was wide and the traffic sparse.

We stopped for Pho Bo at a little roadside eatery about 12:30. While we were there a man came up on his motorbike, looked us over, chatted with the proprietors for a few minutes and then made his way over to our table. He asked the requisite questions in very good English then went back to the owners of the beanery and filled them in. The only question that was not asked was, “How old are you?” That may have been a first.

After the lunch, we loaded up and headed toward Ben Tre and our destination, The Oasis Hotel. In My Tho we made a wrong turn and as we puzzled out the map, we had lots of assistance, all in Vietnamese. It turned out that we had missed a turn about 500 meters back. Anita insisted that she knew the way and wanted to proceed. I am so glad I listened to the locals. We might still be driving somewhere in the middle of the South China Sea if I had continued.

About 20 minutes later, we came across an incredible bridge that spanned a section of the Mekong. I did not get a picture of it and may kick myself for not stopping. It was a spectacular suspension bridge that was easily 3 kilometers long. It gave us a great view of the river and the traffic on that particular arm. If all the river tributaries are that busy, and I suspect they are, we were looking at the busiest river in the world.
We will be seeing more.

We finally found our way into Ben Tre where we stopped for directions at a travel agency. Anita got some good answers, and two roundabouts later (There are no traffic lights in Ben Tre that we have seen.) we were on the the end of yet another bridge. We stopped once again and asked directions to the hotel, and one of the men waiting on his motorbike knew of the hotel and offered to lead us there. It was about 3 minutes away from where we met, but we would never have found it without his help. I gave him 10,000 VND for his efforts, and he seemed pretty happy.

As we were unloading the motorbike, we discovered that the suitcase on the side of the exhaust had melted from the heat. We miscalculated the distance that it would hang down when it was loaded with clothes. I went to the proprietor of the hotel, Phong, a New Zealand Vietnamese, and explained the problem. In three minutes time, we were on the way to his metal smith who looked over the problem. He said he could fix suitcase. He made a stainless steel plate and pop riveted it into place. I think it will work. We will not know until tonight when we get to our next place of rest. The bill came to 60,000 VND, just over $3.00.

The accommodations are great. We have a second floor bedroom, which overlooks the dining area and swimming pool. We have a view of the Mekong and the traffic that plies the water 24 hours a day. We have internet access. (We talked to Ruth for more than 20 minutes before we went to dinner.)

The restaurant was about 5 minutes walk from the hotel. The Mai Vang has a menu in English and waitresses who can almost speak English. The food was wonderful. We had fried onion rings and pork ribs encrusted with cracked black peppercorns. We had all we needed. Time for some bed time.

Saturday we took a riverboat trip. It was a waste of time. Almost everything was a repeat of the trip we took from Mekong Lodge last month. The main difference was that this time the boat got caught at low tide in the mouth of a small stream. We had to wait until the tide came in before the boat could take us out again. What was supposed to be a 4 hour trip turned into a 7 hour trip. It cost us a day’s travel time. There were some interesting things that happened. Two of the boys who were on the trip attended The International School of Beijing for two years immediately after we left. We found out the name of a flower that had puzzled us for a year since no one could seem to identify it. The owner of this hotel discovered that he had given us the wrong address and hotel name of the place he recommended earlier and corrected the error.

This morning we set out at 8:00 for Tra Vinh. After two wrong turns and asking directions a few times, we were finally on the road to Tra Vinh. We crossed numerous bridges. The roads kept getting more narrow. The traffic decreased significantly. We asked directions a few times. Our road ended in a ferry loading station. We paid our fee, and with unusually good timing, we were on the ferry in less than 10 minutes. The crossing was about 25 minutes.

At the other end of the crossing the road deteriorated. It went from good, to bad, to worse, to HOMYGOD! For the next 15 kilometers the road was a pothole with potholes. Some of the depressions in the road were large enough to swallow small animals with careless drivers. At last we arrived in Tra Vinh, found our hotel and checked in.

There are three Buddhist temples built by the Khmer in the immediate area. There are a few hundred in the province. The ones we toured are spectacular. The most impressive was the stork sanctuary, The Hang Pagoda. There were hundreds of storks both black and white that filled the trees. We also saw a three story library that is used as a place of instruction and accommodations for many of the monks.

Tomorrow we head out again for a new destination, Soc Trang, about 50km away. It could be a long trip if the roads are like they were today.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Dear All,

I trust, since I have not heard, that all is well in the U$A, that there were not acts of terrorism that have been committed and that you all are safe and well.

We have settled in again in the apartment with Sharon. We will soon have another apartment mate, Kim Tin. She lived with Sharon before we moved in and left shortly before we arrived. She took an apartment in HCMC to be closer to city life. It was just too far to travel, and I understand that she does not like to be late to arrive in the morning. Sometimes the bus connections are not as reliable as a short walk from the apartment.

Sharon has two other permanent residents in the apartment. Dandy is a tiny dog. Peavey is a growing cat. The two animals get along and perhaps tolerate each other. I have seen them play together at times. Sharon brought the dog with her from Canada. She collected the cat at our breakfast restaurant, Phuong Nam. Had she not done so, it would probably not have lived much longer. It is turning into a beautiful animal.

It was two weeks away from friends at school, the kids at school, and the interaction. That was a bit too long for my liking. I am going to have to get used to the separation times since they are going to be getting longer as the time gets shorter. I am still looking for a job.

I was invited to come to school to start the week with the song and a poem. The song went well, but the poem had to be delayed until Friday. The assembly started with all the older children and their teachers saying their names and telling how old they are. Many of the teachers told the truth, some bent the truth, others, well. When it was my turn to read the poem, I announced, “My name is Terry. I come from America, and I am the oldest person in the room.” I thought it was funny anyway. I have been asked to come back every Wednesday that we are in the area to read a poem. I think I can do that. I enjoy the interaction time. It is always great to see my friends at school.

I am tutoring a grade 3 student after school twice a week. She needs help in catching the wording of Singapore Math and the science program which are not easy to understand unless you have been brought up in the programs.

Yesterday, Saturday, Sharon went to the Women’s and Children’s hospital for a check up. I got a text message from her that she was being sent to a hospital downtown where there would some further tests performed. About 20 minutes later, She came storming into the apartment. Smoke was rising from her collar. She explained that for some reason her bank card had been frozen. She had needed more money to get to the hospital downtown. All the banks are closed on Saturday here, so she was unable to find out why the card was frozen.

We agreed that we would help her out. I went to the ATM and got some money. Then we headed for the hospital. They had explained that she could rent the hospital’s ambulance to get to the new hospital, have the tests performed with less waiting time, and have a personal interpreter in case she needed it. We paid the fee. We hopped in the ambulance, the three of us, and headed for the city. Lights flashing… Siren yelping when the motorbikes would not move out of the way… The driver, also the interpreter, Anita and Sharon sat in the front. I sat in the back. At least they let me sit in the back and not have to lie on the hospital gurney with straps holding me in place as we rocketed to and from the next set of tests. Kim met us at the hospital and sat with us waiting for the tests to be completed. She had arrived on the back of one of the many motorbikes that wait to take one or two people from one place to another for a small fee. Everyone hustles for their own income in their own way. For the moment, Sharon is fine. She has something wrong, but it does not appear to be serious enough that something be done right away.

Today we went into the city to get me some shorts that fit and buy some cat litter. We found the cat litter. The shorts, one pair, that were for sale that would fit me were on sale for almost one million VND. I later found two pairs of shorts here in Binh Duong for 300, 000 VND, a considerable savings. I need to reevaluate where I shop.

For those of you who have read about the severe flooding in Pennsylvania, and in particular our hometown, you must know that my sister and her husband were looking out for us and moved most of our things from the basement and other areas around the house that looked like they were in danger from the rising waters. Luckily they were fast and the waters did not come up as high as expected. Only about 4 inches of water, about 7 cm, flooded the basement. Some clothes got muddy. Maybe some were damaged, but there was nothing lethal and no major damage. Thanks to their rapid response.

We are having a great time. On Friday we will set out in our quest to explore the Mekong Delta. We did not leave earlier since it has been raining here, and we want to travel in the dry more than the wet; since ponchos only offer partial coverage at best. We will be on the motorbike for about 4 hours a day and about 200 km per day. Of course this time and distance all is connected to the feeling or lack thereof in Anita’s posterior as the day progresses. Huyen, my right hand, had made a great set of hooks for the two suitcases that will hang on the sides of the bike. I have padded them with part of a leather belt to cushion the impact from the less than even roadways. If all goes well, we will be in contact by e mail each Sunday. If not, you will hear from us when you hear from us. I will be able to keep in touch with our friends here in Vietnam via text messaging.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are all well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Dear All,

We are back in Binh Duong. It was almost a magical flight. By the time we had cleared immigrations, the flight was boarding to Manila. By the time we found our gate in Manila, the plane was already loaded. Our entire travel time from Cebu to HCMC took just over 3 hours. Almost all of it was flight time. An amazing part of the trip was the luggage arrived with us. Another amazing part of the trip was the taxi driver knew where we were going, drove us to the apartment, and did not ask for more money than the meter told us was to be paid. Sometimes things just go the way they are supposed to go.

Our last week of diving continued to bring lots of new animals that were truly amazing. One of the most interesting was the Stargazer. I have some pictures on the MobileMe page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. Look near the top of the albums for the “The dive trip to the Philippines”. Other interesting fish that we saw in abundance were filefish. They look like leaves that drift in the water; but on really close inspection, you will be able to see that they are fish.

We took a walk up a river, freshwater, to a set of waterfalls. The water was cold; and when it pounded down on our backs, it was strong enough to move more than a few of the bathing suits toward the knees, mine included, even though we were lying down on our tummies.

In 1985, Anita and I were certified with our Open Water certificates at a small resort in the Philippines called Bohol Beach Club. We were certified on Christmas day. One of the stops that we made on this trip was out in front of Bohol Beach club. Our dives were excellent. After we finished the dives, we went back to the club to see how it had grown. In 1985 there was room for 10 guests. It now has villas for rent, and many different room qualities and more than 200 rental spaces. It used to be quaint. Now it is majestic.

We are getting back into our routine. I will be tutoring a student two afternoons a week. I guess I will be teaching some swimming to some kids. I know that the Song Be wants me to teach another adult class. We are going to be very busy unless we learn to say, “No!”

Huyen, my right hand, has, as usual, gone out of her way to help make our lives easier in Vietnam. She found someone to make a set of hooks that will hold the two suitcases on the sides of the rear of the motorbike. I will send some pictures when we have all the pieces together in one place. She also saved my life while I was gone. The other day, when we went to try to get visas, which we apparently do not need while we have the resident’s cards, someone noticed the sign and commented that some of the wording was anti-government. After some thought, she reworded the sign and removed the old one. I now have a new, correct-by-governmental-standards sign attached where all can read it. The sign has gotten great reviews from all the readers on the road. The much feared and oft maligned po-lice will not get me now.

We are in the planning stages for our trip through the Mekong Delta. It will take about 10 or so days. We will be heading back to the U$A for three weeks in October to see Hua Hua’s show at the Annenberg Theater. (14 and 15 October!) We will then come back to Vietnam for some final dive trips in SE Asia and a motorbike ride to Hanoi. I am still hoping that Dr. Pham comes through with a job at the hospital. We will not lose hope until it becomes obvious that we have.

Life is great. We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 28, 2011

Dear All,

Our adventure continues…. Our wait continued…. We left the hotel in Mandaue City a little before checkout time and moved to the meeting place in Cebu City, The Montebello. Our wait continued there, since the methods of communication were not set. We tried a phone number that was nonexistent, so the message said; and so we set our minds back in the WAIT mode and did that.

About 1:30 a man came into the lobby of the hotel and ventured to the desk. He promptly left. We later discovered that he was the leader of the trip. He had made no attempt to contact us. He did not even glance our way. AND so we waited. At 4:30, it was determined by the hotel staff that we were part of the group from AbyssWorld.com; and we could check in. We did. Then we waited, because we were to meet the rest of the group for dinner. At 6:30, we decided that we should get something to eat whether or not we actually met someone for dinner. As we exited the room, we met a man, Bruno, who looked like he was in charge of something and asked him if he was the leader of the group. He said that he was one of the guides but not the leader. We would meet the leader soon since he was at the airport collecting the rest of the group, which was arriving from Paris. We went to have a beer and waited. About 8:15 Bruno left to check on the rest of the group. They were arriving, and they were taking showers. Dinner was again delayed. We offered our apologies and said that it was our bedtime. We told them that we would meet in the morning. Breakfast was at 7:30.

The divers were from France, one pair from Britain, one pair from U$A. Can you spell minority? Of course you can. Can you say it in French? Neither can I. All those French lesson in high school must have been wasted.

The next morning things were a bit more on time; and after breakfast, we headed out of Cebu City for the village of Moalboal on the opposite side of the island. The trip was just under two hours over the mountain peaks that divide the island and back down to the sea. There we met the boat, loaded our dive gear on, and went out for a welcome dive. The dive offered good visibility and lots to see. Things were looking up. Well, that is that the diving looked good, but the weather was not going to cooperate. There was a tropical depression to our north that was building into a typhoon. The winds and waves were building. The next morning we took two dives and went back to our little guesthouse. There was supposed to be a night dive, but the weather continued to deteriorate.

We rose with the sun, which was behind a bank of clouds that were as thick as pea soup. It was windy. It was raining. We were on the way to the island of Apo. On the way we stopped at Dumaguete City for two dives, one in a protected wildlife zone and one just outside the wildlife zone. The first area sported an artificial reef made of tires, old boats, old cars and large pieces of junk. The artificial reef had been there for about 5 years and the size and number of creatures was fantastic. Wildlife management works anywhere if you can get the locals to buy in. We saw and photographed things we had never seen before.

While we were enjoying the diving in the lee of Negros Island, the wind continued to build, and the rain started to sprinkle. Soon we were on our way to Apo. The rain became a downpour. The wind howled. We headed off into it as soon as we rounded the end of Negros. There were times that we wondered whether the boat would survive the pounding. After what seemed to be hours but was just less than two, we suddenly noticed a distinct drop in the wind velocity. We peered our of the boat to see a small fleet of dive boats huddled together in as small cove. Amazingly enough this was Apo Island.

The leader of our expedition explained that the wind was too strong for us to boat around the island. We would walk (hike) over three mountains to the resort. Our luggage would follow on the backs of porters that had been called from the destination village. As that decision was made the curtain of darkness that usually falls at 6:00 was falling. We climbed up steps and down steps, the first mountain. We climbed up steps and down steps, the second mountain. We waded into the sea and around a rock at low tide. We walked up four steps and down four steps. Mountain 3 was avoided by the wade. We had reached the resort, which we would call home for the next two nights.

The resort was not what the word causes one to picture. There was no running water. There were two buckets of water in the bathroom, one for flushing, one for showering. The electricity was on when we arrived and was off shortly after we went to bed. There was nothing to move the air in the room but the wind outside if one were going to open them to allow the mosquitoes to share the room. We decided to try keeping the windows closed. It was not too bad. We slept pretty well. When we got up the next morning, it was clear that the wind had not decreased in intensity. It was announced that we would hike back over the mountain to the boat from which we would take two dives somewhere in the lee of the island.

There is a wildlife management area on Apo. That was the site of our first dive. The second dive was just outside the wildlife management area. During the second dive about 10 minutes into the dive, we noticed that we were surrounded by fishermen’s nets. Shortly after we made that discovery we noticed that the fishermen at the surface were not pleased that we were where we were. They began to drop large stones tied on ropes to show their displeasure at our presence. The dropped rocks outnumbered the divers, so we swam to safety as quickly as we could at 50 feet under the water. As we neared the far side of the net, we noticed a large turtle trying to get through the net. It became caught in the net. We released it and swam over the top of the net as quickly as we could. The fishermen did not follow.

The dives were great. We saw new things on each of them. When we got back to the small harbor, it was determined that there were two modes of being delivered to the beach. One was to ride in the little outrigger canoe. The other was to swim for shore. Most people swam. Anita and our leader opted to ride. They were the smart ones. Most of us who swam were scraped and battered by the coral as the waves smashed us into the bottom of the sea. Some of us were left mostly untouched. Others were really scraped and scratched. We all survived, climbed the mountains and made it back to our resort for the second night. The dinner was again fantastic, a saving grace for a resort with less than few amenities. Best of all the waitress pronounced that the weather was to change and the following day was going to be filled with sun and gentle breeze. She was correct.

The next morning we were to head across an open-water crossing to the island of Siquijor (See kee you). We made land fall on the south side of the island out of the wind that was, once again, too strong for us to land at the resort where we were to stay. We made one dive in the lee of the island, and unloaded the boat into a smaller boat. We were taken to land and met by a jeepny that would transport us to our next resort. Much to our surprise this resort was all that the word describes. A night dive was offered. We declined. The rest of the divers went out. We enjoyed the peace and quiet of each other.

Today there were two dives in the morning. Both were spectacular. The rest of the tourists are off now at the local cockfights. We have seen those before and have no desire to see one again. They are bloody. They are cruel to the animals that are involved. It is a Philippine national pastime so I am told.

Tomorrow starts the final week of dives. Each of the dives has been different. Each has offered up sights we have not seen in all our diving careers. This is a spectacular way to see what the waters of the Philippines has to offer. We would not change anything about the trip so far.

We are thinking of you and hope you are all well.


Terry and Anita

Shrimp Eel

Left: Harlequin Shrimp; Right: Ribbon Eel


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Dear All,

Thursday we started for the airport in HCMC at 6:30am for a flight that was scheduled to leave at 10:00. We got to the airport with plenty of time and were greeted with a non-existent check-in line. Eventually it opened, and we started the check-in procedures. At the end of the process we were told that we were overweight, not us, our bags. I said the bag that is causing the overweight has been sent down the conveyor belt. I asked them to get it back. There was lots of grumbling and mumbling. I just shook my head and said not to worry, I would pay for the overweight. I did. When I got back with proof of payment, I was told that the bag that had gone had something broken in it. I knew what it was. My supply of gin, which had been wrapped in clothing and a box for protection, had been more than slightly damaged. I told them I did not want the bag until I got to the Philippines. When we arrived the bottle was broken, and all my underwear and other clothing had drunken my gin. They were in much better spirits than I. I wonder if the scent of the gin in my clothes is the reason that so many people are smiling and very friendly…

To tell about a long wait at the airport is probably boring, so I will not bother you with the details of airport sitting. Suffice it to say that we sat in HCMC for two extra hours, which meant that our flight to Cebu needed to be changed from 1:30 to 7:00pm. Thank goodness that the actual flight left at 8:00 only an hour late. We would not have wanted to miss the flight. We have earned a degree in Airport Waiting.

Friday and Saturday were spent exploring Cebu City on the island of Cebu. I will be posting some pictures of our small forays. During our outing we saw the place where Magellan planted the cross after leaving his ship, the oldest cathedral on Cebu, the provincial capital, the oldest house in Cebu, we toured the house of the first bishop of the Catholic Church. It was a 3 hour city tour that was very interesting. In the history museum, we did learn that the fruit called sugar apple, so prolific in Vietnam, is actually from Central America. Most of the fruit that now grows in Cebu actually came from Central America with the priests who came to Christianize the island.

Today we move out of the Alpa City Suites and into another hotel where we will meet the rest of the dive tour. I guess we will not start diving until tomorrow. Maybe this time has been good. We have done lots of walking each day, 4 or more hours. We have worked at keeping our purchases at a minimum. We are both ready to be soaked in brine for a few days. Maybe the gin smell will wear off after a few days on the salt water.

We are now at the Montebella Villas in downtown Cebu. We are supposed to be met by someone from the AbyssWorld Divers. It looks as though we are going to spend the night here.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dear All,

You can see all the pictures from this trip at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

Our foray into the realm of solo travel began on Wednesday, two days before we had planned. We thought we had made reservations at the Mekong Lodge in Cai Be, southern Vietnam on the Mekong. We were notified that the rooms were fully booked for the weekend. We messaged back that we were free to come any time and suggested Wednesday. After a great flurry of going to the bank and sending a full deposit, the resort’s bank was not as efficient as ours. It was not until late Tuesday that we actually had confirmation that they had a room for us.

Early in the morning, we packed up the bike, and headed south on A1, the road that was built by the Americans in the 1960’s to facilitate the efforts to rout Communism, or so the propaganda goes. Many parts of the road are in excellent shape. Some are lacking in pavement. All parts are covered with trucks, cars, taxies, and motorbikes. We drove for an hour before our first rest stop. Most of the progress was at 30 to 40 km per hour, a good, safe speed for a motorbike in Vietnam. As we put Ho Chi Minh behind us, we were able to increase out ground speed to 50 to 60 kmph. Each little town slowed us considerably. Each police check slowed us even more.

When riding a scooter in Vietnam, one of the things that the riders must be vigilant for is the rapid slowing of traffic and large clusters of motorbikes or trucks along the roadside. It is an indication that the police are performing one of their myriad inspections of the users of the highway. I am told that if the driver does not have all the requisite paperwork, the motorbike can be impounded by the police, to be retrieved from a collection area only after the presentation of a full set of papers. It appears that a large portion of the users of the road do not have the correct papers since many of the bikes and trucks pull off the road and wait until the police move on to another spot rather than risk the indignity of having one’s bike loaded on a truck, maybe to be seen again.

We reached the southern town of Cai Be in just under three and a half hours. We knew we were in Cai Be, because the road ended at a pier that ended in the water. There was a large tour group assistance building on one side of a very crowded parking lot. I went in and was greeted by a man who spoke excellent English and volunteered to call the resort to find someone to escort us to the proper island. After about a twenty minute wait, there was a young man dressed in his waiter’s uniform who asked us if we wanted to go to Mekong Lodge. We responded in the positive and were soon on our way to the lodge.

We drove down some narrow walkways, through a couple of markets, around some very sharp turns, through some narrow alleyways, over some dirt paths, through some back yards, and at one point we may have driven through a time warp. All at once we stopped abruptly and were greeted with the end of the pathway and a large expanse of water. It was pointed out that this was the ferry crossing. Off in the distance, we could see a ferry headed our way. In the near view, we could see a ferry that had just departed our location. It was packed to the gills with bicycles, motorbikes, pedestrians, and, thank God, no police checks.

As we waited in the middle of the gathering pack of humanity, the ferry grew closer to the ramp. The closer the ferry got to the ramp the more the crowd from behind us inched forward. As they inched, we inched. Not because we wanted to inch, but because the pressure from behind was relentless. Soon the ferry was ready to meet the shore and disgorge its load. As the swarm of bikes started off the ferry, the mass of humanity parted enough to allow one single lane of whatever was on the ferry to move off. As soon as the ferry was almost empty the exit lane moved to one side and the process began to reverse. If it had been the wrong ferry, we would have been on it. There was no turning back, a hazard from being near the front of the humanity to be loaded for the return trip. It is amazing that no one fell into the water. No one was injured in the exchange. Everyone was happy to be aboard, especially the little man, or woman, who shrugged his/her way through the people, bikes, motorbikes, chickens, and any other entity that may have been swept onto the ferry in the exchange. I am referring to the person who collects the fares.

Each fare is different. There is a fare for one person. There is a fare for one motorbike. There is a fare for one motorbike with two persons. None of it is expensive, but the collector had a wad of money big enough to choke a hippo. By the time the fares were collected, the trip was over and the crush of the crowd repeated itself. Anita was wise enough to walk off the ferry and remount the scooter well out of the clog of pushers and shovers. (It is a little different from shakers and movers.)

As we moved through the market, the back yard, the petrol station, the chicken coop and the obstacle course, the pathway became slabs of concrete laid end to end that disappeared into the jungle of fruit trees on either side. The roadway was elevated above the surrounding terrain about 2 meters and the edge of the cement slab was a vertical drop of about 10 cm with water or jungle on either side. The path was large enough for two bikes to meet if one of them was courteous enough to move to the side and stop and wait until the other passed. Did we meet anyone? Yes. Did they stop and let us pass? Not on your Nelly! One false move, and we would have become part of the scenery.

We finally arrived at the resort. We were ushered through the back door, shown our room, directed to the dining room, had our passports collected, and were wrapped safely in the arms of the resort. We had made it. We were safe. We had to repeat the process in order to leave.

We thought that we had made it perfectly clear that I am allergic to fish. When we first made reservations, we wrote that I was allergic. I carry a card designed by my right hand woman, Huyen, which explains my allergy in graphic terms. I showed it to the waitress. She took it to the kitchen. Lunch was served. It was banana flower shaped in the form of a fish, covered in fish sauce, a Vietnamese specialty. I knew it was fish sauce as soon as I saw it. The next course was a fish, vertically mounted between for banana leaves rolled to support it. (It is in the pictures.) The next dish was green beans with a splash of fish sauce. That was followed by some boiled pork, which I tried only to find a fish bone in the gravy. I held the fishbone in the air and called a waitress over. “Day la ca khong?” I said in my best Vietnamese. The response was, “Yaaa.” It was explained to me that the pork had been boiled with a fish to give it better flavor. The next was dessert. It was fresh fruit. The rice and the fruit were great. The surprise attack of the fish left me a little weak in the knees and the bowels. After the initial introduction to the culinary arts of the cooking staff, there were many apologies for not taking the allergy seriously and the rest of the food was fantastic. There were no more fish tales.

In the afternoon, we visited many shops and saw the sights of the village. There were fruits of all kinds being processed and for sale. We saw a brick factory that used rice hulls to fire the kilns. We walked for most of the afternoon getting the feel of the countryside. It is very laid back and peaceful.

For dinner we were told to be in the dining area at 6:30, so we could learn how to make the food we were going to be served. We made spring rolls, wontons, food wrapped in rice paper, and watched the chef prepare each of the dishes. Promptly at 7:00, we were seated and dinner was served. No fish!

The next day we toured the longan trees and saw how they were dried and processed, so they could be sent to China where they were converted into a Chinese snack and claimed to be a product of China. We saw one of the original old houses that still is owned by the family 6 generations later. We walked for a few hours and were returned to the Lodge to rest until 3:00.

At 3:00 we were fitted with bicycles and led out the back gate and onto the endless pathways worn into the tops of the earth mounds called roads. It was a 2 plus hour ride. We saw fruit trees that stretched on forever. We were returned to the lodge for dinner. Anita became the only casualty when she fell off her bike and into the flower garden inside the lodge. She sustained a small scrape on her elbow.

Dinner was a repeat of the night before for all the new arrivals, since we were the “seasoned guests”, we were treated to vegetable carving lessons. (The second night’s activity) Our dinner was not what was served to the rest of the guests. It was great!

In the morning we got up, had breakfast, packed up the bike and headed home. It was a fantastic three days.

We would enthusiastically recommend the Mekong Lodge to any of you who read this letter. Check them out on their web site, www.mekonglodge.com. We have visited the fruit basket of the world.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Dear All,

Week three of our retirement has ended. It has been interesting. We have done things this week that we have not had the inclination or the time to do.

On Monday we went into THE BIG CITY. We did a little shopping for our touring about Vietnam. We also stocked up on some food supplies that were not necessary, but it certainly fit the category of “creature comfort”. The ride gets easier all the time. One of our most unexpected surprises was the discovery of a key maker on the street as we headed into town. We had two keys made which cost the equivalent of fifty cents. To our amazement, when we returned to the apartment, both of them were capable of opening the front door. Life’s little surprises are surely a blessing in disguise. At this point, I was still wrestling with the ideas of how to pack the bike for an extended travel period.

The packing solution came closer to being solved on Tuesday when I got a text message late in the afternoon from Huyen. She told me that the carrier box for the back of the bike had arrived at the shop. Neither of us was sure that it had even been ordered, but when we arrived at the shop about an hour later the guys attacked the bike. It soon sported a large storage box mounted neatly on the back, just behind the passenger. One more step closer to comfortable travel. I still wanted two plastic side mounted boxes for the rest of the storage solution. No one seems to be interested in solving that one yet.

The next day we headed back to THE BIG CITY once again to try to discover another solution. We found in Binh Thanh market two small plastic carry-on size suitcases. We bought them, and now we are experimenting with mounting them. I have tried bungees, rope, and leather belts. None of them is perfect, but all seem to have certain merits. Each attempt brings us a step closer to a comfortable trip. We finally discovered a dry cleaner. It was in plain sight on a street we had walked many times before. I do not know how we missed it so many other times. It only took us three trips up and down the block to find the store that sold designer clothing. In the back of the shop was the dry cleaner.
There was no advertising. If we had not had the address and had not walked in to ask about dry cleaning, we still would have our hands on an incredibly dirty suit, mine, since it had not been cleaned in two years.

We decided to spend the next day at home puttering and doing some local stuff. The outings even to the nearby area are more interesting now that we are able to go at a snail’s pace and check out the things that we have either ignored or missed. We spent the morning riding and looking. We discovered a great new Chinese restaurant. They had Ma Po Dofu that was almost like the real thing. It was only missing the hua jiao peppers.

On Saturday, we spent time exploring Thu Dau Mot, a town not far from here. We found a motorbike cover. We had been looking for one for a long time. I saw a shop that advertised Honda parts. Anita suggested that we ask them about the cover. We went in. There was a man who walked up to us and said, “What are you looking for?” IN ENGLISH!!!!! Perfectly accented, well-pronounced English! Wow. I said we wanted a cover for the motorbike. He walked to the back of the shop and produced a cover. It is an incredible feeling to learn that sometimes all you gotta do is ask. In a few of the other shops, we had to resort to the point-n-grunt method, but even that produced some good results. In our wandering, we walked into an electronics store, which was filled with TV’s, refrigerators, and other electronics. There were not tiny things these would have fit into any large home in the U$A. They were expensive, but they were available. We also saw our first 3-D TV. It was showing snippets of Avatar. I was impressed enough to take a second look, but the observer still needs to wear glasses to get the full effect. We explored a new way to get back to the Canary from our trip to Thu Dau Mot. It put us close to the place where Anita wanted to buy some clothing for the coming motorbike outings. In the afternoon we had our requisite thunderstorm. Our power went out. We packed up our computers and headed for the Song Be Golf Club for a quick dinner. When we got back, the power had been restored. We spent the rest of the evening preparing for today.

Anita has been planning the Mekong Delta trip. She has a short trip to start out. It will be a one or two nighter then back. That way we can test all our ideas. If they do not work then we can go back to the drawing board for another shot.

We went to dry cleaner to get my suit this morning. The girl behind the eight ball, change that to front desk, brought me three suits before she found mine. I had presented my copy of the bill. I do not think that the other copy of the bill was attached anywhere near the suit. It was just a lucky third guess that she brought the correct clothing the third time. Before I went to the dry cleaner, I took a quick trip to Thu Dau Mot to buy another motorbike cover for my old bike that Sharon is buying. The bike has always been stored under cover during the day and inside a garage at night. With a cover, it will have a bit more protection from the elements.

Note from Anita,

While we have been living here, I have had my hair cut at a local shop for about $2 a cut. It is always cut short all of the way around. This is good for someone who wears a helmet often. My hair had grown out and I thought that I would try the beauty shop that Sharon at found in HCM City. On the second attempt, and right building we found the beauty shop. Henry wasn’t there, but the girl spoke English and I told her my idea for a new look. She said okay and went right to work. When she finished, I had short hair, a pixie like look. It isn’t that much different from the cuts from out here in the countryside, except that this one costs $16. Maybe they are trying to cut out the grey that is now growing in like a cap. Haircuts are always interesting.

We are thinking of you all and hope all is well with you.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, July 31, 2011

Dear All,

We have officially ended our first week as “retirees”. It has been busy. Our main goal was to get moved out of the Villa and into the apartment that Sharon was willing to share with us.

The plan to move out of the Villa came to fruition thanks to Sharon and Kim. They had a third bedroom in their apartment that they had rented and were willing to share with us. Since our early discussions, Kim has moved back to the city, and Sharon was on her own. A three-bedroom apartment and one person living in it gave us a great opportunity to find a place to stay. After school was completed we had a few days of breathing time, then it was time to start to move out of the Villa. It took all last week to complete the move, one trip at a time. We moved all our worldly possessions by motorbike. Some items were more unwieldy than others, but all of them were movable. My back and forth trips accounted for more than 150 km of driving time and 10 or more trips a day to and from.

We had discussed with Huyen that we wanted to give her father two lemon trees, which I had been growing for the two years here in the Villa. The plan came to reality on Saturday morning. Anita and I carefully bagged two of the best looking trees in plastic bags and wrapped them in cardboard to keep the leaves from blowing off the branches. After Huyen had completed her projects (see the next paragraph) in the BIG CITY, she and her family came to the Villa. We hung the bagged trees off the handlebars of our motorbikes and headed north to Tay Ninh province to the city of the same name where her family lives. The ride was just less than 100 km. We went to Huyen’s family home and dropped off all our travel gear and the trees, and then Huyen guided us to a beautiful temple that is supported by multiple faiths. All the monks who live there are vegetarians and grow most of their own food. They do rely on donations from the people who visit the temple. When we came back to the house we found places to plant the trees and put them into the ground. The trees seemed to be happy with their new home and had not been disturbed by the ride.

Our start on the trip was delayed until after lunch. Huyen had applied to another school in THE BIG CITY, and was to take a test in the morning to show that her English skills were up to the school’s standards. We had lunch at the Vuong Long Chinese restaurant after the test. It turned out that the test was a TOEFL test. These tests are difficult and can stress out about anyone. Huyen was reluctant to say whether she had done well or poorly on the test. About the middle of the ride to Tay Ninh, Huyen got a phone call telling her that she had passed the test and was expected to present a lesson the next day to some students. It was to be a 45 minute lesson. We were not going to be able to stay for all of Sunday and would have to leave after lunch. I had suggested to Huyen that she stop by our Villa to use my printer to have sharp, clear, color pictures for the lesson. She thought that it was a good idea. She worked for more than an hour on the graphics and a written test and printed them all in color. The next day she went to the school and was 9th in line of the 10 who had qualified to present the lesson. When she finished she was reluctant to say if it had gone well or poorly. Later in the day she was called and told to come in to negotiate her salary. She heard the requirements that the school placed on the teachers and told them that she would work for the school for $750.00 per month. The school expected her to report to school at 6:30 in the morning and leave at 5:00pm each day. She would be teaching all the high school English classes and other classes if necessary in the morning and in the afternoon she would be expected to do paperwork and prepare tests for the students. I asked her if she would do it. She said that she would try if they would pay her the amount she had asked for. They called her two days later and offered her half of her request and asked her to teach. She told them no way. (I think that was a smart decision.)

It is incredible what some people expect from the workers when they do not put in the time and effort that the employees put in. It is very much like the school for which we no longer work.

Back to the trip … We were led to our hotel where we were able to freshen up then returned to Huyen’s house for dinner. The meal was fantastic. There was more food than we could possibly eat, and all of it was great. There is nothing like family food no matter what country you are in. We said our good nights and went back to the hotel for the night. The next morning we were to arrive at the house early, because we were going to spend a lot of time exploring Black Woman Mountain, the highest (and only) mountain, probably volcanic, in the province.

We could see the mountain in the distance from the front porch of Huyen’s house. It got much bigger as we approached. We had two options for climbing the mountain. We could climb the steps, or we could take the chairlift. We opted for the lift. As we were beginning the ride a photographer stepped in front of the cable car as it swung from the building. I saw her coming and was able to have my camera ready to take her picture as she took ours. Unfortunately she saw my camera and moved away before taking our picture. I did get her in a side profile. She was quick, but not quick enough.

We exited the chairlift at the halfway point on the mountain. We were in the middle of a sprawling temple. It is incredible to think that all the materials to build this gigantic temple had to be carried up the mountain. I was able to see how it was done as I watched men carrying 50 kg (100 pound) bags of rice up the mountain on their backs. Daunting to say the least.

Later that afternoon, we headed back to THE BIG CITY. We stopped at the Villa so Huyen could prepare for the next day’s presentation. Soon after we had arrived, it started to rain. Then is started to downpour. Then it started to torrent. Then is started to dump. Then it almost approached river proportions as Huyen and her husband were leaving. Huyen said that there were places that were so flooded that they almost had to swim to move forward.

On Tuesday, we had moved our essential living things and had moved into the apartment. Yesterday we moved the last of the non-essential items into the apartment. Now we are slowly finding places to put all of our things. We have made some small purchases to meet our comfort level. I think by next Wednesday we will be able to make it look like we have lived here and not displaced any of Sharon’s living space.

I have agreed to tutor one child for the coming time that we are living in Binh Duong. In addition to the tutoring job, I have agreed to teach swimming to 5 children beginning next week. Some of them are quite young, but if they are focused and want to learn to swim, the exercise should be pretty painless.

Yesterday as I was leaving the apartment parking lot, one of the ladies who works as a cleaner in one of the buildings was exiting the parking lot. Her hands were filled with a bag of bottles and some old cardboard boxes. (People make it a way of life to collect all recyclables.) I offered her a ride, and she said that she would like to go. I took her to the main road where she told me that she would get off. I stopped and asked her where she was going. She told me that she was going to Binh Duong. I told her that I was going to the FIVI Mart in Binh Duong. She told me that she could not go because she did not have a motorbike helmet. I told her that I was sorry and said goodbye. I did all of that in Vietnamese. I was amazed that she understood. I was amazed that the words came out of me.

We are thinking of postponing our travel through the Mekong and to Hanoi until after the dive trip to the Philippines. We will be closer to the end of the rainy season.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well. If any of you are wondering…..Yes, we are having fun! Join us if you want a part of the action. We have time for people now.


Terry and Anita

The pictures from the trip are posted on the web at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii for those of you who are interested. The heading is Tay Ninh trip with Huyen and her family.


Saturday, July 23, 2011

Dear All,

On Monday we headed for Long Hai and Vung Tau. We went with Ms. Thao and Ms. Lan. We met at Suoi Tien Park. I waited at the wrong entrance until Ms. Thao found us, thanks to a telephone call from Huyen, whom I had texted to tell her that we were at the entrance and no one was there but us and a million people trying to get into the park. We drove for about 5 minutes and stopped to meet Ms. Lan. Her father dropped her off just as we arrived. She hopped on Ms. Thao’s bike, and we were off. I have never driven that fast in heavy traffic. I have never driven that fast in light traffic. I have never driven that fast in Vietnam. At one point we were going 90 kmph. Wow! I thought it was great.

We arrived in Long Hai and stopped to visit Ms. Thao’s aunt. We waited until all the requisite family members were alerted and went off to a restaurant for lunch. It was a great meal that ended with a hot pot of many flavors.

We set off from the restaurant and by some quirk of fate ended up at the Anh Hoa Residences. It is the same place we stayed two years ago at Christmas. As we came through the gate we were greeted by an enthusiastic scream. It came from Kim Chi, the young lady who took such good care of us the first time we stayed at the villas. We made arrangements to stay the night. We swam in the sea. We swam in the pool. We went out for dinner. We karaoked until Ms. Lan fell asleep on the couch. We karaoked until we could not kara or oke any longer and went to bed.

The next day we headed for Vung Tau. We stopped to climb the almost 1000 steps to the top of the Christ of Vung Tau, just like the Christ of the Andes. The view was great, but the inside was incredibly crowded, almost claustrophobic. We trudged down the steps and headed for a coffee house we had patronized before. We had some drinks then went to the cable car that took us to the top of another “mountain” where we were greeted by an amazement park and temple. We arrived at 12:00, and could not leave until 2:00 since the park people closed for a two-hour lunch. We wandered. We took pictures. We took pictures. We took pictures. We rode the alpine slide. We took pictures. We headed down the cable car. We hopped on the motorbikes and started the trek home. Three hours and fifteen minutes later we were back at the door of our cozy Villa. We had recovered by the next day, so Huyen and I went off to find a storage box to mount behind the seat of the bike. There was no box in stock, but we were assured that it would be ordered and arrive in a short two or three weeks.

Our lovely corporation is going to collect all our pertinent data, hospital card, ID card, work permit, and residence permit. We are going to have to scramble around to get a visa if we want to stay. We are working on that next week.

We have started the move into the apartment rented by Sharon. I have taken one load.

Friday we went to a birthday party for Ms Hoa’s, one of the teachers at the school, grandfather. It was to celebrate not only his 87th birthday, but to celebrate the couple’s 40th year of marriage. Their union produced 11 children, each one two years apart. The family fled the Communist take over in the north and moved the family to the south. They are still together. It was a fantastic party with lots of food and friendship.

Saturday we went to Huyen’s hometown to deliver two lemon trees to her father. Hopefully they will grow and prosper and produce a good crop of lemons in a couple of years.

I am sending this off a day early, because I do not think that the computer will fit on the bike.

The pictures from the trip to Vung Tau and Long Hai have been posted at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well. The adventure continues.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, July 17, 2011

Dear All,

School has ended. I am so relieved that I no longer have to work for such a ridiculous enterprise. All the corporation is trying to do is drag as much money out of Vietnam as possible with the least expenditures. I am going to miss all the teachers. They kept the school alive and well. On the last day of school, some of the teachers held a dress like Terry day. There were some pretty neat outfits that were worn, but only one of them came close enough to be called a rival to my regular daily wear. Sharon gave me one of her handmade ties as a parting gift. It is a beauty that I will keep in a special place for only the best of occasions. On the last day of school we were able to view the end of school concert DVD. I would like to get one, but they probably won’t be available until after school starts in August.

I will have swimming lessons at the Song Be Golf Resort three more times to make up for the rained out days. I am really pleased with the results. Lots of ladies are now swimmers. I have met some very interesting people there as a result of the swimming. I hope some of them want to keep in touch.

Yesterday I spent 4 hours transporting the lemon trees that I planted as seeds two years ago. All the trees are a minimum of 18 inches tall. They all need to be planted in soil instead of pots. I took all but three of the trees to school where I have been assured that they will be planted. Maybe some day the children can enjoy a lemon tree orchard. It is only 4 km to school from home, but there were lots of potted trees.

I went into the city this morning to get a couple of pairs of shorts and golf shirts. My old ones are really old. It is time to brighten up the wardrobe a bit. I do not think I will be wearing long pants much from now on unless I actually get the job at the Hanh Phuc hospital. I haven’t heard any more about the job, but I haven’t really pursued it yet either.

Tomorrow Anita and I will head for Long Hai. We stayed there two years ago. We are going with Ms. Nat Thao and Ms. Lan, two teachers from the school. Ms. Lan and I have been working each day at school on her English. She is interested in music, so we are reading English song Lyrics from some of the modern groups like Megadeath. We will meet the ladies at Suoi Tien Park, about an hour from the villa. We are supposed to meet at 7:00 am. It is going to be an early morning. Anita has been hosting a virus for the last week and a half. I hope that she is sufficiently over it so she can enjoy the trip. We will get to Long Hai in time for lunch barring any unforeseen incidents like flat tires. We will spend the night in a hotel somewhere and return in the afternoon on Tuesday. It is a beautiful drive with lots of scenery.

I have some new readers of the weekly letter, so I want to let them know that they will be able to access all the pictures that I have taken over the last two years at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. The pictures are all downloadable if you are interested.

We are thinking of you all and hope all is good and happy in your lives.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dear All,

School passed the way it was supposed to. We have one more week to kill before we are on our own. About half the students have left. There will be fewer tomorrow. It is a week for grades and comments to be delivered to parents after school is over. We will play some games with the students and clean out the classroom. I think the students will enjoy emptying the classroom, not that it has much in it. My co-teacher, Ms. Lam, is now married and living with her new in-laws. I still hear from her via text messages.

Saturday Anita and her cold settled in for the day. I taught three different classes of swimming. Next week will be the last for a while since we are looking forward to doing some things that we want to do.

Sunday we went out for breakfast. That did in Anita again, so she once again stayed at home and rested. I went into the BIG CITY and met Sharon, Kim and friends to celebrate Kim’s birthday. We all met at a Dim Sum restaurant. It has an all you can eat menu and costs 300,000 VND per person. Sharon and I picked up the tab for Kim’s birthday present. It was a fantastic lunch, which started at 11:30 and ended at about 1:15. A good time was had by all.

I have seen at least 5 motorbike accidents this last week. I do not know if it is the season, or people are getting more careless. I see more maniacs on the road every day.

Next weekend we are going to travel about an hour or so to the North where we will meet up with Huyen’s parents. I have been growing lemon trees for the last two years, and I want her father to have two. I would offer up more, but two is all we will be able to carry on the motorbikes.

I am attaching a powerpoint presentation of Hang Son Doong Caverns. It is a new cave discovered a few years ago and part of it may now be open to the public. It is the largest cave in the world at more than 6km long. The pictures are pretty spectacular. My friend Lang Dayton sent the show to me. I hope you like what you see. I have not been able to make it play the way it is supposed to play, but the pictures are easily viewed if you click on them individually.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita

[Unfortunately, we are unable to make the Powerpoint presentation work on this Web site--Carl]


Sunday, July 3, 2011

Dear Everyone,

The dreaded concert is over. There are still two weeks of school left. I thought I was right last week when I said that there were two weeks left, but it turned out to be wishful thinking on my part. Now there are really two weeks left. Those of you who are incredibly discerning, that must mean all of you, probably are questioning, “Why are there still two weeks of school when exams, concert, reports, and texts and workbooks are all completed?” The truth of the matter is that we have not had parent conferences. The conferences are still just over a week away. This gives the teachers time to prepare for the 15 minute confrontation with the parents, if the parents come. Most of the students have already left the school and have been attending other schools in the area now for two weeks. They left just after the final exams, two weeks ago. AND why would they do that? I believe the answer lies in the fact that in the two years that the school has been established the corporation has not gotten a music teacher, a PE teacher, an art teacher; but it has thrice raised tuition for the students. Anita and I are prepared for the last two weeks. We can do it standing on our heads, maybe even each other’s heads. I love this school. I love the students. I love the teachers that share the space we call school. The corporation, Kinderworld, brings to mind a whole different set of vocabulary words that are not fit to print in a family news letter.

The school concert was held at The Song Be Golf Resort, which is right across the street from the school. It was a rented venue. They provided the lights, the sound system, the seating, the stage. The conference room was perfect for the show. Each class performed. All of them had prepared some interesting programs. The people who decided on the theme of the programs and the corporate owners, the Tan family from Singapore (Ricky and Carol), decided that it was not worth their collective times to attend. The one representative of the corporation that we all knew was a man named Peter Baker. He was there. I mean he attended. He was not there. He did not speak to any teachers. He did not say that he had enjoyed the performances. He did not acknowledge that anyone existed aside from Regan, the principal. Some of you may remember the book that was published in the 60’s called The Peter Principle. I trust that you have noticed the striking similarity of the title of the book and the man in attendance. He is living, maybe, breathing, proof that the Peter Principle still works today. The main idea of the book is that everyone rises to his or her level of incompetence as they move up the corporate ladder. Our Peter has made it to and above his level.

I have been teaching swimming to four of the ladies from school. They have become pool safe. They are swimmers. They presented me with a needlepoint that they have been working on at school for the past month. I had seen the work in each of their hands during the sewing time, but I thought that they were all creating individual pictures that were on the same topic. Well, DUH!! I am so happy to be rewarded with a gift like the picture even though the best reward of all is watching them swim the length of the pool.

The swimming classes at The Song Be Golf Resort have also been great fun. Sharon and I have been sharing the ladies who work in the office. Almost all of them are able to swim across the pool. Many of them have overcome many years of fear of the water. My reward there is that they still want to continue the lessons. I will work with them as long as they want. It is great fun, and I am getting paid to do it.

We rode into HCMC today after breakfast. We bought a few things that we cannot find in Binh Duong. After the shopping we headed for our favorite little Satay House for some Malaysian food. It was just as good as the last time we ate there. After the meal we took a long ride through the city trying to find our way back home again. We were not lost. We were just confused a bit. Well maybe we said the word lost once or twice, but for most of the ride we knew that we were in the north part of HCMC. We knew that we would certainly find our way home eventually. And we did. This letter is proof.

I am off to do some shopping for dinner tonight. I will stock up on other things that we will need during the week, so Anita will not have to shop since I will be teaching swimming Wednesday through Saturday next week from 5:30 to 6:30. Since the rainy season is upon us, we are happy when we can get through a complete hour without the lightning bolts menacing the swimming pool.

We hope that you are all well. Life is interesting. If we did not have each other and friends like you, things would be pretty dull.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 26, 2011

Dear All,

School is essentially over. There are still two weeks of scheduled classes, but many of the students have left the school and do not plan to return. There was a meeting on Friday to address concerns of parents. Nothing that was originally a cause of the mass exodus was addressed. We have a command performance, assigned by Ricky and Carol Tan, the owners of the school. Rumor has it that they do not plan to attend the command performance. They are probably afraid that if they show up they will be expected to answer questions about that which they do not have answers.

We went to breakfast at the Song Be Golf Resort yesterday. We met Sharon and Kim there. They were supposed to be well ahead of us. We had not planned to meet them. Kim spent a few extra ZZZ’s which slowed them down.

While we were at breakfast, Sharon was demonstrating her super powers that she uses to keep order in the classroom. She had a full glass of café su da which she placed rather firmly on the table where it shattered into millions of pieces, spraying café su da and glass into a gigantic radius. The glass was almost a powder, attesting to Sharon’s super human abilities. Eventually the faux was cleaned up, and Sharon ordered a replacement café. She was told that it was already being concocted even as she asked. The waiters and waitresses were now well aware of the power of the superhuman and were wise enough to serve the next café in a plastic cup. The people at the resort are not slow learners. I am pretty sure the next time they see Sharon they will be armed with extra wiping tools and large cover-all aprons. I believe that the resort will purchase a special set of plates, silverware and glasses that are unbreakable just for her visits in the future.

Anita, Mr. Viet and I made a new shadow screen for the command performance on Saturday. It is in the classroom. We will use it for our rehearsals.

After the breakfast today Anita and I made an attempt to find the area known as New Binh Duong City. I do not think we were successful. We will put the search in our list of things to do.

We are about to be deluged upon from a gigantic thunderstorm, which has been lurking in the sky for most of the day. I came home from the Metro in a gust front that was one of the strongest we have had in a long time.

I have started reading The BFG by Roald Dahl to the students for their English class. Most of them are understanding the story. It is fun to watch them go through the process of making sure they know all the innuendos.

We are thinking of you all. We hope that you are all well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 19, 2011

Dear All,

Last week was exam week. All the students took an English exam. The Vietnamese students took the required by Vietnamese law exams while the international students took the math, science, and language, Chinese or Vietnamese, exams. The tension in the air was enough to cut with a knife.

It was the teachers’ job to get the tests graded, results posted, comments written, and general hurry up and get it done stuff. We have until Friday to complete all the requirements.

As it turns out now, no dignitaries are coming to see the special performances that the school has planned. The students have been practicing for hours and no one will come to see it. These shows were dictated by the corporation. The idea is that the shows will attract new parents to the school. In all my days of teaching, I have never heard of a parent saying, “Oh, my! That was such a lovely show that I am going to sign up all my children, my sister’s children, my cousin’s children, all the children in the orphanage, and any I can find on the street who look like they need an immersion into command performances.”

The highlight of the week was the delivery of my motorbike. I picked it up on Wednesday afternoon. The paper work will all be completed by the end of the month. It is a great bike. It has lots of technology that was introduced by the Prius. There is an idle switch that turns the motor off after a few seconds of idling, fuel injection, and a 125 cc engine, much more powerful than the old one Sharon now has. It is going to be perfect for our travels around Vietnam after school is over. There are three pictures below. The sign on the front of the bike says, "If you can read this sign, you are on the wrong side of the road."

I mentioned that we were leaving the school to one of my students, who is in charge of developing the Binh Duong New City. He told me that they have just opened an International University, and they were looking for teachers. He asked me to send him my resume, which I have done. I would much rather work with Dr. Pham at the hospital, but I am keeping my doors open.

I think I have one more week of teaching swimming to the office staff of the golf course. It has been lots of fun. I am getting good feedback from the owner of the club.

I am going to barbecue some pork tonight. I am headed out now to set the fire.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Dashboard Bike sign


Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dear All,

We now have one more month of school. Final exams started last Tuesday. This week we will have all the important exams. The results of the exams do not mean anything. All the children will be moved on to the next grade level whether they have achieved proficiency in anything. As a matter of fact, the results of the exams will not be reviewed by anyone outside the school.

In preparation for our retirement from the school and not from the immediate vicinity, we have decided and followed through with the purchase of a new, more powerful motorbike that we are hoping will be more comfortable for Anita. It will also be outfitted with some extra storage space carrying boxes. My friends are looking for places to purchase them. I am looking too. The delivery of the bike will be Wednesday, with some luck and good weather.

I think I mentioned this before. It is worth a reminder. Foreigners cannot own a motorbike in Vietnam. Lam, my co-teacher and I went on a short search to locate the bike we wanted. Since I have lots of free time on Friday, I was able to go to the bank to make the withdrawal of 60,000,000 VND, about $3000, to pay for the bike. Huyen, I no longer need to refer to her as my right hand person, and I went to the shop and make the purchase. The shop was up front with us and said they would do all the paperwork. They showed us the driver’s license of the fictitious person to whom the bike would be registered, and told us all the paperwork would be taken care of. I will let you know next letter how everything has or has not moved ahead. This will be the second bike that belongs to us, but is registered in another name. Interesting process.

Anita was approached by one of the officios here at the Oasis and was asked if she was willing to participate in a photo shoot for advertising the Villas and the Oasis complex. She naturally agreed to the gratis participation. We arrived at the site of the photo shoot at 2:00, the time we were told we should arrive. We were told that we should come back at 4:00 dressed in light colored clothes. Back to the Villa we went. Anita went off to teach her yoga class. I wasted time, something I an not very good at doing. We returned at the appointed hour. We dawdled for about 15 minutes while the first team of models dispersed and we were prepared for our little part. Our contribution to the shoot was to sit outside under an umbrella sipping nonexistent tea from a beautiful Ming Long cup while making small talk as the chief camera operator flitted around us taking 40 or 50 pictures of the happy family enjoying the afternoon sun with a nice cup of tea. Token foreigners will do anything to get into a brochure.

After the shoot, I went off to teach my OL’s at the golf course. We have been getting lightened out recently, so I was pleasantly surprised that the storm held off until 6:30, which is quitting time anyway. The ladies who are sticking with me are great. They will all be good swimmers by the time we end the lessons.

We are off to breakfast at the Phuong Nam Resort and later head into HCMC for a few items that can be found in the BIG CITY and not in our area. It is my plan to celebrate the end of exams with a pancake breakfast with our students. I do not think any of them have ever had pancakes and maple syrup.

The trip to the BIG CITY was uneventful in terms of accidents. We saw none which is unusual. The traffic was pretty frightful. We were able to find all the goodies we need to sustain us through the coming week or two.

Tomorrow will be a busy day. The kiddies will need to be entertained all day. We have been instructed that the children are not to use any free time they have by going to the computer room. It will look bad and tarnish the otherwise spotless reputation of the school. Close that barn door. The horses may want to come back in.

We hope all is well with you. We are still having lots of fun in spite of the corporation and the time clock.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dear All,

It has been a week of shock for the school. I guess the powers that be should have seen it coming, but since this is a corporation that is there to make money, there is no one watching the storefront.

An increase in the fees was announced a couple of weeks ago. There was a great deal of buzz about it. The buzzing kept getting louder and louder. We have just over 100 students at the school. We have no PE teacher, no Information Technology teacher, no science teacher, no sports facility (swimming pool). The fees have been increased three times since we have been here and there has been no increase in services or upgrade to the facility. People who pay for their children’s education are not stupid. They can see that they are paying for something and not getting it. It is a corporate problem. We are losing more than 30 students at the end of the school year. I cannot say I am disappointed that my least favorite business in the universe is tanking. The corporation deserves to have it be this way.

We are on our way out. At the end of July we will no longer be employed unless someone comes through with a job offer that is a good one. We have always been able to leave the ship just before it sinks. It may be luck. It may be intuition. We have always made the right choice at the right time.

We have just come back from lunch at our favorite Chinese restaurant. The meal was fantastic. The amazing thing about restaurant was not the food, but that we knew three of the families that were in the restaurant. One of the families even paid for our lunch.

Exams start on Tuesday. They last for two weeks. When they are over, we will still have a month of school. The exams do not make any difference in terms of being moved to another grade level. They are just time wasters. No one even looks at the results to see what has happened. Can you tell I am ready to move on?

The best thing about the school is the Vietnamese teachers. We love them all. The students run a close second in the best of the school. If it were not for the friends we have and the students we have, this would be a miserable place.

We hope you are well. We are thinking of you all. It is great to have friends like you.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 29, 2011

Dear Everyone,

The week was school. It has not made any progress. The ladies have put together a great proposal for keeping their salaries on par with inflation. I will be blown over by a feather if the corporation accepts the proposal, but there is always a possibility.

Sharon, our representative from Canada, has been helping me with my swimming classes. We have 27 ladies from the office staff department who have signed up for the instruction. We start on Wednesday at 5:30 and go every night till 6:30. We have the class on 4 consecutive nights. It is really a lot of fun watching the ladies progress. Some of them are going to be great swimmers.

I guess the best news that I have to share with you is that the Anh Phuc Hospital has expressed a continuing interest in my teaching the doctors and maybe others at the hospital. There are some great programs on the internet that I could use to get them all listening to, reading, and speaking English. I would also have a chance to play the part of an American patient. It sounds interesting. Dr. Pham, the doctor who initially spoke to me, has asked for my resume, which I have sent. I am prepared to go in for an interview if the doctors are still interested. Dr. Pham told me that having foreigners as teachers in the hospitals in is becoming a big part of the medical advancements. He spoke about a 2 year commitment. I could be up for that in a flash. It might mean not getting home as early as I had planned, but that would not stop Anita from coming home whenever she had the urge. I will let you know how the drama unfolds.

It is time for me to slip into my Flower Fairy uniform and go to the Metro for some flowers for my lady friends. I will deliver them tomorrow morning.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear All,

The school week was over pretty fast. It would have been faster if we had not been dumped on with extra work. The exams that we were to write were sent back, because we had not followed the guidelines. Guidelines? What guidelines. No one had informed us of any guidelines. In the end, Regan completed the exams. This school’s left hand does not know what the right hand is doing even when they are shaking each other. It is another reason that corporate schools do not work.

I had a great start on the weekend. Huyen had asked me to go to help out for one of her English lessons that she teaches on Saturdays. We met at school, almost on time, and went to a factory run by a Taiwanese couple, also the owners. She spoke good English. We did not meet the husband, but we were told that he speaks as well. They want their 3-year old daughter to learn. That’s a whole other story. The lesson went very well. I want to keep helping out. I am going to have to ask Huyen to make an adjustment in her time schedule. Maybe she can then we can work together on a regular basis.

On Saturday night at 5:30, I met my class of students from the Song Be Golf Resort. There were 11 of them, all non-swimmers. Some of them made really rapid progress and were able to kick across the pool in 50 minutes of instruction. Working with adults is great.

This morning we went for breakfast at Phuong Nam and afterward we went to school. Anita could not get her key; so she taxied home; and I worked for a couple of hours to complete the science exam.

I got home in time to take Anita out for lunch at the Chinese restaurant. After lunch we headed for Viet- Anh School to take a look at it. There are about 1000 students in the school, lots of Vietnamese teachers and 6 overseas hires. The school has a dubious reputation. It was interesting.

Now it is time to start cooking dinner. It is 34 degrees outside (93 degrees). It is hot, humid and oppressive.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Dear All,

From Anita:

This week I took the seven oldest children to Minh Sang Plaza to paint china dishes. If you need a set of China dishes, this is the place to come. It is even written up in the literature for tourists. Besides the professionally decorated china, there is a room where you can decorate your own. A man is there throwing clay on the wheel. A couple of other people are painting vases that are a meter high. I had each student choose a plate or vase to decorate. They then had to choose six colors from the chart. There were many pictures to give an idea of what you could paint. Everyone set to work. An hour and a half later, we turned in our green ware and returned to school. They will be ready to pick up next Sunday. Our principal, Regan, wants them to give to people who visit the school.

We found a different Chinese food restaurant near by. It has nothing written in English and no one spoke Chinese or understood the names for the food. We had some good food, but It wasn't really Chinese or Vietnamese. Very interesting, fusion food. We will be going back to our regular Chinese restaurant.

From me:

The week was pretty much like all the others; except, to steal a Walter Cronkite phrase, I was there. Highlights from the week were few and far between. The only fun anecdote came from Huyen. I was talking with her about things that had happened, and she related to me a funny story about meeting her soon to be husband for an evening dinner. She said in a very quiet voice that at the time she did not carry as much weight as she does now, which is hardly any at all, an important part of the story. She chuckled as she said that her husband to be rode off on the motorbike leaving her behind for at least a kilometer before he realized that she was not on the motorbike at all. I am sure there was some rather rapid explaining on his part.

This morning the power went off at 6:30am. I went downstairs and while Anita found the directions on how to go on under generator power, I readied the generator. Then, following Anita’s instructions, I began the process of starting the generator. I switched off the main circuit breakers, started the generator, switched on the main circuit breakers and the generator acted like it was overloaded and died. So….. I switched off more circuit breakers, started the generator and the generator acted like it was overloaded and died. So….. I switched off more circuit breakers, kicked the generator, started the generator and the generator acted like it was overloaded and died. So….. I switched off more circuit breakers, kicked the generator, hit the generator with my fist, should have used a hammer but I didn’t have one, started the generator and the generator acted like it was overloaded and died. I gave up and went to breakfast. When I got back from school, the power was back, so I only kicked and spat upon the generator twice.

We headed off to Song Be Golf course for a breakfast meeting with Sharon, one of our fellow overseas hires. We had a great time talking and laughing about things in general. She has just purchased a new bedroom suite, which seems to be very workable for her except that the mattress is slightly bigger than the bed. Bed and mattress were purchased in different venues, most likely the reason for the discrepancy.

On the way to the golf course, I noticed a man pushing his motorbike and a girl, his wife, his girlfriend, his lover, his sister, his good friend (Your choice!). I stopped and asked if he wanted a push, in English, of course, since Huyen did not teach me how to say or even think in Vietnamese those words, he did not understand; so, in my best “Point and Grunt”, a universal language, I went through the motions of waving my foot in the air and moving the bike forward. He caught on. I was pleased that I could still speak “Point and Grunt”. Soon we were all smiling as I pushed; he rode, and the girl, his wife, his girlfriend, his lover, his sister, his good friend (Your choice!) got on behind Anita. We delivered them both to the same place at the same time. Another miracle!

I went to school to continue to work on writing a science end if year test which is one of the least favorite things I look forward to performing. I made some progress. I am partially organized for the week.

In addition to the other garbage (pronounce with a French accent), I have had to prepare for the end of school year performance. It is mandated that all classes have an individual performance under the Grand Heading of Dreams, Dreams, Dreams. The title for the Grande Production was probably chosen by the prepubescent wife of the head of the corporation. I have chosen a legend from Vietnam. It is a good story with a great moral. Since it is a Vietnamese legend and, according to the CORPORATE MANDATE, there is supposed to be no Vietnamese. I thought it would be axed. Unfortunately it was not; so, now I am in the throes of planning the scenery. Why Me, Lord? Why Anybody, Lord? Why?

Since Anita was suffering from a mild case of Motezuma’s revenge, I decided that I should go to the Metro for some lunch materials. Of course, I, being a man, would never admit to such a thing; and besides, Montezuma probably never made it this far anyway. I had a touch of something else, but was able to function independently of the toilet and paper. I went to the vegetable section and was in the process of picking out some nice red tomatoes for the sandwich stuff that I had already purchased when a woman dressed in black, probably not important but it made her look more evil, took aim with her cart and drove it into my back. I winced, and turned and said in my street theater voice, “Yeah! You got me!” She looked at me and continued on her way picking up veggies and leaving the cart where she had left it, in the middle of my back. I remove the cart. Calmly walked over to her, clearing my throat, and said, again in my best street theater voice, “In Vietnamese, that is, ‘Xin Loi!’”. She looked befuddled momentarily and then began to say, “Excuse me,” in English. I smiled and went about the business of vegetable shopping. Ah, the joys of street theater are still alive and well.

I, representing the Flower Fairy, recently aforementioned, head back to the Metro later today for dinner stuff and flowers. I love the Metro. I love the people who work there. I love the people who shop there. They are so inconsiderate.

I guess that is all the news I can squeeze from this week.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 8, 2011

Dear All,

When we got home from our trip, we discovered that the drain from the washing machine was clogged again for the third time. Since Monday and Tuesday were public holidays, the drain could not be unclogged until Wednesday. On Wednesday someone came to look at it and decided that the drain was clogged. On Thursday, the man from our school went to the Villa to see what he could do, but he did not have the proper ID; so they would not let him in the building. On Friday, a man came to clean out the pipe, but decided he was not up for the job. He said someone would come on Saturday. The man came. He looked at the drain and left. Anita called the school and soon after the man came back to fix the problem. He used a hose to blast the clog free. He decided it would not work when water and sewage had filled the wash room, part of the walkway to the kitchen, and the downstairs bathroom. Nobody in their right mind works on Sunday. On Monday someone is supposed to come to use compressed air to blow the pipe clean.

I believe I have been around construction enough to know that when a PVC pipe backs up a second time with the same symptoms as the first back-up, one can pretty much be sure that the pipe is damaged underground, and the only way to fix it is to replace it. There was no provision for repair of drains in the Villa. I have a feeling that the pipe will still be clogging long after we are gone.

I have posted the photos on the photo page (There are two sets of photos entitled "The De Lat Trip" here: http://gallery.me.com/abdiii). I posted some videos that do not work. I am trying to take them off. The internet connection is really slow right now. I am having a hard time connecting. Maybe I will be able to do something soon.

It was a fantastic trip. When school is over, we are thinking of riding to Hanoi, about 1600km. If that plan comes into being, we will need a larger bike. My right hand, Huyen, tells me there is no problem in getting another one. I believe her. She knows how, when, why, and where, and all the other answers to question words.

This is going to be short. Anita said that she will add something to flesh it out. When It comes I will post it.
Hi everyone,

A note from Anita.

Monday and Tuesday were holidays and we stayed close to home.

A student in my English class won first place in an English contest for Vietnamese fifth graders. Tuesday she goes on to the next level. The plan was to pull her out of class for five days to study for this new exam. That is a new one for me.

Terry is doing some research, planning for a longer trip to see more of Vietnam. Vietnam has the same land area as New Mexico, but stretched out long and skinny. The mountains are straight up and down; many roads have greater than 10% grade. Some of these roads in the south were build by the US military and they weren't built to handle motorbikes. The good thing is that once you are out of town, the bike traffic really thins out.

Talk to you soon.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Dear All,

We are back. We are alive. We are in our home away from home. I just went shopping for dinner. While at the Metro, someone stole my Metro bag from my shopping cart.

Today was mainly driving. We were on the road at 7:00. We got home at 2:00. It was not a bad drive, just long.

I am posting pictures of the trip on my picture page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii .

We are going to work at school the next two days even though they are holidays, because some idiot in the company decided that we should write the English test for our grade level by the end of this month to be administered at the end of June for all the schools in Vietnam. Thanks!

It was a fantastic trip. I have always wanted to take a motorbike trip. We may be taking a few more.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Saturday, April 30, 2011

This morning we finally set out at 9:30. The day was crisp and cool. Our first obstacle was the mountain down from Da Lat. It is narrow. It was filled with traffic coming up both sides of the road. We crept down an about 20 to 30 KMH. Sometimes we had to stop and pull off the road to make room for some idiot who was coming up our side. To make matters worse, if we went too far to the right there was a drainage ditch that was about a meter and a half deep constructed out of cement. It would have hurt.

Once off the mountain we traveled through hilly terrain and Bao Lat, the last major city before we reached our resting place for the night. Before our resting place, we had to negotiate one more down the mountain run. It had the same imbeciles driving up the mountain as the ones that were driving up to Da Lat. I do not know how they got down there so fast.

At the bottom of the second mountain, there is a resort where we stopped and tried to book a room. There was one room available for the four of us. It was a tree house with no water or air conditioning. We decided to move on, since we were told that there was a hotel about 7KM down the road.

We found the motel pictured here. The first resort wanted 1,000,000 VND for one room for two people. We were pretty excited to discover that the motel which we found cost 300,000 VND per night for both rooms and it has internet access, air con, television, hot water and space to park the motor bike inside our room.

We complete our adventure tomorrow with a drive of about 160 KM. I will report when we are home.


Terry and Anita


Saturday, April 30, 2011

Dear All,

The internet at this hotel s sporadic at best, so it looks like I will not be sending yesterday’s letter or this one until we are at home.

Yesterday we started out at a noodle shop across the street. It was another great Vietnamese breakfast. I will be posting some pictures of most of the meals.

After breakfast, we went to the flower exposition. It is an ongoing show of the many flowers that are grown here in Da Lat. I may not have mentioned it before, but Da Lat is the breadbasket of Vietnam. At the flower show, there were varieties of flowers I have never even dreamed of seeing. I have many pictures of the unique flowers to post when I get home. I was, as I always have been, fascinated by the orchids. We wandered the show for about 2 hours looking at flowers. My grandmother would have thought she had died and gone to heaven.

Next we were off to “Love Valley”. It is set in the hilltops of Da Lat. It is a place set aside to celebrate love, a great idea in Vietnam since for most of the people, it is a different concept than what we have in the world in which we live. I will elaborate later. While at the park, Dong and Huong rode a horse for the first time. This trip has been a series of firsts for both of them. One of the best experiences we have had is watching and sharing their firsts. It has been uplifting and heartwarming.

The day was getting older and soon it was time for lunch at another of one of the endless food stalls that line the streets of every town. I will never be hesitant about eating in a food stall again in Vietnam. If there are people there, the food is almost always good. This food stall was no exception. It was funny the owner berated Dong and Huong for not buying us beer for lunch. Beer and bikes do not mix, not a fact recognized by many of the male drivers in Vietnam.

The next adventure led us to a practicing Buddhist monastery. We wandered the hill tops looking at the beautiful, towering pine trees, some with ferns and orchids growing from the branches. The monastery overlooked a lake on which one could take a boat ride or swim. Neither activity seemed to be high on our list of things to do. We walked down the hill to the side of the lake and had the obligatory photo sessions along the way. We had a café su da at a little food stall and talked about words and pronunciations. It is always an interesting diversion to talk about words and how to make them sound correct. Explorations into words always lead to such funny twists and turns. One of the turns was about clothing that fits well.

Off on the path not far from the little café was a line of “thing sellers”. There was a girl, in the Asian squat position, looking at something in one of the stalls. Her jeans had pulled away from her waist and had exposed the back and top of her butt. I remarked that whenever I saw that kind of exposure, no matter where the exposure occurred, my first thought was the desire for an ice cube, which I could place in the appropriate receptacle. The ladies were more than mildly amused by the idea since this is not the way that Vietnamese ladies think. The talk soon turned to the idea that there were many people who wore designer clothing and were proud to show off the brand name. Calvin Klein was mentioned as a brand that graced the waistband of underwear. There was a discussion of the word “waistband”. I decided that I could market a brand of underwear called “Dirty” that would be prominently displayed when doing the Asian squat. That, too, led to an interesting discussion.

We met a girl in one of the “thing seller” stalls. She had a loom set up and was weaving. She spoke excellent English. She told us about how she had opened the stall and was selling the fabrics that original people who had been displaced by the influx of “Vietnamese”. She demonstrated the loom and gave us a history of the area. She was captivating and beautiful.

The next experience on the agenda was a waterfall. It was not Niagara, but it was pretty spectacular. We walked down the ravine and rode up the rollercoaster. Of course there was the obligatory photo sessions that seem to be the most important part of the trip, and the most fun.

We went back to the hotel and prepared for the night market and dinner. It was a wild scene with people trying to drag us into their eating places, fruit and vegetables piled to the rooftops, food stall after food stall. We finally settled on an artichoke hot pot, good choice.

Anita and I opted to go back to the hotel while the ladies went out on a night mission in search of whatever happened to find them. On the way back to the hotel, the police arrived at the market. There was an incredible flurry of activity as all the illegal street sellers gathered up their things and began running away from the approaching police. One girl was having trouble gathering her tarp of goodies for sale, so I picked up a couple of the dangling corners. We ran off together up the hill to relative safety. She said her thank you’s in English and Vietnamese. Anita caught up with us. We headed back to the hotel.

In an hour we will be eating breakfast and on our way. We will go 150km to a resort then tomorrow we will make the final leg to Binh Duong.

I will write again tomorrow. If anything interesting happens, that is.

Love to you all,

Terry and Anita


(You may want to read the all of the entries beginning on April 24 before reading this.)

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Dear All,

Today’s trip made this whole outing worthwhile. People had told us that we might not be able to make the steep climb up from sea level to over 5000 feet. Our little bike was up to the challenge and never even came close to over heating.

After breakfast, we headed out of town toward the West. About 20 kilometers later, we started to climb. At first we were on narrow unimproved roads, but suddenly we were on a new road that we could see as it wound its way up the side of one mountain after another into the clouds. We could not go fast, nor did we want to speed, since the traffic coming down the road was moving at a ridiculous pace. We hugged the right side of the road and kept going. As we moved up the mountain, the air became noticeably cooler. It was comfortable to ride and drive.

After being in the flats of Binh Duong, seeing the mountain tops disappear into the clouds was pretty exciting. To think that we were going to do the same was even more of a thrill. It was amazing. We did enter the clouds and get cooled by the mist. The vegetation changed from semi- arid to lush. We moved into pine tree covered hilltops and fern cover ground. It was like coming back to Pennsylvania.

The tops of the mountains have been clear-cut for the most part, and in the place of the trees have sprouted farms. Coffee, tea, corn, and artichokes abound. Greenhouses are everywhere. The land has been terraced to accommodate the greenhouse explosion. Da Lat is mostly covered for growing all year around.

On the way up the mountain, we stopped at a small café for some Café Su Da. (I am a recent convert.) It is thick, black coffee with condensed milk served over ice. While we were waiting, we noticed that there were plastic bags of water in bowls on all the tables. It was explained that these were to keep the flies away. We were told that the flies came in for their snacks; and when they saw themselves reflected in the plastic bag of water, they would become so agitated and upset that they would never come back again. I do not know whether it works or not, because I have always found it difficult to tell one fly from another. If they had nametags or carried an individual banners, I might have been able to confirm the story, but not this time.

Tomorrow we are going to be tourists again. I will update you with our adventures at the end of the day.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


(You may want to read the all of the entries beginning on April 24 before reading this.)

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

This morning we started out the day at a beef noodle restaurant that is the most famous in Nha Trang, After the best beef noodle soup I have ever had, we came back to the hotel then headed for the beach for a little salt water time. Both Dong and Huong are OK swimmers, but neither is confident in the water; so we mostly stayed close to shore. The water was crystal clear and a wonderful temperature.

As we were finding the best spot to swim, we noticed a man raking the sand with his hands and picking something out and putting it in a plastic bag. It turned out to be tiny clams. We tried our hand at it and Huong got pretty good at finding them. I kept putting them back after we looked for a while. They are amazing. Drop them on the sand and watch. When a wave comes in they stick out their foot and flip their shell upright. When the next wave comes, they burrow into the sand so fast that you cannot see them go, and you cannot dig fast enough to catch them again. I guess that is why they have been around for thousands of years.

After the beach we went to the Oceanographic Museum. They had many aquariums set up and lots of fish to see. They even had one very forlorn seal which lives in an air-conditioned enclosure. Apparently it had lost its way and ended up in the hands of a farmer who brought it to the museum Hopefully he will be released some day.

After the educational trip, it was time to head for the Mud Bath. It is a major stop on the tours and teems with tourists and locals. It is called Tam Khoang Tien Sa. There are hot springs in Nha Trang that have become a popular resort area. People come from far and wide to take the mud bath. First we had to get towels and the approved bathing costumes. From there we were led to an area to shower. After the shower, we were taken to a 4-person tub and told to get in. As we got in, the attendant opened a tap and warm mud started to fill up the tub. The four of us rolled around in the mud for about 20 minutes, then we went to the benches where we were to let the mud dry on our skin. After drying, we went to showers where we made an attempt to wash all the mud off. From there we went to mineral spring tubs where we soaked for another 20 or so minutes. After that was completed, we went to a hot mineral waterfall where we stood for a while as the water beat a massage on our heads and shoulders. Finally the ladies minus Anita and me went for a swim in one of the mineral pools. We had soaked enough.

We took before and after pictures of us for all you discerning viewers of my posted pictures. These will not be up until we return to Binh Duong.

After the soaking, Dong did some shopping for some clothes. I looked at a bathing suit then decided against it. Dong bought it for me anyway. She suffered through a big hug of thanks and went smiling on her way after she gave it to me.

On the way home from the mud baths, we stopped at a street stall for some special cakes made of rice flour and squid pieces followed by rice flour and eggs cooked over a charcoal fire.

We have just finished dinner which again was spectacular.. It is hard to tell what is next. Things keep happening, because the ladies want to do it. Who am I to complain? Particularly after we have all bathed together. How much closer can you get.

Tomorrow we head for Da Lat.It is 140 km from the hotel. We will go back to the beef noodle shop for one more round before we go. I will write again from there. Have a great day, everyone!


Terry and Anita


(You may want to read the all of the entries beginning on April 24 before reading this.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 (2)

Dear All,

Today we spent the whole day at Vinapearl, an amusement, theme, water, shopping center, restaurant/food court, seaside resort. If that sounds like a bit of everything, it was. We slid on slides. Bobbed in the wave pool. Slid on bigger slides, swam in the crystal clear water of the sea, slid on slides, had a fast food lunch, slid on slides, went on some rides, swam in the crystal clear water of the sea, ate dinner and finished off the day with a water show set to music.

The highlight of the day was discovering that both Dong and Huong are both adventurers. They wanted to try everything new. It was great to watch them as they made new discoveries about their capabilities. The greatest discovery that they made was the parasail. They both wanted to try; so, off we went to find the boat and the parasail. We found them both. They were soon in the air. The “flight” lasted less than 5 minutes. You could tell from the whoops of joy that all was well. I was allowed to ride in the tow boat and get a video of the event.

Traveling with fellow adventurers is going to make this trip even more meaningful for us. Tomorrow we are going to find the mud baths, and other high points that the ladies have discovered in their research. We have one more night in Na Trang, and then we are off to Da Lat for a short visit of two days and nights then back to Binh Duong on Saturday. We will recuperate on Sunday then go to work on Monday and Tuesday to get ready for the coming term.

I will post more tomorrow.

Love to you all,


(You may want to read the entries beginning on April 24 before reading this.)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 (1)

Dear All,

Yesterday was an incredible day. We started the day with a breakfast of pho bo for some of us and Anita had a traditional? Omelet. The highlight of the meal was the tiny crabs that Huong had purchased earlier. The restaurant cooked them perfectly. They added a super touch to an already fantastic meal.

We were on the way by 8:30. We motored to the north along the road headed in the direction of highway 1A, which was originally built by the American aggressors during the war. The highway on which we traveled was new. It was 6 lanes wide. It wound its way around and over sand dunes giving us the sights of seascape vistas to the East and beautiful rolling sand dunes to the West. The ride lasted for about an hour before we connected with A1, our main link from one place to the next during this trip.

Two hours into the adventure and now on A1, we stopped for a rest and some café su da, iced coffee that is strong enough to melt the spoon and glass that holds it. We enjoyed the company, and the other travelers enjoyed watching the foreigners and the Vietnamese ladies interact and wondered what your relationship was. After the rest, we headed out only to discover that Dong had a flat tire on the bike. I had prepared for the possibility by bringing along a tire patching kit and an air pump. I looked at the tire and decided that it would be best if we went to a “professional” tire person. Dong and Huong set off, and Anita and I were close behind. Not close enough to keep in contact via sight, but at least within telephone contact. We finally found them at a tire repair shop where the woman who ran the shop was assessing the damage to the tire. She did hot have the requisite materials to repair the tire, so she said; so I pulled out my trusty tire repair kit. First I augured the hole which had been made by the blade of an Exacto knife. Then I took our the plugging tool and the repair material, a gooey string that was supposed to be pushed through the hole and into the tire to seal the leak. Since the gooey stuff had been riding in the black box on the back of the bike for a couple of hours, it was too soft and sticky to be inserted into the hole in the tire. I realized that it needed to be cooled. The repair shop had a freezer into which we plunked the repair goo. After 10 minutes it was solid enough to separate from the paper in which it was contained and put in the plugging tool. The first attempt resulted in a very large pile of goo on the outside of the tire since, even though it inserted the way it was supposed to, it removed itself with the tool when I pulled it our, like it was not supposed to. Back to the freezer. The second plug fared no better than the first, at which point the lady said that she could repair the tire from the inside. I was pleased. She knew what she was doing. We began anew.

The muffler was removed. The tire was removed. The hole was found in the tire. During the search and find part of the operation, the lady discovered that there were some brothers, or sisters of the hole that had not been repaired adequately in the past or had never been repaired at all. She set out to fix four holes, carefully patching them from the inside. The four holes now repaired the tire was replaced on the rim, inflated and dunked in the test tank filled with water. The tire was still leaking. Dong decided to purchase a new tire, which the lady just happened to have on hand. Once the new tire was installed, we were on our way again. Elapsed time of repair was just under 2 and a half hours. We were well behind our time schedule.

We rode, and we rode, and we rode, and we rode. The sun passed over us from the right to the left. We continued to ride. Night fell. We rode.

The short message last night explains the rest. It is a new day. Time for us to be tourists and see the BIG CITY. I will let you know about the day later.

End of installment 2!


Terry and Anita


(Be sure to read the entry below for April 24, and you will appreciate this brief message.)

Monday, April 25, 2011

Dear All,

We are in Na Trang. It took 11 hours. I will write more tomorrow. Fantastic trip!

Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Dear All,

We are in Mui Ne on the East coast of Vietnam. We started out at 6:50 this morning and drove through Easter morning traffic to pick up Ms Huong from a park near her house. She and Ms Dong have agreed to accompany us on this dangerous, life threatening, dash for the hinterlands risking certain destruction and most likely death. We drove for an hour with Ms Dong in the lead and successfully found the park. Ms Huong had a backpack which we slung over the front of Duong’s bike, and we were “off like a herd of turtles”. After an hour the traffic started to thin, and we were soon clipping along at a brisk 40 to 45 kmh. An hour and 20 minutes into the trip, Dong and Huong were noticed by the police and waved over. When the police saw the evil faces of the foreigners and the aura of despicable emanating from the area around our motorbike, we were waved on. We stopped a short while down the road to wait for our traveling companions. When they arrived, we question them. It turned out that the police collected 102000 VND from the ladies, because they had been speeding. There was no radar just the intrepid police ready to line their pockets and fund the policemen’s ball.

We made one stop along the way since Dong’s brother lived in the town we were passing through. We stopped in to say hi.

After the short rest thanks to the police, we were off again in the direction of the East coast to find our hotel, The Mei An. At 2:30, we were closing in on the resort. At 3:00 we had checked in and were in our rooms.

Soon after we were in the room the air conditioner started leaking. We were sent to another room. As soon as we were in the room, the ladies wanted to go for a swim in the sea, so off I went with them while Anita got a massage.

We are now back in the resort, Anita is down by the sea with a comfort beer. I am soon to follow.

I will send an update after tomorrow’s drive to Na Trang. It will be a 350 km dirve and probably take about 8 to 9 hours. I hope Anita is up for it. She certainly was great today.

We are thinking of you all.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 17, 2011

Dear All,

Last week was pretty much a school week. We are planning a shadow puppet show based on the story of Duong Le. We are going to do the shadow puppets ala Hua Hua. The children have spent two double arts and crafts periods drawing and cutting out the masks. They have done a fantastic job. Lam and I now have to put the finishing touches on the masks over the next couple of weeks.

Yesterday I taught an hour and a half of swimming in our pool here in the Oasis and an hour plus at the Song Be Golf Course. At the end of the lessons, Margaret, the owner’s wife, and the owner, Mr. Hoang, both approached me and asked if I would teach some of the staff at the golf club to swim. They said that the group was pretty excited about the prospect. I think I am too. We will start after we return from Da Lat unless we are eaten by the monsters that inhabit the road between here and Da Lat.

We now have 5 people who are going to go on the trip. Anita, of course, Lam, my co-teacher, Dong, Anita’s co-teacher, and Dong’s niece, and me. I am not sure why the ladies want to accompany us. There are a number of possibilities. 1 – They think that we are too old to do it by ourselves and are there to protect us from ourselves by convincing us that after a few hours of travel on the road to the North that we will want to turn around and return to the warmth and comfort of our own cozy little domicile 2 – They think that they are going to over power us in the middle of the first night and quietly bundle us back to Binh Duong where we will wake up in our own bed safe and cozy. 3 – They are going to have a good laugh at the expense of the two old people who have no clue about what they are getting into and they can hardly wait to tell everyone at school upon their return how unprepared we were, and what idiots we continue to be. 4 – The are amazed that two old people would consider such a trip and are going just to see whether we would really do it instead of pretending to leave early one morning and then magically return a week later while we were actually hiding out in our villa laughing at the great joke we have played. 5 – They want to do it for the adventure and are genuinely concerned that we will lost without their help. I hope that number 5 is the correct guess. I guess we will never know if we go off on our own and pretend to go and then miraculously reappear a week later fit and hardy. It was such a great plan until it got so complicated. Life can be so difficult at times like this.

I made pancakes the other night using my secret family recipe, beer, for the liquid ingredient. They were great. We christened them with the maple syrup that we bought last weekend.

We went into the city this morning after our usual breakfast at Phuong Nam Resort. We were shopping for Huyen, my former co-teacher and person who will be most likely to come to visit us in the U$A when her daughter is old enough to understand and value the trip. Maybe by that time I will be in my 80’s and partially senile. No, I am that now. Oh, well.

For the first time in the BIG city, we were hit from behind by another bike. I was turning left. The person, most likely a male Vietnamese young person, was going too fast, not paying attention, talking to his girl friend riding behind him, looking in his rear view mirror plucking the hairs out off his face, scratching himself where he could not possibly reach, checking his kick stand to see if it was retracted, picking his teeth with his fingernail, talking on the telephone, and drinking the last of his beer. He did not knock us down, but he certainly gave us a jolt. He was gone before we had time to turn and confront him.

If it had been a woman driving the motorbike and some, but very few, drive like a bat out of Hell, she would most likely have had her dust and pollution mask slip up over her eyes and was probably clawing away at it to get it back into place while trying to maintain the motorbike. The women wear these masks that are attached with a strip of Velcro at the back of the head, and are suspended by draping the connection over the ears. The mask begins just below the eyes and extends downward toward the neck of the shirt or blouse that they are wearing. I think that some of them are long enough to be tucked firmly into the brassier. Ah, what some women do to keep their faces young, enchanting and white for their loved ones.

We drove to our usual parking garage, parked and within the space of 30 minutes we had found the things that we were looking for and in another 30 minutes we were on the way back to Binh Duong. I did not see the idiot who left a bike in the middle of the driving lane last weekend. There was one woman who was not looking and pulled out in front of us then wobbled back and forth for a while disrupting traffic in all directions, including my direction. I called out, “Great move, Exlax!” I am not sure that laxatives are in such great demand with the pucker factor involved in driving anywhere, including the sidewalk.

After the return, I dropped Anita at home and finished the shopping in the local shops, City Mart, Fivi Mart and the Metro. I went to the Honda shop for the bike’s 20,000 km check up and oil change to prepare it for the grueling job of carrying us to the Great Beyond.

A note from Anita:

We are getting ready for the Da Lat trip. We decided to get new helmets for our heads. This is my third helmet in two years. The first ones we got when we first arrived were one size fits all and cost $1.50 each. We soon realized that they weren't providing much protection. We bought helmet with a full face plastic cover. These protect the rider from the elements but get steamed up from breathing. Mine fell to the ground a few too many times and the visor finally fell off. Those helmets cost about $10 each. Helmets have only been required wearing for the past three years. Designs are changing quickly. You can now get a helmet that looks like a garden hat! After looking around, Terry got a helmet that has a visor.. I got one that actually fits well and has half a visor. The cost this time was close to $15 for mine and $20 for Terry's. I really enjoyed wearing it this morning.

People in Vietnam do not use a top sheet. When you go to the store you can buy a set, which includes a fitted bottom sheet and two pillow cases. Separately you can buy a cover that is like a sheet with stuffing. I think this is a left over from the French being here. We brought sheets with us. We still like to sleep between two sheets.

Today was hot. Really, hot. April is supposed to be the hottest month in southern Vietnam, because there is no cloud cover. This year we have had clouds, rain and all during the "dry season." We talked the owner of this Villa into buying a generator, which is now sitting in the garage unused. We have had electricity too. It seems that the combination of cooler weather, a 15% rise and electricity costs, and purchased electricity from China has made sure there is electricity for all.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 10, 2011

Dear All,

Last week on my shopping trip to the Metro, I met a girl who was working there. As I was walking down one of the aisles, I heard a quiet voice say, “Where are you from?” It was almost inaudible. I paused and looked around and there she was. She is a tiny, pretty girl. She has bright, inquisitive eyes that shine with the fire of youth. We exchanged phone numbers. I have never given my phone number out to a stranger before, but this time it seemed different. Almost every day I was sent a message from her, asking a question, posting a greeting, each with the purpose of continuing the relationship.

Finally we agreed to meet on Saturday afternoon to go to a park. I thought I knew which park she was referring to when I first heard her say the name, but I was not sure so we agreed to meet in the parking lot of the Metro at 2:00. I went to the parking lot at 2:00, and soon after she arrived and called out my name. Her name is Huyen. I had forgotten what she looked like, so I am glad that she remembered the old guy with the white hair. She told me that she wanted me to meet her student, and off we went down the road on the wrong side of the road. I rode on the sidewalk, she in the oncoming traffic. She led me through a rabbit warren of tiny alleys to a place where I was to wait outside while she got her student. She returned shortly with a boy about 12 years old, introduced him, turned her motorbike around, plopped him behind me on my motorbike, and we were off through another maze of alleyways to her room.

It is a tiny room, about 5 meters by 4 meters with a bathroom in one corner and a loft overhead for sleeping that is accessible by a ladder that is attached to and swings against the wall when not in use. There was no furniture in the room. We sat on the tiled floor and had minimal conversation mostly prompted by Huyen’s encouraging her student to pose the questions. Huen brought out water and some bean cakes to consume. On arrival we were met by another girl, I think she was introduced as a sister. We were there for almost 45 minutes and managed to collect two more girls before we set out to the Park where we walked and finally settled onto the grass where we had sweetened popcorn and sweetened tangerine drinks. There was talk. We sand some songs. In about an hour it was time to head back to the motorbikes. We said our goodbyes, and I was on my way home. It was an enjoyable encounter. I am pretty sure we will meet again. The three other young ladies were interesting. Each of them wants to learn English. I think we will meet again.

I have never done anything like that before. The experience was a good one. Sharon, one of the teachers at the school, asked me what my plan was going to be, I replied that I did not know, because I had never done anything like this before. She told me to not have any expectations and to let the encounter happen. It was very good advice.

School went ahead as it should have gone. It was uneventful, but fun for me and some of the kids who are diligent enough to do their work on time.

This weekend we headed to our favorite breakfast spot, Phuong Nam, ate breakfast, a buffet that is all you can eat and costs 60,000 VND per person ($3.00). Just north of the resort there had been a motor bike accident. There were two bikes twisted and bent into shapes that did not resemble motorbikes and one woman lying in the middle of the road. It kind of puts one off his feed. After the repast we aimed the motorbike toward the city.

In the city, I was able to find clothing suitable to travel in the exposure offered up by a motorbike for 12 hours travel. Long pants of light nylon, and a jacket made of breathable material. We were also able to find maple syrup from Canada, definitely not as good as Pure Pennsylvania Maple Syrup, but I am sure it is passable. We found oatmeal and M ‘n M’s. After The whirlwind of shopping, we headed back to our motorbike parking lot. The bikes were parked 4 deep. It was a busy day. When we arrived at our bike there was a man who was extricating his bike from the middle of the pack of 4 in a line. He pushed bikes out of the way and moved his bikeinto a position to take off. He did not even consider replacing the bikes he had moved. As he fired up his bike, I shouted and pointed at the bike in the middle of the driving lane saying, “Are you going to just leave that in the way?” He looked at the bike, then looked at me. He fired up his bike and roared away. I shouted, “You idiot!” I know he heard me, and I think he flipped me the bird. Some Vietnamese men are so diplomatic! From the bike park, we headed to our most favorite Muslim restaurant where Anita was able to get her satay fix, and I was able to get my beef noodle with chili and lemon grass soup fix.

We then headed for home. I dropped Anita and went to the City Mart for some essentials, then to the FIVI Mart for some essentials, then to the Metro for some essentials. Later this afternoon, I will morph from being the mild mannered teacher who quietly lives out his life in the classroom trying to impart knowledge to semi-absorbent sponges to the Flower Fairy, fierce deliverer of an assortment of flowers to grace the desks of the wonderful women who have done so much for Anita and me over the last two years. Actually just putting up with me is a major undertaking in itself.

Hi Everyone,

Last week two people wrote to ask how I was doing. So I will add a brief bit from my point of view.

I am doing great! I love what I am doing and enjoying everything that is going on.

I get up at 5:00 am most morning for yoga and getting ready for the day. I bike into school about 7:30. School is great because the classes are so small. I have 5 fifth and sixth graders in my core group. I have 12 students for English every day. On Mondays I have 14 for ESL. That's it. Planning takes time, but grading papers does not.

I do have a small yoga class here at the Oasis where we live. I say small because sometimes there are three and sometimes there are none. I just go with the flow.

Last Tuesday after school I noticed that my gas gauge was showing not much gas. Instead of driving through the VSIP I had to drive around the outside. Three possible gasoline stations were on this route. I joined the going home traffic on highway 13. About five bikes were already stopped at the first gas station. I traveled on to the second one. NO GAS! Only one to go. Wouldn't you know it? About twenty bikes were gathered and there was only one guy pumping gas and taking the money. I opened the tank and kept pushing the bike closer to the pumper. Of course some bikes pushed in front and didn't seem to notice the rest of us waiting. Finally, it was my turn. I motioned to fill it up, but that didn't work. I got one liter just like everyone else. (That cost D20,000 or $1.) It was enough gas to last the rest of the week and then I filled up on the weekend.

Love, Anita

That’s it from both of us. Life is good. The air is foul. The people I know are fantastic. I would not want to have missed this experience. We are so lucky!

Love to all of you,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 3, 2011

Dear Everyone,

I guess I have resisted this letter start as long as I could and still get one written to send out.

The school week was just like all the others. The only bright light in the tunnel is that the ladies at the school make working there worthwhile. They all have positive attitudes and sunny dispositions in spite of the corporation and its attitude toward them.

Huyen and I went to make the final payment on the marble lions on Wednesday. The shipping company arrived shortly after we arrived at the stone lion store. They discovered, as we were loading the lions into the truck, that one of the feet on one of the lions had been glued into place. There is no way that glue would hold up in our winter conditions; so, we offloaded the one lion and put the other back in place. They were the only lions of that size. I had to downsize to the next lion. They are still going to look great and will not be so difficult to handle. I can pick up one of them by myself. With any luck the lions will be on the way to the U$A by the middle of the month and will arrive sometime in the next two or three months. I am trying to figure out how to package Huyen and her family. I would like to be able to have them in the U$A. They are too valuable to leave behind.

Lam, my co-teacher, and I went shopping for materials for the end of school year production. I think we have found everything we need. At the end of last term one of the teachers at the school managed to cut apart the shadow screen and wrinkle it beyond belief. The cut can be repaired. I am going to try to iron out the wrinkles next weekend to see if we can use the screen. If we cannot, I will have to ask Hua Hua to send me another roll of paper to make a new screen.

We are taking the children in the preschool to Dai Nam Park on Friday. We will take all the older children to the park in two weeks, at the end of the term.

It is hard to believe that in just 12 weeks we will be on our own in Vietnam. We have housing arranged. I will still have my motorbike for transport. We will have valid visas for a few more months. We have one dive trip planned to the Philippines in August. In three weeks, we will know just how much stamina we have for motorbike riding when we take the plunge and head for Dalat. We have been informed, warned, and tisked. We are going anyway to see (1) if we can do it, and (2) we have an invitation to stay with Ms. Ly’s family in Dalat for a couple of days. Ms. Ly is one of the fantastic ladies teaching at the school.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.

Life is getting shorter, but I am not.


Terry and Anita



Monday, April 4, 2011

Dear All,

I forgot to include two events in the letter.

On Friday, it was April first. Sharon, a teacher from Canada who has a wicked sense of humor, came up with a plan to have many of the teachers call in sick to Regan, the principal. Many of us did. I think he caught on quickly. I met Regan that morning as I was walking back to our room with a plate of food for breakfast, I had fixed scrapple and two fried eggs. He was just coming down the stairs. I put on my best cold voice and complained that my cold was much worse than the day before and went past him. I later texted him and said that I had a high fever and a wicked headache and was not going to come in to school. He immediately sent back a reply that I had not missed a day of school for two years and that I should go back to bed. I did not know at the time that most of the other teachers had already messaged or called him to say that they were not coming in. I later put on my school clothes and went to school where he met me. He wished me happy April first and remarked that the plate of food I had consumed was certainly not an indicator that I was ill. I agreed.

Later, during class time which is inviolate, he came to my door and called my out to the hall go tell me that there was a truck from a shipping company that had delivered two stone lions to the front of the school. He said they were my lions that had been shipped. I rushed to call Huyen and we began to charge down the stairs to the front of the school. Before we were all the way there, I stopped and shook my head and realized that it was still April first and that I had been taken for a ride. Regan insisted that even though I had seen through the ruse, we should come to look. When we got to the front of the school, there were two small stones with paper heads of lions on them. He had planned well and executed with perfection. Huyen and I each have a lion on our desks at school Thanks to

I now have four women from school who want to know how to swim. We have been meeting each Saturday morning at 8:00 am to swim for an hour. We have done this twice. Last Saturday, all thel adiies decided that they wanted to begin at 7:30 instead of 8:00. So now we will. They are great fun and all eager learners.



Sunday, March 27, 2011

Dear All,

Last week we celebrated World Water Day. There were lots of water games and bubbles. I have posted some pictures of the bubbles on the picture page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. Look for World Water Day.
Water Day
The quest to make the bubbles led to an interesting meeting. Last year I did not have any glycerin for the soap bubble activity. It went pretty well; but without the glycerin, the bubbles did not last. I set out early to find glycerin. I found it in one small pharmacy near our home, but it was closed on all the days that I went back to buy enough for the bubble solution. During my many outings, I was told that most hospitals would sell me some glycerin. That remark led me to the newest hospital in the area, An Phuc Hospital. When I entered the family clinic, I was met by two doctors who listened to my cries for help. They were wise enough to know that I did not need medical attention of the physical kind, and offered to get some glycerin for me. I was told that it would be available for me on Monday. I was elated.

I headed out for the hospital Monday afternoon with my co-teacher, Ms. Lam. As I was pulling out of one of the tollbooths, my telephone started to ring. When I answered it, the pharmacist at the hospital was on the other end telling me that the glycerin waiting for me at the pharmacy. We began to motor again and arrived shortly at the hospital. In the family clinic there was one of the same doctors who immediately took charge and made sure that I got my glycerin. While I was waiting for the requisite paperwork to be completed, the doctor called me aside and asked me if I knew anything about medical terminology. I answered, “Very little.” He then suggested that we sit and talk. In the ensuing conversation, he indicated that he really wanted to have someone at the clinic who could teach medical terminology to the doctors and others who needed to know at the hospital. I indicated that I would consider the position. It sounds interesting. I will see what happens. The doctor is a Vietnamese American from Texas. I hope that something can grow out of his ideas.

Today we took one of our rare trips into HCMC. We parked the bike in the usual bike park, and began our search for things that we have not been able to find out here in Binh Duong. We did find everything we were looking for and some things that we did not know we needed until we saw them. When we had completed our search, we decided to take a walk to some of our favorite little gourmet shops to see if there were things that were new. We did find a few and some we bought. During the walk, we came upon the Bitexco Financial Tower, maybe the tallest building in Vietnam. It had just opened its doors to the public. For 200,000 VND per person, we were able to ride the elevator to the observation platform 49 stories above the city. I have posted pictures of the view, only slightly distorted by the endless cover of haze that does not move away until the wind starts to blow. I have posted the pictures of the outing. Look for Miscellaneous Photos around HCMC.

Yesterday my right hand woman, Huyen, took me to the lion store. Actually the store sells more than lions, but that is what I wanted for our house in Pennsylvania. I had always meant to buy them when we were in Beijing, but just never got around to it. I now suspect that the lions sold in Beijing were probably made in Vietnam just like the Terra Cotta Soldiers. There are pictures of the lions posted in the Miscellaneous Photos previously mentioned.

Tonight I am going to fix the left over chicken from last night into a chicken salad with a mayonnaise dressing. It will have lots of veggies and chicken.

In about an hour or so I will head back to the Metro to transform myself from a mild mannered teacher into Flower Fairy who delivers fresh flowers once a week to some of the wonderful ladies with whom we work.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well. Life doesn’t get much better than this….only shorter.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dear All,

To all of you who have expressed concern that we are getting stuff from Japan, we are fine. There is little chance that we will feel any side effects. We are hoping that our friends in Japan do not get any extra exposure.

It is Sunday. We put Tracey in a cab to the airport. (San Bay) She spent two weeks with us. It was a pleasure to have her here. She is the perfect guest. She pitched in with whatever needed to be done, paid her own way and obviously enjoyed her stay with us. She even liked all my cooking. (She would have been in trouble otherwise. There have been those who did not like what I have offered. They were pretty hard to live with. One of them was impossible.)

The weather here has been hot and humid with some torrential rainstorms. This is supposed to be the dry season, but we had a gully washer last night. It looks like the clouds are building for another later this afternoon. The up side of the early rains is that we have not had to use the new generator that is sitting in the garage waiting to be fired up for the first time.

My co-teacher, Ms Lam, was ill on Friday. I think she may have been ill all weekend as well. I hope she can make it to school tomorrow. It is absolutely the worst day of the week. I have no breaks, a double period of ESL; and I have lunch recess duty, which means that I do not even get a pee break in the afternoon after lunch. On Friday, Regan, our fearless leader, announced that Ms. Lam was missing and that if I looked like I was having a nervous breakdown, someone should offer assistance. Luckily Fridays are my easiest day, but the warm glow of light that inhabits the school, Ms. Huyen, offered up her only class time off If I needed her help. I am blessed to know her. What a woman.

I went shopping today after breakfast. First I went to the new women’s hospital. I was there yesterday and tried to purchase some glycerin for making soap bubbles for World Water Day on Tuesday. I was told that they would try to help me. I want back this morning, because there was a missed message on my phone from the hospital. Sure enough they will have a liter of glycerin for me tomorrow. I will go and pick it up in the afternoon after school. It will cost me about 900,000 dong, about $45. Those bubbles are going to be fantastic.

After my visit to the hospital, I headed for the Metro in District 9 (I think.) to get some wine for Anita. The traffic was awful. When I got to the parking lot and saw how many motorbikes were there, I drove through the parking lot and out the other side. No way was I going to go inside and get caught up in the sea of humanity that exists I that store in the peak periods. I would not have made it out of the store in time for the start of school on Monday.

I want home and let Anita know that my trip to the Metro was fruitless, and said that I would try the City Mart for the wine and some gin. I hit the jackpot. I was able to get two boxes of wine for Anita and a supply of gin for the week for me. I decided to stop at the Fivi Mart since I go right past it anyway. I came out of the store with 4 cans of refried beans. Tonight I will be making corn flour tortillas, refried beans, and burritos. It will be our first homemade Mexican food night since we arrived so long ago. We can get tacos at the Old Foreigner’s Restaurant, but they won’t be as good as mine.

I got home in time to take Anita and Tracey to lunch at the Japanese restaurant before we put her in the taxi. Then I was off to the Metro in Binh Duong to get stuff for dinner for the next two days. I hit the jackpot there too. I found some white wine for me, and three of the most gigantic artichokes I have ever seen. We will have a pork roast and artichokes for dinner tomorrow night. I found some beautiful flowers for my five ladies at the school. The Flower Fairy will strike again tomorrow morning.

That was the week that was. I think I remember a TV show by that name.

I hope you are all well. Things for us are fantastic, as usual.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Dear Everyone,

The week passed by quickly. It was pretty much the same as the week before. There was one change. I have started teaching Anita’s students swimming. The class will last for 7 more weeks. I am giving up two of my break times to do this, but I really like the activity. At the end of the class, I was taking off my sun shirt that I always wear for swimming. One of the girls in the class commented to one of the other girls that I had a lot of hair on my body. I guess she had not seen very many men before. The girl, 2 years older, replied to her, “That is what a man looks like.” Pretty funny.

On Saturday, we did the usual stuff, going out for breakfast, going to school to get the work set for Monday. I had just entered into a great game of ping pong with one of the guards when my phone rang. It was Margaret from Song Be Golf Club. She was calling to ask if I was going to come to teach the swimming class. I was supposed to have been there at 10:00. It was now 10:20. I dropped the paddle, said I had to go and hopped on the bike. I zipped back home to get my suit and then back to the golf course. I was there in time to start the class at 10:45. Not too late. The mother and father of the two girls now want to start to learn to swim starting next week. That should be interesting.

One of the teachers, Dong, arranged for me to get some charcoal since I now have a grill. She took me to a market in an area I had not visited. There in the middle of the market was a charcoal seller. They had set aside a bag if of charcoal for me. It weighed 30 kilos (about 70 pounds). It cost two hundred and twenty thousand VND. That is the equivalent of $11.00.

This morning we headed to Dai Nam Park once again so Tracey could see the park and get a chance to sled in Vietnam in the Snow World. We did that first. Sharon came with us too, since she had not seen the park yet. We had a great day just walking and looking at the people, the animals and the different facets of the park. Of course, all the ladies had to have the fish massage. I passed this time. We had a great tour of the park. Everyone enjoyed themselves.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dear Everyone,

Last week was just like the weeks before for the most part. We did our last trip to the Song Be swimming pool with my students. I will be teaching Anita’s students starting this week on Wednesday. I will be looking forward to that. I am going to start teaching my students two class periods a week in PE now. We will be playing T ball using the T ball stuff we bought in Taiwan.

My right hand man, who is really my right hand woman, Huyen was looking out for my best interests. We were going to go into the BIG CITY on Saturday to purchase my marble lions. Her husband had told her that the lions were more expensive in the city, so she called me just as I was leaving school on Saturday to tell me that we should do come comparison shopping out here in Binh Duong before we bought anything. She is trying to get the best possible deal. It is great when someone really is behind you looking for the best road to take. Later this week we will do the comparison and then decide where to make the purchases.

China has left an indelible mark on the culture of Vietnam. After all they did rule the area for a couple of thousand years. I am sure that the Terra Cotta Soldiers of Xian were made here. The clay is the correct color. The time period was right. But I digress. The mark left is that in the government, up until a short while ago, having the job is more important than doing the job. If it is possible to give someone a run around, the person sitting behind the desk will do it, particularly if the person in front of the desk is a foreigner. Now government workers are given new contracts after a 2- year’s service. It is supposed to keep the desk jockeys on their toes. I am not sure it is really working yet.

The inflation in Vietnam is bad. We are now getting more than 20,000 VND to the dollar. Some prices have risen, but most things have stayed where they have been. Imported things are blessed with higher prices. I asked Huyen if she wanted to buy dollars from me when I needed VND. She has agreed to do so. When I need money, I go to the bank and withdraw U$ dollars and sell them to her for Vietnamese Dong (VND). She gives me the bank rate on than particular day and hopefully she will not lose anything in the long run.

Anita’s friend, Tracey, whom she met at a yoga conference a couple of years ago, happened by yesterday. She is about 30 years old, from Maine and a free spirit. She will be with us for a few days. Today we toured her around the area. She did not want to see the BIG CITY, but she wanted to see some real people. I think she will have an interesting few days as she explores on her own. We will ask Regan if she can use his bicycle for a few days. She is adventuresome enough that she will be great on her own during the day while we are working.

Tuesday is International Women’s day. We will celebrate the women with flowers, getting dressed in our finest togs, and have some presentation at school It is a very important day here. It should be a very important day where you are too. After all, as they say in China, “Women hold up half the sky.”

I am headed off to the Metro later this afternoon to buy some flowers for 5 of the co-teachers at the school. These ladies are the ones that I know the best and certainly are deserving of any attention that I can send to them. Each of the ladies have a special place in my heart for the things that they have done for Anita and me. Before we leave we need to do as much as we can for them while we can. If there are things that we can do for them from or in the U$A, we will certainly continue. Making friends with people is the most difficult part of teaching overseas, because leaving and not knowing if we will ever meet again is an idea, and soon to be a reality, that is heart wrenching. I do not know if I will be able to make the departure without tears.

We hope you are all well. Things are great with us.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dear Everyone,

It has been a rather uneventful week. There is not much to report.

Anita has started a unit from the English textbook that is mandated by the corporation. The unit topic is the newspaper. She is teaching grades 5 and 6. None of the students have ever read a newspaper. It would have been good if someone in the school who had taught the unit before had subscribed to a newspaper last year, but no one thinks further in advance than the end of their noses.

Two weeks ago Regan, our principal, presented a slide show on the “re-branding” of the company. It took almost 45 minutes to tell us that the corporation had hired someone from Germany to assist in redesigning the logo, sent out questionnaires to parents about what they thought of the school when they saw the logo. The presentation went on adnauseum. This company wastes so much money on appearances it is incredible. They, the company, is installing interactive white boards in all the preschool classrooms. Do we need that? No. We need books. Books not written by Enid Blighton.

The other day as I was riding my scooter, I happened to notice a strange contraption on the motorbike in front of me. It was a ring big enough to encircle the driver and the passenger of the bike. The driver was wearing what looked like a vest to which the ring was attached. The ring was padded all around and swung freely around both riders. I can only assume that it was to keep away any unwelcome riders who came too close. I think it is not a bad idea, and I would invest in one if I were going to stay longer.

Vietnam just devalued its currency against the dollar. It used to be just under 20 VNDong to the dollar. Now it is almost 21 VNDong to the dollar. The government told the people that it was not going to devalue again this year after the last devaluation. I have offered my former co-teacher a chance to let me buy Dong from her instead of the bank. She will be able to keep the value of her money for a little longer that way.

Monday is Anita’s 70th birthday. She is planning on treating all the kids in her class to an ice cream party. They should all be pretty happy kids on Monday.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well, warm and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 20, 2011

It is late morning. I am starting this letter now, because I think I am resisting the urge to write.

We had two birthday parties to attend this week. The first was on Thursday night. It started after school and was just getting into full swing when we left at 7:30. We started eating shortly after we arrived at 5:15. The food kept appearing on the table. It was a lavish serving with prawns on skewers, imported American beef, both grilled and boiled. There was a hot pot with lots of mushrooms, mighty tasty! There was an endless supply of 333 beer which will soon be exported to the U$A. I am so glad that Huyen, one of the teachers I love to have around, was there. She made sure that I avoided the fish and other dishes that might have lapsed me into a coma or the morgue. I seem to be able to count on her to be in the right place at the right time when I need her able assistance.

The second party took place on Saturday in Ben Cat, about 30 km away from our Villa. I wanted to go by motorbike, but our host insisted that he come to the school and meet us there, drive us to the venue and return us to the school. I relented at last, and we rode with the host. It was a good decision. It was a long, dusty, pot-holed, crowded, road that was seim-navigable for those who were covered from head to toe to be protected from the dust. The party was for Chona, a Chinese girl in my class.

Chona’s family bought the factory about 3 years ago, and were trying, it seems successfully, make furniture. The source of the wood is rubber trees, which are certainly not rare. They had just completed construction of their main office building and living quarters upstairs from the office. The living quarters are spacious, well appointed and comfortable. The third floor was open to the sky and covered in dirt and grass. It is a garden in the making. When the grass has taken, the family is planning on a grand barbecue party. I hope we can be a part of that. The amazing thing about the family is the manner in which they enjoy each other. The extended family is all there, from great grandfather and great grand mother on down to Chona’s 2 year-old cousin.

The landlord has finally been broken and is in the process of purchasing a generator for the Villa. It has been more than 18 months of days with no power. It will be a real treat to be able to come home to a house that has lights, air con and an internet connection No electricity three days a week gets old a lot faster than it did last year.

A week ago last Saturday I started having sharp pains in my left foot when I was walking. It felt like the jab of a sharp needle in the middle of the front pad of my foot. On Tuesday, I was playing Frisbee catch with Huyen and Dong, two of the teachers at the school. I started having pains that were far worse than before. I stopped playing and took off my show and sock, and sure enough there was a circle of redness on the bottom of my foot right where the pains were. Huyen suggested that I go see the nurse. I brushed off ttackhe suggestion. I began play again, and this time it hurt so badly that I decided to see the nurse. I went into her office, and since she does not speak a whole lot of English, I took off my shoe and sock and showed her the circle of irritation. By then Huyen and Dong had worked their ways into the office hoping to see the nurse slash me open with a scalpel or dull razor blade. They had joked out on the playground that the nurse would be cutting. While the nurse was carefully cleaning around the wound, Huyen picked up my shoe and started laughing. Now when I am in pain, the last thing that is amusing is me in pain. But when she showed me the bottom of the shoe, the light went on; and I understood the significance of the laughter. There was a tack stuck in the bottom of my shoe. It was just the right length that it would stick me when I put my foot down in a strong movement, but not if I was just walking. I quickly forgave the laughter and joined in after pulling the tack. We finished the game and went home. I was so relieved that the pain was gone, I sent a thank you text message to Huyen by phone. I posed as “Terry’s mother”. Huyen sent back a fantastic response to “my mother”, saying that she was glad to help out and that she had a lot of love to return to me. I think we all had a good chuckle. Sometimes I need people who are able to save me from my own stupidity. Once again it was Huyen who was looking out.

That’s about it for another week. We are thinking of you all and hope that you are warm, dry and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 13, 2011

Dear Everyone,

Last week was spent getting ready for the third of four terms at school. Regan, our principal and primary consumer of the food supply in our villa, felt that I had not put enough information into the planning. I was always under the belief that if I had prepared a plan and I understood what the plan was about, it would be fine for me to use the plan. His main complaint was that if the ever omnipresent, omnipotent, supreme being in the Kinderworld food chain were to come to the school, he would want more details. So…this term I have changed the format a bit and presented the same material in a different way. I will be interested to see if these plans meet more with his expectations. In addition to the planning, we had a chance to play a few spirited games of ping pong and throw the Frisbee, just to say I had experienced a little exercise.

Friday was different. Quite a few of the other teachers at the school had said that they were interested in going to Dai Nam Resort. Of course we said it thought it sounded like a great idea and planned on the Friday trip. We arrived at the school ready to depart for the resort. I waited for people to arrive ready to go. One by one they started dropping out. My new co-teacher had fallen while she was running and was unable to get to school and may not make it on Monday. My former co-teacher was ill the day before, so she dropped out. Other teachers denied that they had been interested to begin with. BUT! There was one who did not disappoint us, Dong. She had brought along her niece, and I coerced Kim, one of the other foreign teachers to come along. There were 5 of us. Five is enough for an adventure. Off we went in a cloud of Binh Duong dust and pollution.

You can research Dai Nam Resort. It is the largest amazement park in Vietnam. It sports a swimming section, an area of rides both mild and brutal, a zoo, a 1000 room hotel, a snow room, food and drink, some fright walks, and great people watching. We tromped through the park for most of the day. I think the high point was Dong’s niece. She is a beautiful girl who spoke a little English. She wanted to experience everything that was in the resort. So did I. We were compatible. She is a great person to take on an outing.

Dong is an interesting person too. She is Anita’s co-teacher. Speaks great English and can translate into Vietnamese at the drop of a hat. One of the best parts about Dong is her sense of humor. It is getting better all the time. She is enthusiastic. She is a camera hog as you will see from the pictures on the web. I have told her this. She will not be offended. Bumper CarIt was fun to pay for the tickets for each ride. Dong really wanted to pay for some of it, but each time she got close to paying, I would push her out of the way or run faster than she did to get to the ticket booth first. Finally at lunch she was in a thinking mode. At last her plan was in place and in English. We had begun discussing the payment of the bill for lunch. She leaned over to ask me to nod my head. I fell for it, nodded; and she timed her question perfectly, “Will you let me pay for the lunch?” I have to admit. She got me.

As a group we all agreed that the bumper cars were the most fun. It was probably the most fun; because there were only four working bumper cars and five of us. Dong and her niece took one. Anita, Kim, and I took the others. I am not sure who had derived the most pleasure. It could have been us bashing into each other; or it could have been the people outside the bumping area as they watched the two old people and the three young people trying to kill each other or alternately commit suicide.

The most interesting place to play was the snow room. Yes, snow in Vietnam. Basically the room, about the size of a small barn is filled with man-made snow. There is an incline at one end of the room for sledding. At the entry, we were given boots, gloves, and a jacket. We walked through two sets of doors to keep the cold in and Vietnamese air out. We sledded and skidded for about 20 minutes. It was truly a unique experience.

By the time you get this e mail the pictures should be posted on the website. For those of you who have forgotten, misplaced the address, have not saved the address, have not paid attention in the past, have never gotten this weekly letter before, and all of you who just do not care, the address is http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

I know that I have been in Vietnam for a long time. Yesterday I was really excited by a shopping trip. I had gone to numerous stores, including the magnificent METRO looking for basically non-essential things that would make our days better. My last resort was the Vinatex Market, one of the oldest and most poorly stocked. I had been looking for some Valentine’s candy. I had been looking for popcorn. I was looking for Sterno to use as a charcoal starter for my new charcoal grill. I had been looking for white wine. I found them all in the Vinatex Market. I was actually excited about the finds when I got home. Life’s little pleasures are the things that make it worth living.

Third term starts tomorrow for better or for worse. I am ready for Monday. We will see what transpires as the week progresses.

We are thinking of you all. We wish you well and hope that all is well in your lives.


Terry and Anita


One other important experience that I neglected to include in the letter was the Fish Massage.

Pay your money up front. Remove your shoes. Pull up your pant legs. Walk to the fish tank on the floor. Sit on the bench and insert your feet. The fish swarm your legs and feet and eat the outer layer of cells from your skin. Interesting? feeling. See the pictures to understand.





Sunday, February 6, 2011

Dear Everyone,

We are waiting to board our flight from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh. This has been an adventure to remember. Cambodia is incredible. The things to do and see are eye opening. This is a place that everyone should visit before they die.

We started our adventure in Phnom Penh. We arrived in the afternoon and were taken to our hotel. We went for a walk around the area to look as some of the sights. The traffic was minimal but orderly. The people were open, warm and friendly. They seem to be so happy compared to the people of Vietnam. Maybe it is because there is so much hope for Cambodia. There is an incredible amount of tourism. There are new hotels opening almost weekly. There are good, well paying jobs for anyone who wants to work. There is religion. Most people here are Buddhist. It is amazing that the Hindu population and the Buddhist live side by side. It the temples and the palaces the yellow paint represents the Buddhists and the white represents the Hindu. All the “official” buildings are painted in white and yellow. All the temples have been dedicated to one of the two religions depending on the preferences of the king.

The tour that we took supplied a car, driver and guide each day. Lunch was included each day there was a guide On our first day, we saw the palace and the residence of the king. He escaped the Pol Pot killings in the 70’s by going to France where he became a ballet dancer. He is in his middle 50’s and not married. He was commanded to come home by his father, King Sihanouk, who is ill with cancer and resides in Beijing. He seems to be a good ruler. He has no official powers. Our guide told us that it is hard to assign a “good/bad” to the king since he has only ruled for a short time. Maybe after 20 or 30 years the people will be able to judge him.

We saw the silver palace with a more than one-meter tall statue of Buddha carved out of a solid emerald. The floor of the palace was solid silver. We saw enough gold to pay off the national debt. It was measured not in dollar value but in kilograms. All the Buddha statues were covered in gold and diamonds, some as large as 30 carats.

After the tour of the palaces, we saw the main prison used by the Khmer Rouge. It was a school turned into a torture chamber. Having seen the gas chambers of Auschwitz, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, and the War Museum in Ho Chi Minh, I thought I would be prepared for the tour. I was not. The things that Pol Pot and his followers did in the name of establishing a Communist state were beyond belief. We did not finish the tour.

We had a great lunch at a tourist spot. We came back to the hotel, The Phnom Penh, early. It was a pleasant evening.

The next day we started out at 6:30 to catch a boat that took us to SIem Reap where we spent the rest of the week as we explored the temples around the area.

The boat ride was 6 hours. There was no food and we were rushed out to meet it before we could really enjoy breakfast. It was a long ride, which started at the confluence of the Mekong and two other rivers. The boat was a high-speed carrier built to carry 100 passengers at about 30 kilometers an hour at the fastest. We covered approximately 150 kilometers.

templeBefore you are allowed to enter the temples you must buy tickets for either one, three, or 7 days. When you purchase the ticket, your picture is taken with a web cam, and your image is imprinted on the ticket. At every entrance to the temples and to the park itself, we were expected to show the ticket. Our guide checked to make sure we had the tickets before we left the hotel each day.

If you plan to visit the temples around Siem Reap, make sure that you are prepared to walk over terrain that is not of sidewalk quality, and climb temple steps that are not of staircase quality. Make sure you have not visited any old structures in the past 10 or so years, because by the time you have completed the circuit of temples in the area you will have seen enough to make you wonder why you ever looked at other temples. We visited all the important temples Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom. We visited lots of the lesser temples as well. The temples are categorized by volume of temples built by a ruler or quality of temples built by a ruler. The most temples we saw in any day was 5. It takes at least half an hour to walk quickly through the smallest temples. The larger, more ornate ones take lots more time. Our maximum day’s visit was 5 lesser ones. It was a walking/climbing sort of a day. The temples were all built to honor one of the kings’ family members. Each time there was a change in the location of the capitol there were new temples erected. The building was all completed between the 9th to the 12th centuries.

Most of the temples are constructed of blocks of sandstone. Most temples have red, but some are unique in their color. It is amazing that the carvings have withstood the weathering for this many years. The stones are all put together with no mortar. The stones were placed one on the other and rubbed back and forth until the joint was completely flat and solid. All the corners are square, but the joints are not evenly matched up since some of the stones were not the same size as the ones under them.

On the last day of the tour, our guide took us to the oldest temple, completed before 900 AD, in the area. It is a practicing monk education center. There he showed us his family Stupa and pointed out each of his relative’s ashes.

On the way to Angkor Wat I noticed a sign for a butterfly farm. We stopped on the way back to learn that the farm was doing business as far away as Holland, selling the larvae and pupas to the tulip growers. There were some of the most beautiful, bit butterflies I have ever seen.

Cambodia operates on the U$ Dollar. All the prices for everything are quoted in dollars, from the street to the hotels..

We were not able to get a flight out on Saturday since Vietnam Airlines was closed for the Tet celebrations. That meant that Saturday was our day on our own to see what we wanted to see. We started with the History Museum in downtown Siem Reap. This is a fantastic museum, which has been modeled on some of the best museums in the world. It is worth a couple of hours. You will see some of the carvings from the temples that had not been as damaged as the ones that still reside in the temples. Another place to go to get a real flavor for the Country is the Cultural Park in Siem Reap. There you can witness dances and other performances that are part of the culture that makes Cambodia what it is today.

Getting around in Cambodia is easy. There are busses, taxis, and Tuk Tuks. A Tuk Tuk in a motor bike with a trailer hitch on the back instead of a seat. Attached to the hitch is a cart big enough for 6 people sitting facing each other in two groups of three. All the Tuk Tuk prices are negotiable.

After day one, we both knew that massages were the order of the confirmed way to end the day. At about 3:00 each day one or both of us would head for the sauna/massage section of the hotel where we were warmly greeted by some of the strongest women masseuses I have ever had the pleasure of being slowly taken apart muscle by muscle. I needed one after the first. I am only sorry that we did not have time to get a massage before we left for the plane.

We would go back to Cambodia again. It is a friendly, safe place where we were always welcomed each morning. What a trip!

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well and happy. We have one more week of holiday. We will spend much of the week at school planning for the next 6 months of school. Hopefully we can entertain the ladies at the school with some swimming at our pool, and maybe they will want to prepare another feast like they did last year.

For those of you who knew in our Casady days, I got an e mail from the former Sara Jane Sepkowitz. She is living in Florida, has a daughter, and married.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita

PS: It looks like I have almost 300 pictures from the Cambodia trip on my picture page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. They are in the second row from the top labeled, "Cambodia". These are not sorted and not named. Use your imaginations.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dear Everyone,

It is Sunday morning. We are preparing for our trip to Cambodia and mainly Ankor Wat. We fly from HCMC late this morning for 35 minutes and land. We then spend two days in Phnom Penh. We will be taking a boat for the next day to Ankor Wat. There was a special on the tube last night about what we are going to see. It should be pretty fascinating. I have been having trouble posting pictures to my picture page again. I hope to have it worked out soon.

Anita on a motorbike!

I hope that we will have internet access during our stay. I guess you will know when this letter actually appears on your computer.

The school week went as all school weeks do. It was pretty fast and furious. We ended the week with a teachers’ party. Regan had prepared lots of games for the students and the teachers. We did not get away from the school until after 6:00. It was fun. I think all the teachers had a good time.

The Tet preparations are much more grandiose than last year. The flower selection is incredible. There are blooming trees and fake blooming trees. The last two days have been motorbike mania when we travel. I would not want to be traveling by bus at this time of year. The busses are packed to the gills. Every bus stop is filled with people, suitcases, bags and miscellaneous paraphernalia that people deem necessary.

Tet is a family holiday. People are expected to return home and honor the mother and father. Everyone is expected to show new-found wealth. That is one of the reasons that we try to be extra vigilant around this time. Last year Anita lost lots of jewelry, and I lost a camera. So far we have not lost anything that we know about.

Donna left in the early morning hours on Thursday. She is not safe at home trying to recover from jet lag.


I am attaching a photo of us , Anita, Donna, and I, for those who have requested proof that we are here; that Donna was here; that they haven’t seen a picture in a while. I am also attaching a short video of Anita riding the motorbike for those of you who do not believe that old people cannot learn new tricks.

Our adventures in Cambodia start soon. I am sending this from the airport.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita



Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dear All,

The week passed with small events that probably will not be of interest to anyone but me. The weekend was another story.

On Saturday morning we headed to the golf club for breakfast. We then returned to the Villa to hang up laundry and grab a cab into the city. Once in the city, we walked to the hydrofoil launch and purchased tickets to Vung Tau.

Vung Tau is situated East of HCMC about 60km away by car. It is accessible by road, which we did the first Christmas that we spent in Vietnam. The other way is by hydrofoil, which we had promised ourselves we would do long ago. Anita, Donna and I hopped on board the boat and were whisked to Vung Tau in less than an hour and a half. It was an interesting trip. We saw many sights that we never would have seen if we had not taken the trip. They are posted on the mobile.me page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

We spent the night at the Sammy hotel, a 3 star event with hot water taps that are activated on the right side of the faucet as opposed to the correct side of the faucet. There was also a hot water electric switch that needed to be flipped before the water would heat. We had some great meals, photos of the food are also included, Ruth.

It was a fun time. I am tired. This is the end of the letter.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 16, 2011

Dear Everyone,

I am now able to post pictures once again. I have put up some from Phu Quoc Island, where Anita and I last dived. For those of you who do not remember my picture page is at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. There are some pictures of a conch fishing with its proboscis out. There are some of a goby that uses a blind shrimp to clean its burrow in the ground. In a couple of them you can make out the shrimp and the goby together. There are some great corals. It was memorable diving. I am tempted to ask them if they want to employ an aging Divemaster. Anita thinks I should do it. We’ll see.

I needed to add minutes to my phone. I went to the phone store where I bought my phone and explained to them in my best Vietnamese, “Toi muon mua phut.” (I want to buy minutes.) After a half an hour of people showing me that there was a clock on my phone and one on my wrist, a young lady asked if she could be of service. I explained what I wanted in my best English, “I want to buy some minutes for my phone.” She did not understand. Sometimes I feel like I am from outer space when it comes to language. Eventually the drama unfolded, and Ms. Yen finally realized that I wanted to add minutes to my phone. One does not “just add minutes to a phone.” She patiently explained to me that to add minutes to my phone I had to purchase a card. On the back of the card was a secret number that I needed to send to the phone company, so it could activate the minutes that were on the card. Ms. Yen did that for me. I am so grateful for the people who genuinely want to help. She took my phone number, and I took hers. Maybe I will hear from her again sometime. Maybe we will meet in a phone store when I am adding minutes to my phone.

Exams are complete. Reports are submitted for perusal by Regan. There is no more trauma at school for another 6 months when all this silliness has to repeat itself. There are people in my life that make all the muck go away. I try to tell them as often as I can that they help in so many ways. I truly believe that demonstration is the best way to show appreciation.

Donna has been borrowing Anita’s motorbike. She is becoming more mobile and is learning her way around the area. She is a great guest. She is very easy to have around.

There is not much other news. Things are in a pleasant rut. We hope all is well with you. We are thinking of you all.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dear Everyone,

Tomorrow is the first day of the exams. Chinese and Vietnamese are first, followed by English grammar tomorrow, written English Wednesday and Math, then Science on Thursday. We then have the rest of the week to finish the marking of the tests, writing the comments and putting them in the report cards, preparing for parent conferences, calculating the grades and entering them on the report cards, and generally running around in circles like a chicken with its head cut off. We only have to do this idiocy once more this school year.

Our friend Donna Hemingson arrived on Wednesday night at 11:00. We met her at the airport and brought her back to the Villa. She will be with us for three weeks. She is learning the area and will be riding Anita’s motorbike while she is here doing her exploring. She seems to be enjoying the experience. She brought a few things for us to make the rest of our stay here in Vietnam a little more comfortable.

We ate at a new Japanese restaurant this afternoon. Up until a few weeks ago we thought it was a factory in VSIP. It turns out it is a fantastic restaurant. We will be returning. I am attaching a couple of pictures of the things we had there.

After we ate lunch, I went off to the Honda shop to get my 16, 000 km check up for my bike. While I was there I happened to wander around the shop a while and found the third attached picture. I am not sure of the message that it is sending. I do find it interesting.

I think the dry season has finally arrived. We are without power for one day each week now. We are waiting for the next shoe to drop.

I am preparing a roast duck for dinner tonight. I am assuming that Regan will be here, so there will be four for dinner.

That’s about all the news. We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 2, 2011

Dear Everyone,

Happy New Year! This is an auspicious new year at 1-1-11. We are so lucky to he able to tell you our story from this place.

We have just completed ten days of diving on Phu Quoc Island, an island claimed by both Cambodia and Vietnam. It is a primitive area with little development completed, but a flurry of building is going on. Roads are being paved. Houses are springing up and resorts are growing as fast as the money can be pumped into the island. There are entrepreneurs from all over the world here trying to make their fortunes. They are probably to be made here.

The diving was unlike any other dive sites we have ever seen. Visibility was fantastic if you enjoy muck diving. The plankton in the water limited us to 10 meters on great days and 1 meter on fair days. We had most dives in the fair to almost great days.

The area abounds in nudibranches, snail-like creatures without shells. They came in all the colors of the rainbow and many different sizes. I think we may have seen 15 different varieties. Coincidentally we were diving with Rainbow Divers. Diving was a challenge. It became more of a test each day, but as the dives went on, I was able to identify so many of the animals that we really didn’t need a guide for anything but finding the boat. Surprisingly, they were not very good at finding the boat either. We frequently had retrieval swims of 100 or more meters. It was great exercise. For any divers who do not need great luxury and are willing to put up with poor visibility, this is a place to dive that rivals some of the best in the world.

I guess they have never had anyone stay for two weeks of diving. Yesterday we were awarded Customers of the Year by announcing us on their FaceBook page and displaying our photo. I cannot access FaceBook here in Vietnam. I do not know how they do it, so I cannot be sure that we are actually there. Maybe one of you can verify it. Actually one of the teachers showed me how to access FaceBook, blocked by Vietnam; but I am not smart enough to follow those directions. I am FaceBookless for another few months.

We were housed in an old resort, probably built in the 60’s by the town of Duong Dong, pronounced Dyum Duom. The resort has the same name. We had a beach from villa for all but the last two days when someone came to the resort who was much better known than we are or were. We were unceremoniously moved out of our villa into a lesser, but larger room in which we were allowed to share with the B-52 sized mosquitoes.

We have made up our minds that we will not teach at SIS next year. I cannot work for a corporation run school that is more interested in making money than meeting the needs of the children. I cannot work for a corporation that treats its talented, dedicated Vietnamese teachers like second-class citizens. Those are the two reasons that we presented to Regan when he asked if we were coming back. He said he would pass on the information to the powers that be.

How does a corporation treat people like second-class citizens? When it was time for the Vietnamese teachers to sign contracts for the coming year, they were given no increases in salary and told to sign the contract in a manner that meant, “If you do not sign, you are out of a job.” I had many teachers come to talk to be about the signing. For some of them, it was a tearful experience. The corporation also says that if you are not officially on leave then you must be at school and punch the time clock each day. The rule applies to all teachers. This is not a real school.

We are now waiting to be taken to the airport for our flight back to HCMC. Then we will have a taxi confrontation over the price of the trip to Binh Duong. The taxi drivers always want to over charge the passengers.

It has been a great holiday. We are ready to restart our teaching engines. Three weeks more and we are off for two weeks for Tet. One of the weeks will be in Cambodia. I am not sure what we will do for the second one.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Saturday, December 25, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Last week something really special happened. Last year when we first arrived and found out how few resources were available to the students, we contacted our great friend, Alida, whom we knew from our Beijing teaching days. We asked her if there were some way to get some books to the school for the children. We got a note back from her telling us that she thought something might be worked out. Last week we got a box of books from Alida and her network of fantastic people who live in Alabama. The books arrived by FEDEX. The students in Anita’s class took the time to read them before we turned them over to the library to be catalogued and made available. It is a great collection. We are so lucky to have friends who help us out. A BIG thanks to Alida and all the people who worked on this project. Our students will enjoy these books for a long time.

On Sunday we started off as though it were a normal day. After we ate breakfast at the golf course, we went home and packed our dive gear and some essential pieces of clothing. The airport was our next stop. The taxi driver was great. He understood my very poor Vietnamese and finally took us to the domestic terminal where we were able to redeem our e tickets and head for the waiting room.

Our plane was on time and at 1:40 we were whisked into the air for a 50 minute flight to Phu Quoc Island. There was cloud cover most of the way, so we were not able to see much of the countryside. Where there were broken clouds, we were able to see what appeared to be lots of farming. The clouds socked back in before we were able to see the Mekong Delta. Maybe we will see it on the way back.

We were met by a taxi driver at the airport in Duong Dong, the town in which was our resort bearing the same name as the town. We arrived at the reception. After some fumbling around, we were recognized and taken to our cottage, which overlooks the sea.

We settled in and unpacked. We had a quick bit of lunch. Then we set off to see what there was in the town. There was not much in terms of city living, but in a primitive way it was pretty comfortable. It was filled with fat Europeans, as is our resort. I was disappointed to see so many Caucasians. I was hoping for a holiday among people instead of tourists. I guess I should have known that there were going to be other people like us, ugh! Tourists!

After our trip, 5 minute walk, into and around the town, we came back to our cottage and changed into bathing suits and proceeded to head for the sea. It is sort of a brown color since most of the island is covered in red clay. It was wet. It was not cold, neither was it too warm, but it felt good.

It took Anita less than a mille-second to notice that there were massage tables set out on the beach. It took another mille-second for me to go get 100,000 VND. We both had 1 hour full body massages for the equivalent of $5.00. This place reminds me of the beach in Phuket, Thailand 20 years ago.

We discovered that there is no internet access here, so we went into town, village, small spot on the road where a German café advertised that they had German food and internet access. We connected and ate dinner.

We made some essential communications then headed back to the cottage for the night. End of day one.

The days passed rapidly. We went diving each day. The diving is not great. It is the wrong time of year. The water is filled with plankton. The visibility ranges from 30 feet to about 3 feet depending on the currents. Even with the lousy visibility, we are able to find incredible amounts of sea life. The things we see are mostly nudibranches and scorpion fish. I think I have seen a wider variety of nudibranches here than anywhere else in the world. Each day our dive guide finds a new one for us. They range in size from few millimeters in length to 10 centimeters. How he finds the little ones I will never understand, but he does it so easily that it is astounding.

It is Christmas day. We celebrated Christmas eve by going to a big hotel for a a wide variety of interesting food, most of it poorly prepared. Today after breakfast we are going to turn in our laundry to get washed. The laundry is about 100 meters from the front gate of the resort. They charge 20,000 VND per kilo. That is about 1 dollar per kilo. After the laundry, we are going to rent a motorbike and drive down the one road that leads to the south end of the island and back. My guess is that we will be back in time for lunch.

We rode the motorbike from Duong Dong to An Thoi at the southern end of the island. It took about an hour and a half each way. The road surface changed to dirt just at the end of town, and it was a dusty ride. We were oretty dirty at the end of the trip. We stopped at a pearl farm along the way and bought some snail shells that had been carved to reveal the mother of pearl underneath the outer shell. It was done in a spiral pattern to match the snail shell. We got one for each of our co-teachers. I found a barber shop and was way overcharged for the trim, but that was not the Binh Duong price, it was probably the local price here for foreigners, which by the way, have overrun this beautiful little part of the world.

The ladies on the beach are already warming up for our afternoon massages.

Tomorrow we are back on the boat to dive at the north end of the island. Anita will be taking a course in buoyancy. I am sure it will help her to get rid of weight and have some easier dives. We will be getting home late from the dive. I sent this Saturday.

We have now discovered that we need to walk only as far as the hotel reception to get internet wireless connections, so twice a day we walk up to check for mail.

I cannot post any pictures on the me page until my new software arrives with Donna Hemingston, Anita’s friend and Unlcle Don’s maseusse.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Two more days until the winter solstice and the winter is over. The sun will be on its way back to the North, and we will be under the water.

It is 3:45 Sunday morning. At noon we are going to fly to Phu Quoc Island off the West coast of Vietnam. We will be staying there for two weeks. Our plan is to dive every day that we can while we are there.

There is a group called Rainbow Divers that has pretty much a monopoly on the diving in Vietnam. They have a good network of dive sites and are associated with a group of resorts where they can house their divers. We are going to give them a try.

On Saturday, one of the teachers I was talking with posed an interesting idea. She suggested that we not teach next year, but that we stay in Vietnam and play. I sort of brushed off the idea when it was first presented, but now it sounds pretty good after a good night’s sleep.

We could rent an apartment here in Binh Duong and live pretty comfortably for a year. I could work part time at the school, if they wanted. Anita and I would be located in a fantastic place where we would be free to travel to some of the most interesting sights in the world. We would be in Asia, which is one of our great loves. We would be near our friends that we have made over the last two years.

I have run this by Anita. She is thinking about it. It would be an adventure of a different kind, one that would allow us to come and go on our time schedule. We would not be punching a time clock. Some things would be incredibly inconvenient. The medical and the paperwork would probably be the most difficult. My driver’s license will expire early next year. Our medical insurance will no longer be supported by the school. Maybe both of those would not be too much to have to wrestle to the ground.

We would be free to come and go as we see fit. We would be able to fly wherever we want. We could see all the friends we have made in Asia in one gigantic swoop. At the moment, I am thinking. Maybe Anita will think too. We have 6 months to ferment this idea.

Friday we had an assembly before school. Many of the students performed. They were all great. I was once again asked to play the part of Santa Claus. The costume is great. It fits. It is a little warm in full costume, but it only lasts for about 30 minutes. I toured each classroom. The small children were the most fun. Their suspension of disbelief is still alive and well. It is so great to see the wonder in the eyes of someone who wants to believe. Some were afraid, but it was not as bad as last year. Most of them wanted to check out the old man, and they all wanted the present. I was recognized when I got to the first and second grade class by some of them, but there were still some who wanted to believe. When I went to Sharon’s class, she pointed out Sunny, a little girl who was in Anita’s class last year. Sharon told me that Sunny did not believe in Santa. I went over to her and told her that I was just as real as she was. There was a look of disbelief at first, but then there was a really big smile. I am not sure what the end result will be, but maybe there was a spark of imagination.

Imagination is one of the areas here in Vietnam in which there a tremendous void. Communism does that. Individual thinking is a great threat to the basic beliefs that underlie the idea that all the people can be controlled by a central leadership. The only place that I know of in the world where there has been a benevolent dictatorship that has worked is Singapore. All the other leaders of the oppressive governments are there for their own feathering of the nest. I love to imagine. I cannot think about what it would be like for me if I was not able to dream of things.

Right now we are about to head off for breakfast at the Song Be Golf Resort. After that we will be getting a few more VND to cover our taxi ride into the airport and other sundry expenses from here to the island.

Life does not get any better than this.

We hope you are all well and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dear Everyone,

The pendulum has swung back the other way. Last night Anita decided that this would be our last year here in Vietnam. I told her when we came that since she came here pretty much against her will, that she would be the one to decide when it would be time to leave. It looks like the end of the school year will be the time to leave. You will hear the final decision as it is announced, but last night it sounded pretty final.

Next week is the last week of school before the Christmas break. We will have a school wide fun fair for half a day on Friday. After the fun fair, we will have a staff party and celebrate with a secret Santa gift exchange.

For my birthday, my former co-teacher gave me some fabric. It was enough to make two shirts. They should be done this week. I am looking forward to getting them from the tailor. I will wear one here and keep the other one to wear at back in the U$A to remind me of the wonderful times we have had together both in the classroom and socially. I will truly miss her.

Over the past two weeks we have met some other foreigners at the Phuong Nam resort where we have breakfast on Saturday and Sunday mornings. We will meet them at 11:30 this morning to lead them to the Old Foreigner’s restaurant, run by a guy named Bill. He is a former Texan who has opened a very good restaurant in Tu Dao Mot, an area not far from us. He serves up some great western food, including Mexican. Anita is in seventh heaven whenever we are close to the restaurant.

There is not much more for this week.

We hope you are well and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 5, 2010

Dear Everyone,

For those of you who have sent out thoughts for our friend, Bob, I want you to know that the replacement of the defective valve in his heart went well. There were no complications. They are back home now. The Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio did a fantastic piece of work on him.

It is time to start thinking about a new week. I spent 5 hours as school on Saturday morning getting ready for this one. I wrote a grade 4 math practice exam. That took the bulk of the time. In the afternoon we ate a late lunch at our new most favorite Chinese restaurant then we drove into HCMC to Columbia Hospital with Sharon, so she could complete her physical and get some medications that she needs. It is about a 1 hour ride to the hospital. Sharon has only done it once before, so we went with her to get her there and back again. She is moving out of the Villa at the end of this week. Ragan is moving out near the first of the year. That will leave us alone in the Villa.

The owner has finally broken down and purchased a new stove top, because the old one has not worked since we moved in. He/she has refused to put in solar heated water and refused to purchase a generator for those days that the electricity is being shut off. Tuesdays are the day that we have no electricity from 7:00 am until about 6:30 pm. We are thinking about purchasing a generator to make our lives a little easier. I know that when the dry season comes, we are going to have more non-electric days. It was up to three days a week last year at the peak of the dry season. We are not looking forward to another electricity free dry season. I am afraid that if we do purchase a generator, the school will be likely to cancel its lease with the owner if there is only one couple living in the Villa. That would mean that I would be out about three to four thousand dollars. I do know someone who has power outages who would benefit greatly from the machine if we do not need it. Still the thought is weighing heavily. Living is the Villa is so great with all the space that we have. Apartments are tiny, expensive, and not too well appointed.

We have both talked often about extending our contracts. It looks more likely that we will extend for one more year. It is not definite yet, but getting closer to a real decision all the time. I do want to attend my high school 50th reunion. I am not sure why. I probably should not dwell too long on it and just go. It is at a terrible time since the school year for us ends just about the time the reunion takes place. It would mean flying to Boston or Albany, renting a car, driving to Darrow, spending Saturday, driving Sunday morning back to the airport and flying back to HCMC. It would mean that I would miss a day or two of school, which is highly frowned upon. My pay would most certainly be docked. The good thing is that it would be at the end of our contract and we would be leaving the country soon anyway. I will try to negotiate it into the next contract. It may just boil down to WHO CARES!

There is a dormitory for some of the workers in the Vietnam-Singapore Industrial Park, VSIP. We go by the dorm on our way to school and back again. During soccer season there is always a soccer game on Sunday, presumably the players are residents of the dorm. Right now it is baseball season and there is a game each Sunday. All the players are in real baseball clothes. The interesting thing about the both games is that the mode of transportation of the players differs. The soccer players all arrive by motorbike. The majority of baseball players arrive by car. Is baseball a rich man’s sport?

I think I have stretched the week’s news as much as I can.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well. We are having fun.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 28, 2010

Monday started off as Teachers’ Day. It is a big celebration in Vietnam. All the teachers are given gifts by parents and or students, mostly flowers. We were overrun with them. It was a fun celebration with performances by the students with dance and song. There was special food at the end of the day for all the teachers.

Wednesday was my 67th. All the students and teachers sang “Happy Birthday” then clapped their hands for 67 claps. It was pretty moving. Later that afternoon we had a staff meeting. The teachers sang again and we had cake and fresh, ripe mango. Huyen and Tram, two of my most favorite ladies, gave me a piece of fabric from which I will have a shirt made and a book, Heidi. The fabric was from Huyen and the book from Tram. They made a plan to make me walk all over the playground searching for clues to guide me to my present. I have never had to look so hard for a gift. It is an interesting and fun way to present one.

Thursday was Thanksgiving. We were invited to our American/Vietnamese friends’ house. She had cooked turkey, green beans with bacon, pumpkin bread, mashed potatoes, rich brown gravy, and a pumpkin and an apple pie. We arrived by taxi because our new teacher, Sharon, is not ready to ride at night yet. I was able to direct the driver to the venue and the second driver back to the Villa with my Vietnamese. I could not believe that they actually understood what I was saying.

Yesterday I worked at school for two hours getting ready for the week, then I played an hour of ping pong with the guard. At 1:30 we headed into town to get Sharon to the hospital for her medical check. We finally got home at 5:30. I had time to cook a rabbit, vegetables and some potatoes.

Today was a busy day around Binh Duong. The motor bike turned over 15, 000 Kilometers.

That is the week in a nutshell.

We are thinking of you all and hope that you are all well.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Dear All,

It was a school week as usual. It was fun.

Thursday was a red letter day for me. The new METRO, like a Sam’s Club, opened. I went Saturday morning to check it out. I will go back this morning to do some serious shopping. The new METRO is only 10 minutes from our Villa. I no longer have to make the 1 hour one way trip each weekend to the METRO that I was frequenting since I found it. I will be able to go shopping during the week to keep food supplies in the house and save about an hour travel time when I go to the METRO.

Friday was Teachers’ Day. We celebrated with a special assembly in the morning that was made up of song and dance routines by some of the children. Some of them are really talented performers. It is always great to watch children enjoy performing. In the afternoon, all the children took part in games and activities planned by Regan. It was super to be able to sit and watch and not have to take charge of things. At the end of the day there was food and drinks in the library for all who wanted to participate. Regan showed a video of the Anniversary party and then lots of photos of the evening.

Yesterday we took Sharon into HCMC for her first outing there. She rode her own bike and handled the traffic pretty well. We met Kimberely, a new teacher from the Philippines, and Anita and I then found our way to China Town and a restaurant that we had eaten in once before a couple of months ago. It is a great Chinese restaurant. It served most of our favorite dishes.

This morning we are going to the Song Be golf course for breakfast then Anita wants to see the new METRO, and I want to get some provisions for the week.

We have had 4 weeks of no power on Tuesday. We will buy some additional emergency lights to help keep things under workable lighting conditions. The power goes off shortly after I head to school in the morning and does not come back on until after 8:00 pm. Having little or no light makes it difficult to cook in the already poorly lighted kitchen. We are trying to get the owner to purchase a back up generator for the Villa, but so far our pleas have fallen on deaf ears. The owner is Vietnamese, but lives in Sweden, rarely making the trip to Vietnam. He makes a pretty poor landlord. If things don’t change here soon, we may decide to move out and rent an apartment close to the school.

While I was in Taiwan, I bought some gold fabric to have made into a pair of slacks. They are finally done. I will wear them to school tomorrow. I have found a good shirt to go with the slacks and a tie as well. I will be rather conspicuous tomorrow.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well. Life here just keeps getting better.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 14, 2010

Dear Everyone,

There just isn’t much to write about this week. My new co-teacher is going to work out well. She is eager to work and is very good at tidying up the classroom, something that I am good at undoing. She understands that Arts and Crafts is her corner of the class experience. She is willing to teach some other classes after she knows the curriculum and watches a bit more. She is going to work out, not quite as well as my former co-teacher, but she more than fill the vacancy of the first co-teacher who left.

We spent the weekend getting Sharon, a new teacher, acclimated to the area and getting her used to her motor scooter. She is going to be a great addition to the school. She is planning on moving out of the Villa before Christmas, so we will be back to just Regan and us. Maybe Regan will get his own apartment, since he is supposed to get a free one. It would be good for him to be out on his own and have to cook for himself.

We have already started to have power shutoffs. The last one was on a Thursday. The power went off early in the morning and did not come back on until 8:15 PM. It made it very difficult to prepare dinner and no air conditioning is a bit difficult for me. I am not acclimated to the hot. This is the end of the rainy season. It will start getting really hot after the equinox passes.

Since this is the cold season, I have made a pot of chili for dinner tomorrow night. I am anxious to see how it goes over. Sharon in not very excited about spicy food, being a Canadian from the arctic; and Regan, a New Zealander, isn’t into spicy either. His idea of cooking a good meal is to put spaghetti noodles, tomato sauce, and hot dogs together in a pot and cook it until the noodles are mushy. YUM! We are having spare ribs tonight for dinner. I will bake them in the oven with a special barbecue sauce that I have made.

Last week was great! Every day was a pleasure to share with the children. They are all really good kids. I am looking forward to the next week.

We are thinking of all of you and hope that you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Dear Everyone,

I must begin this letter with a great THANKS to Pei Chi for her being a fantastic tour guide, hostess, housing director, motorbike procurement, cook, laundress, and great friend. We thank her for the wonderful time that we had in Taiwan. She made the entire trip one of the most memorable we have had.

It was a busy, interesting, exciting week. It started when I mailed my last week’s letter from the airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Shortly after the mailing, about 5 minutes, we were being ushered onto the plane, which took off for the three hour flight to Taiwan. The next three hours were not a blur, were not memorable, were not interesting or exciting; but the plane did take us to the airport in Taiwan.

We were met by Pei Chi and her friend Yi Chen. Yi Chen has her own car and a new name. She explained that she had just changed her name to try to reinvent her life. We did not get into the particulars, but I would love to know if changing a name can change a life. Who knows? She may be onto something.

We went directly to Pei Chi’s apartment and unloaded our bags. It was dinner time, so we walked to an Italian restaurant where we were presented with a variety of fantastic selections.

After the meal we were whisked around the city in search of Xin Jiang vinegar, but it was the one thing that eluded our search for the entire trip. After trying three stores where the vinegar should have been, we went back to the apartment. Pei Chi had arranged with a friend for us to borrow a motor scooter to give us a little more mobility, so the next outing was to pick up the scooter. After that was completed we headed back to the apartment for the night. Pei Chi has a lovely, small, two-bedroom apartment. It is well furnished and very comfortable.

Driving the scooter was no problem. The traffic was civilized. At each intersection, there is a box painted on the road just in front of the automobile line. It is a place where the scooters can wait until the light changes giving them a clear start ahead of the autos. The scooters are also out of the right turn lane that way, so the traffic can flow and right turners and not blocked. The best part of the waiting for the light to change was watching the crossing lights. On most of them there is a picture of a little person who walks across the intersection, indicating that it is safe to cross the road. As the timer reaches the 15 second mark on long crosswalks, and 10 seconds on the shorter ones, the person depicted begins to run like his pants are on fire. It is really hilarious. On some of the lights, there is a bicyclist who performs in the same manner.

After our tour of the Gu Gong, or Palace Museum, which houses the finest collection of Imperial artifacts anywhere in the world, some of which date back more than 3000 years, we were treated to a trip to Taiwan 101. Two years ago it was the tallest building in the world at more than 1000 meters tall. Access to the top floors is by ticket only. Once the ticket has been purchased, the tourists are herded into cattle walkways, which wind back and forth in a never ending snake of people waiting to get on the elevator. Once in the elevator, you need to grab your waistband of your pants since the box travels up the shaft from the fifth floor to the top of the building in 37 seconds. The elevator is pressurized, so there is no real change on the way up; but on the way down, it is possible to feel the pressure change. It is an impressive building that has been built not only on a fault line, but in the direct path of the many typhoons that Taiwan endures. It is kept standing by its special design, based of bamboo, which never breaks, but bends and twists. At the top of the building is a large ball, which swings from side to side to dampen the swing of the building. It is prevented swinging too violently by pneumatic cylinders that are attached to the equator of the ball. There is a walking platform at two different levels, which allows the gawking tourists to marvel at the way it works. It must be effective. There has been one major earthquake and numerous typhoons since the completion of the building.

We were treated to a meal at a restaurant called, “Dintaifung”. It was written up in the food section of the New York Times as a restaurant not to miss. It is the only Asian food restaurant ever to be worthy of a write up. The food was spectacular. There was not a morsel left standing. The carnivores won!

The other special meal (Did we eat our way through Taiwan?) was at a restaurant called “Tasty”. It is a restaurant with an interesting concept in food delivery. There is a set price for the dinner. There are about 6 choices for each course. You make the selection for the course and the food arrives one course after the other. The food was cooked to perfection. I ordered the roast duck as the main course. Pei Chi ordered the beef. I could not believe the beef. The duck was good, but he beef was a carnivore’s delight. It was rare. It was tender. It was a piece of food to die for. Asians are not rare beef lovers as a group, but the ladies who ordered the beef made it disappear. I was thoroughly impressed.

On the last day, we visited the oldest temple in Taiwan. It is a practicing Buddhist temple. While at the temple, we were looking at the knick knacks that were available for purchase. Pei Chi told me that there was one that was designated for singles to find a mate, or married people to have a good life together. That goodie seemed like the perfect item to bring back to the people at the school since all of the teachers but one are single and most of the office staff is single too. The amulets were a great success. I still have a few to give out on Monday, but it looks like there is going to be a major search for mates that will be taking place that will be amulet assisted.

One of our outings, which turned out to be the most productive, was a trip to the local “A Mart”. Pei Chi had taken us to some of the most fantastic department stores that Taiwan has to offer. The window shopping was super, but the prices were astronomical and resistable. The A Mart was our kind of store. It had everything but Xin Jiang vinegar. We loaded up. PE equipment for the school, special things we had not found anywhere else, underwear, it was all there and we bought it. I guess that tells you what kind of shoppers we are.

We returned home on Thursday. That gave us Friday and Saturday at school to prepare for the coming second term. We are ready. The students had better look out. I think it is going to be fun.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well. I hope your lives are as much fun as ours.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It is Sunday morning. We are getting ready to go to the airport for our trip to Taiwan. Some of you know that I was a tutor with the literacy council in Towanda. One of the students I worked with was a Chinese girl. It was about 5 or 6 years ago. I have kept in touch with her by e mail and Skype since she left to go back to Taiwan. Last year she came to visit us here for a weekend. She invited us to come to visit her. Well, we are on the way. We will be there for 3 full days. We want to see the Imperial Museum. It holds all the treasures that the Kuomintang took from Beijing when they fled the Communist army. Hopefully there will be pictures allowed, but I am guessing not. We are also looking forward to touring around, meeting some of Pei Chi’s friends and doing some shopping.

Last week was the final week of the term and Regan, our principal, had a fun party in the library for us all. He had food and drink. He also had a song prepared for my co-teacher who left to go on to other things. I was told that she was just burned out and was ready to move on. Supposedly I will be getting a new co-teacher on Monday the 5th. If the new co-teacher is even half as good as my first co-teacher, I will be truly blessed.

One of the jobs of a co-teacher is to plan the art lessons. I can do the planning and did most of it this last term. I am ready to let go of the art, though since it is not one of my favorite things to prepare, and I am not very good at it. The main job of the co-teacher is to make sure that the Vietnamese children understand the lessons. It is great to have someone there to make sure that all the children do understand. My first co-teacher also wanted to teach some of the lessons. She was really good at that. She was also very good at teaching math to the first grade students. She knew how to focus on the needs of the children particularly with the vocabulary necessary to understand the Singapore Math.

We have a new housemate. She is in her middle 50’s and from Canada. She has had extensive experience, most of it in the Arctic where she worked with many of the natives of Canada. She has brought a small dog with her. It will be interesting to see how the dog fits into the picture. So far there does not seem to be any problem. It is still early yet. Sharon, her name, was not too well prepared in some ways. She needs to complete her hepatitis injections and thought that the school nurse would be able to give them, but she is not permitted to do that at school. Sharon also needs some prescriptions filled that she probably should have had done when she was in Canada. We will have to see how that pans out too.

We will soon be boarding the plane. I want to get this sent.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It is Sunday afternoon. I am recovering. I may be recovered by the end of the week. Which, by the way, is the last week of this semester.

On Wednesday night, the new Chinese restaurant we love so much was having a grand opening. We had been given an invitation to be a part of it since we had been such good customers. We arrived at the restaurant at about 6:00. It was filled with beautiful flower arrangements. Every table was set for eight to ten guests. By the time we had eaten, every table was full. There was one table set by the front entrance that was set for two people. It was ours. They knew were coming. We had not said that we were going to attend, but they knew. We ordered our some of our favorite dishes, drank a couple of beers, and were brought a dessert and 3 flavors of ice cream. The owner came to our table each time the food was presented and bowed and told us how much she appreciated our being there. When it was time to go, we were given gift coffee mugs and told that the food was a gift from the owner. We were to pay nothing. They know how to keep us coming back.

There has been some severe flooding in northern Vietnam as a result of a typhoon that was a level 5 storm, the strongest there is. Luckily we are in southern Vietnam and have had no flooding. We are dry.

For those of you who want to know what I am recovering from, it is Friday night. The school principal thought it would be a good thing if the older students participated in a “camp-out”. At the time he mentioned it, I thought it sounded like a fun idea. As the fun idea began to develop, I discovered that it was going to be up to me to purchase all the food that we were going to feed the kids. I was given a budget within which I was to stay. I was sent off to do the shopping on Wednesday, since I have no scheduled classes in the afternoon. I went to the Metro and kept within the budget. I bought pizza bread bases, and chicken ‘n veggies for the soup.

I returned to school just in time for the staff meeting, which is always a joy to attend, and we were able to get away not too much past 5:00. It was then that I discovered that I had not gotten all the “proper” ingredients for the chicken soup. After some negotiations, one of the other teachers who was going to participate in the “camp-out” volunteered to get the rest of the ingredients. She also told me that the cooking pot that the soup would be made in was too small and that I needed to get a larger one. Now I was over budget. In addition, I found out that the principal had no intention of spending the night, “Since none of his students were participating.” I then found out that my wife had no intention of participating in the sleep-over part of the “camp-out”.

Friday dawned. I thought I was prepared until I discovered that Mr. Lu, the Chinese teacher, was planning on cooking some food. He told me he wanted one million dong for his part. I told him the best I could do was two hundred thousand. He took it. I was over budget again, or still. The day went smoothly. The 3:30 release time for the students arrived. The school emptied slowly. At 4:30 the “camp-out” began.

Anita took the 23 “campers” and played some games with them while Ms. Dong, a fantastic teacher, linguist, cook and personable person, and I were sent off to prepare the food. She prepared the soup. I prepared the pizza. The cooking began about 5:30. The meal was ready about 6:30. It was gone in about 20 minutes. While we were preparing the food, Mr. Phuong, the Vietnamese principal, was handing out bags of junk food to all the Vietnamese students who promptly and obediently gobbled it all down in preparation for what was possibly going to be the worst meal they had ever had since a foreigner was going to be involved in the preparation.

After dinner it was time to take a “night-walk”, also the non-attending principal’s idea. We headed out of the school building in a large huddle of warm waddling bodies and walked around the soccer pitch to get a “feel for” the outdoors. When it seemed that all the students were ready for a “real” encounter with the outside, we headed out the front gate of the school, around the outside perimeter of the school and down the sidewalk toward the end of the road placed carefully in the dark. It was not a quiet walk as shrieks and howls from students who thought that behind every tree, bush or blade of grass lurked an evil monster, which was going to sweep them away. By the time we got to the end of the sidewalk and Ms. Dong had jumped out at the children from behind one of the trees, everyone was sure that the entire surface of the planet was solid monster and the shrieking and howling became incessant. Luckily we only had to walk about two hundred meters to get back to the front of the school where civilization once again began.

After the excitement of the walk, it was time for the fun and games designed by the Vietnamese teachers. They certainly had a good plan that had lots of action. It was a bit chaotic and unsupervised, but the kids seemed to enjoy it.

Next it was time to watch a video. Anita was working at cleaning up the dishes while Dong and I supervised the videos. The first video was rejected as boring. The second video was not watched until the Vietnamese subtitles were turned on, only about half the movie. As it neared the end, which I would have liked to have seen, the movie was ended. At about half way though the movie, Anita had come in and gave me a peck on the cheek and told me that she was going to sleep in her own bed and left.

It was at the end of the videos that the Vietnamese teachers told me that the students wanted to take showers. I tried to explain that a “camp-out” was not blessed with a shower, but that fell on deaf ears. The ladies and some of the students tripped off to take showers anyway.

Earlier we had set up the sleeping area in the assembly hall. One side was for the girls, one side was for the boys. A tape line marked the “DO NOT CROSS ZONE”. It took about an hour for the students to get organized enough to turn out most of the lights. Finally after what seemed to be an eternity, we were able to get the lights extinguished. Unfortunately the lack of light did nothing for the volume of the hum that was to continue for another hour or an eternity which ever came second. Finally one by one the children lost their ability to keep their vocal chords activated, and the noise subsided except for the older students who had set up at the “DO NOT CROSS ZONE”. There were two boys and two girls, for most of the time, and they talked, and talked, and talked, ad infinitum.

My bed, if you can call eight yoga mats stacked one on the other a bed, was situated on the aforementioned line. The hum from the students was just enough to keep me in touch with the wakeful level of sleep. As the level of the buzz began to die out, I heard the movement of feet. I opened my eyes enough to see our oldest, least social, least self-controlled students dancing back and forth across the aforementioned line as if testing the waters. I watched the dance for a few minutes. He finally thought that all was well and promptly began to make his sleeping area inside the female part of the hall. I watched him for a few more minutes. When It was obvious that he was planning to stay there for at least the short term, I quickly sat up on my yoga stack with wide open eyes. One of the Vietnamese girls, Linh, was first to notice me. She looked at me for about thirty seconds trying to decide whether I was awake or sitting up in my sleep. Finally she gained enough courage to approach me and wave her hands in front of my face to find out whether I was out cold or not. The expression on her face was priceless when, after the third or fourth wave, I said to her in a quiet, but definitely firm voice, “I am very much awake!” It did not take her long to retreat, pick up her belongings and do a very quick shuffle to her bed. She was quickly followed by the other girl. They were both quiet for the rest of the night.

In the meantime, the boy had tried to keep as low a profile as possible, hoping that I would not notice him lying on the floor on the female side of the line. Slowly he slithered back across the line with what was surely the first time in his life look of embarrassment on his face. When he reached the male side of the hall, I explained to him that he had used up all his chances and that if there were another incident, I would call his family and ask them to come to pick him up. Since he knew that I was able to speak enough Chinese to do so, he knew that I was not making an idle threat. He went to bed and did not stir until the morning when he discovered that the sun was shining brightly at 6:45, much to his amazement.

I was able to try to get comfortable on the “bed” at 2:30 in the morning. I slept fitfully on the most uncomfortable “bed” I have ever slept upon. I am recovering. I will be better prepared the next time I go for a “camp-out” in an assembly hall.

All is well here. We are thinking of you all and hope you are all well and happy.

Love to you all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Dear All,

I guess I am still a little bit out of the running for having both oars in the water at the same time. Either that or there is a light on but there is nobody home.

To finish the “camp-out”, we all hiked, less than 2 kilometers, to the Song Be golf course where we were presented a buffet breakfast from 8:00 to 8:30. Then we were offered exclusive use of the swimming pool from 8:30 to 10:30.

Swimming means that all the older students want to be able to stand on my shoulders and jump off. After 30 or 40 times, shoulders tend to get a bit tired. The down side of that is that when the shoulders get tired and one rests all the students who are afraid to scale the heights of my shoulders want to be pulled through the water so they can feel it run over them and swirl around them.

At 10:30, I had to walk back to the school to get my motorbike, so I could ferry the teachers back to the school. The last of the students were picked up about 11:30 at which time I was able to go back to my classroom to get the things I needed to take back home with me.

I finally clocked out at about 11:45 that morning. It was a looooooooooooooooooooooooooong day.



Sunday, October 17, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It was a party. More than 300 teachers and support staff from 7 different schools in the Ho Chi Minh City area. There was a sound system designed to broadcast the announcer’s incredibly inane babble at 200 decibels louder than normal persons hearing can tolerate. Naturally the volume was able to reach the 300 decibel volume on almost every occasion, just to make sure the audience did not miss a single word. There were give-aways. There were lucky draws. There were canisters of money. There were prizes for the best production. There were prizes for the best dressed male and female. There were prizes for the best male performer. There were prizes for the best female performer. There were prizes for the best dressed. There was free beer, fruit and water drinks. The head of the corporation and his meddlesome wife were in attendance sipping glasses of wine, which was only served to the corporate head table. There were rented costumes. There were newly purchased costumes. There were special made costumes just for the party. I did not recognize many of our teachers. They all looked fantastic. There were cameras, cell phones, color laser printers, hot and cold water dispensers, gift vouchers, an electric bicycle, a refrigerator, more money, rice cookers, and of course there was the opportunity to shake the hand of the corporate head and his meddlesome wife. There were special tickets that attendees had to have on their person to get a prize. The wife must have just finished reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. There were two wide screen displays showing homemade Power Point presentations, homemade videos, slides, action packed rotating pictures, faces of some of the attendees superimposed on famous bodies. There was enough money spent on the whole show to outfit every school with a set of manipulatives for each student in every school and a full year’s supply of toilet paper for every school and enough left over for the bottles of wine that were served at the head table. It started at 6:30 when we were told to go in, sit down, shut up and watch. It ended at 11:30 when were told to go pick up anything that belonged to us including a door prize which we could get if we were to turn in our magic ticket. The door prize was a stainless steel vacuum thermos bottle with the Kinderworld logo. It took an hour to ride back to school in the bus and 15 minutes to ride home by motorbike. We finally staggered into bed at about 1:45 am after trying to relax. Most people seemed to be having fun. It was an experience that should happen only once in a person’s life unless he/she has a very short memory and a lack of hearing.

It is really the rainy season here now. The streets of HCMC were flooded so badly last weekend that one of our families took 5 hours to come back to Binh Duong, usually a one-hour trip at most. When it rains the streets flood, manhole covers are pushed up by the force of the water in the over flowing drains, people and motorbikes fall into the holes and some people drown. Who is to blame? Certainly it is not the government, the local road crews, or the establishment. It is just like China. If you had not been there when you were injured, you would not have been injured. It must be your fault.

Tomorrow starts the next to the last week of the first term. We are going to go to Taiwan for part of the week holiday at the end of term 1 to visit Pei Chi, who was an English student of mine when she was living in Towanda. She came here last year to visit and told us that we were welcome to come to visit her. We are off on Sunday and will return on Thursday. I am looking forward to seeing all of the treasures that the Kuomintang took with them when they left the mainland. I understand that the museum is fantastic. I am also looking forward to some great Chinese food, and some shopping for items that we cannot find here. I hope to be able to find some Xinjiang vinegar, some Harvey’s Bristol Cream Sherry, some clothing that fits, and other things to enhance our comfort here in Vietnam.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well. Things just keep getting better here. I do not know how much better they can get, but I am willing to find out.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 10, 2010

Dear All,

Today, 42 years ago, we were married at 10:00 in the morning in Mainz, Germany. Now on this special day that will never occur again in our lifetimes, we celebrated our wedding on Not many people have an opportunity to find auspicious occasions in their lives. We have. We are lucky. I am the luckiest person alive, because I have Anita. She has put up with a great deal over the years. I am a much better person because of her.

We have been rehearsing for a month for the big party that will happen next weekend in downtown HCMC. Regan and the teachers have come up with a dance plan that is great. There are 28 people in the production. I now have my full costume which includes a slightly longer than shoulder length blond wig, one of Anita’s dresses, my former co-teacher’s nylons, my cell phone, and some slippers that I purchased the other day for the event. As one of the readers of this letter commented, “Julie Andrews you are not!” just goes to show that with makeup, clothes, and Dustin Hoffmann, anyone can be turned into a Tootsie.

One of the local places to buy stuff sells funeral money. It seems that it is traditional to burn money at a funeral. These bogus bills are packaged with a wrapper made from a bogus $100 bill. I wonder whether the whole funeral is bogus and nobody died.

We celebrated our anniversary on the balcony of the Song Be golf course while we enjoyed their renditions of some of our favorite foods, Dan Dan Mien, Guo Tia, and Sushi chased with Tra Da, or iced tea Vietnamese style.

It is certainly the rainy season. We had a downpour last night that was a gully washer in every sense of the word. I am so glad we were inside and dry.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 3, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Last week was a punch the time-clock week. I think that this year is going to be like that. Maybe it is not a bad thing. The days are great fun. The students are older and more receptive than the first and second graders that I taught last year. They are more capable and productive. I guess teaching children who are not native speakers really comes down to getting the kids to be productive. There are some of them who claim to be “shy”. It is a good excuse to not do the work. Some of them claim to not understand. Others just do not work. Getting the students to understand and to produce are the main goals for me. I have two important signs that grace the wall of my classroom. One originated last year. It is basically, “If you do not understand, tell me!”. The other one is, “THIMK”. Two or three of the students buy into the first sign this year, and because they are not afraid to ask the question, the others benefit. I think that it is pretty much an unwritten rule that if one student does not understand, most of them do not understand. Small realizations on my part are making me a better teacher.

I now have 26 lemon trees growing in pots beside the Villa. That may not sound like an earth shaking statement, but I am told that there are NO lemon trees in Vietnam. The person who brought the lime trees to Vietnam thought he/she was bringing lemon trees, but that did not happen. I guess no one has had the initiative to try to grow some more. A month or so ago I bought a lemon at the Metro market. I was in the process of making Hollandaise sauce for the artichokes that I had purchased for dinner that night. As I squeezed the lemon, I watched all these seeds fall out and wondered whether they could be planted. I have a large pot in which I tried to grow tomatos to no avail, so I took the seeds and stuck them into the soil. Every one of them grew. I now have separated them into pots that line the sunny side of the house in hopes of growing them large enough to transplant them at the school around the periphery of the playing field. The school will have the only lemon grove in Vietnam.

The “big” news that seems to have everyone so excited is not that big. It is just sensitive. No, we have not decided to extend our contracts, but even knowing the way the corporation operates, it is still a possibility. The story is about the hiring of a woman at the school who is way out of her league in terms of teaching the class to which she was assigned, and the bumbling recruiters who assigned her to do so. She is an interesting person. A few hours after I met her, I told Anita that she would not make it as a teacher in this school. Her way of communicating was just wrong. The premise under which she was hired was just wrong. The class size was just wrong. The way the corporation decided to handle the class size was just wrong.

She has moved out of the Villa as of yesterday and is in the process of being reassigned to another school closer to the city center where some of her special needs can be met. I am not sure she can make it there either, but she will certainly have a better chance in the city than out here in the country. It appears that the company is going to provide some kind of transportation to our school for her for a couple of more weeks before she will be assigned to another school. The story becomes more convoluted each time the day changes. I have heard many things about the person who is in charge of this whole debacle, he does not have a good reputation in the teaching world and has once again reached the pinnacle of the Peter Principle. “Everyone rises to his own level of incompetence.” It is still a sensitive issue and one that is not yet resolved in a satisfactory manner. Finger pointing and accusations, “he said’s and she said’s” are going to be the way this plays out. Who knows….

Yesterday morning I got up at 5:00 am to make a Metro run for the week and especially for today. There are two of my fellow teachers coming to the Villa this afternoon to learn how to make pizza dough. I needed to make sure that I had everything necessary for making the dough. As I was teaching my Saturday morning swimming class, I realized that I had not purchased any mozzarella cheese, pretty much a necessity for pizza. After the class was over, I went back home, and Anita and I went to the City Mart to complete the shopping for the week. On the way we decided to stop at the “Old Foreigner’s Restaurant” for some tacos, which may be the only tacos in town aside from the ones we make. After that run and safe return to the Villa, I decided that the return to the Metro was the only way I would be prepared for the pizza preparation.

Off I went back to the Metro. I entered the warehouse, like Sam’s Club, but with10 times the people and filled with shopping carts that do not move in a straight line unless you are able to compromise and walk in a semi-straight line. I got my unruly cart and proceeded to the cheese section of the store. I parked my cart, proceeded to the cheese, picked up four balls of cheese and headed back to my parked cart. When I arrived at the cart, the space where I had parked it was still there, but the cart was missing. I could have walked back to the entrance of the store and gotten another cart, but there was a woman who had a rather perplexed look on her face who looked at me and then at another woman pushing an empty cart who had just stopped had started filling it with groceries. I connected some dots and surmised that there was a cart thief running amok in the store. I went over to and said, “Did you just take my cart?” From her expression, I knew she had. My voice became more elevated in volume as I explained to this woman that she was capable of getting one of the many carts that were at the entry to the store, and that I did not appreciate having the one that I had hand picked being taken. Of course my voice, which is somewhere between loud and louder when I see a good chance at street theater was somewhere on the, “Hey! Look at this thief.”, volume. She quickly began to take the few things out of the cart and was really red in the face. I was about to offer to get her a cart of her own if she would wait in the store, but by then there were so many people who had become involved in the drama that it was time to walk away and let the rest of the shoppers resolve the situation in Vietnamese. I love good theater.

All the students are supposed to have a “handbook” in which are kept all assignments, notes from and to parents and other “important information. Last year the handbook was late to arrive because we are step-child school. This year the handbook has not arrived because “ The front cover was not to the liking of the woman married to the man who is in charge of the corporation. She makes many decisions based on her whim. They make up a team that probably recognized by the number one registered couples of Megalomaniacs Anonymous.

Speaking of Megalomania, we are required to attend the 14th year celebration of the founding of the Singapore International School system in Vietnam. There is a theme that someone, we don’t want to mention her name, spent many hours wrapped around a warm wine bottle cogitating the importance of themes for command dinner parties decided upon. Every school in Vietnam must attend. Every school must have a presentation from a movie that won an Academy Award. Each school has been given a budget to cover the cost of the costumes and other expenses. Not for the necessary manipulative materials that make teaching so much easier. Each attendee is expected to pay a part of the costs by way of an attendance fee. Und ve vill haf FUN! In case you are really interested in the show, we are doing a scene from The Sound of Music. I am playing Julie Andrews as she teaches the students how to sing “Doe A Deer”. I am wearing a red, black and blue fright wig, Vietnamese knee high stockings supplied by my former co-teacher, and one of Anita’s dresses.

One of my students, Chona, is a grade 3 girl from Taiwan. She is a lovely, tiny little person who is so full of life and happiness. She is studying Vietnamese and since she is the only one in the class, I fill in to give the class some balance. She is far advanced compared to me in terms of vocabulary and is able to accumulate many more “points” each class that I. There was a lull in the class. I noticed Chona was standing beside me looking at my hair, which six weeks ago was orange, four weeks ago white, and two weeks ago black. Now, thanks to the modern marvel of beauty shops, my hair is non-existent. It took two shops before I could convince them that I wanted it shaved. I know the words in Vietnamese, and it still took two shops. Chona will be befuddled at best.

She said, “Mr. Terry, there is a lot of white hair showing now. I think you should just let it all be white again.”

“Why should I do that?” I asked. “There are lots of other colors that I can choose from.”

“ Well,” she answered, “your hair is all white, and you are really old, so I think you should keep it that way.” Out of the mouths of babes.

That may be all the news for now. We are thinking of you all and wish you all well.

I have included a picture of my lemon grove which will soon supply lemon juice to the entire southern section of Vietnam.


Terry and Anita


September 26, 2010

Dear Everybody,

The news that I threatened you with last week is still on hold. I think it may be resolved by the end of the week.

The week flew by. We had a great time.

It is late. We have had guests all day. I am not going to get much written.

This is just to let you know that we are still here. Things are moving in an interesting direction.

More next week.

We hope you are all well. We are thinking of you.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Not much transpired in the way of excitement in our lives this week. The week flew by faster than any of the others last year.

We are both so relieved to be able to teach older children. Anita is back into full swing developing a dynamite grade 5-6 program. I am in seventh heaven with third and fourth graders. We both share the top floor of the school. There are no other classes there now. A few times a week the other classes venture to the third floor for the computer room. We are able to share kids and ideas.

One thing that we have done this year is to sign up with IXL, a math program that tracks the students and reports their progress. It has certainly inspired some of them. My class, Anita’s class and the grade 1-2 taught by a New Zealander named Kurt are all working under the guise of being one class. The class reports that I get come from the results of 18 children, some of whom are math wizards and spend all their spare time using the program at home. After two weeks, all the students have shown that they are making great progress.

This is going to be short this week. I have some interesting news for next week depending on the outcome of some, at the moment, sensitive information. By the end of next week, the information will be no longer of a sensitive nature, and I will be able to share it.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 12, 2010

Dear Everyone,

I woke up early this morning, so I decided to head for the Metro at 5:30 am. I had to get some money first, so I stopped at the ATM outside the Minh Sang Plaza. The withdrawal was pretty painless, and soon I was on my way to the Metro with 2,000,000 VND in my wallet.

As I clipped along at 40 kmph, I noticed that the gas tank was a little low, so I started looking for gas stations. There are lots of them along the way, but none are open at 5:45. After what seemed to be an eternity, on a low gas tank an eternity can pass pretty quickly, I pulled into a station and asked for 50,000 VND worth of petrol. The chief filler, the only one working at that ungodly hour. Smiled at me and gave me 20,000 VND worth of gas. I smiled and said, “Thank you.” in my best Vietnamese. The chief filler chuckled. I guess no one has ever thanked him for not filling up a tank.

Pulling away from the partial fill, I noticed that there was an unusual amount of electrical activity in the atmosphere that was accompanied by rather loud and fearsome rumbling thunder. Those bolts and thunder rolls followed me all the way to the Metro. As I parked the scooter, the rain started to drip from the sky. I figured that it would rain itself out while I was shopping. I figured wrong. It was raining even harder when I came out. I packed the groceries into the cool box and in the bag hanging around the handlebars, put on my rain pants followed by my rain jacket and headed home. The rain began letting up as I pulled into the garage. I have such good timing.

There is a new restaurant near us. It is a short scooter ride away. It is advertised as a Hong Kong style restaurant. Last night was our second time there. I think we are going to get to know them very well. The food is fantastic. While we were waiting for our food, one of our neighbors from the Oasis, the place where we live, came by our table to greet us and fill us in on the fact that her husband’s brother had opened the restaurant. We told her what fantastic food was served. She smiled happily and told us she would pass on the good words. Near the end of the meal while waiting for our check, one of the waitresses came by and asked if we had a discount card. We did not. She went away and soon one of the in charge type people came by and presented us with a discount card in a little packet. Our meal price was reduced by 10%.

As many of you know, I am allergic to fish. Fish seems to be the number one food for the Vietnamese, so I am inconstant danger of exposure to the nasty things that fish can do to me. Luckily, my former co-teacher made me a small note, which I carry with me all the time. It basically says that I am allergic to all kinds of reptiles and fish and that I might die if someone feeds me something on the list. Every restaurant I enter I flash the note. It seems to have garnered us more that fishless servings. It seems that every restaurant that we have frequented now knows us and greets us with warm greetings as soon as we step inside. I guess in some way it has made us famous, sort of. (Thank you Ms. Huyen!)

I have posted the last of my pictures from our dive trip. Two of them actually have pigmy seahorses that you can see if your eyes are sharp and there is no fog.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are happy and well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It is Sunday afternoon. We spent the day scooting around HCMC looking for earrings for Anita. She found one pair. I found two ties that are colorful and do not “go” with any clothing that I have, but little things like that have never stopped me before.

I do not know whether you were aware of the earth tremors that emanated from the area just south of Binh Duong, the area in which we live. They were strong enough to have been felt in your hemisphere.

I will explain. Thursday was Vietnam’s National Day. Nobody pays much attention to it except government officials who are given the day off. They all go shopping and spend the perk money, skim money, pilfered money, bribe money, payoff money and general donations that are made directly to them for their family’s well being and comfort.

BUT We paid attention. We were given the day off under the guise of National Day. I had been talking to two of the ladies at the school about going to the city and Chinatown. After what were numerous not too subtle hints that they would like to accompany us on the outing, I asked them if they wanted to come along. Needless to say they jumped on the band wagon, well, all right, their motor scooters, and met us at 8:30 in the morning in front of a department store in the northern part of HCMC. Did you read that? THEY MET US AT 8:30. They were right on time. That sent the second tremors rumbling through the clay.

Most of the people in Vietnam work on elastic time. Meeting at a set time has a lot of leeway. “Just how much?” you ask. Let us say that meeting within a 12 hour block of time certainly happens as long as you leave the 12 hours on either side of the meeting time. OK, it is not quite that bad, but close.

The first set of tremors was actually sent into the bedrock when Anita decided that she was going to ride her own scooter into the city. Did you read that? ANITA, MY WIFE, THE ONE WHO I HAVE BEEN MARRIED TO FOR MANY YEARS WHO HAS NOT RIDDEN HER SCOOTER ANYWHERE BUT TO SCHOOL AND BACK DECIDED TO RIDE HER SCOOTER 25 KILOMETERS INTO THE CITY AND 25 KILOMETERS BACK. I still cannot believe that she decided to do it. The thing that was even more unbelievable was that she actually did it. It also allowed me to take Patrice Olson, one of the new teachers, on the back of my bike.

She did a phenomenal job of riding. It was hard to pick her out of the crowd of riders who had chosen to travel on that day. Well, there was one small incident that took place that only slightly marred a perfect outing. I will explain.

We were meeting Cat Anh, and Hoa, two of the most beautiful teachers at the school, in front of a department store about 45 minutes from our Villa. We arrived at the department store a little early. The curb in front of the department store is rounded as they are in most of HCMC. Scooters easily ride up over the edge and can be parked in the middle of the sidewalk, so the pedestrians are hindered as they dodge around the parked scooters. I negotiated the curb. Anita had stopped at the curb and was looking quizzical. I smiled politely and told her to drive over the curb and up onto the sidewalk. In response she gunned the motor, shot up over the curb, while not holding onto the brake of the scooter. This scenario set up a small series of events that happened in rapid-fire succession. I will slow down the time frame and try to let you picture the tableau as it unfolded.

I heard the motor begin to rise in pitch. I watched the scooter leap forward, up and over the curb. It bounced on the sidewalk. She was out of control with no hand on the brake to stop or even slow the events that were about to take place.

It is mid-autumn festival time in Vietnam and many other parts of Asia. It is celebrated by watching the moon while eating moon cakes. I do not have time here to describe moon cakes here, just suffice it to say that the cakes are stuffed with filling, some unknown, some imaginable, some surprising and some you do not want to know about. These cakes are sold in temporary shops that are set up around the city usually one or two every 300 meters apart.

Anyway, back to the scooter. We left it in mid-air after leaving the road and launching over the curb. Fate would have it that there happened to be a moon cake stand directly in the path of the scooter.

It is unfortunate that the stand had not had a good night’s rest, or it had not had it’s first cup of coffee, or maybe it was just not happy to have a motor scooter launching in the general direction. As Anita approached the stand it viciously lashed out with one of the pieces of bunting and wrapped the scooter in a tight embrace. In doing so, there were several boxes of moon cakes that were sent skyward. It then released the scooter and threw it to the ground where the motor quickly died. I helped extricate Anita from the scooter. She said she was OK. The scooter said it was OK. I looked around at the moon cake attendants quickly retrieving the moon cakes and boxes that had been broadcast to the sidewalk and offered up my best Vietnamese, “Xin Loi”. For those of you who are following my language development, that translates to, “Excuse me.” I muttered something about probably having to make a rather large purchase of moon cakes as I pushed the scooter around the corner out of sight of the sales booth while keeping a very low profile.

In the end, I did not have to purchase any moon cakes. Anita was not hurt. She was able to complete the rest of the ride. All is well that ends well. We found Chinatown, found a great Chinese restaurant, had a lovely day with Cat Anh and Hoa.

We are now waiting to start into week 3 of the school year.

This is our last year at the school. At the moment, we do not see any possibilities for an extended contract. We will be departing with great sadness as we leave our many friends that we have made. If you are thinking of coming to Vietnam, please let us know when. We are going to have at least one bedroom, with a possibility of three bedrooms available. We are a stone’s throw from a fantastic golf course. I have some connections there and can get discounts for almost any service they provide.

We are thinking of you all We wish you well. We are counting the days.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dear Everyone,

The first week of school has passed rather uneventfully. I guess that in itself is a blessing. My new co-teacher has already taken one day off to “visit the doctor”. She is pretty magic about making herself invisible unless she has been instructed to complete something. If she is instructed to do something, she does an excellent job. We will have to see just how this new thing works.

I feel much more at ease with grades 3 and 4 than I did with 1 and 2. The students are so much more capable of completing assigned tasks. They are still excited about learning. In Arts and Crafts class, which I now teach since my new co-teacher does not I introduced shadow puppets. The students played for more than two class periods and wanted to take home all the puppets that they had made. Yesterday I made a shadow puppet stage and screen. This week in A&C I will teach the students about shadow puppets again. This time they will have a real shadow screen to work on.

Today, Sunday, is an important wedding day. Actually every Sunday is an important wedding day. There are wedding rental halls at various places in the city which are fully booked each week. About 11:30 am each Sunday one can see the lovely, smiling bride standing beside the doomed young man waiting to greet all the wedding guests to the hall that they have rented. The guests get tanked up on drink, and food and leave the wedding hall shortly after no more food and drink are in evidence. The bride moves into the groom’s parents’ house where she begins her training, unless she is lucky enough to already have access to a house which the newly weds can move into. Whereupon the new groom promptly begins his training at the adept tutelage of the new bride.

Weddings do not just happen. They are carefully scripted. The couple has spent a few years getting to know each other. More than likely they have never shared a kiss let alone anything more intimate. The picture phase of the wedding has taken place far in advance of the wedding. The bride has rented multiple gowns and has a photographer in tow as they tour about the city looking for places to pose in the full dress of wedded bliss. Sometimes the doomed groom is in attendance, but often the pictures are snapped without the groom. This may be to ensure that if the wedding does not work out, the new bride is not saddled with a bunch of overpopulated pictures. The pictures can be used more than once if there is a need for a newer or different groom.

Actually, the sense of family here is incredibly strong. Once the commitment has been made, there is little that can be done to undo the relationship. I think that the marriage stays intact no matter what difficulties arise. I have not heard of any divorces in Vietnamese families. I am sure there must be some, but the people really work at trying to keep the family together. We do have one friend who is married, and she always makes sure that her husband and daughter are always included if it is possible. It is really great to see how both of them take such loving care of the daughter. It is obvious that in this family that there is an equal sharing of the responsibilities that come with being together. I wish there were a way to get some of the family values reintroduced in the U$A.

Since we are now on the downhill slide to the end of our contracts, the assistance from the corporate office seems to be far less that enthusiastic. There are things that need to be done in the Villa that have needed to be done for a couple of months. There has been a request for a larger refrigerator since there are now 4 of us living in the house. The curtains need to be cleaned at least once a year. They are going on year two without much consideration for the resident dust. There is a leak in the wall from the downstairs bathroom that slowly seeps its way through the wall.

Thursday is National Day and we will get the day off. I am not sure what we will do since most things will be closed. We shall have to wait until the day arrives.

There was a softball game near one of the dormitories near our compound. If I had not had so much to do, I would have tried to join in.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are all well and happy. For some reason things keep seeming to get better here, even with the stuff from the corporate HQ.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Dear Everyone,

We have survived the first week of preparation for the start of school which happens tomorrow no matter whether we are prepared or not.

Anita arrived in her new classroom, grades 5/6, to find that the classroom was naked. There were no desks, no chairs, no teacher’s desk, no computer, no smart board, and 9 electrical outlets in which to plug the nakedness that existed in the room. It is sort of a corporate greeting, “Welcome back! We did not plan far enough ahead for your classroom to be ready. We did not really budget quite enough money to set everything up. We know that you can operate in a vacuum. You have a great reputation. You can wing it as long as you have a complete lesson plan on file in the office.” The word in the corridors is that the room will be ready tomorrow. If you believe that, I have a bridge that I am prepared to sell you that crosses the scenic Saigon River.

I was told that I had to move to the third floor from the second floor into a new classroom. Luckily, the classroom had been occupied by a former teacher, now the school principal. I was blessed with many of the amenities that he had left behind. The only thing I was not blessed with was my teaching assistant from last year. I know in my head that the decision to keep her in grades 1/2 was correct, because she knows the curriculum, knows the students coming into the classroom, and is a fantastic teacher who will be immeasurably prepared to assist the new teacher who has taken my position. In my heart, I will really miss working with her, because she is a person who is full of life and ideas. I will live.

My former co-teacher, Ms. Huyen, and I searched out a fruit garden on Monday in hopes of taking a before-school-starts trip for half a day. We stopped numerous times to ask directions, and we were finally waved down by a young woman who volunteered to take us to the garden. We had expected, well, fruit. It turned out that the fruit had been all picked and sent to the market. The next crop was hanging somewhere on the trees waiting to be sprouted. We reported back to school that the fruit garden might not be the best place to go on an outing since there was not much to see or do or eat.

We went the next day anyway. It was fun. The ladies all wanted pictures taken in various poses. Ms. Dong climbed a tree to pick some of the remaining fruit. We packed up and left. Uneventful? Yes. Interesting? Yes. Memorable? Yes, but I must qualify that by saying that every day here is a memorable day. I would not give up one of the experiences we have had.

I have heard that Hua Hua’s shadow puppet show was a great success. She performs it next weekend in Towanda, and sometime in the near future she will be performing at the Annenburg Center for Performing Arts in Philadelphia. She is our project, and she makes us proud.

We hope your lives are rich. We think of you often. Life is great.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 15, 2010

Dear Everyone,

To those of you who are new and have not seen the address where our pictures are stored, I will once again give you the address. It is http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. All photos are downloadable if you find one that strikes your fancy.

We are back in Binh Duong. We were returned home after an uneventful trip via planes and a taxi ride. It is good to be back. We are starting our final year at the school tomorrow morning.

I was going to tell you about Vietnamese weddings sort of as filler this week, but that is going to be put on hold, because I want to tell you about the event yesterday.

Yesterday I was planning to prepare a black chicken for dinner. I had bought two of them earlier in the month since they are small. I was not sure that one would be enough for the three of us. I had thawed the chicken and was planning to make chicken soup since the little critters are some of the toughest birds we have ever eaten.

I realized that I had not purchased any vegetables to go into the soup, so after setting the bird on simmer in a pot of water, I prepared to set out to the CityMart for some missing greens. During my preparations, Anita commented that the sky was growing darker. Indeed it was. I continued to prepare for the trip and there was a short discussion about the fact that it might rain. Actually I was pretty sure it was going to rain, so I had prepared my rain clothes, making sure they were an easy grab from the handlebars of my motorbike.

I asked Anita if she wanted to accompany me on this outing. She declined citing the darkening sky, which I naturally brushed aside as small talk. I said I would be back in an hour or so and set out for the 35 minute ride to the market.

As I cleared the housing compound and headed to the exit of the VSIP, I noticed that there was some water in the air. In the next 3 minutes the water in the air changed from a light drizzle to a downpour. I quickly donned my rain suit, both pants and top, which I had so carefully prepared ahead of time and was on my way with barely a breath wasted.

Vietnamese raindrops are not like other raindrops. Vietnamese raindrops are aggressive, particularly they have collected and have prepared to make a full frontal attack. They take on a mob mentality all their own. These wet monsters were no exception. The first wave of the assault started with not a gentle pitter-patter of well-trained drops. No, they came down with determination. Instead of the gentle tapping sound on my helmet, these guys, girls?, (Can you assign a sex to a raindrop?) were not tapping but clanging. Have you ever dropped an egg from about waist high onto the floor? That is the way the drops were coming. They were large, heavy and wet. It did not help matters much that I was moving through them at 40 kilometers an hour. As they smacked into me, I could feel them sting, I slowed down a bit to start to negotiate the already growing puddles and to reduce the impact of the oncoming water.

I actually questioned my sanity for departing in such a downpour; but because it was coming down so hard, I knew that it would not last too long. There could not be that much water in the sky. I plunged onward toward the store. The water continued to rise in the streets, making the road a bit more hazardous. The rain intensity did not let up as I arrived at the CityMart. It was no wonder that there were people all huddled under the overhang outside the store waiting for the rain to abate.

I noticed that people did not have on rain gear in the store, so I removed my wet stuff and got a shopping bag and checked the whole thing in the baggage storage section. I did my shopping. I paid for the stuff. I picked up my rain suit thinking that the rain must have stopped by now and went to the door. It was raining even harder.

Rain, being water, tends to flow to the path of least resistance. Since the drains for the road are at road level, and there are gently rolling hills all over Binh Duong, the path of least resistance is down the middle of the road. Down the middle of the road means that the depth of water at the bottom of the hill is considerably deeper than at the top unless the entire depression has been filled with water.

As I mounted the scooter for the trip home I again questioned my judgment. As I moved down the road, I questioned the amount of water in the road. As I came to the bottom of depression, I questioned whether there was a life preserver under the seat of my motorbike. The water was swirling around my ankles as I slowly moved through the expanse of water, which now covered the road to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. My motorbike did not falter as it plowed, rowed?, along the highway.

The fact that this was the strongest downpour of water I have ever navigated was well implanted. The next time Anita tells me that the sky is getting darker, I will take a much closer look.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well and happy. Our best thoughts go out to Josie Tibbitts for a quick recovery from knee replacement surgery.

As a footnote: It was time to make some changes before school starts tomorrow. I dyed my hair orange. Picture below.

Yerry with orange hair


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dear Everyone,

For those of you who are new to this letter, my pictures are posted at <http://gallery.me.com/abdiii>. Enjoy.

Tomorrow, Sunday, is the last day that we will dive. We fly Tuesday morning to Denpapar. We want all our dive gear to be dry, so we will not be overweight. No more pictures will be posted until we get home. Next letter will come from HCMC.

Let me preface this letter by writing that I do not dislike cultures, nationalities, races, or denominations because of who they are. I dislike people who prove to be dislikable. I have found few people who have made it to my dislike list.

For those of you who were with us last week, the sun came with the arrival of the planes and has not left us as of today. With one day more diving, things are looking good.

There have been few sharks seen on this trip. Some of the people here tell us that the demand for shark fin soup has increased the fining in the area. Fining is cutting off the fins of the shark for shark’s fin soup, and then throwing the rest of the animal back to die in the sea.

This week is completely different from last week when the resort was not full. There are no beds left at the inn, so to speak. The preponderance of the visitors is Italian, more women than men. Go figure.

It was explained to me, in broken English, punctuated with words in Italian, that “THE” women liked the sun and spent much of their time soaking up the rays. Actually to me that was obvious since there were vast expanses of browned middle-aged skin on display on each of the lounge chairs each afternoon, some more middle-aged (Can we say “Sun Ripened”?) than others.

Our day starts at 5:45 when we get up and do some exercises and head for breakfast at 6:45, so we can be on the boat for the 7:30 departure. The Italian day starts whenever all the practice raisins awake, have a leisurely breakfast and miss the dive boat as it steams out to deliver the divers for their first dive. After the first dive, the boat returns for the hard-core Italian divers who stroll leisurely down the jetty to the boat launch, load themselves and all their cameras, bags, and whatever else is appropriate for their lifestyle, and prepare for the first dive, our second. Each of our dives lasts for a minimum of 45 minutes and a maximum of 70 minutes depending on the depth our dive guides decide upon. I do not know how long the Italian dives last, since they are the last to enter the water and are out on the bow of the boat with the expanded skin exposure ritual well in progress by the time we make it to the surface.

We return to the resort for lunch after the second, Italian first, dive. Lunch is served from 12:30 until 2:00. The third dive leaves the jetty at 2:15 sharp. The first day we left the jetty at 2:30 sharp since there were a lot of Italians who thought they would take the third, Italian second, dive of the day. That tardy moment only lasted one day. None of the Italians even moved near the boat let alone indicate that they were ready to actually stand in the way of the afternoon tanning session. We return from the dive at about 4:00, just in time to see the Italians rise from the lounge chairs to display the new pink to dark red glow that radiated from their bodies throughout the rest of the afternoon and into the evening.

As dusk begins to settle in, we have noticed that there is a secretly hidden magnet that draws people to the end of the jetty. Strangely, the magnetism pulls out a chair at one of the tables, already surrounded by other magnetized persons. Strangely, each person at the aforementioned tables has an arm bent at the elbow, left or right does not seem to matter. All at once a man carrying a large collection of half liter brown bottles descends upon the table. He is followed by a young lady carrying large, empty mugs on a platter. She proceeds to empty the brown bottles into each of the glasses. Bent arms straighten, hands grasp glasses, and long sighs are heard. Happy Hour has thus been initiated for the umteenth time. Diving here isn’t all bad. Happy Hour lasts until the revelers have had too much liquid from the bottles, fall into the sea at the end of the jetty, or cannot stand the wait for the looooooong walk to the restroom back at the reception area. Usually by the time any of those things start to take place, it is 7:00 and dinner is served.

That sort of reminds me of the story about Mr.Jones at the swimming pool.

As Mr. Jones exited the water, he was confronted by a young, lady lifeguard who told him in a very stern voice, “Mr. Jones, urinating into the water is not acceptable!”

Whereupon Mr. Jones replied, “Come on, Dear Lady, everyone knows that everyone urinates in the swimming pool.”

The young lady lifeguard replied in disgust, “Yes, that is probably true, but none of them does it from the high dive!”

On Wednesday, I suggested to the F&B (food and beverage) manager that there was a better way to make pancakes. I gave him my secret ingredient recipe. He tried the recipe and now serves the pancakes each morning with my recipe. I am not sure anyone notices but Anita and I; but it is rather nice to be acknowledged for knowing something different.

We are asleep at 9:00 each night. We want to be able to repeat the daily dive ritual. It quite enjoyable to get into the water and catch the fish asleep or at least unaware until the first camera flash, then the whole thing starts again.

We are thinking of you all. We hope all is well in your lives. One more year and counting!


Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 1, 2010

Dear Everyone,

We have had three dives a day for a week now. Much of what we have seen in posted in pictures at the me.com site. Each dive lasts between 40 minutes to an hour and 10 minutes depending on the depth that we dive. We do not use nitrox, a blend of nitrogen and air, which would allow us to take longer dives. Anita is not certified to use nitrox. Maybe she will get certification during this trip.

The sights under the sea are amazing. The water is clear and clean. The reefs are pristine. The fish are abundant both in number and variety. We have only dived one site that was better because of the numbers of large fish and turtles, Sipadan, east of Borneo. This is definitely a place to come to be pampered both in the sea and on the land. It is surely step one on our Bucket List.

This resort is 1000 km from the nearest civilized part of Sulawesi. There is a team from the National Graphics Society that is permanently based here and is constantly making and updating documentaries in the water. It is a wildlife refuge. There are strict laws governing the amount and places that fish can be taken. It is incredible to walk into the dining room and have the choices of food each meal that would rival the finest hotels in any part of the world. We are being spoiled. There is one service person for every 3 guests. All the service personnel are expected to mingle and dine with the guests at every meal.

Our bungalow is equipped with a queen-sized bed with a mosquito canopy covering. We close the canopy each night. It has on demand electric hot water that feels so good when the dive is over as we rinse off the salt. All the water in the resort is produced by reverse osmosis. It is an incredibly expensive way to get fresh water. The resort is looking into alternative ways to produce electricity, water and grow vegetables for consumption.

Looking out the front door of the bungalow, we see the sea. It sparkles each morning there is sunshine, which, unfortunately has been in short supply so far. It is supposed to be the dry season, but someone forgot to tell the rain gods. Many mornings we have been greeted with a rainbow; and on the first morning, we were greeted by a double rainbow that lasted for almost half an hour.

On the second day, my camera case started to leak. I knew what was wrong with the case and where the leak was, but it took lots of experimentation for me to actually make a repair that worked. The case has not leaked in 3 consecutive dives. Maybe I will get some pictures of the reef tonight as it blooms. Keep your fingers crossed.

There are fish here I have only seen in pictures. There are many varieties of scorpion fishes, crocodile head flat fish, scorpion leaf fish, giant moray eels, crabs and shrimp of all varieties and colors. If you are a diver and have only been in the Caribbean to dive, you must come to this part of the world and expand your horizons. I have been taking 30 to 40 pictures on each dive. I am happy when I can weed out the poor ones and end up with 10 or 15. I have my pictures of the pigmy sea horses. I have a picture of a moray eel in a barrel sponge with it’s teeth bared. Now I am looking for a Mandarin fish.

We are waiting for 5:30 pm to arrive. We will be going out on a night dive.

The night dive was OK. There were no walls filled with blooming polyps. The colors did not seem as intense as I remembered. I think we will pass up the next night dive and just enjoy the resort.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Our trip to the airport was not a difficult one It took about an hour. We arrived just after 8:20 am for a flight to Kuala Lumpur. The flight was about three hours long. We waited in KL for an hour before we boarded a flight to Denpasar, Bali. The flight took about 3 hours.

In Denpasar, we the last to debark the plane. To our great surprise, there was a man at the end of the walkway with our name on a board. He walked us through the airport to customs and immigrations where he presented all the requisite paperwork and told us to go sit down “over there” , and he would meet us soon. Soon came pretty quickly. He brought us the required paperwork which we signed. We were soon in a hired car on the way to the hotel that we were to call home for the next two nights and the accompanying day in between.

Thursday we spent the day walking and window shopping. We did get some more diving clothes and water for out personal use. At the end of the day we got a call telling us that the flight that was supposed to take us to Wakatobi had been grounded because of mechanical problems and that we would be picked up at 11:00 instead of the 7:30 in the morning. We nodded politely at the phone and fell asleep.

The next morning, we got up, had breakfast, packed up and waited in the lobby for the appointed time. At 9:00 we were told that the taxi would take us to the airport. Wow! We thought. Two hours ahead of schedule. Maybe we would get a dive in anyway. Not so. The VIP lounge at the airport slowly filled as we waited. It was easy to see that all the arrivals were divers from their dress. We had a few conversations and continued to shuffle our feet. I am not the best person in the world to ask to wait for anything, but after hearing about how long it took to get to the resort before the dive owner had built the airport, I can truthfully say that I appeared to be a very patient person. Lucky for me the wait only lasted until 2:30 when we were given the OK to board a very old but serviceable propeller driven plane that lumbered into the air and whisked us along at a turtle’s pace. We arrived at a runway on an island in the middle of the sea. We were greeted by friendly hosts who bundled us and our luggage into waiting what used to look like vehicles 30 or so years ago and now were the taxi fleet of the island. We chugged and putted for 15 minutes to the place where we would be able to exit this vehicle from the Flintstones cartoon and found that we now had to walk to the boat that would take us on another 20 minute ride to our final destination, Wakatobi.

We were met on the beach at the resort by 30 or so persons who are involved in running the dive resort. We were greeted by name which was pretty impressive. Each time we have gone to speak to someone or to ask a question, the person has known our names. I am very impressed.

There was not time to take a dive, but we were able to get all the dive gear unpacked and set up so it would be ready for the next morning. The entire operation has been well thought out and everything works like clockwork.

It is now Sunday morning. We had three dives yesterday. The first one was cut short because Anita did not have enough weight and as we approached the end of the dive she popped to the surface from 30 feet. To me she had just disappeared. I surfaced after a 3 minute safety stop and discovered that she was safely on the dive boat. Each dive became progressively better. Both of them were more than an hour and ranged from 20 to 70 feet in depth.

This in an incredible spot in the middle of nowhere. We are being cared for like I have never seen at any dive resort. The reefs and walls are teeming with life and are pristine. This resort is eco-friendly. I think someone has taken a chunk out of Heaven and put it here in the ocean. This trip is one that should be put on any diver’s agenda. We are both calling this one the first of our Bucket List destinations. We have 16 more days to explore what is under the water. I really want to see and photograph a pigmy sea horse. I have some pretty neat pictures now. I will try to expand the collection in the morning dives today and post during our afternoon rest period.

We hope that you are all well. We think about each of you.


Terry and Anita

Note: All pictures have been posted now, and are available for viewing here: http://gallery.me.com/abdiii


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Wednesday was the last day of the school year for the children. We had to go to school on Thursday and Friday, because we did not have enough leave time accumulated. Monday actually begins our holiday.

The Monkey King show went really well. I did not get any pictures of it I was too busy back stage keeping everything moving. We were set to perform the show once at 9:00 am. We did. Then parents started arriving late, so we performed it again. Still more parents arrived later. We performed it a third time. Vietnamese time keeping is not in tune with our ideas of prompt. It is done.

The dive bag is packed. The dive computers have new batteries in them. I checked all the gear and it looks ready to dive. We are ready too.

We depart on Wednesday and will arrive at the resort on Friday. Maybe we will get a dive in Friday. We will see.

I have been shopping most of the day getting stocked up for our return. Maybe the new Metro will be open when we come back.

The corporation has not hired any new teachers for the school yet. The corporate people haven’t got a clue about getting good teachers early and recruiting.

I expect that we will have new house-mates when we return. It will be interesting to see how they fit in this far from any town night life.

This is shorter than the usual letter. I am having a terrible time typing. I am not sure what is going on.

We are thinking of you all. We wish you well. Next letter comes from Wakatobi.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, July 11, 2010

Dear Everyone,

We have two more days of school left and one day of being at school for some reason, which only remains known to those who have scheduled the number of days in the calendar.

The Monkey King show is coming along. It is not great theater, but for a first time to perform, I think the students are doing a fantastic bit of work. I think I have finally found some ink markers that will write on transparency plastic transparencies.

I think I am going to lose my co-teacher. It looks as though she will be reassigned to one of the new teachers that will be coming to the school. She will do a fantastic job for the new person. We have had our differences; but when I saw her name possibly assigned to someone else, it really was kind of a sad moment for me. I have thought about all the times that she was there to take up my slack and support me. She has become a very valuable part of my classroom experience. She has been there to help the students. That is the thing she does best. She has always had their best interests at heart. I do not want to think that there is another person at the school who can do what she has done for the class. I have enjoyed working with Huyen. It has been a rewarding experience. I guess there is still a little hope that she will not be reassigned.

The rainy season is upon us. It has been raining more each day. This morning I was awakened by the sound of thunder. The power outages have ended.

There are some strange tropical diseases/epidemics that exist here. Many of them are ones that we have all heard about, but there are some that are new to my experience. Last week my co-teacher came to school and was suffering from a high fever and red spots. This ailment is serious. She was taken to the hospital where she was diagnosed as having a lesser form of the serious infection. Apparently this affliction is caused by a mosquito bite.

I am off to teach swimming at the golf course pool this morning. I have been working with this group of people for the last month. They have all made fantastic progress. I am very pleased with their progress.

After the swimming lessons, Anita and I must go to school for another round of prospective parent briefings. We will be credited with a half day of leave time for our efforts. Hopefully the demands will be small.

The shopping is done. The laundry is done. The beer and water run is done. The school stuff went well. We were able to re-re-re do the backgrounds for MK. Keep your fingers crossed.

It is 3:25. I have some time to think about tomorrow. We are going to have a double rehearsal to see if the Monkey King will pull together in the last rehearsal before two shows on Tuesday.

We are thinking of you all and wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July, Everybody,

This week has gone by so quickly that I am not sure what happened.

The school concert was scheduled for this week, but the owner of the corporation that runs “manages” the schools decided that he and his wife would come to Vietnam last week so the school concert was moved forward so the corporate head could have another chance to shake the hand of the president of Vietnam. I do not think that the president was at the concert. It was a fun time and the children performed well.

A traditional school presentation consists of the students, boys and girls, performing movements that are certainly sexually suggestive for adults, but I guess it is OK for children to move in a suggestive manner. Our class was the only one to sing a song instead of a wiggling dance. We sang one of my personal favorites, “Eddie Kootchy Katacha Gamma Tosa Dira Dosa Nova Samma Kamma Whacky Brown”.Tommy Tibbitts, one of the teachers from my days at Casady School and I used to sing that together whenever we performed.

The students were articulate and pulled off the song really well. We had other students acting out the parts of Eddie, who fell into a well, Suzie Jones, who saw Eddie fall into the well, Suzie’s Ma, who reported to Old Joe, who reported to the towns folk, who ran to the well to save Eddie, but since his name was so long, he drowned. It is a really sad song.

Next week we have rehearsal for the Monkey King show and parent conferences. We will rehearse each day one or two times through MK. We will have parent conferences from 3:45 to 5:00 each day. It makes for a long week, but when it is over, the sense of relief and closure is great.

The rains are finally here. I think we may have seen our last day without power last week. We will keep our fingers crossed.

Today, when I tried to get some money at the ATM, the machine ate my card. I will go to the bank to get a replacement for it tomorrow.

One week and two days to go! One week to clean up the classroom and then we are off for 18 days at Wakatobi. Check it out at www.wakatobi.com. I will be posting daily pictures of the fish are able to get to pose for us while we dive at my picture site.

We are thinking of you all. Hope all is well and you are happy. We are.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dear Everyone,

This week has rocketed by. It has had its ups and downs, mostly ups.

The Monkey King shadow show is one week into rehearsal and it looks like it might work. We are dealing with a bunch of children who have never performed anything that has a script and set actions. Communicating what we want is going to be the real challenge. My co-teacher, Ms. Huyen, has made some really good suggestions. She is a great help in getting this show together.

We performed a parachute dance on Friday to show the rest of the school what can be done with a parachute in both PE and dance. It was well-received and great fun. Ms. Huyen was the instigator behind the choreography. I was very pleased that the children did so well.

On Thursday in English class I taught the students how easy it was to make your own candy. We made caramel, which consists of brown sugar, evaporated milk, and butter. Bring it all to a boil and get it to hard ball consistency and you are done.

This past weekend I taught three classes of swimming. All the kids and most of the adults are making progress. It is fun to do something so different.

Tonight for dinner I am going to try to create sausage. I have the ingredients. It should be interesting. I wonder if Ms. Huyen will like it. I always try to have some leftovers of food that I cook to take to her so she can try some different things other than her own Vietnamese cooking. She has tried a couple of the things I have cooked and has pretty good luck. There was one dish, a creamed ground beef that did not come out as she and I thought it should. She said that the family “could eat it”, but I doubt that they will try it again. I have told her that If I can get an invitation to her house, I would try to prepare it there so she can see how it is done. Maybe that will happen after we go on holiday.

Two more weeks of school, one week of preparation in Binh Duong, and we are off to Wakatobi in Sulawesi for some of the best scuba diving in the world. I will be posting pictures if there is internet access.

I have completed the shopping for the week. I think we are going to have a good one.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are all well and happy.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 20, 2010

Dear Everyone,

The exams are completed. It is now time to write reports and finalize all the paperwork. We have 3 ½ weeks of school left. I am going to put on a shadow mask production of Monkey King Begins His Adventures. We will be using all the students from grade 1 to 6 in one or more capacities, actors and readers.

I taught my swimming class this morning and the ladies all want to have a week off next week and then begin again on another set of lessons the following week. They have all made lots of progress and are eager to continue. It is fun.

I finally broke down and bought a good watch. The three dollar one that I bought died again and the batteries for it cost more than the watch.

There is not a lot more news; so, I will not bore you with anything more.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are all well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Dear All,

Next week is exam week. All the students must sit a 1 and a half hour exam in English. All the international students must sit a similar exam in math and science. All the students must sit an exam of about 1 hour in the language they have chosen to study, either Vietnamese or Chinese.

I think my students are much better prepared for what is going to be thrown at them this time. I know that I have covered all the salient points of the subjects that are touched on in the exams. It is now up to the students to do their best.

I am going to try to stage a Monkey King story using the shadow puppet techniques that I have learned from Hua Hua over the years. My show will not be as polished as any of hers, but I am hoping for a good performance from people who have never performed, do not speak English as a first language, have no self-discipline in terms of sitting and waiting patiently until it is their turn to perform, never worn a mask, never seen their shadow, and have no clue about the story. I hope the exercise will be rewarding for the students and teachers. I hope that they will continue to give me some support in the staging, costumes, mask fitting, scenery, and all the things that need to be done back stage while the show is going to be put in place.

My co-teacher, Ms. Huyen, and I are going to have the afternoon tomorrow to buy the material to cover the windows in the assembly hall so we can black out the theater to perform the show. We will need to buy 24 meters of fabric, take it to the tailor and have it cut and sewn into the proper sizes to cover the windows and the wings of the stage. We have from about 10:00 to 5:00 to get everything done. I am sure there is enough time.

Thanks to all of you who sent positive energy to Bob. He is out of the hospital and in New York City to visit a Chi Gong doctor who believes that he, the doctor, teach Bob the techniques to self heal. I know that Chi Gong works because I have seen it work with my own eyes. Anita had some things done when we were in China that were really mind-boggling. I am hoping for similar results for Bob.

I think the rainy season is here. We have had some daily gully washers for the last couple of weeks. Yesterday and today are both rain producers. Yesterday it rained for an hour and a half continuously. It has rained twice this morning. We are going to go out for lunch, so I hope it will hold off a little bit this afternoon.

My ankle has healed and the stitches have been removed. The doctors at the hospital did not prescribe any medication, so when the nurse at school and Ms, Huyen saw the wound they insisted that I purchase some antibiotics, which are easy to get since one does not need a prescription for them. I purchased a three day supply to start with, but two days into the recovery, it was obvious that I needed at least a week of antibiotics to complete the healing process.

My swimming lessons at the golf course only needed to be postponed for one week, I taught yesterday and today. In my favorite group, I have three ladies and one of their children, a four year old. It is an interesting mix. One of the ladies knew how to swim with breaststroke, but knew no other way. She is really easy to teach and soaks up suggestions like a giant sponge. The second lady is just about pool safe and can manage to go from one side to the other. The third lady is absolutely petrified by the water. She is now able to put her face in the water, but not yet able take her hand from the side of the pool. Believe it or not, she has made fantastic progress.

We have been without television for two weeks now. Naturally we were told that service would be restored in a matter of two or three days, but in Vietnam the clocks run at a different speed so two weeks can seem like mere hours.

The wiring in the school is really poorly done. The wire is much too small in gauge for the load that things place on it. The lady in charge of maintenance who works out of the corporate headquarters was at the school on Wednesday to “inspect” the problems. She was so proud of the team which restored the air conditioning to my classroom when It shut down on Wednesday morning. She did not realize that as she pulled out of the parking lot and headed back to HCMC, my air conditioning shut down for good. I lived without cool air until Friday when one of the teachers who has no class in her room offered the use of the room. These ladies that I work with are absolutely the greatest! When I went in to do some work yesterday, there were two men working on rewiring my classroom. Will it make a difference? Only a few more hours until we know for sure.

I purchased a duck and lots of other goodies at the Metro yesterday. We will be having the duck tonight.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are safe and well. If you have another moment to send good thoughts, please send them to Alida. She worked with us in Beijing and she and her family live in Alabama where the oil is causing a mess. She is not taking it sitting down. Let’s give her all the support we can to get the mess cleaned up at BP expense.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Dear Everyone,

I went shopping this morning in the Metro. I was there at 6:00am. The store was practically deserted. I was able to find a nice rabbit which I will prepare for dinner tomorrow night. Tonight we will be having Gong Bao Ji Ding, a fabulous dish with chicken, peanuts, peppers, cucumber and a tangy sauce.

After my trip to the Metro, Anita and I went to breakfast at the Phuong Nam resort where we were first housed when we arrived in Vietnam. It is a great buffet breakfast with eggs to order, Pho (noodle soup), and fruit. There are also some Vietnamese concoctions that are interesting, but they have fish in them. The total cost of the all you can eat was 100,000 VND. That is about U$A $5.00.

We headed into HCMC after breakfast, so Anita could get some fabric to have turned into an evening dress. We also spent a little time in the Gourmet Supplies shop. I found some corn flour for tortillas and a couple of spices that are nice to have on hand.

We headed back Binh Duong as the clouds began to accumulate overhead. By the time we were half way home the drops started falling. I stopped for Anita to buy a poncho and for me to put on my rain jacket. The rest of the way home we were in rain from falling lightly to OMG! It looks like we will be swimming home.

Wednesday I went shopping after school, and on the way home I managed to cut a gash in my foot on the kickstand of the motor bike. It opened up a hole right through my sock without any damage to the sock at all. I bled like a stuck pig as I motored home at a rather rapid rate.It took about 5 minutes to get back home and by that time I had filled my shoe with blood. I may have lost half a pint by the time I got a towel pressed firmly against the hole in my ankle. We summoned a taxi which took me to the nearest hospital where I was sewn back together. There may have been as many as six stitches taken. I could not see what was going on, because the stitcher, maybe a doctor, would not let me sit up to watch. I can get the stitches taken out on Wednesday after school.

It is 91º. It is raining. It looks like it will rain for the rest of the day.

We are thinking of all of you. If you are so inclined, we have a friend whose heart is not functioning too well. He is quite ill. If you can send him a positive thought and some positive energy to go along with it, we would be ever so grateful. His name is Bob.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 30, 2010

Dear Everyone,

This last week has been interesting. It started off on Sunday as most weeks do. Regan, our teaching principal, stewed all week about having enough teachers to man play stations for the many, 80 or more expected, students who would accompany their parents to the school for a presentation about the new school that was soon to open in Binh Duong city. It is planned to be a high school and take students from our school. Anita and I were willing to come in to fill in if there were not enough Vietnamese teachers to do the job. Well, there weren’t, so we went to school on Sunday morning.

Unfortunately after all the expense of setting up the whole school with displays, banners, backdrops, game stations, food, flowers, personnel, a few trained dancing dogs, three monkeys and a partridge in a pear tree, there were so few viewers that we were sent home before we had accrued enough time on the clock to be credited with an extra half day’s leave time. It actually saddened me to think that all that money that was spent on self-promotion could have been used for the children in terms of manipulatives and other academic shortages that plague the school. Just the week before, I was at the corporate office headquarters where the IT people were proudly parading the new corporate toy, the Apple I Pad. It is only a small expense for them, diddily for the students. We have only one more year of this incredible waste of funds on “me” and not “the students”. Actually I have not seen anything wasted on the students, only withheld from the students so the big boss can live his/her (the real sex of the main boss is yet to be determined since they are loving hubby and wifie) life in the manner to which they have been allowed to become accustomed.

To top off the Sunday that wasn’t, I had taught swimming to some lovely ladies and one of their children before going to the school. It was a fun time. The ladies all made progress as we worked together in the pool. After swimming, I packed up my kickboards and bathing suit and dive top, which protects my aging, wrinkled body from the sun, into a plastic bag and headed for school. I put this bag on top of the bag of kickboards on my motorbike. When I returned from the non-event and rode home, I discovered that the bag, bathing suit, dive top, goggles, and underwater toys were missing. Someone must have lifted it while I was in the school. Bummer!

On the brighter side of life in the passing lane, I am now in possession of a real, solid, honest-to-goodness drivers’ license. It has a photo of me on it in which I look like I have just returned from the Bataan death march during the Second World War, but I am now 100% legal. I can hardly wait to get pulled over in one of the more than frequent traffic stops, so I can pull out my license and proudly befuddle the local constabulary with my complicity of the traffic laws. I will post some pictures later and one will be of the document. I can truthfully say that this small PITA (Pain In The Ass) was the most difficult item to acquire in terms of restarts, back peddling, and incorrect names than any other I have pursued. The actual drivers’ test in Zambia was the most difficult in terms of testing and passing.

We have done our shopping. First stop was the Metro, then the City Mart, and finally the Fivi Mart. I think I am pretty well set for the week of food.

I have uploaded lots of pictures to the picture site at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii for your enjoyment and perusal. It is a collection of kids, teachers, and sight seeing. I will label them later, maybe even later today.

It is HOT! It is 93º right now.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well. Keep the oil companies busy at cleaning up the mess. Pass legislation that ends deep sea drilling until the world has a sure method of preventing what is going on in the Gulf right now.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It has been a busy week. The classes all went according to plans, but the rest of the week was pretty hectic.

On Friday we had an activities day at school. In the morning the preschool went to the water park for an hour and a half. We stayed at school and played some games, badminton and soccer, I organized the badminton which was basically an hour of free-for-all. No one was injured. No one was maimed in any way, so I guess it worked. After the games, we headed for the water park for two and a half hours. I had a lot of fun riding the water slide. I was adopted by a group of Vietnamese boys who wanted to say my name over and over and watch me go down the water slide. I guess men with white hair do not play on water slides in Vietnam.

On Saturday, my swimming lessons at the Song Be golf course started. My first class was three ladies and one 4 year old. After the class I was informed that the ladies would see me on Sunday at 7:00. I am now teaching two days a week at 7:00 am.

After swimming today, we went to the school for an open house that never seemed to materialize, so we stayed for a hour and went home to do laundry. I left my swimming suit and sun shirt in a bag on my motorbike in the parking lot during the hour that I was in the building. Somehow my suit and sun shirt both disappeared. Now I need to find a new sun shirt and swimming suit.

We are getting ready for the Monkey King stories presentation. Hua Hua is going to send me the cue sheet on using music with the show. On Tuesday, teachers are going to help assemble the costumes and shadow masks.

Here is a copy of an article you might find interesting:


Beep! Beep! Vietnam launches war on deadly traffic



Beep! Beep! A motorcyclist without a helmet snakes through a crush of oncoming traffic -- going the wrong way on a one-way street while texting with one hand on the phone, the other on the throttle.

Like a school of fish, the other bikes casually wiggle out of the way as if part of a choreographed chaos. This dance of traffic violations, repeated practically every minute somewhere in Vietnam, has made the country's roads among the most dangerous anywhere. Now the government is trying to crack down, launching hefty fines Thursday for everything from racing to excessive horn tooting.

"I've been to many countries, but I've never seen traffic like what's in Vietnam," said Than Van Thanh, a manager of the government's National Committee for Traffic Safety. "Over the past five years, the traffic accidents in Vietnam have remained very high. Every day 31 people never return to their homes."

Vietnam reported 11,500 traffic-related deaths last year, but experts say the actual number could be double that. The World Health Organization says the rate is probably about 20 deaths per 100,000 people, among the world's highest.

The new fines increase penalties up to seven times for various offenses, with the steepest hikes in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, the two largest cities. Car drivers caught running a red light -- a common occurrence -- will be fined up to 1.2 million Vietnamese dong ($63) in either city, while motorcyclists, who account for 95 percent of Vietnam's traffic, will owe up to 500,000 dong ($26).

TrafficThough fines are lower in rural provinces, they remain pricey for many in a country with an average monthly income of about $80. However, some have argued the new penalties will not deter the growing nouveau riche, who cruise the streets on expensive Vespa motorbikes or behind the wheels of BMWs and even Bentleys.

Zigzagging, a dangerous practice where drivers whip in and out of traffic to pass others, will carry a fine of up to 12 million dong ($630) for cars and 7 million dong ($370) for motorbikes. For that offense, along with going the wrong way on a one-way street, drivers will now also be stripped of their license for 30 days.

Traffic troubles have grown alongside Vietnam's rapid economic development, while infrastructure has lagged behind. Narrow streets and limited public transit have led to rush-hour gridlock, with roaring motorbikes transforming sidewalks into extra lanes.

Every day, 7,000 new motorbikes and 500 new automobiles hit the road in the Southeast Asian country of 86 million people, but safety awareness from helmets and seat belts to drunk driving has not caught up, said Jean-Marc Olive, head of the WHO in Vietnam.

"The country is developing so fast, they need to change the attitude and the conduct of the people, but it is not going to happen in one day," he said.

Drivers typically don't look before darting into traffic or cutting across multiple lanes of cars, motorbikes and bicycles in a "you-look-out-for-me" driving culture. Pedestrians play a real-life version of the video game Frogger when crossing intersections jammed with everything from buses to street vendors pushing bicycles heaped with vegetables or mounds of scrap metal.

In 2006, Seymour Papert, a professor emeritus from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was seriously injured after being hit by a motorbike in Hanoi. That same week, Nguyen Van Dao, president of Hanoi National University, was killed in a similar incident during a stroll near his home.

Thursday's law tightens a much-debated loophole from 2007, when Vietnam began fining anyone over 14 riding a motorcycle without a helmet. WHO and others fought arguments that helmets could injure the necks of younger riders, and Olive said the new law is a compromise, penalizing the parents of children over 6 riding unprotected.

In a country where a third of all traffic deaths involve alcohol, the new law bans car drivers completely from drinking, while lowering the blood-alcohol limit for motorbike drivers from 0.08 percent to 0.05 percent. But with few breathalyzers and trained police, enforcement remains difficult. Some question whether the increased fines will only lead to higher bribes for notoriously corrupt traffic police. Drivers caught paying off police can be fined up to 3 million dong ($158) while officers who accept money risk being fired.

"It's almost incurable," said Duong Trung Quoc, a member of the lawmaking National Assembly. "Heavier fines and stricter punishment are necessary, but I think it should be equal for people who abuse these new laws to pocket money themselves."


And you thought this was all fun and games!

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well and enjoying life.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Last week was pretty ordinary. The only bit of excitement was on Thursday. There were parents at the school who wanted to see what was going on in the classroom, so we set up the morning on Thursday so parents could attend the classes. I had more parents in my classroom than I had students. Most of the attending parents were from the integrated group.

Being in the integrated group means that the students are studying English with a native speaker and study the other subjects in Vietnamese. By having this type of class the students are, by Vietnamese law, allowed to attend a Vietnamese school if they leave the international school system. If the students attend the international class, my class, they will never be allowed to attend a Vietnamese school again. It is a really big decision that parents need to make. If they have enough money to be able to send their child away to school, they will enroll the child in an international class. If they are not sure of where the child will end up, they keep him/her in the integrated class.

We stopped at the hairdresser and the tailor today. Anita had asked the tailor to alter some of her clothes. I needed a hair cut. Anita’s alterations cost 15,000 VND, less than 1 U$ dollar. The haircut and two head massages cost 50,000 VND, about $2.25.

We are on the downhill side of the school year now. There is still a great deal of stuff to cover before the end of the year. It will get done, but the volume of work is looking pretty staggering right now.

The rainy season is going to arrive any day now. Periodically we have had some rather heavy downpours, but not sufficient to call it the start of the rainy season. This morning the clouds were building. It looked like an Oklahoma rainy day, but the clouds have mostly disappeared now. I guess this weather is as unpredictable as any in which we have lived.

I am finally able to use my new camera that Anita brought back from the U$A. She wanted the one that we bought in Japan to replace the one that was stolen. I bought another via Amazon.com, and she brought it back to Vietnam minus the battery to power it. Hua Hua sent the battery via FEDEX. It took under a week to get here. I do not know how much the postage was, but I would guess it was in the $50.00 range. It really is the only way to get things into the country so they are not stolen during the postage handling.

We are thinking of you all. We hope that your lives are going well. Here life just gets more interesting all the time.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Dear Everyone,

You are being sent this letter to inform you that the latest Terror of the Tarmac has been created. I passed the drivers’ test. It was almost a let down after all the anticipation and practice. There were about 40 people there to take the test. They were all foreign passport holders. We were allowed to choose a scooter from the stable of scooters that belongs to the testing facility. They supplied the helmet. They put the bike in 3rd gear. They said, “Do you know what you are doing?” They said, “Go.” I went. End of story. Well, almost the end. Beside the test track there was a seating area. It was filled to the chair with Vietnamese people eating and drinking and watching the foreigner people. Who knows. They may have been taking bets.

I am sure that the success of the driving test had to do with my encounter with a little old man outside the Vinatex Market. I was waiting with the bike for Anita to return from buying towels for the PE activity we are going to be doing next week. A little old man said, “Hello, Vietnam.” He said it more than once. Then he began kissing my hand and my arm. Maybe it was for good luck. I do not know. The Vietnamese woman standing beside me looking in amazement at this performance broke into gales of laughter after he had left, and I gave her a quizzical look and gestured, “What just happened?” You meet the strangest people when you least expect it.

On a cultural note, I was told that the truck drivers in Vietnam are instructed by their companies that if they hit someone or knock over a bicycle or motorbike and the person is injured but not dead that they should back over the victim to make sure he is dead since if the victim was only injured, the trucking company would be required to pay for the welfare of the victim for the rest of his life. If he is dead, there is only a one shot settlement with the family. This came from a woman who has lived here for the past 19 years. Depressing.

The golf course where Anita and I eat our weekend breakfasts approached me on Saturday and asked me to teach swimming for them. I have agreed to do so. It should be interesting and fun. I may meet some good people.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Lots of new pictures are posted. Banqueting and swimming are the main focus.

Anita returned from her week in the U$A as she had threatened to do. She brought lots of good things for her kids at school. She also brought me a camera to replace the one that was stolen just before Tet. I am looking forward to using it in a couple of weeks when the battery arrives.

Terry SwimmingLast week was busy. I planned my lessons for the rest of the school year. I wrote my comments for the final reports. I taught the ladies, and one gentleman, to be pool safe. Many of them overcame their fear of the water and learned to do a passable job of swimming.

I was all prepared to take my motorcycle drivers’ test this afternoon. I left for the testing center early, so I could watch some of the people take the test. I had expected a giant crowd since there is a crowd everywhere when an event is taking place. It turned out that the crowd was not there, but neither was the event. When my co-teacher looked over the paperwork, she had said that all I had to do was go on Sunday and take the test. We both left school early on Thursday, so she could show me where to go. I learned the way. Upon closer examination of the paperwork, I could clearly see that the test was to be administered on the 9th of May. I knew that today was the second of May, and after much higher order addition between my ears, I concluded that there was going to be no crowd to cheer me on as I bumbled my way through the obstacle course. Maybe next week I will be able to report on a real driving test.

I packed up my troubles in my old kit bag and smiled all the way to the Metro to get dinner. As I approached the Metro, raindrops the size of marbles began to fall. I was lucky enough to get under cover before the drops combined into a gully washer. When the deluge abated, I was able to run into the Metro to shop and seek shelter at the same time. By the time I had completed the shopping, the skies were clearing, and I was able to head back home. I only had to negotiate one more downpour just outside the VSIP. I managed to put on the poncho before the big drops started and arrived at home only slightly dampened.

Tomorrow is the last day of the holiday. We are going to use it to make sure things are at school, and we are ready for the final leg of the school year to fall into place.

Thanks to all of you who took the time to go see Anita in her whirlwind trip to Towanda. She really enjoyed seeing all of you.

We are thinking of you all. We wish you well.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 25, 2010

Thursday was the last day of the term. We were officially on holiday as of 5:00 pm. One of the teachers had a birthday on Thursday, so we celebrated for the birthday before heading to a restaurant called “Eva” where Regan, our principal, treated us to an end of term dinner. It was a fantastic meal. There were many different types of food. One of the last dishes to be served was the umbilical cord from a fetal pig. It was certainly the hit of the evening. Many of the people liked it. I tried a few bites of the meat. It was pretty tasteless. If it was dipped in one of the many sauces, it tasted like the sauce. The one that was the best, for me any way, was a sauce that Huyen said would “follow me” for the rest of the evening and that I shouldn’t kiss Anita, because of the scent of the sauce. After reassuring Huyen that Anita had eaten some of the sauce too, she said that it would be OK to kiss her. A picture of the dish and one of other is posted on my picture pages with an eclectic collection of pictures from the past two weeks.

It is now Sunday morning. I spent the night at a hotel last night since our power was once again cut off at 6:00 am and not returned until 10:00 pm. It was a great hotel at a staggering price, but I enjoyed myself anyway.

I left the villa at 9:15 am after putting Anita in a taxi headed for the airport. I am waiting for a call from her on Skype. She should be arriving at Hua Hua’s house within an hour.

I have done some shopping and will do some more after the call. Tomorrow I am at the school all day since I did not opt to take leave this next week. I have to clock in by 8:00 each day and clock out at 5:00. Working for a company that does not know about how to run a school can be a real bummer.

I have gotten a 2-hour reprieve from the school day starting on Tuesday. I spoke with Regan first and he agreed to let me take all the teachers at the school to our villa’s pool for two hours each morning. We will swim from 8:30 to 10:30 Tuesday to Friday. There are a few of the teachers who do not know how to swim. They will be my primary focus. I have taught two of the teachers to swim well enough to be pool safe. I sure would like to get the rest of them pool safe too.
There is not much else going on here. I hope the coming week will be only mildly boring.

We are thinking of you all and hope you are well. Thanks for your good thoughts about us too.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Dear All,

I have read this over. It sounds a bit negative. Do not get the wrong idea. The good parts far outweigh the negative.
It is Sunday morning. The power was turned off last night for a short time. I think I may be getting used to having no electricity. Last week the power was turned off three days, not consecutive days, but three days. It is being done under the guise of upgrades to the equipment. Actually the work that is being done is an upgrade, but in addition the government is trying to conserve electricity. It is the middle of the dry season. There is not enough water to power the turbines that supply electricity, so the power is turned off. Oh, well, at least we are only without electricity from 6:00 am until 10:00 pm on the days that it is off.

The school has undergone a cleaning and primping like never before. The corporation has found out that tomorrow the president of Vietnam is coming to pick up his grandson and his cousin. There are plans for the whole school. There is going to be a photo session and classroom tours. I want to take a day off. I could never do that and leave my co-teacher hanging with the class. She is a great teacher, but I cannot justify leaving her with the class because of ideological differences.

The corporation has produced lots of showy schools for Vietnam. It is true. Underneath the show is a lack of support, “Yes men” who have an unrealistic picture of what a real education should be, and people who are so tight with money that they know how to make a Dong cry, “Uncle”. It is becoming increasingly depressing to work with a program that is incomplete, read that no support with any supplemental materials, and a hierarchy who insists that the children be marched through the textbook. Everyone is supposed to be on the same page at the same time in every grade level. The reasoning behind this is that if the students were to transfer to another Singapore International School, they would be able to enter exactly where they left off. The corporation is planning to build an educational system from preschool through university and have a captive audience. There has been no thought for the needs of students only the needs of the corporation. Marching through the textbook is my least favorite way to teach. It produces students who are not able to think on their own or have any creative thoughts whatsoever.

Many of my former classmates use the networking program, Facebook. Vietnam blocks the program. I am not able to use it at all unless I am in another country. It is interesting that the government is so afraid of things from the outside. I read that all the government officials are running scared most of the time.

There was an article in the newspaper the other day that a group has been formed to try to sue the U$A for the Agent Orange that was dumped during the “American War” in an international court.

Enough ranting! I am roasting a chicken tonight and fixing guacamole on the side. I am going to try once again to make hash brown potatoes from the one choice of potato that we have here. It has so much water in it that it is very difficult to make it crisp at all.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are all well, happy and have paid your taxes on time.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Pei ChiLast week sort of blends into all the other weeks that we have been here. There was nothing particularly outstanding about any of the days.

I have posted the pictures that Pei Chi took while she was here. You can check them out at http://gallery.mac.com/abdiii. All the pictures are download available if any of them strike your fancy.

Last week’s duck dinner was so good that we are going to have another tonight.

I went to the Metro with Anita yesterday. We looked at freezers, since the freezer space is very limited in the tiny refrigerator. We picked out one, and I went back this morning to buy it. I had it loaded in the cart and was headed for the check our when I took time to read the printing on the outside of the box. It clearly stated in English that the item in the box was a refrigerator, not a freezer. I quietly took the box out of the cart and headed for the check out line hoping that no one who helped me get the box from the top of the storage area and into the cart was looking in my direction. (Toi muon mua khong.) (I do not want to buy that.)

While in the check our line, I continued to direct traffic as the population tried to cut into the already long checkout line. I do not know why the Vietnamese do not police it themselves. They certainly are appreciative when I shoo the line jumpers back to the end of the line. I even got a great nod of approval from lots of people in line, and some of them even said, “Thank you.”

Two more weeks until we have the last holiday of the school year before the end of school at the end of July. We will then have 4 weeks before we are to report for the last half of our contracts. The best part of completing the first half of the contract is that the corporation will repay us all the expenses that we have incurred during the time it has taken us to get here, get visas and other paperwork. Most schools pay the expenses up front, but this outfit is not teacher friendly.

That’s about it from here. We are thinking of all of you.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dear Everyone,

We have had a fantastic weekend. On Friday, my former student from the literacy program in Bradford County, Pei Chi Liu, flew in to Ho Chi Minh City for the weekend to visit us.

She arrived just before lunch and joined us for some activities. After lunch, we went to the swimming class. She joined us for that. Then at 5:00 we headed home for dinner at the Satay House. Then we had some great conversation until it was time to hit the hay.

The next morning we got up not too bright or early, and went to the golf course for breakfast. After breakfast we did s quick shopping outing for Anita to get some things for the classroom. Then we came back home and left Anita who waited for the cleaning ladies to arrive while I took Pei Chi to the Minh Long to check out the porcelain and then off to City Mart to get some food for the week coming. We got back home in time to discover that the cleaning ladies were going to be late; so I ran a couple of errands and left Pei Chi and Anita to get to know each other; since Anita and Pei Chi did not meet when she was my student in Pennsylvania. We then all went to the Metro. Now Pei Chi knows what we are talking about when she reads this letter. Dinner that night was shrimp Newburg, a meal that I had prepared for Pei Chi and her then boyfriend 5 years ago. Then it was back home for more talk.

Today we went to the Phuong Nam resort that Anita and I stayed in for the first three days of our Vietnam experience. We enjoyed their much-expanded buffet breakfast. It rivals the one at the golf course and costs less than half the golf course offering. Have we found a new love? Maybe.

After breakfast we headed to HCMC. Pei Chi rode Anita’s bike and Anita rode behind me on mine. Pei Chi’s eyes were open wide by the time we had parked the bikes in the indoor parking lot in downtown HCMC. She has a much better understanding of what “TRAFFIC” is in HCMC.

Tonight I am going to prepare roast duck, artichokes, and hollandaise sauce. I actually found lemon juice in HCMC. It is the first time I have seen anything resembling lemon juice except for the one time I saw lemons at the Metro. It will make real hollandaise sauce. We also found plum sauce, little pancakes, and leeks for the duck dinner.

It has been great fun. Pei Chi leaves tomorrow morning at 7:00 for the airport. I need to take a note to the guards and ask them to call a taxi for us for her trip.

We are thinking of you all. We hope all is well with you.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dear All,

Not much to report.

We have started swimming with the students twice a week for an hour at a time. They are catching on very quickly. I have offered to teach the teachers how to swim. I am waiting for a response from our Villa manager concerning whether or not I can use the pool for two hours a day in the morning during our holiday time that is coming up at the end of next month. The ones who do not know how to swim seem pretty excited about the possibility.

The drought is continuing, but we have had very hot weather and two short rain storms in the last week. I hope the rains hold off for a couple more weeks so we can finish the swimming.

We are thinking of you all. We hope you are well.

I have just returned from my swim and now I am going to take a shower then go downstairs and cook up a pork curry.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 21, 2010

The school week passed as they all seem to be passing now that we are in a situation in which we understand the things we need to do to exceed the requirements.

We get an eclectic selection of television stations. The choices were picked by someone who did not ask us about our preferences. We were able to watch CNN for a while until there was an “upgrade” to the service. Now we watch mostly stuff that we cannot understand, three movie channels, (We are the last of the movie watchers.) and three news programs influenced by the style of CNN. One channel is from Korea. One channel is from Japan. One is from Singapore. They are all in English. For a while we got a news program out of Saudi Arabia that was great, but it went away too.

I am still without a scooter license. I have heard the workings of the great machine, but it has yet to produce anything.

We have a week off at the end of April. I am not sure what I am going to do yet. Anita is going to go back to the USA to have her eyes, throat, and skin inspected and overhauled. I will probably work on the school program.

There are two ways to buy chickens here, frozen of alive and very well. I have looked seriously at the live chickens and they look like they have been kept on a starvation diet for the last 8 months. It is the same with the ducks too, but I really like duck and may be forced to make the purchase soon. The frozen chickens which are available are mostly in pieces. There is one place that I have found that does sell whole chickens. I mean really whole chickens. Some of the entrails of the frozen chickens have been removed. Most of the feathers have been plucked. The feet, considered a delicacy in the East, and the head, who knows why, are still attached. The birds have been vacuum sealed in a heavy plastic bag. Before preparing the bird for cooking, the bag needs to be floated in water for at least an hour to make sure that the head and feet can be removed. A good sharp pair of Chinese scissors does the trick there. The vacuum packing compresses the chicken so much that the rib cage is broken on the inside. I suppose so the bird takes up less room in the freezer. Once the thawing process is over the cooking is pretty normal.

One of these days I will invest in a small barbecue grill. Charcoal is available and since every night is a nice warm night, and there is plenty of overhang above our front door, barbecuing is increasingly becoming an option.

Today we are both suffering from whatever one calls “Montezuma’s Revenge” over here, maybe “Ho Chi Minh Hurdles”. We are headed out to the Japanese restaurant for some kimchi to try to reestablish the bacteria count internally.

We are coming into the hot season. The temperature is going into the high 90’s every day. It cools off to the mid 70’s by morning. The Weather Bug on my computer says each morning that the temperature will reach 100º. It hasn’t yet, but it will.

Tomorrow we are going to have a celebration of World Water day. We will do it by, what else, wasting water. I have about 50 gallons of soap solution ready to go for the day. We will see how the kiddies fare through this celebration.

I guess I have spent enough time on this. I hope you find it entertaining.

We are thinking of all of you.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Last week was interesting. I know that you are all waiting to know if I passed or failed my driver’s license test. You are evil if you are gloating about the failure part. You should all be wishing for me to pass with flying colors. Of course none of you have an evil bone in your body. You are all as innocent as a new born.

Any way… I did go for the driver’s test on Monday. Regan, our director gave me permission to take time off during the school day, an absolute sin in terms of the contract that we have signed. I talked with my co-teacher about what I wanted to accomplish during the time I was gone, she was willing to cover for me. She is a fantastic teacher and did not need any direction, but I need to cover myself for the corporation in case there is a formal investigation of my early departure from the confines of the school.

I was able to get away from school at 1:30 thanks to fast eating of lunch, cooperative kids and preparation. I was told upon my return that Anita, Huyen and Tram were waving goodbye and wishing me luck as I passed through the powered gate that opens and closes on the whim of the ever-vigilant gate keeper. I was positively charged as I motored away. It is great to have people in your corner whether it is necessary or not. It took me exactly 37 minutes to get to corporate headquarters. There was only a little traffic and most of the drivers were semi-sane.

I arrived at the parking garage under the building where I was instructed to park my bike in an open slot. I was also told that I was to pay 10,000 VND for the privilege of parking in the hallowed garage. The last time I was in the garage I was reimbursed the 10,000. This time the reimbursement did not happen. Thanks to corporate greed. I got in the elevator and rode to the appropriate floor where I exited and found my way to the office.

A secretary greeted me and after I was officially recognized I was sent to a tiny room for quarantine while I waited for my trusty lady guide, Ms. Ngu, who was going to take me through the process of being certified as a motor scooter driver. After what seemed to be an eternity, my lady guide, mentor, companion and trusted guide dog arrived to collect my pertinent paperwork. After another eternal wait she arrived and announced that it was time to go. On the way out the door, I asked her how long it was going to take. She replied blithely, “Oh, about 20 minutes.”

I should have known. I should have seen and heard the bells and whistles going off. I should have been more attuned to the atmosphere. Nothing happens in 20 minutes in Vietnam, aside from toilet stops. Ah, me, trusting soul, off we went.

As we left the bowels of the building and entered the bright afternoon sun of the day, I knew that I had my work cut out. This dear lady is no slouch at riding a motorbike. She was able to squiggle her way through traffic that only the most lithe figures could traverse. I, blundering oaf, was only able to keep her in sight. When I could not, she calmly stopped and waited for me to catch up, probably internally shaking her head at the person who was to take a driving test and most certainly fail. I am sure she was shaking her head inside her helmet wishing to be somewhere else with someone else.

After we drove down each of the streets in Ho Chi Minh city at least once we arrived at the testing headquarters. Inside the headquarters, my guardian presented the necessary papers to the woman who was in charge of being behind the glass wall that separated the government workers from the idiots who prowled the streets late in the afternoon. She flipped through the papers. She did it again, and again, and again working her way to two particular pages that were flipped back and forth for what seemed to be an immeasurable time. These last two pages were being rapidly flipped, as if she were trying to shake the photocopies off the page. Now that is fast.

At last, after the last flip, she breathed out a sigh, I think that is the sound I heard, and announced to my protector and seeing eye dog, that the name on the driver’s license was not the same as the name on the passport. On the passport I have my full name, Andrew Bradley Duvall III; on my driver’s license, I have my name Andrew B. Duvall III. NOT THE SAME! The identical pictures were of no use. I was clearly identified as totally schizophrenic, something I have worried about for years.

I was then told that I could take the physical test. Physical test? I hadn’t heard about that one. I was pushed through a door into a small room that was occupied by two desks, and eye chart, a blood pressure monitor, two chairs, one of them occupied by my tester who proceeded to the testing posthaste. First came the blood pressure. Now you must know that I do have high blood pressure. I always have, and it gets higher as the closer I get to a blood pressure monitor. She wrapped my right arm in the band and phish, phish, phish, phish, phish, phish, phish, phish pumped up the cuff. She began to let the phishes our to see what the top of the pressure was. As she found the magic number, she quickly reached over and sealed off the remaining air and went phish, phish, phish, phish, phish, phish, phish (One less since there was still air in the cuff) and proceeded to get a number pretty close to the one that she had first read. Undaunted, she ripped the cuff off my right arm and imprisoned my left arm in the cuff where she went through the same routine. She shook her head a couple of times and uttered the first English words in the encounter, “You can go to a doctor, can’t you?” I suppose that is better than the doctor who gave me my physical for the work permit who said, “You are a walking time bomb.” After the cuff was finally removed she pulled a calculator out of her desk and plinked the keys a few times and wrote something on the papers.

The eye test was similar in results since I have had laser surgery on my right eye have 20/15 vision in it, and in my left eye I am able to identify 4 fingers and a thumb being waved in front of my face. The tester then pulled out the required three red stamps, stamped the paperwork saw me to the door.

My fearless leader ushered me out the door. I was once again in the blinding heat of the day with no clue about what was next. Luckily the dear lady was not affected in the least. She told me that we had two options. 1. I could go to the American Consulate to have a document typed up that certified that I was the same person and the driver’s license and passport were items that belonged to me. Or 2. We could go to the automobile driver’s license building where she would get a Vietnamese automobile license issued under the same name as the passport. Once done, I could take the driver’s test.

I opted for the American Consulate. Off we went once again in a flurry of gaseous emissions. At the American Consulate, I was stopped at the door by a guard who could speak English. He quizzed me about my reason for entering the building. Once he knew what I wanted he explained that the only time the Consulate works on American Nationals is from 9:00 am to 11:00 am, Monday through Thursday. On Friday the consulate was closed. As I started to walk away, he called to me, “I will see you tomorrow morning!” in a cheery voice.

After explaining the last few minutes to my life support, she said that the best thing to do was to go to the department of transportation and get a Vietnamese driver’s license. Once again we roared through the throngs of scooters as we found our way to the department of transportation. There we discovered that the ticket machine that gave out numbers that keep all the people in order was out of order. We could do no more. In the Chinese laundry they say, “No tickee, no shirtee.” In Vietnam they say, “No tickee, no workee.”

I got back to school in time to go home. I did not fail my driving test. I did not pass my driving test. I did not take the $%#@ thing. It is now Sunday, I still do not have a license, make that any license.

On a different note, this is the hottest, driest dry season in 100 years in Vietnam. It is great for drying clothes on the line, but it has wreaked havoc with the farmers.

We are off for downtown HCMC to try to find some items that we cannot find out here. Corn syrup, powdered ginger, baking pans, a pizza pan, are a few.

We found most of the stuff we wanted. I now have a pizza pan.

Hope all is well with you. We are thinking of you all.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dear Everyone,

We both had a great week. Things seemed to go along as they were planned. I guess that in itself is a novel adventure.

The school actually reimbursed us for the expense we incurred with the recorders. It was a pleasant surprise. Unfortunately no matter how much protest I was able to muster, the deduction for the government mandated insurance program will be taken. There will be no compensation.

We bought a new oven. It is 50 liters in size. I will be able to cook a whole pizza or a rack of ribs. I am going to cook the ribs tonight. I will use the recipe for cocktail ribs found in the old edition of the Joy of Cooking. If you have an older copy of Joy, the recipe is worth looking up. It makes great ribs and it might make a great glaze for a chicken too.

The cleaning ladies did not show up yesterday. Anita was good enough to mop the floor this afternoon while I was on my last shopping foray. It certainly made a fantastic difference in the kitchen.

I take my driver’s test tomorrow afternoon. I do not expect to pass it, since I still have such difficulty on the figure 8. Who knows. Maybe I will be exceedingly lucky.

I got my weekly hair cut today. The girl who cuts my hair was nice enough to tell me that I had the hair of someone who was 80. I let her cut it any way. The whole time I was getting the cut, a 4 or 5 year old boy sat in the chair beside me and continued a long narrative about old people and why do they need to have hair cuts at all. It was pretty funny.

Thanks to all of you who sent best wishes to Anita for her birthday. She really appreciated all of the correspondence.

That’s all the scuttlebutt from this end of the woods. We are thinking of you all and wish you well.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 28, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Today is Anita’s birthday. We are going to spend it as she wants. You can send her birthday greetings, condolences for putting up with me, amazements that she is doing what she is doing, or just plain hellos at anitad@epix.net.

Yesterday was a busy day. We went to breakfast at the golf club, ah decadence. Then I took Anita home where she waited for the ladies who clean the school to come to clean the house. I went to school to prepare for the coming week. I suppose I could have done the preparations on Friday after school, and usually do, but my class size jumped from 4 to 7. Three of the new students speak no English at all. Back to square one! I lost one at the end of last term and gained 4. I now have 2 first grade students and 5 second grade students.

I have been having trouble with the back tire on the motorbike. It kept going flat at the least convenient times. I now have had the tire replaced with a new one. I went to one of the myriad repair people, (He has worked on the bike before.), and in sweeping gestures I explained that I wanted to throw away the tire that was on the bike and get a new one installed. Point and grunt is still the most descriptive and definitive language that is spoken. He understood all of my gesticulations, gave us both chairs, took the wheel off the bike, took the tire off the wheel, sent his wife out to buy a new tire, replaced the tire on the wheel when she brought it back, put the wheel back on the bike and sent us on our way in about an hour. It cost about 12 dollars for the experience and the tire.

As you may remember, at least I think I mentioned it, we are allotted a certain amount of copy paper each month according to the number of students we have in the class. My ream of paper arrived. It did not take into account two students that were on the roster. I love the way the office takes care of us. When I went to ask whether the additional paper was going to be delivered, I was told that Ms.Huyen, my co-teacher, had already spoken on the behalf of the two students. I will be issued the remaining portion of the paper sometime this week. What a way to run a school.

In the middle of the week, I was approached by one of the “corporate staff” who presented me with a document that stated that the Vietnamese government had mandated that all foreign nationals who are employed in the country must buy Vietnamese health insurance. The company stated that it was going to dun part of my salary to pay the charges. In my contract it says that I am to be paid a certain net amount. There is also a statement that if the host country imposes any additional fees, I am obligated to pay the fees. When the extra is taken out, my net amount will no longer be the amount in the contract. I protested. I was told I had no choice. It would be deducted. Maybe this will give me the opportunity to leave school at 4:00 every day instead of the obligatory 5:00. I am still thinking about this one. I would like to just quit working at the school to make a statement, but I have never broken a contract. I will let you know what develops, if something does.

Line at BridgeKeep Off the GrassWe started out this morning to do some shopping at Citymart. We quickly became engulfed in a sea of motorbikes. I have never seen so many on the road before. As I waited for Anita to come out of the store, I struck up a conversation with a man near me. He said that this phenomenon only takes place in Binh Duong. On the last day of Tet, everyone goes to a temple to pray for a good year. They were all on the move. You will see a picture of the line, read “mob” waiting to cross the bridge.

I have also posted three signs (http://gallery.me.com/abdiii) to give you your first lesson in Vietnamese. Two of the signs are self-explanatory. The third sign says keep off the grass. Now you know as much Vietnamese as I do.

We are thinking of you all. Hope you are all well and happy.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, February 21, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It is the beginning of a new week. We are charged and ready to go.

During the holiday celebrations, Tet, or Chinese New Year, everything was closed. The local markets were the only way to buy food. None of the larger stores were open. Most stores were closed for one week. Naturally the week began the day we came back from Japan. We did not want; however, since I had planned two days worth of food in the freezer. The golf club was open, and we had breakfast each day. It was a decadent way to spend the early morning.

I worked in school getting ready for the coming term. I had to plan for the coming days of school. I think I have a much better program planned for the students now than I had for the first half of the school year. I hope so, anyway.

We are off this morning to go into the BIG CITY to get some essentials that the company does not provide willingly. This is the worst operation to call itself a school. The corporation is run by people who want to make money. I am not sure that they have any concept of why a school exists. We now know that if we want something to make our classroom better, or more efficient, it is up to us to provide the materials.

The Japan pictures and pictures from the Tet celebration in HCMC are posted. I was fascinated by some of the dress that the young Japanese girls were wearing. The clothing was certainly different from what we are used to seeing. I have a number of leg covering pictures that we thought were interesting. Some of the shoe pictures show the special adornments that one can purchase to further decorate the shoes. The fur anklets are different.

I have an observation to share with you. I noticed, sorry to tell you where this is going, but I did notice that the toilet paper in Japan is in larger sections than in almost any other country I have visited. One sheet of toilet paper in Japan is the same size as two sections of any other toilet paper I have ever seen. Do the Japanese know something that we do not know? The size difference makes sense. I think that most people in the U$A, and maybe other countries, use at least two or more pieces of paper when performing the “wipe”, unless they are part of a really frugal family. Is it possible that with the larger size there is less paper used? I wonder… Do you have an answer?

We have finished our trip to the BIG CITY. We made a few purchases that will make our classrooms better places. We are heading out one more time this afternoon to the Metro to make some more purchases of items that need to be ready for the class next week.

Check out the new pictures of TET and Anita in her “pajamas” outfit.

We are thinking of you all. Happy New Year!

Terry and Anita



Monday, February 15, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It is 10:53am, almost exactly one week we were met at the airport by Barbara. It has been a whirlwind week.

The first event was to go to the local camera shop (8 stories tall) where I was able to replace the camera that had grown legs in my classroom. We toured the shops, had lunch, toured the shops, went home and dropped our purchases then went out for dinner. We sat and covered lots of ancient history on Sunday night.

Monday morning we set off for Ayoba International School. It is the school where Barbara is head. The school is about a 5-minute walk from Barbara’s apartment which can be politely referred to as a matchbox in size. Once we had our tour of the school, we set off for the town of Kichijobi. We walked to get a taste on the neighborhood. The walk lasted about 45 minutes and put us in the center of the village/town. Since we had our orientation the day before it was an easy walk. We shopped and explored. We found a restaurant that was named Xian. We had some of the best Sichuan food since we left China. It was so good that we returned for two more meals during the week. Barbara was really late that evening, so we had dinner on our own, and waited for Kohko, the Japanese teacher who lived with us for 6 months, came to pick us up and transport us to her parents’ home where we spent two nights.

By Japanese standards, Kohko’s home is large. We did not get to see the upstairs, which had at least two bedrooms. We did see the entire downstairs. It consisted of two wings in the home. Each wing went off the central entry way. On our half of the house, there were two rooms. One for our sleeping and another, which was sort of a guest/meeting room. The home was heated with forced air units placed on the walls. I am sure they operated as both heat and cooling depending on the season. The main room downstairs consisted of a kitchen and a living dining area. The living dining area was a low table on top of a tatami mat which was covered by an electric blanket which supplied Dinnerwarmth to anyone who sat around the table. It was comfortable, cozy, intimate and very family oriented. Which is fit since we are in the orient.

Dinner was a combination of many dishes. The one that I could not eat was the eel dish. Kohko’s mother and father scrambled to provide me with non-fish food thoughout the time that we stayed with them. I had lots of vegetables, pork and chicken. Mother even went out of her way to cook sausages and fried potatoes for dinner. Kohko exclaimed, “I have never seen that kind of food on this table before!” Everyone laughed. We drank beer during the dinner and afterward, the sake came out. It was a real treat to have sake with the meal.

On Tuesday morning Kohko drove us to her school. We met many of the teachers and lots of students. The students were friendly and curious. It was fun to have the chance to participate in Kohko’s lesson. She had primed them to be ready to ask questions. The questions were wide ranging from the death of Michael Jackson to the affect of violent comics on children’s actions. Some of the questions took some careful thought before the answer came.

After the classroom we were led to a small room where we were able to talk to some of the teachers and students and wait until Kohko could get away to drive us to the train station where we were told what train to ride, how many stops there were between our start and destination and waved goodbye. We found the train, counted the number of stops, and exited the train station to find Kohko’s mother, aunt and uncle waiting for us. The uncle spoke broken English and referred to his dictionary frequently while mother was using an electronic translator. Between the two of them, we were able to carry on a pretty decent conversation. We were within walking distance from the train station to the home. It was a warm and sunny day. Daffodils, pansies, plum trees, and other flowers were bursting all over. It really was starting to look like spring was on its way.

After we got home we were treated to a through review of the family history of weddings and graduations. Mother keeps the photos in a cloth wrapping and knew where each picture was. It was great fun to relive the important events that went on in the family. After lots of pictures, snacks, and tea, mother performed the tea ceremony for each of us. It was a very special treat.

We had dinner at a nearby restaurant, which was referred to as a “Western” restaurant. It had good food the choices at our table consisted of pizza, spaghetti, beef stew, and two others. The real reason that the restaurant was considered “Western” was that it had a salad bar. The access to the salad bar was unlimited. Kohko had to work late at school, so she joined us at the restaurant.

The next morning we taxied back to Barbara’s home where we collected our thoughts and headed in to Kichijobi for another round of touring. We went back to Xian for lunch. All the restaurant personnel remembered us and were really surprised. They were even more surprised when we brought Barbara back for dinner that evening. We were presented with extra food and a dessert just because we were such “faithful customers”.

Barbara had Thursday off. She and the art teacher took us to a shrine in Tokyo. It was an impressive outing. Pictures have been posted.

For dinner we went to a local noodle shop. As many of you know I am very allergic to fish. Japan is not the country to be allergic to fish since most of the food consumed is fish or fisn made to taste or look and taste like something else. Barbara had made a small note, which I carried with me that stated that I was very allergic to fins. In this little restaurant, as in others, the note caused quite a stir. While the cooks and waiters pondered the impact of the note, with lots of lots of verbal gesturing, one of the customers got in on the sideshow. He was a very large man with a beard and moustache, graying hair and a fairly loud voice. He came to the table to assist since the Japanese that we were using was not adequate.

After discussing with us the note, he worked out just what I was able to eat and the waiters, cooks and other customers were all satisfied that there would be no deaths by fish in the restaurant that night, he went back to his table and finished his meal with his partner. As he was leaving, he did stop by the table and check to make sure that everything was as it should be. We assured him that the meal was to our liking, and that I would live to see the sunrise. On his way out the door, he laughed as we thanked him profusely for his assistance and waved. He called out, “Don’t touch my moustache!” We all laughed.

After some thought about the man’s comments, Barbara began thinking. When we returned to the matchbox, she looked up the words in a google search. It turns out that the words, “Don’t touch my moustache," were used in Toy Story 2, the movie. They sound almost like the Japanese phrase, “dough-it-ash-mush-the”, an expression that means, “You are welcome.” We have had many good laughs over those words.

The trip to Japan was memorable. Reuniting with Barbara, and Kohko was the best part of the trip. I have posted pictures of the fun. We are back home now. It is Monday morning. I have work to do to get ready for next term.

We are thinking of you all.


Terry and Anita


And a bit later, this addition came:

Monday, February 15, 2010

It was early this morning, since I am on Japan time, and I sent off the letter before I added a couple of items.

We went to Chinatown the last day. Barbara’s art teacher was the local guide. Kohko met us in Yokohama, the site of Chinatown. I found my Xiangjiang vinegar that I have been looking for since we arrived. We had some fantastic Chinese food and great conversation.

One other interesting cultural phenomenon is escalator etiquette. I never knew that there were two lanes of travel on an escalator. In Japan, one is expected to stand to the left side of the moving stairs. If you stand on the right side, you are in the “fast lane”. When those of us who do not know any better stand in the “wrong lane” and someone wants to pass, they suck in air through their teeth to express their displeasure. The louder the intake of air, the more angry they are. It sounds sort of like an asthmatic cobra about to strike.

There are lots of other small differences. I might think of them as the time passes and they sink in.

Bye again,



Monday, February 8, 2010

Dear Everyone,

We are actually on the way. I got all the important errands run over the course of the day. We bought a safe. It is like barring the door after the horse has bolted, but now things will not grow legs unless they are not corralled in the safe.

We made arrangements for a taxi to deliver itself to our doorstep at 8:00 pm. It arrived on time. (That in its-self is a shock in Vietnam. We have learned that Vietnam operates on flex-time. We thought that the time determiners of now and now-now in Africa were memorable. Here people do not arrive until at least an hour after they have been invited. Some people arrive hours after they were expected. I am not sure we will ever figure out when to expect people to arrive, but that adds to the mystery of the country, I guess.) Sorry I digress. The taxi arrived on time ready to take us to the airport. Take note that the taxi was ready. The driver was the one lacking in the ability to guide the machine in the exact direction of the airport. The general direction was well within his grasp, but once we got close enough to know that we were in the vicinity, it took three stops, none of which included a potty break, to actually locate the entrance to the airport. It was up to us to direct the cabbie to the departure gates. Either he could not read the signs in Vietnamese, or he was so perplexed by never having been at the airport before that his vision was blurred by the bright lights of the BIG CITY. At any rate since I could read the signs in both Vietnamese and English we were deposited at the departure section of the airport. We are now in the departure lounge waiting for 11:35 to happen so we can board the plane.

It is 7:50 am. It is Sunday morning. We have cleared customs and immigration. We have rented a cell phone and have called Barbara. She is on the way. So far the most painful thing was the seating in the sardine section of the aircraft last night. The seats would tip back, but it was not reclining. I think I got about 4 to 5 hours sleep. That is a lot less than I am used to getting, but I am ready to take on the day.

It is now Monday morning. We had a great day yesterday. I replaced my camera. You will start seeing pictures soon.

Barbara has opened her house to us. It is small, but cozy.

Today we will be on our own for the day. We will visit Ayoba School where Barbara is the head. We will be walking for most of the day, but the busses are available if we want. Tonight we will go to visit Kohko and her family for dinner.

That’s where we are now.

I will write again next week to fill in any gaps and will be posting pictures as they accumulate.

Love to all,


Sunday, January 31, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Last week was business as usual. This week will be business as usual. On Sunday, one week from today, we will be headed for Japan. We will spend one week there visiting Barbara, our director in the Bahamas, and Kohko, the teacher who spent 6 months with us a couple of years ago.

It turns out that we are the first hired Americans who have gotten all the paperwork and clearances completed to get our work permits and resident’s cards. The others are having more difficult times than we did. I am glad it is over. The company wants me to console the ones who are still struggling.

We listened to the Australian Open in Chinese on Star Television. That was the only way we could get the coverage. I have found that I still have some Chinese left in me and was able to understand a lot of the commentary.

We bought a “silk pajama” suit for Anita to wear. It is comfortable and loose and just right for working in the classroom with little people. When she wears it in the market, the women who man the stalls do not try to overcharge her for things that we buy. Maybe they think she is an old hand and knows the ropes. Children who see her do a wild double-take and then start to stare and giggle.

This is a short letter this week. There will be one next week, but I do not know if I will be able to prepare one for the following week unless I take my computer along. I am still making up my mind.

We are thinking of all of you.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear Everyone,

It is Sunday, obviously, since that is the date at the top line. We have completed a week of examinations. Most of my students were not able to read the exams well enough to pass them. They had so few English skills when they arrived that they are not up to the level they should be. I am pretty sure that the poor scores will convince parents and students that a little more work is required for them to find a modicum of success.

Yesterday Ms. Tram, pronounced “Chum”, came to our home for her second swimming lesson. She is progressing well. She is able to float, kick herself forward with a flutter kick and is almost relaxed in the water. A few more lessons, and she will be a swimmer. She took me to a bookstore in downtown HCMC. It has underground parking for scooters and four floors of books and other materials that any self-respecting person cannot do without. Us included. It is the best bookstore that we have seen in HCMC. I told her that it was a good thing that I had not brought Anita along, because it would have been a very expensive endeavor. I took Anita to the bookstore this morning. I was not wrong. We dropped more than 1,000,000 VND in the space of about 20 minutes. Actually I spent some of the money myself; so, I cannot point all of my fingers, only nine.

We are entering the festival called Tet in Vietnam. One of the expectations of parents and friends is to be shown that one is a success. The way to do that is to be able to flash some cash or throw a big party. Someone at our school is definitely going to be able to flash some cash since my camera grew legs and ambled out of my backpack, out of the case, and into thin air. Actually it probably was in a pawnshop even before the fingerprints had settled in the dust. My first job when we arrive in Japan in two weeks is to replace it.

OrchidYesterday we went shopping at the Metro where we bought a part of a beef tenderloin, for tonight, about 1kg of shrimp and an artichoke for last night. I made the requisite Hollandaise sauce, with a small deviation from the actual recipe. Let me explain. In Vietnam there are no lemons. There are lots of citrus fruits, but none of them are lemon flavored, therefore, I made the Hollandaise sauce with lime. It changes the taste a bit, but artichokes without Hollandaise is like Christmas without Santa Claus.
I used my submersible camera to take a photo of a spectacular orchid on the wall of someone’s home. It is a light purple. The entire wall was covered with orchids. It is posted on the picture page, http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

I had a great start on a beard. I was going to start shaving it off in sections until I had nothing left but a small cookie duster. Unfortunately I was not clear about my plans for my beard when I had my hair cut last weekend and when I got out of the chair what I thought was going to be a trim of my beard turned into a removal. Ah, well, hair today, gone tomorrow.

We drove into town as I mentioned a couple of paragraphs ago and on the way back, we saw a child, not more than 4 years old being allowed to steer the car while adult? father? operated the gas. Training starts early In Vietnam, because we are 12 hours ahead of you.

I have been forced to learn a new skill – texting. Now that we have a cell phone we get text messages. I guess it costs less than phone calls. I am left holding the bag trying to figure out how to respond. For those of you who are not familiar with sending text messages by phone, each key has letters on it and some keys have punctuation and capitalization capabilities. Depending on how many times you press the key, one of three letters appear on the screen if you do it correctly. The operative work being “if”.

It is 88º outside. It is time for a swim.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, January 17, 2010

Dear Everyone,

This past week was spent in the classroom getting ready for this week’s BIG tests. These tests will determine whether the students from grade 2 up will get an acceptable pass for the school term. The whole thing is still a mystery. I hope to be able to tell you more after next week.

The teacher who has been working with me, Ms. Huyen, told me that she has written a Vietnamese exam for me to take when the students take their exams. I was hoping that I was going to get some time for myself to grade the papers that I am giving, but I guess that will not be the case.

This morning we got up and had breakfast then went to HCMC to get winter coats for our trip to Japan in February. We actually arrived in the city center before the shops opened at 9:00; so, we had some time to wander around and look for a few more things that we thought we want.

On the way to the Fivi Mart to get stuff for dinner, we passed a scooter that was carrying boxes of Amway cleaning supplies. I guess the pyramid scheme has finally covered the world.

We have had a quick swim. It will be time to start dinner soon. I know that this is pretty short and newsless, but sometimes saying less is better than saying too much and still have nothing to say.

Have a great week! We are thinking of you all.


Terry and Anita

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Dear Everyone,

Last week we were in the school each day to get ready for the next four weeks of school. Once those are over we will have two weeks off for Tet. It is Chinese New Year in another country.

We all had a celebration on Friday afternoon. It was great fun. The Vietnamese ladies brought food that they and I like, and I taught everyone how easy it is to make pizza. We made 6. There is still one in the refrigerator for tomorrow’s snack.

It is interesting that Vietnamese children can come to the school as long as they are enrolled in an integrated classroom. This means that they must adhere to the Vietnamese standards of study. If a Vietnamese child is put into an international program, they will not be allowed to participate in the Vietnamese school system ever again. That is the way the system works.

The stoplights are interesting. The green light is a light plus a count down timer that usually is set for 30 seconds. Once the 30 seconds have elapsed, there is a count down timer for 5 seconds then the light turns red. The procedure begins in reverse. This count down system tends to make the pack at the front be ready a couple of seconds early so they can jump the light to get a good start. Actually there are times when the lights are completely ignored and people just drive through them.

We invited two of the teachers from school to come to our house to have a swim. One of them wanted to get some swimming lessons, and the other brought her daughter who now knows what a swimming pool is. She was pretty hard to get out of the water. I think that Huyen would have liked to get a swimming lesson too, but she spent so much time with her daughter in the wading pool that after the almost two hours, she was so cold that she declined the lesson. Getting to know the people who live in Vietnam is one of the things that really make the stay in the country worth so much more. It is so wonderful to be able to say that we did not isolate ourselves from the people. Life is really rich with experiences If we only take the time and make the effort.

The Metro is a giant store that has almost everything under the sun in terms of food and things to buy. One needs a card in order to get into the building. One also needs the same card to check out. We usually go to the Metro once a week to stock up on items that make our days a little easier.

That’s about all from here. We hope your lives continue to be productive and filled with the things you like to do best.


Terry and Anita


On the BoatSunday, January 3, 2010

Dear All,

Today is the third, Sunday. Anita got her river trip. We spent the morning going to the Saigon River and then spent an hour on the river to look at it in a different perspective. It cost us 150,000 VND each. It was really interesting. Pictures are posted.

Have a great new year.

Terry and Anita


Saturday, January 2, 2010

Happy New Year, Everyone! If this week is going to be like all the weeks in 2010, we are going to have the time of our lives. Last week was one of the most exciting weeks we have had in many years.

The week started out on Sunday, as most weeks do. We did our usual things knowing that Monday was going to start an adventure that was going to be out of sight. We managed to live through the day.

On Monday two of our colleagues took us to visit some sights in Ho Chi Minh City that no one should miss. The first was to the museum that remembers the American War. I did not take any pictures there. It was a sobering experience at best. The Vietnamese people have put together a display of the horrific things we did in the name of democracy in such a way that the uselessness of the war is obvious. The American people who were in charge of directing the war were so in the wrong, as history, and many of the men who led the war effort have admitted. One must see this museum to understand what America did to humanity. I will not go back to the museum. It is one of the most depressing things I have ever done.

After the museum, we went to the Reunification Palace, the home and headquarters of the former ruler of Vietnam. I have pictures posted on the web site at http://gallery.me.com/abdii. We had a great time. The palace is spectacular. It is worth the trip and should be seen more than once to realize the full impact of the way the rulers used to live when they had tyrannical powers.

After the palace tour we were taken to a teahouse run by Buddhist monks. It is in the center of one of the most populated areas of Ho Chi Minh City. It is an absolutely serene place. Quiet, peaceful, good friends and a tea ceremony were the perfect way to end the day. Our friends, Huyen and Tram, made this day a very special one.

Tuesday I had to write a science exam for grade 1, so I went into school. We had no electricity in our Villa, so it was a good excuse to get some schoolwork completed. When I got back home, there was still no electricity; so, we both went back to school. Anita wanted to take a day of our holiday and go to the sea. Originally we were going to take the hydrofoil to Vung Tao, located at the mouth of the Mekong Delta. She started by booking a room, which we thought was in Vung Tao. When we found that the room that she had booked was not in Vung Tao and Google showed no roads that could take us to the town of Long Hai where the Villas were located things got pretty intense. Eventually we decided that the best way solve the dilemma was to ditch the idea of riding the hydrofoil and ride the motorbike.

Late Tuesday afternoon I went to the bank to get some Dong for the trip. It was then that I discovered that my ATM card had been cancelled and our account was closed. I went to the bank to try to find out what was going on, and it was closed too. First thing Wednesday was to try to solve the bank issues. We discovered that we were able to use Anita’s card and withdraw money. I applied for a new card. We went home and packed our suitcase, strapped it on the bike and headed east for Long Hai.

Driving down the route that we usually take into the city was relatively peaceful. When we got to route 1A that was to take us most of the way to Long Hai, we discovered a traffic jam that was one of the worst we have seen in Vietnam. Motorbikes, trucks, busses, cars, probably a few wild animals were all headed east. We proceeded very slowly sometimes on the road, sometimes in the bike lane and sometimes along the rocks to the side of the bike path. There were times when we were forced off the road by vehicles in the bicycle lane. We were along side the road weaving in and around other motorbikes which had also been pushed aside. At one point there was even an ambulance with flashing lights and sirens in the grass to the side of the road making slower progress than we were. After an hour of bouncing over strange terrain, we suddenly popped out of the traffic onto open road and were really on our way.

Three hours later we arrived in the town of Long Hai. We had traveled over open roads that had been manicured. What a pleasure it was to drive in space. There were times when we were the only ones on the road. WE began to ask for directions to the An Hoa Residence villas. First we were sent to a monastery where the monks and nuns spoke no more English than I spoke Vietnamese; so we bumbled our way along the road looking for the resort. At the end of town, we stopped, pulled off the side of the road and scratched our heads in bewilderment. Should we go back through town and look again? Should we go ahead? Suddenly a man came out of nowhere who spoke 5 words of English better than the way I could count from 1 to 10, which would have done no good in our situation anyway, and gestured that he would help. He made some phone calls. Balcony ViewHe then decided that he would lead us to the resort. He had been drinking a little, and we were a little dubious, but when you are drowning in an ocean of unfamiliar surroundings, you reach out for any rocks that may come floating by. We waited until he wandered off to get his motorbike and helmet. We headed down the road. In less than a kilometer we were at the resort.

You can see pictures of the resort. It was pretty amazing to find something like this place anywhere, let alone in a developing country llike Vietnam. The high-end villa was priced at $900.00 per day. That is really NINE HUNDRED DOLLARS PER DAY! Our villa was considerably less expensive than the most expensive. What a lovely place to stay.

We were met at the resort by a lovely young lady named Kim Chi who spoke broken English, but was game to communicate. I wanted to ask her if she was as hot as her name implied, but thought better of it since I would be crossing some cultural boundaries that should not be crossed in Vietnam. She asked us what we wanted to eat for lunch even though it was well after lunch. We were fed beef noodles and vegetables, maybe the national dish. It was great.

We were asked what we wanted for dinner, and Anita wrote a list of possibilities. It was only a minor error since crab, shrimp and vegetables were the only thing on the list. We got just what we asked for…crab, shrimp and vegetables with a side of rice. Of course it was too much to eat, so I put the crab and the rice in the refrigerator for breakfast the next day.

After lunch we went to check out the swimming pools, yes, POOLS. Each villa had its own pool, but only one of them was considered private. There was no one else at the resort so Kim Chi told us that we were free to swim in any of the pools, which we did. After swimming we checked out the Jacuzzi. It was a Jacuzzi, but the water level was too low, so it was not the experience we expected. By the time we had rinsed off and dried, it was well past beer:30; do we did what every red blooded person would do. We raided the mini-bar and quaffed a couple of cool ones as we waited for aforementioned dinner.

We watched the National Geographic channel until bedtime. About an hour into the television there was a loud rapping at the door. It was Kim Chi. She said the police were not happy with the scanned copy of the passport and wanted to see the real thing, which, of course we did not have; because the company had collected them to apply for our resident’s card, work permit and driver’s license. I explained that to her. She left and did not return for a few minutes. When she returned she told us to tell the police that we arrived after 10:00pm. I do not know what difference it would make. The police never came back to question us, so we went up stairs, unfurled the mosquito netting and promptly fell asleep.

The next morning we headed for Vung Tao one of the most popular beach resorts. The road was spit polished clean, planted with beautiful flowers in the median divider and along the side of the road.

Vung Tao is a city on the way up. It looks extremely prosperous. We had a great drive around, saw the Christ on the hill, the lighthouse, numerous statues of Buddha and the Bodhisattva. We took a short walk on the beach, contemplated lunch, but decided to eat at the resort.

The rest of the day was a repeat of the last half of the first day. It was New Year’s Eve. We had ordered a dinner, but at 4:30 Kim Chi came, “H0, Ho, Ho Rudolph with your nose so…” Oops. That’s another story. Actually she came to tell us there was a party with all the staff, and we were invited. The party was to start at 5:30. At 5:10, Kim Chi was back to say the boss had just left for Ho Chi Minh City; so, it was time to party. We threw on the best clothes we had and headed for the canteen. There was great Vietnamese local food, none we had ever experienced before and an amazing endless bottle of beer. The party was over at 6:00, the tables were cleared by 6:05. The dishes were washed by 6:15. The revelers had gone home by 6:30.

At 8:00, we went out to look at the blue moon. One of the night guards wanted to take our picture. It is a great picture. You may have already seen it.

Happy New Year everyone!


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Dear All,

Anita and I had a fantastic Christmas. We had been told that to experience Christmas in Ho Chi Minh City was to have an experience like no other. Whoever told us was correct.

We packed one suitcase and a backpack, fitted it all on the motorbike, found seating space and headed for the BIG CITY for two nights on the town. Thinking we knew where we were headed we did not bring a map along. Naturally I made a poor decision by taking a route that we had never used going into the city, only coming out. It only took us two hours instead of the 45 minutes that it should have taken. We did make it to the hotel, but not without a few moments when turning around was still a reality.

We used an on line travel agent to book a room in the Caravelle Hotel. It is located in the center of District 1, the hub of the city.. The hotel was the central headquarters for the U$ Army during the “American War”, as it is called here. Anita and I were on the 14th floor over looking the opera house. You can see pictures of our room and the view from the window at http://gallery.me.com/abdii.

In the middle 60’s when Anita was teaching in the Philippines, she visited Vietnam and stayed in the hotel. Back then the hotel was surrounded in concertina wire and there were soldiers all over the city. For those of you who were too young to remember, the war was in North Vietnam. She remembered a rooftop bar where she had enjoyed a couple of drinks before heading out for a Bob Hope concert. The bar was the same. The rooms were incredible. We had a Tempurpedic mattress on which to sleep. It was heaven.

On Christmas eve the hotel presented a food spread that was as immense as any that I have ever see, see the pictures. We had two hours to eat before the next shift came to the dining room. We had a great time and fantastic food.

After dinner we went outside to enjoy the nighttime sounds and sights. Times Square has a rival. There were people everywhere. Almost all of them were on motorbikes and had come to the city to see the sights, check out the videos posted. If you need to make them larger, click on the lower right corner and pull down and to the right. You will lose some resolution, but not the idea.

On Friday we mostly walked around the downtown exploring some of the side roads that we had not investigated on out day trips. We made some interesting discoveries. One of the best was a gourmet food shop that had yeast in stock. I will now be able to make pizza the way it is supposed to be made. I have told my teaching assistant that I will teach her how to make pizza if she will invite us to her house. I think it will happen. If it does not, I have been requested to do another cooking demonstration the week before school starts. I could take in the oven and prepare pizza at school.

On Saturday we got up and returned to Binh Duong. Believe it or not, there were no changes here. We were able to settle right back into a routine. We went shopping at the City Mart for dinner, found a brownie mix, which I will try out today, relaxed and generally recuperated from our nights in the BIG CITY.

We have asked the company to buy a safe for us. Anita thinks that someone has lifted $100 from her wallet. We need some place to secure our valuables. There are lots of other things that could be done to make this a more livable place. We will keep trying to get some upgrading.

We hope your Christmas was rewarding. We now have New Year’s Eve and Day to look toward.

Love to you all,

Terry and Anita

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Dear All,

It is the end of the weekend, or the beginning of a new week whichever you want to address.

The last day of school we had a Christmas fair. It was great fun. My class had a sponge throw booth. I was the recipient of about 30 well-directed sponges during the 2 hours of operation. We collected about 1.2 million Dong. I have fully recovered. Thank you.

Anita’s class had a rocket trip to the moon. We bought two tarps and taped them together to make a large balloon, which we filled with air using a powerful fan. The visitors came into the balloon and were instructed to lie on their back and were then presented with a simulated blast off into outer space. I am sure that the Vietnamese had never seen anything like either of the activities. It was great fun to watch their reactions.

We finished the day with a secret Santa gift exchange with Vietnamese characteristics. The Vietnamese teachers love to play games. The game we played was interesting. First we chose a piece of paper from a box of papers. It had either “yes” or “no” written on it. If luck is running with the participant, he/she drew a “no”. Needless to say that both Anita and I drew “yes” papers. Naturally the game was not explained ahead of time; so, by the time we had picked the “yes” cards it was too late to do anything about what was to follow. The drawers of “yes” papers were further directed to draw from yet another collection of folded papers. This time the papers gave instructions that were to be followed, sort of a penalty phase. Anita was instructed to act like a monkey. She was brilliant, drawing on her vast experience gathered in Africa. I had to smile in 5 distinctly different ways. It was well received. I also had to sing while one of the other teachers had to dance to the song I chose. Of course the genre of the song was directed. I had to sing an action, children’s song while the teacher danced to the song. A word to the wise. Things go downhill rapidly if you are not able to accept the cultural differences in other countries.

On Saturday, we discovered a fabulous restaurant in Binh Duong. It will be a place to go to often. We had baby clams in a savory sauce served over glass noodles and barbecued pork ribs. Everything was way beyond yummy. After lunch we went to City Mart, another shopping entity. It actually had some things that we were not able to find anywhere else. It is close to our Villa, so we will be spending some time there too.

We have gotten in a rut by eating at the Song Be golf course on most Saturday and Sunday mornings. When we went on Saturday, the lady servers had set a table for us. It was a nice surprise.

Today we went back to City Mart for some additional things that we had not purchased. We also bought a cell phone. I am glad the instructions are in English. I hate cell phones, but we really need one if we are going to be out on the motorbike and need assistance.

There are some new pictures of the fabulous restaurant on my picture page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii .

Tomorrow we are off to book our flight to Japan for the Tet holiday, pick up a box that has arrived at the company headquarters, turn in our passports so we can get resident permits and work permits. It is always an interesting drive into the BIG CITY.

That’s the news. We are thinking of all of you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all of you. I hope your adventure is as exciting as ours.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dear All,

One more week of school then we are on holiday for 3 full weeks. I am looking forward to them.

We went to the Metro market to explore what is there. It was an interesting exploration. We found a few things that we had not seen in other places. I will be cooking pizza tonight.

OrchidsThere are a few new pictures added to the picture page at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. The orchids and the frangipangi are beginning to bloom. There are some pictures of them.

Each morning during the week, we begin the school day with an all school meeting in the assembly room. There is a set script each week for the students to say to give them a chance to be more comfortable with English. Then we sing a song. Last week and this week we did Christmas songs. Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer will be our last one for the season.

Exams start one week after we return in January. Only the grade 2 students will be held accountable, but all the students will take the exams. We will start practicing for them on Tuesday.

We found out last Thursday that we should be taking Fugacar once every 6 months. It is supposed to kill any worms that one has collected and nurtured during the previous 6 months. There does not seem to be any reaction from either of us, so I guess we are killing the worms rather than the worms killing us.

On Wednesday we are going to a water park with all the international students. Anita’s group, my group minus 1 and Regan’s group minus one will spend the late morning and early afternoon playing in the water.

On Friday, the last day of school, we are having a school carnival with the proceeds going to a charity. Anita and I built a large bubble out of plastic tarps. We fill the bubble up with a fan blowing air then take the students inside to have a space trip to the moon. The students will all recline in a chair and watch and listen to a space launch and lunar landing.

My class will be sponsoring a sponge throw. I will be the target since no one else is willing to try. I think we will make some money of the event.

Our planned dive trip was not well planned at all. It is our fault. If we had started sooner, if we had known more, if we had been better informed we would still be headed to the bottom of the sea. But…. We will be spending lots of time learning about Ho Chi Minh City and planning our trip to Japan in February.

We are thinking of you all and wish you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dear Everyone,

When one enters Vietnam, his passport is stamped with the time and date of arrival. One is also given a piece of paper to fill out, and this too is stamped with the time and date of arrival. It is a very important piece of paper. If one does not have the paper, one cannot renew any of the visas, work permits, and other necessities that allow one to live in Vietnam.

To make the previous paragraph more meaningful, we had lost the paperwork, the little white piece of paper with the date and time of arrival stamp, thus effectively stranding us here until the end of January when our visa runs out. That is when we become illegal aliens. To right this loss, Anita and I set out this morning at 9:30 for a trek from Binh Duong to the border of Cambodia. The trip took just two hours to get to the border, 15 minutes to get out of Vietnam and back into Vietnam with the paper correctly stamped. We used Google maps to find the easiest way to get to the border. We did not get lost.

Yesterday we were taken to a store called Metro. It is very similar to a COSTCO store. We checked out what was there and purchased a few things. The company has said that it will get us membership cards for the Metro. It might be the first time anyone has asked since the HR people were so surprised that we made the request. It takes an hour to get to the Metro. It will be worth the trip once we do get our cards.

While we were waiting for the shopping party to return, I heard some rather loud music and an announcer in a tent on the other side of the parking lot. I set out to investigate. As I peered around the flap of the tent, I saw an announcer with a microphone and two boys, about 8 to 10 years old. It was a contest. The boys had a water balloon on the floor of the tent, which they were supposed to push from one starting line to the finish line. The grabber was that they boys were only able to push the balloon on the floor with a water filled balloon suspended from the seat of their pants and hanging between the legs. In order to make the swinging balloon have enough energy to move the balloon on the floor, it was necessary to hip thrust violently forward and back to swing the suspended ball. As you may know a balloon is seldom if ever completely round; therefore, the balloons on the floor refused to roll in a straight line. I have posted a picture of the contest at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii .

Our computer battery arrived as school on Friday. It had rested at the ministry of Culture and Education for more than a week, so they could check out the 3 DVD’s that Bob and Hua Hua had included as part of our Christmas present. The DVD’s were The Ali G show and Bruno. I was amazed that the ministry passed them on to us, but they did. I am sure the DVD’s were watched more than once and copied more than once as well.

That is about all there is for this week.

We think of you often. We hope all is well in your lives.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Dear Everyone,

Our adventure started on Friday when a TV film crew arrived at the school. I was asked to develop a student run activity that involved lots of action. I did my best and was filmed with some of the students. I will let you know when I start signing autographs.

Teachers' DayAt the end of the day, we were invited to a buffet dinner. It cost about $8.00 per person. The spread was 99% seafood as you can see from the pictures at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. There are also pictures of some of the ladies who were all decked out for Teacher’s Day, a very big thing in Vietnam. There are pictures posted of the ladies in their dresses.

Tonight we are going to a parents’ house for Thanksgiving dinner. It should be fun. We shall see. I will report tomorrow. We found the house today on our outing into HCMC to get our medical reports and take them to the corporate headquarters. (Last two words to be read in a loud voice filled with fear and trembling.)

It was a great time. We found them living in a set of villas that have been in existence for some time. The kinks were out of the houses and the entire compound was lovely. We had a real Thanksgiving dinner. There were three kinds of pie, a turkey, cranberry, mashed potatoes, green beans with mushroom soup, and turkey gravy. At the beginning there were starters which included salsa that was out of this world.

Sunday was a shopping day. We spent lots. Bought lots. It was fun. I finally found an oven. Now I need to find some yeast so pizza is in the works along with baked potatoes, roast chicken, shepherd’s pie…. The possibilities are endless.

We are getting ready for a Christmas fair that will be held on the 18th of December, just before we go on holiday. Anita and I have purchased two pieces of plastic 6 meters by 5 meters each. We will tape them together in a sandwich and leave one corner open. We will use the open corner to fill the sandwich with a fan blowing air. It will turn into a giant pillow. We will then take students inside and read a script about blasting off for the moon. I will look for some sound effects to accompany the flight to the moon and back.

My class will be doing a sponge toss. I will be the target for the wet sponges. I will get some pictures of both events. It should be interesting.

Some of you know that Kathie Becker was kind enough to share some of Dr. Becker’s tie collection with me before I left for Vietnam. You can see picture a picture of the ties, 12 on each child in my class. Kathie asked to have a picture of the ties on the children. It is down loadable, as are all the pictures on the web site. To Kathie: Many thanks for sharing the ties. The kids love them. So do I. Terry

That about wraps up the week.

We think of all of you often. We hope your life continues to be rewarding.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Dear All,

This week ended in a flurry of excitement since Friday was Teachers’ Day. We were inundated with flowers. We were also given some pretty expensive gifts. We had never heard of Teachers’ Day until Vietnam. At the end of the day we were invited to a party organized by our fellow teachers. All the ladies organized a trip to a restaurant next to one of the many tributaries of the Saigon River. It is a restaurant that is right on the riverbank. The boats plied their way up and down the river as we enjoyed the sights, smells and sounds. Unfortunately I forgot my camera, so I was not able to record the event. Maybe I will do better in next year’s celebration.

It is interesting that things are planned, but not announced until the last minute. I am not sure why that is. I, for one of at least two, would really appreciate a little more warning. We had to rush home to get all our flowers in water and change clothes before going to the restaurant. If we had known a little sooner, we may have been more prepared. I will have to talk to my teaching assistant about early notification.

Saturday morning we headed into Ho Chi Minh City to go to the hospital for our physical. It is necessary to take a physical before one is allowed to apply for a work permit. Since our U$A paperwork finally arrived, we were able to proceed. I was thoroughly castigated for my high blood pressure, which I am sure raised it another notch or two.

After the hospital, I was able to navigate into the city without the need for a map. I got us to downtown Ho Chi Minh City and was able to find the underground parking garage, which we had used in the past. We had some fun shopping and a good meal. The final part of the day we spent waiting for Hai, the man who helped us purchase our new motor scooter. I was given the final paperwork for the bike. We headed back to Binh Duong at about four o’clock. We were home in less than one hour. There were no traffic jams and things went smoothly.

Today was errand day, which we have completed fairly successfully. I have the fixings for curried chicken and rice for dinner.

Hua Hua purchased a battery for my computer on Tuesday. She shipped it via FEDEX on Wednesday. It is scheduled to arrive in Ho Chi Minh City on Monday evening. I should have it by the end of the week if I am lucky. Right not it is in Guangzhou, China. I am told that things electronic do not often make it to the final destination, so we are waiting to see if we are the exception or the rule.

The weather in beautiful right now. The days are in the low 80’s for the most part and the nights drop off into the low 70’s. I wonder whether as winter progresses we will see some 60’s.

I am practicing the figure 8’s and now am able to negotiate the figure 8 about 3 out of 10 passes until I find my rhythm. Once the rhythm is there I can link about 4 together before my concentration wavers. I start to think, “Wow! I may actually be able to do this!” and wham! I am off course and have to start again. I am getting better. I just have to learn not to think that I am getting better.

We are planning a trip to Phu Quoc Island off the west coast of Vietnam. We will be doing some diving there. We will probably not have any internet access while there. If all goes according to plan, we will leave here on December 19 and return on January 3.

We hope you are all well. We think of you often.


Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 15, 2009

Dear Everyone,

It has been a good week all around. The students are starting to make progress now that they are able to communicate with a little less stress and a lot more understanding.

Yesterday Anita had to spend most of the day at home since it was cleaning day and the ladies that clean our school arrive about 12:30 and clean for two hours. There was a painter most of the morning. I ran errands. That gave me a few more K’s on the scooter. I needed them to get to 1000K. That is the first milestone for inspection. I cooked last night and will do so again tonight.

Golf TeeThis morning we set off for a complete dose of decadence at the Song Be golf resort. You have seen pictures of it if you have looked at the picture page http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

After breakfast, we decided to round out the odometer on the scooter a little closer to the 1000K mark. We had under 200K to add to hit the 1000K mark. We decided that we would head out of the city on Route 13 toward Cambodia and drive for 50 kilometers. It was an interesting drive. We did get out in the countryside. It is being developed everywhere. There are new roads, new housing developments, new shopping centers, car dealerships. The list goes on ad nauseum. At the 800K mark on the odometer, we turned around and retraced our tire prints back to the Villa where we regrouped before heading out to the Honda dealership to have the 1000K inspection, which was FREE!

We did see a couple of places where coffins were being made and one of the really colorful hearses that carry the coffins to their final resting place. We passed and photoed a rubber tree plantation and an amusement park. I think the park also has a water slide. I know it has a zoo, because about three weeks ago one of the tigers jumped over the 8-foot high wall circling the enclosure and mauled a man. I do not know whether he made it through the ordeal or not.

While the inspection was going on we ate at Vistas, the restaurant that I mentioned a couple of letters ago. Their food is great, the portions are small and sitting outside is wonderful.

After the inspection, I decided it was time to start working on getting a driver’s license. I know that I need one. If I ever get caught without one, I will probably have the scooter impounded until I can produce a license. I am planning on asking one of the Vietnamese teachers to help me get the paperwork going. The biggest hurdle is learning to drive the scooter in the figure “8” pattern. The pattern has been drawn on the ground and the driver of the scooter must navigate the figure inside the lines, not touching any lines, not putting down a foot for corrections. It is not easy. I have had about 1 hour of practice, and I can truly say I am not very good at it. I will be practicing every afternoon after school for quite a while. I am glad I started when I did.

It has been four months in the works, but finally our paperwork is being processed for getting a work permit. There are still a few problems, but nothing is insurmountable, I hope.

The battery on my computer has died. The computer does work if I keep the charger plugged in and take the battery out of the computer. I do not know if I will be able to find a battery here in Vietnam. I will start working on it tomorrow.

We hope all is well with you. We miss all of you, but we would not trade this adventure in for a retirement home. Besides our house in Pennsylvania is about to be occupied by my sister and her family. With four of them, we would have to sleep in the basement if we were to come home too soon.

Love to you all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 8, 2009

Dear Everyone,

This is a short note to let you all know that we are alive and well. School was pretty much school. Off times were pretty much off times. We did get to Ho Chi Minh City today. We did find Chinatown. We were never lost, but we did suffer from severe disorientation. I think that is what it is called. We passed the same set of buildings at least 3 times.

We were going to stop at the Phuong Nam resort for breakfast, but missed the turn off. We drove into HCMC, and had breakfast at Paradise, a restaurant. We had lunch at the resort only because Anita wanted to go to the temple that we took pictures of a month or so ago. She said it was a barbecue restaurant. That statement missed by a mile, maybe two. It is a seafood restaurant. The menu lists each fish, eel or wild boar in a separate category with a listing of the ways it is prepared. We ordered after we explained that the brand new menu listed “crab” as “crap”. I even took out the dictionary to show the waiter, who spoke pretty good English. I do not expect the spelling to change, I do expect the crab sales to be less than energetic if other people read the menu as carefully as we did.

The corporation is too cheap to buy color printers for the school, so we bought our own on Saturday. On Monday I will get some photo paper. Are you wondering just how cheap the corporation is? We are allotted 120 pages of photocopy paper per child – per term. Who says you can’t run a school at the expense of the children. Some people even laugh all the way to the bank.

Anita now can ride the first scooter. She rides it every Tuesday and Thursday since she teaches yoga at the clubhouse. She can go directly home and get ready.

After school, I go to the FIVI Mart to buy food for dinner. The FIVI Mart run takes about an hour round trip. I usually get home about 6:00.

I have been told that on the days that I teach PE I will be allowed to wear shorts and the company shirt. If I only could coordinate orange-pink, the color of the shirt to one of my pairs of shorts, I would be in business. Then again with the exception of some football coaches in the major leagues, PE coaches are not known for their sartorial splendor.

That is about it from this end.

We hope you are all well and life is good.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Dear Everyone,

Hell has no fury like a woman who has been knocked off her bicycle by a scooter. I didn’t see the actual impact of vehicle to vehicle, but the words that were being spewed forth were certainly fighting words. I am sure that If I had stayed around, I would have learned my full share of the Vietnamese words that are not spoken around people who are tasteful. It would have been a lesson that would have lasted well into an hour as the police are very slow to respond to a “minor” altercation. No one was hurt. Both participants were mobile. One was much more vocal than the other. I should have listened longer.

This past week was a week off to celebrate the end of term. The company required us to clock in before 8am each day and clock out at 5pm if we wanted to be paid for the week. It wasn’t so bad Anita taught a daily 1.5-hour yoga class. I taught two cooking lessons. I gave pingpong lessons to anyone willing to play. We had lunch out each day and took our teaching assistants out to a very nice restaurant. We planned for the coming term. We bought some new fish for out aquariums. We got lots of rest. Our new scooter was delivered. What a nice machine. We have a friend, Alida, who insists that trucks should be given a name. I am pretty sure she would come up with one for our scooter too.

Since we were so well rested, the weekend called for some increased travel plans. On both of the days we hoped on the new machine and headed for HCMC. (That is short for Ho Chi Min City. Which is long for Saigon.) We had two very interesting days. Saturday we performed some serious shopping after getting our motors started at Phuong Nam Resort where we started our adventure in Vietnam. Our VND (That’s short for Vietnamese Dong, the currency of Vietnam.) flowed like water. Luckily the exchange rate shopis good and our pay adequate enough that we are not going to run out any time soon. We found an electronic toothbrush. Anita bought another set of earrings, which she can add to her already prodigious collection from around the world. She bought a jewelry box to contain her growing collection. I got a battery for my watch that I purchased a month ago. It stopped working after I had it in my possession for less than a week. I paid VND 25,000. When I returned it to the store and asked to have the battery replaced, they looked at me as if I were from another planet and explained, in Vietnamese, that there were no batteries for the watch available in Binh Duong, which is where we live. The explanation is easily understood. You can learn the way to say there is no “whatever”. Here is how. Bend your elbows at 90 degrees or more upward in front of you. Relax your fingers and twist your wrists rapidly back and forth. That’s it. You’ve got it. Try it in your restaurant when they ask you to pay the bill. I am sure they will understand. I have been carrying the watch in my backpack since then just waiting for the chance to actually purchase a new battery. It is now purring (It certainly does not tick.) along. To make a short story long, the batteries cost more than the watch.

Today, Sunday, we started our motors at the local golf club with a buffet breakfast. We hopped on Gertrude. No, not that. The scooter. We started to find our way to the largest China Town in the world. We drove the entire length of HCMC and back again. We were only one block to the north away. Anita finally figured it out once we returned and matched guide books and maps. Next time we will get it right. We both got hair cuts at the “Beauty Parlor” pictured in one of our collections. Anita came home and did some laundry. Since she was so good about house duties, she rewarded herself with a sauna, bath and massage.

The Asian Indoor Games are being played out in HCMH and Hanoi this week. There is lots of excitement in the city. In Bind Duong, 25 kilometers away, the intensity is not there.

I have found corn starch. I will cook soft fried chicken tonight.

We hope you are all happy, well, and ready to meet the new week.


Terry and Anita

[To those of you who are new to this letter, the address of the pictures is http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.]


Sunday, October 25, 2009

Dear Everyone,

This week has been eventful, interesting, tiring, unique, and a joy to be a part in the action.

There are lots of new pictures on the http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

Most of the pictures were of the teaching staff at the school. Regan, our principal, invited all the teachers to an end of term party at a restaurant and then for karaoke after dinner. The outing started with a one hour scooter ride to the restaurant on a Thursday niight. Anita and I knew that we would not be leaving on our own early in the evening as we had hoped to do. We kept going further and further into territory that was out of our local travel area. By the time we got to the restaurant, it was dark. The building was completely constructed from bamboo. It was open and cooled by oscillating fans. Everyone had arrived by 6:45 and the food was carried out in waves. By 8:45 or so we were finished eating and were ready for karaoke. I managed to keep clear of the fish and the snake, both of which cause me great anxiety since I am allergic to fish and reptiles.

The ladies were anxious to start the karaoke. As soon as we realized that there was no karaoke at the restaurant, the ladies led us to a karaoke joint where they sang themselves into seventh heaven. By the end of the evening we had all had our shot at the music. There were lots of English songs to be sung as well as every Vietnamese song Scooterever written. Actually I think we sang them all. The party finally broke up about 9:30 leaving us an hour or so to wend our way homeward. As an aside, the karaoke machine sensed how into the song the singer/s were. I am not sure how. Regan and I gave up a duet of Yellow Submarine of which the Beatles would have been proud. We registered a 98 on the song-o-meter. We were later bested by the Chinese teacher with a perfect score of 100.

The single picture of us on our motorbike was taken as we arrived home after a 6km ride through traffic carrying the drying frame over our heads through traffic. We turned a few heads. Mostly our own as we tried to keep the thing balanced and still maneuver the motorbike. I noticed that a few of the other drivers gave us a little more room than would have been normal. Perhaps they knew how dangerous it is to mess with two older people carrying an inverted drying rack weaving back and forth across the bike lane.

Friday ended with us being greatly relieved that the next 10 days were holiday days at the end of the first term. Are we going anywhere? No. We are not sure whether we are “off probation” yet. The company requires us to register for “leave time” or report in to school each day and clock out in the afternoon. I plan on getting all my lessons planned for the coming term during the week of confinement.

Actually, we can be much more lax in being at school all day and “on official duty”. Anita is going to teach yoga each morning from 9:00 to 10:30. I have been asked by a couple of the ladies if I would teach some basic American cooking. I will demonstrate two meals for them, one on Wednesday and one on Friday.

Every Sunday is wedding day in Vietnam. When we head out on our rounds on Sunday, we can count 10 to 20 weddings depending upon the route we take. The brides are all dressed in white gowns the grooms are all dressed in black tuxes. They stand outside the wedding parlor and greet all the guests and have their pictures taken. They go inside. The bride and groom are married, then the food is served, everyone has a shot at the karaoke machine and the wedding is over. Everyone goes home. The new bride heads for the husband’s family home unless she has managed to snag a rich one then they head for their own home.

As I was shopping for a hot plate to demo the cooking at school, I noticed a butane fired barbecue grill that is designed to be used indoors. I could not resist making the purchase. Last night we had the Vietnamese version of Hong Kong style pork ribs. The grill worked well and the food was super. Tonight I will try barbecued chicken legs.

This adventure is turning out to be lots of fun. My teaching assistant was given an opportunity to take over a class of her own. It would mean more money. She explained to me that she has set some goals in her life and she is not going to be swayed from those goals. One of the most important was to work with a native English speaker. Believe it or not, that is “yours truly”. She stated that she was not going to take the class. She wanted to stay in the classroom. I am flattered that she wants to stay. We do have a good time together.
We miss all of you and hope that all goes well in your lives.

Love to all,

Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Dear All,

Yesterday I went in to Ho Chi Min City. I met with a friend of Regan, our principal. He is going to buy us a motorbike that is a little more sturdy than the one we are renting. The rental unit is fine for one person, but I have had to replace the rear tire once and the rear tube twice. Together we are just too heavy for it. We will continue to rent the smaller one, so Anita will have one if she wants to go somewhere and I do not. When we go out together, we will take the larger bike. I left at 9:00 and returned at about 2:15. It was just over an hour each way. I did not get lost.

While we were meeting at the coffee house, a film crew and some models from the U$A, or so they claimed, arrived and started posing all over the area. Costume changes were frequent and the clothing became more and more revealing as the changes continued. I was able to take a couple of shots of the girls. They are posted on my picture page which now seems to be working. The parade of clothing was interesting to say the least.

This morning we went to the golf club for a buffet breakfast. It was great and the setting is super. You can see pictures of the golf course on my picture page too.

We then went to the market to get cut flowers for Anita. Since the shopping trip filled up my backpack, we headed home to empty it. We then headed out once again for the FIVI mart where we completed the shopping, filling in the things that were missing from the first shopping trip.

I am going to try fixing jiaozi tonight. I have never fixed them from scratch before. The only ingredient that we are missing is Xinjiang vinegar. I will mess around with some other sauces and try to get the taste close.

Good news! We found popcorn in microwave bags. Anita was pretty excited. Needless to say the popcorn had not been there before; so when it came time to check out, we had to wait until the check-out girl was able to find out what the selling price was supposed to be.

On the way back from the FIVI mart, there was another accident. It looked like a truck had made a U turn and the driver of the scooter did a T bone into the truck and then the truck rolled on over the scooter driver. Seeing things like that really make a person think about values.

It is going to rain soon. We have had some real gully washers recently.

We are thinking of you all.

Terry and Anita


[Good news! Andy's picture site is running again. You can visit it here.]

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Dear Everyone,

My picture storage at Mobile Me is still not working. I had the problem “escalated” to a higher level on Wednesday and have heard nothing from the moving stairs. I will keep my fingers crossed, but I won’t hold my breath since I couldn’t have done it from Wednesday until now anyway.

On Thursday we got our second paycheck. It was a lot less than we thought it would be. I guess that is fine with us. We decided that we were here to have a good time and experience a little bit of another culture. We have more than enough money to live on, so why worry about the small stuff. We were told that we would make XXX dollars net. I guess the net has bigger holes than we had first planned.

We are waiting for a call from my Uncle Don. It is his 91st birthday today, and it is our 41st wedding anniversary. When we were married, I planned to have the day be my parents’ wedding anniversary, but I missed by a couple of days. It is not a bad thing. I never have been good at dates, times or things that have to do with intellectual relationships.

We did make the connection with Uncle Don, but we were not able to use all the Skype features since he does not have a camera on his computer.

At 7:00 we will head off for breakfast either at the golf club or the resort. Doesn’t that sound pretty decadent? I am not sure I should even include the statement in this letter. Anyway, it is the start of a weekend. It is going to be fun. As a footnote, since today is Sunday, we did go to the resort where we had a super breakfast.

We went to the Fivi Mart. It seems to meet most of our needs in terms of food and drink. When it doesn’t there is the market in the village to the south. It meets the needs that are not met otherwise. There is also a great free market where we can buy other necessities.

Speaking of necessities… On our outing today, it is necessary that I buy a plunger. No, not for the toilet, but for a floor drain that has backed up. It is in the drain system, sorry about the statement of the obvious, and it is more than remotely connected to the drain in the downstairs bathroom which has been mysteriously filling with water each time we use the washing machine. I would buy a snake and clean out the drain except that I do not know how to say snake in Vietnamese; and if I did, I am sure it would be the long and slithery kind and not the one that actually cleans out a drain. I was able to stick a broomstick into the drain and it went all the way down to the end of the stick without hitting a trap or anything else. Since you are on the other side of the world, if you happen to see a broomstick protruding from your back yard, please do not pull it out. It is only me trying to get water flowing through the bowels of the Villa.

We have hired one of the ladies that clean our school to come to the Villa to clean it weekly. I think it will be great for her and us She will be earning another salary and be a rich person, and we will be stimulating the economy. The biggest part is that we will not have to work for 2+ hours to clean the Villa any more. Our living in other person is willing to pay his share.

It is raining this morning. It is cool (in the high 70’s) with a gentle breeze. It never seems to get cold here. As a matter of fact, it doesn’t even get chilly.

We have been sitting here since 7:00 this morning. It is now 10:30.

We are thinking of all of you.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, October 4, 2009

Dear Everyone,

Find our pictures at <http://gallery.me.com/abdiii> for those of you who have recently signed on.

This has been a weekend to get things done for our selves. One has to have one of those days every now and then in order to stay sane.

I have posted a few pictures of the weekend. I think you will be able to tell from the caption what they are about.

We went shopping for dinner. Yesterday was the day that most Asians celebrate the moon festival. It marks the middle of Autumn when the moon is full. It is a really important celebration. Asians use this time to get together with families and party.

We partied last night. The Oasis, the mother group of the Villas in which we live, notified us that there would be a celebration of the mid Autumn festival. We were all to bring a covered dish and share. I took my now famous pork burger hash. It was a great hit. An even bigger hit was the idea that I was the cook. I think it was an idea that simply frightened the other men at the gathering. Most of the other food was moon cakes.

Moon cakes are made with a pastry on the outside and stuffed with fruit, jellies, nuts and most important of all an egg. Some are pretty good. Others make great skipping stones if you can find some open water, and the water is not too fetid. I digress.

The party was great. We met a lot of new people. Anita made contact with a few women and one man who are interested in starting a yoga group. They all agreed to let Anita know when the group was finally formed and the day and time it would meet. She is looking forward to sharing her talents once again on an adult basis.

We went to the Minh Long plaza for lunch, the dentist, and to get some cash from the ATM. The Minh Long group has been making pottery since 1???. It is now gained the status of world class. The building is imposing. Inside are shops, the aforementioned dentist office, restaurant and our bank, HSBC. I have posted a few pictures of the pottery even though there are signs all over in the show room that photography is not allowed. I asked and was given permission, if I only took a small amount of pictures. Some are ok. Most of the photos were without a flash to keep the photo police at bay while I clicked away. I bought Anita some gold and ceramic earrings for our 41st anniversary.

It is Sunday now, so we may still have more adventure to post.

Last night we heard about a great buffet breakfast at the Song Be golf course, which is situated across from the school. We went this morning. It was good, but it was nearly the most expensive meal we have had thus far. It cost almost 200,000 VND. I will be posting the pictures shortly. The caddies at the club are all female. They ride on the back of the golf cart, or push your golf bag on wheels. It is your choice. I think, if I ever get the chance to play, slim to none, I will wash my own balls.

After breakfast we went to the local bookstore for some school supplies. It s really well stocked. The upstairs is a department store that also has a great supply of things that one cannot do without.

I will head back out later to get some stuff for dinner. It is really infuriating that I cannot find XinJiang vinegar. It is such an integral part of Chinese food.

We are thinking of you all. We miss each of you.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 27, 2009

Dear Everyone,

I think the photos are back at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

Yesterday we did some basic shopping for things that we need. The outing was interesting.

We started off by going to the nearest ATM to get a supply of money which now seems to burn out of our hands much faster than when we were limited to the cash we had brought with us. At the ATM we took out VND (Viet Nam Dong). It was only 2,000,000 VND. That will be enough to see us through the week if we are frugal, if not, we may have to take a little more later in the week. It is the equivalent of about 130 U$D. Our usual expenses are a daily lunch at the canteen at school 24,000 VND. Gas for the scooter 40,000VND every 2 to 3 days. We have dinner out at a restaurant 150,000 VND or dinner at home 130,000 VND. We also spend for school and other items that might strike our fancy. We are pretty comfortable. I set up electronic banking last week, so our paychecks will be sent directly to the bank. We will only need to go there to get out U$D for travel purposes.

The second stop was to put on our rain gear since the often-appearing black cloud was dumping water on the same patch of ground that we seemed to be occupying. Even though we were moving on the motorbike, the water kept following us all the way to the department store. When we got to the store, we were able to find a place in the bike park to put the scooter. That in itself was a relief since the bike park is often full on weekends.

With the bike parked, we went to the check in booth where we are required to check our carry devices. You know, back packs, helmets, anything that we could take into the store in which we could conceal things and smuggle them past the cashiers. Since the regular, I am supposing here, checker at the booth was not available, there was a substitute. For whatever reason, he did not want to take the back pack, so I was left holding the bag, so to speak, while Anita, after whisking away 500,000 VND, headed into the store. Purchases were completed, and we headed back home to drop off the things so the backpack would be lighter. We felt less burdened and were ready to set out again on a new road to an old place to see if one was connected to the other.

Since it had recently rained, check up two paragraphs if you have forgotten, it was not only my job to drive the scooter, but also to watch out for puddles since the road builders had no knowledge of installing drainage systems along often flooded areas that result from heavy downpours. Actually watching out for puddles is a very important part of the driving process since the top of the puddle is level, and it looks about the same depth as all the other puddles around it, but the bottom of the puddle can vary from a few centimeters to several feet. The other reason to watch out for puddles is that the BIGGER cars and the even BIGGER trucks take great delight in powering through the puddles and raising a wave of water that is able to entirely engulf two persons watching out for the depth of a puddle and not paying attention to the traffic that is out to get them. So, as you can see, driving a scooter along the street is like a real time version of survival of the fittest. We are so happy to be fit.

MarketAfter breakfast, we went on another 4 kilometers to a department store where we found a meat tenderizer. I could have used it last night instead of the bottom of the frying pan that I used to flatten the pork slabs, so I could turn them into schnitzel. We also purchased a butter dish and paper towels, an item for which we have been searching in all the stores. We still have not seen any popcorn kernels. Anita is soon going into popcorn shock if we don’t find something.

On our last outing, went to the south local marked for a couple of bottles of wine. Not for drinking as much as for getting the scooter out of the compound for no cost. When one presents a receipt showing that he spent a considerable amount of money in the store, the fee for parking the scooter is waived. Basically that means if you spend 200.000 VND in the store you save 2000 VND. And you thought we were spendthrifts. Anita also picked up some cut flowers for the week. She tries to make the living quarters as homey as possible.

I finally broke down and purchased glasses to use when I ride the scooter. It is amazing to be able to see the road when it is raining, when the wind is blowing the dust and dirt, and when the nasty trucks and cars try to cover us in the muddy slop that lies in wait along the side of the road. I also have a surgical mask that I will wear over my face when the conditions look particularly bad, so I can keep the wall of water that is inevitable on the outside portions of my body.

We are finished traveling for the day. There were two motorbike accidents on the way back from the grocery store. I have never seen a motorbike separated into so many pieces. It must have been going incredibly fast. Unfortunately there was a body in the middle of the road with the bike. There were lots of people in attendance. We did not have to stop. Kind of ruins your day.

We miss you all. We think of you. We hope you are all well.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 20, 2009

This week has been pretty uneventful if it were to be compared to last week and the trials and tribulations of banking.

On Monday we were issued our ATM cards, special electronic devices that post the password of our account, and well wishes from HBSC, our new bank away from home. Later today we will test the ATM Card.

In fifty minutes we will be watching the installers installing our black-out curtains. That is if they arrive at 10:00 as advertised. Am I skeptical? Maybe a little. We’ll see. Well, the van arrived shortly after 10:30 with a young lady who explained that the curtains were not ready and would not be ready until Wednesday afternoon. She said that they would install the curtains after 5:30 when we got home from school.

Yesterday we tried out the ATM cards. They worked. We were able to take out two million Dong which we promptly spent on aquariums for our classrooms. Soon we will have a population of guppies filling the room. On Wednesday we will be going back to the Garden Center to pick up the stuff and to take our students to buy a plant each for them to keep alive.

I posted the pictures that I took two weeks ago. It turned out that one of the pictures was not good and that caused all of them to stay in the computer rather than travel half way around the world with one bad apple.

This morning we went out to the Phuong Nam resort that we first stayed in for a breakfast. I think that is going to become a Sunday ritual. The breakfast is great and it costs just under two dollars each. We both had soup with noodles. Anita’s was filled with seafood and mine was beef. There was also a buffet with fruit, juice, and bread or toast with butter and jellys. On our way back, we stopped in an old, but being restored, shrine. The wood work was incredible. It looked like everything was done in mahogany. You can look at the pictures at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii.

This afternoon we will head north to the Fivimart to buy stuff for dinner. The Fivimart is the place where I was able to take the forbidden pictures.

Two footnotes:

Jim, no need for you to mow the lawn. Mark has said that he was going to do it. If you think of it, call Ehrlich and tell them about the wasp nest and they will take care of it.

Chop, many thanks for the help in getting the documents authenticated. Maybe I will actually have a work permit soon.

We are thinking of all of you. We miss you all. We will be home sooner every day.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Dear Everyone,

As you can see from the date above it is. We are getting ready for another week at school.

Yesterday we took a trip into Ho Chi Min City. Since our fearless leader, Regan, was with us for half the time, we did not get lost. Since Anita’s teaching assistant, Naa, was with us a quarter of the time, we did not get lost. Believe it or not, the time on our own did not get us lost either.

The adventure I want to tell you about started three weeks ago. I went to the bank to begin the proceedings to open a bank account. I asked for and was given all the requisite paperwork for the account. We did not fill out the paperwork and return it right away since it was all pretty straight forward. Opening an account was a piece of cake. Nothing could go wrong. Even an idiot could open a bank account.

On Monday, it was payday. The school’s accountant greeted me in the early morning. He told me that it was payday. Ha! Like I did not know that! My teaching assistant, Ms. Huyen, took me to the office to get my pay. I was handed the package of money, a couple of thousand dollars an a million or so Dong.

Anita and I were prepared to go to the bank directly after school to deposit our money. At 3:30 we hopped on the scooter and headed for the bank. Since it was only 5 minutes from the school, we had plenty of time to present the paperwork, open an account, and be on our ways. We met with a young lady who spoke good English and were ushered through the necessary steps for opening the bank account. I presented the previously completed paperwork. I also presented our passports, my driver’s license; pay slips from the school, and other things I thought were necessary to open the account. I was told we did not need all the papers that I had brought. The account was opened. Miracle of miracles!

The next step was to deposit the cash. It was a logical step. It was one that was the next in line. Foolish as I was, I mentioned that I had a bit of cash to deposit in our account. Naturally I was told what should have been the obvious. The bank was closed. It could not take in any money since at 4:00 the armored car had to take the day’s transactions to the mother bank in HCMC, Ho Chi Min City for you non-acronym readers and anyway it is not pronounceable. So here we were, holding a fistful of cash and waving goodbye to the armored car.

The earliest day I was going to get to the bank would be would be the following Monday.

On Monday I went to the bank with Anita’s cash, my cash and the expectation that we would have a fully functional bank account soon after the deposit was made. Were my expectations set too high? Of course they were. On arrival at the bank, I should have known that things were not going to go the way I had expected. Why? Oh, just because.

I stood in line at the cashier waiting for my turn to deposit. When I arrived at the cashier and was about to wave the wad of cash at her she looked at me and said, “Please give me your passport, a copy of your contract, your wife’s driver’s license, and the pay slips from the school. Did I have all those things? Of course not. The young lady who had assisted us in the first place could tell from the anguished death rattle coming from my throat that something was wrong and rushed to my assistance. She explained that I needed to have the “requisite paperwork” to complete the opening of the account. I said that I had the paper work the other day when we opened the account. She explained that the paperwork was not necessary to open the account, but it was necessary to complete the deposit. I put on my most pitiful face and explained that I could not carry all this cash around. She relented and I was allowed to make the deposit. I was instructed that I did need to bring in the “requisite paperwork” as soon as possible.

The following Friday I was able to take the “requisite paperwork” to the bank. Since we were taking a trip to the BIG CITY, HCMC, Ho Chi Min City, I thought it would be nice to have some cash in hand to spend like drunken sailors if we so wanted. After arriving at the bank, I looked for the young lady who had helped us the days before. I looked. I looked. The cashier could tell something was not right with me. Then after I explained that I was looking for the lady who helped me the other day, she told me that Friday was the day that the other lady was not in this bank. I asked whether she could take the paperwork. After a lot of foot shuffling, she said that she could. Things were looking up. Things were going to work. Things were getting better all the time.

After presenting the paperwork, I said that I wanted to get some of my money for the trip to the BIG CITY. I filled out the withdrawal slip. I presented the withdrawal slip. The cashier asked for my passport. I said that she had a copy of the passport. She said that she needed some form of identification before I could withdraw money. I wanted to ask for a mirror, look into it and say, “Yep! That’s me!”, but I knew that the effort was going to be futile. Eventually she would accept my driver’s license since it had a picture of me on it. Finally! I was going to access the account.

After a few moments of typing at the computer, the cashier looked at me and said, “There seems to be a small problem with your account.” She made a telephone call. She gave me the phone. The woman on the other end of the line, I am assuming the original helper, told me that since the paperwork had not “been registered” I would not be able to access our money. Come back next week and get the ATM card.

I borrowed two million Dong from Regan. We headed for the BIC CITY.

I took a few pictures of the city. Look for the tangle of wires above the sidewalk. They are a combination of phone, electric and other wires. Traffic was moderate. WE DID NOT GET LOST!

We are thinking of you all. We hope your days are as eventful as ours. It keeps life interesting.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, September 6, 2009

Dear Everyone,

This week has been pretty uneventful. During the week neither of us has much to think about but school. At the end of the day, both of us are really tired.

Anita shared a bit too much with me this week. She gave me her cold. I never expected to get a cold in a tropical climate, but when you are around kids, it happens.

Our school day usually starts with our getting out of bed about 5:30. Anita does some yoga to get ready for school, and I hand out until she is ready to leave at 7:15. We arrive at school at 7:25. First we must park the motor scooter in a designated spot. Then we punch the time clock and get our nametags and go to the classroom to get organized for the day.

Anita has a teaching assistant and has figured out a way to make her day of pursuing kindergarteners bearable by breaking them down into smaller groups. Since they sleep away most of the afternoon, her day is long, but bearable. I have a teaching assistant too. She does lots of the busy work to take some of the pressure off. I am expected to teach PE and ESL to all the first and second graders in addition to teaching my regular classes. That means that on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I have no break during the day.

There is a great lunch program. The woman in charge of the food does a fantastic job of adjusting her servings to accommodate each of the special likes and dislikes of the children. Since I am allergic to fish, she always prepares a special lunch for me on the days that she serves fish. We pay 24,000 dong for the meal. That is just over a dollar.

The day ends at 5:00 when we are allowed to punch out and head home. By that time we are ready to punch out if someone is able to pick up our time card and put it in the clock for us. We both revive a bit on the way home since there are about 10,000 motor scooters headed in any direction at any time. I do not worry too much about tipping over in the crowd since there is no place to tip over.

We are on the second floor of our Villa. Outside the door to the balcony is a street lamp. It is one of the few that is working. Since it is by itself, it knows that it is expected to put out enough light to keep the area bathed in artificial light for the night. We have been battling the light for the month trying to convince the people at corporate headquarters that we need some black out curtains. After two weeks of no curtains they put up sheer drapes, obviously not understanding what we wanted. Yesterday they came with some frosted contact paper to put over the glass to cover the windows so no one could see in. Again we explained the problem. In the meantime, the workers had pulled down all the paper that we had put up to keep the light out. I finally had to take the workers outside and point out our neighbor’s blackout curtains. They said they would be back on Monday.

We just came back from the market. I will be cooking pork spare ribs with fried potatoes and onions with a side of green beans. On the way back home we happened to stop in a newly opened garden shop. The plants are fantastic. The tropical fish are abundant. The pet possibilities are great. After tomorrow we may have to go back. Tomorrow, by the way, is payday.

We are thinking of you all and wish you all well. I am off to play a little tennis this afternoon.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 30, 2009

Dear Everyone,

This week was pretty busy with lots of work in the classroom. We are both feeling better about what we are doing, but there are frustrations dealing with students who have no idea about English. You can look at them as you are speaking and see that there is not a glimmer of understanding going on in the attic. Our work is cut out for us in the language teaching. Some of the students are doing very well. I am sure it is a result of parents who speak a some English at home. Our playground is finally complete. I have posted some new pictures on the Mobile Me web site if you are interested. I will be labeling them soon.

Yesterday I went to two different local supermarkets. I was able to take a couple of pictures in one of the supermarkets before the security guard told me that I was not allowed to take pictures. I guess those pictures I did not take are going to cost me a thousand words each, if the saying is correct. I have managed to take a few pictures of the street on a Sunday morning. It was pretty quiet. <http://gallery.me.com/abdiii>

On the second trip, I had the chance to try out my new rain suit. It rains here once or twice a day at the least. It is really the rainy season. It is going to continue to be the rainy season until the end of November. I could see the clouds gathering as I set off in search of some heavy paper or cardboard, the subject of another paragraph. By the time I had traveled about 3 kilometers the first drops had started to fall. By the time I got into my rain suit, it was difficult to see across the road. By the time I had started home, the rain was letting up, but not enough to go without the rain suit. I guess keeping it on was a good decision since the pools of water on the road were not shallow and the truck, bus and car traffic was not slowing down for the puddles. Do you have any idea how much water can be delivered from a puddle on the other side of the road over a center barrier onto a motor scooter occupied by a lone foreigner? In case you cannot imagine the amount, picture a bath tub full of water. Now take that bath tub and tip it quickly so the water stays in one large drop. Watch it as it crosses a center barrier and hits the poor motor scooter operator from head to foot. So not worry. It did not happen more than six or seven times in the twelve kilometers. The thing that worries me the most about the water is what is in it. I try to keep my mouth closed when I see the water on its way. I try to duck my head and close my eyes at the last possible moment. I always come home and take a shower as soon as I can. I try not to open my mouth after the first tsunami. Sometimes it is not easy.

Now to the cardboard. When we moved into our Villa, it was difficult to sleep through the night. We thought it was because of jet lag. We seemed to be waking at three o’clock each morning. It turns out that jet lag was not the culprit. It was that pesky streetlight that is outside the bedroom window. We asked for some black out curtains to cut out the light. When the black out curtains were delivered, they were a beautiful sheer white that cut out about one two hundredth of the light coming through the window. Since the corporate headquarters is impervious to our pleas, I went out to the store in the driving rain and bought twenty sheets of cardboard and some very sticky clear plastic tape. In less than one hour, we had taped the paper over the windows in the bedroom. Last night we slept through the night and did not awaken until six thirty this morning. Who knew the solution would be so easy.

On Friday while I was working in the classroom, the president of Vietnam came to pick up his grandchildren at the school. I guess it caused quite a stir among the Vietnamese staff. I missed all the excitement. He did shake every hand in the entryway to the school. Anita was blessed with the shake. Maybe I will get mine someday too. I have one of his grandchildren in my ESL class.

In the collection of photos, you will see a picture of the Satay House (also pictured at left). It is a restaurant about five minutes walk from our front door. We eat most meals there. It is cheaper than cooking at home. We have not had a bad meal yet. I am sure that we will be ready to move on to another restaurant soon, but this one is so convenient and the food is fantastic.

I have mailed my diploma to Chop Sparks, a friend with whom we taught at Casady School. I sent it express mail. The postage cost just over half a million dong. Lucky for me I was carrying enough to pay the bill. Things are moving toward work permits all the time. Not too fast, but moving.

We are thinking of you all and wish you all well.

Terry and Anita




Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dear Everyone,

It is Saturday, and we have survived the first week of classes. Anita has pretty much revolutionized the way things are being taught in the preschool. She has placed a much higher emphasis on developmental activities than on “book learning." You can tell a difference in her children by the way they react to change in daily routine. Nothing seems to faze them.

We are soon headed into Ho Chi Min City for our first outing into the real world. It is about 15 kilometers of motor scooter madness. I will be taking my camera. I hope to get some interesting shots. There probably will not be too many since I am also going to have to be piloting the scooter through a sea of scooters. Just picture the biggest motocross start that you have even seen and multiply it by 100 for a picture of the change of a light from red to green. Place in the middle of the path of the scooters bicycles, cars and trucks turning left, right and slowing down in the middle of the intersection. You may be able to get a picture of what we will be driving through.

I still do not have all my documents authenticated. I have a friend in Oklahoma who will help me with the authentication of my diploma when I get my diploma back from the corporate office. It was taken away last weekend, and I have not seen it since.

The thunder and lightening rival if not equal the pyrotechnic displays that we remember from Oklahoma. I think the difference here is the storms are just now starting and are going to continue for the next 6 months as the rainy season envelopes us. The rains are warm and, if you do not mind being wet, are almost on the soothing side. The rains do absolutely nothing to knock the dust off the road. In less than an hour after the rain, the dust is back. Maybe as the rain storms intensify it will all change.

We have been here three weeks tomorrow. It does not seem that long. We are going to be a tiny bit short on money if I cannot cash some dollars into dong today. The problem is that if the money changers see any blemish on the bill at all, that includes a crease or worn spot, they will not take the bill. I cannot change the money at a bank, because I do not have a paper that states I brought the money into the country and declared it at customs. Unfortunately that is a small part of the information that was not passed on to us during our long distance communications.

It is Sunday now. We did make it to Ho Chi Min City. The next statement is false. We made it back without a problem. We got LOST. We added an extra two hours to the trip wandering about the countryside. After numerous stops asking directions, I finally found a young girl in a shop who could point at a map and point in a direction. She got us headed in what we thought was the correct direction. About 15 minutes later, I saw another group of teenagers. I stopped and asked one in my best Vietnamese (two words) the direction to Binh Duong. She replied, “Oh, yeah! Just keep going straight.” She and her friends punctuated the conversation with a burst of giggles. Anyway, it worked!

We are going out today to a department store that we passed on our outing yesterday. I took no pictures. We were caught in one of the daily downpours and were drenched to the skin. We bought cheap rain ponchos that almost worked. Yesterday was a memorable day.

Have a great weekend. Happy Pig Roast to all of you Quarry Glenners.

We are thinking of you all.

Terry and Anita


Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dear Everyone,

We are fast approaching the beginning of the school year, Monday, the day after tomorrow. We have been in the school every day trying to get it ready for the opening day. It is going to be close to ready, but there are minor things that still need to be done. We will be going on a shopping expedition this afternoon to get some of the remaining items.

Each of us has a Vietnamese trained teacher as an assistant. Anita’s and mine are both excellent. Their English is good and will be getting better. They are both enthusiastic and love to work with kids.

Anita’s original assignment was to work with the 5th and 6th grades, but since she only has one student to start the school year, and we have not been able to find a qualified teacher to work with the preschool year 1 and 2, she has accepted the challenge until we can find a qualified teacher to take her place. If you know of anyone who is a qualified preschool teacher and he/she wants a job in Vietnam, let us know soon.

I cannot believe that there are tennis courts here in the compound in which we live and that the principal of the school is an avid tennis player. I left all my tennis stuff in Towanda. I guess I will be buying a new racquet on today’s outing.

The currency that is used here is called a Dong. One dollar is worth 15,000 dong. I need some higher level math skills to go shopping and buy food.

We will be getting our rental motor scooter tomorrow. It is going to be great to be able to be mobile. I can hardly wait to go to a grocery store and stock up on cooking supplies and get food that we can prepare here.

Each day we have had to go to a restaurant or buy food sold on the street. I am not complaining. The food on the street and in the restaurants is fantastic and cheap. It is always nice to have a home cooked meal.

So far we have spent the equivalent of three hundred dollars for our living expenses in these two weeks. That is not bad when you consider that we eat out each day for every meal, pay a taxi to take us to and from school each day and have purchased lots of things for general living. I am sure that the expenses will rise once we get a bit more settled.

I am still having some trouble getting my diploma authenticated, because it must be Notarized as an exact copy in Oklahoma. It is frustrating, but I a m working on it. We still know some people in Oklahoma who might be able to help us out. I need this done to be able to get a work permit. I can still work and get paid, but the visa will change once I get the permit. Only a bit more frustration! I have just been contacted by a friend and former teacher, Chop Sparks, at Casady School. She is able and willing to help with the paperwork. Now all I have to do is get my diploma back from the Corporate office and start the process again. Things are looking up all the time.

We have our motorbike. It is completely automatic. All one must do is get it started and turn up the throttle. I am sure Anita will have no problem with the machine.

Yesterday I went into Ho Chi Min City with Regan, the principal. We were shopping for things that were needed to get the school up and running. We were pretty successful. Regan left me on the bus, and he went out to visit friends for the evening and spend the night. I was to squire the bus back to the school and get it unloaded.

We finally arrived back at the school at 6:00 in the evening. We arrived in one of the downpours that seem to mark this time of year. I waited in the bus for the gate to open. The driver went into the guard shack to try to get the gate open. After what seemed like an eternity, I went into the guard shack to learn that the guards had no way to open the gate; so in a slackened downpour, I unloaded the bus with the help of the driver and all the guards. I finally got back home about 7:00. It was a long day.

I am at school right now. I hope that all the planning I have done is going to make the day go smoothly tomorrow.

Hope you all are well. We think of you often. Give us a call on Skype if you are incined. My Skype name is terryd112443.

Terry and Anita


August 10, 2009

Dear Everyone

We have, as you know, been moved into our “Villa”. We were told that it would happen on Friday. While we were swimming in the pool on Thursday morning, one of the ladies who has been taking care of us in terms of housing, walked to the edge of the pool waving wildly. I swam over to say hello and was told that we were to be moving to the “Villa” in less than an hour. We were to pack our things and be ready to go before noon.

Once we got to the “Villa”, we were introduced to Regan. He is from New Zealand and will be our teaching principal. We toured the “Villa” once again and were moved into the master bedroom. We were told during our interview that the beds were queen sized. The first thing we tried to do was put our queen sized sheets on a king size mattress. Needless to say that because of my insistent personality, the sheets parted their corners in response to their desire to not fit a too l arge mattress.

The “Villa” is situated in a block of villas a few miles from nowhere. It is a 45 minute walk to the nearest “main” road. It is a road filled with trucks, cars, vans, bicycles, motor scooters, and any other vehicle known to man. There are a few traffic lights. When the light turns, that denotes the time that all the people who were waiting to turn left can go; so, when the traffic from the cross road is supposed to be moving, the left turners are taking up the road. The entire process resembles the start of the largest motocross one could imagine.

We have found a restaurant near by our “Villa” where the food is great. It is a Malaysian restaurant. We are very happy to know about his place, because we have not found any place to shop for food other than the local market which is more than a 45 minute walk away. I guess it is fitting that we have not found any markets yet, since we do not have anything to use to cook food. The utensils, pots and pans and other kitchen things are still in the planning stage. I guess I should add at this point, just as an aside, that we do not have any cleaning supplies for the house. There is no mirror over the bathroom sink. The aquarium shower leaks at the base and the drain does not drain. God! Am I a complainer or what???????

It is Monday now. We still have meetings to attend today before we fly out this evening. Yesterday w as a long day filled with lots of information about how the whole system works. Some of it was worthwhile. We have one week to get the school in working order. I will write again on the weekend to keep you apprised of our adventure.

We are thinking of you all.

Terry and Anita


July 20, 2009

Hi Ho, All!

The kitchen was completed on Wednesday as I had hoped it would be. On Thursday we fine-tuned some of the edges. It looks great. You can see the work as it progressed over the six months at http://gallery.me.com/abdiii. For those of you who are new to this e-mail, you can see the sub-aqua photos from the year in the Bahamas. All the pictures are downloadable if you find one you really like. As interesting things happen to us, or if we see some new sights, we will be publishing on this address.

Hua Hua, our Chinese puppet-artist has been with us this week, because she has had a residency in Tunkhannock, not far from here. It is always a pleasure to visit with her. She has such a different way of seeing the world. It is really refreshing.

I have the time to play tennis 3 days a week now for two hours at a time. I think I might even be getting a little better. We have had some great weekend tennis with a wide variety of players dropping by the court to play.

We are waiting for a final approval letter to come from Singapore then we can apply for our visa at the Vietnamese embassy in Washington. The process should take about a week. After that is done, we are able to pack our cases and purchase tickets and get on our way. We are now looking at the last week of July as the preparation week and the first week of August as the departure week. Since the trip is going to be about 22 to 26 hours long, we will probably treat ourselves to business class tickets for the extra room.

We are enjoying using Skype. It has allowed us to stay in touch with friends that we would not otherwise call since they are overseas. You can contact me at my Skype name terryd112443.

Our destination city has been changed. We are now assigned to a school north of Ho Chi Min City (formerly Saigon). We are still trying to get more information. A physical school address would be great.

I have one more job that must get done before we leave. I have to clear rock piles from the lawn that are left from the geo-thermal installation. I will get it done after we take Hua Hua out for a Sunday morning breakfast buffet.

We think of you all. We hope you are well and happy. Life is great!

Terry and Anita


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Dear Everyone,

We are still waiting for the [teaching] contract to arrive. I expect it sometime in the coming week. Once it arrives and we have signed it, we will be able to proceed with the visa, which does not seem to be too difficult to get. The air ticket, to be reimbursed at the end of the first year, is less than $1000 per person. The flight to Hanoi is just over 21 hours no matter what airline we take.

I will have the kitchen finished by the end of the week. I do not have too much to go. The electrician will be the last part. I expect to see him after the Fourth of July.

This afternoon we are to perform “I’m Herbert!” at the American Legion hall for the group that is essential in supporting women in the area. It is called ARCC (Abuse and Rape Crisis Center). It is really a sad state of affairs that some agency like this needs to exist, but it is alive and well here. Bradford County must have some claim to fame, I suppose.

My sister and her family are going to live in our house for part of the time that we are away. It is great that they can use the house. We will have to make a few small modifications to the back room, so Walker, their oldest, can have a place of his own. The changes should not be too difficult to complete.

Our plans still include a Chinese New Year’s trip to Japan and maybe China to visit Hua Hua’s family and friends. We have decided to stay in Southeast Asia for the coming summer and scuba dive. We will have eight weeks to explore some of the greatest dive sites in the world.

It is another bright and sunny day. If the river weren’t so swollen from the recent heavy rains, I would be out on it fishing.

We hope all is well with you. Life continues to be exciting.

Terry and Anita


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