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The days of our Saigon lives

June 30, 2011

Whether I blog or not, life here in Saigon keeps going. I have so many things I want to post about – trips, cooking, pottery class, getting pulled over by a cop. I’m working on the stories and photos they each deserve, but in the meantime, I still want to keep you informed on our lives here.

As always, I am, of all people, most blessed.

I started an internship with AsiaLife magazine in February. They have been teaching and publishing me ever since then. I’ve had a lot of different assignments each month: writing about different streets here in Saigon – finding things that are of interest to expats, editing press releases and announcements – learning to be concise, and writing the Imbibe column which required an interview – something I’ve never done before, and writing book and movie reviews.

In April, I was given a part in a feature story. Through a translator, I interviewed a Vietnamese man whose job has been to open graves and move bodies for 48 years. In May, I wrote a piece about a day I spent in New York City with Christine. My editors had me come up with ideas for articles and now two of them will be published next month. I’m still trying to figure out the best way to share these pieces with those of you who don’t have access to the magazine.

This month, I was invited to a Journalism Day (who knew there was such a thing) celebration at one of the local wine shops. They gave us each a bottle of wine as a gift. It was great to meet other writers who live here, and fun to be recognized as a journalist. I’ve also had several blog posts published in a magazine in China, the Ningbo Guide, thanks to my big brother, and have recently started working with another magazine based in Hanoi that found my blog.

This is why I haven’t been blogging much. I’m trying to improve though.

In the meantime, I’m learning to fearlessly drive the motorbike. I wear dresses and flip-flops while driving, and, yesterday, I went 50kph! I tackled the steep slope into the parking garage at the magazine office, but still find the process of getting on and off sidewalks and getting in and out of “parking spaces” to be extremely difficult. When I start to feel foolish for all the effort these things take (I consider it amusement for the men who guard the bikes), I have to remind myself how far I’ve come in a few months. I will always be proud of myself for learning to drive in Saigon without fear. Tension maybe, but no longer fear.

Our first good rain came sometime in March. I didn’t want to admit how much I was longing for the it, since I was afraid that once it started it would never stop. But, it does. It generally rains hard every day, but the storms rarely last more than an hour. The storms move incredibly fast – for better or for worse. I know it rains all day in some parts of Vietnam, but I don’t think it happens here. I love the rain. A few weeks ago, I got caught for the first time in a big storm on the motorbike. I managed to get my good shoes off and under the seat and put the poncho on before I was soaked. The rest of the ride home, as I sat at lights watching the water run off my elbows, I had to smile. I really live in Saigon!

The storms here are amazing. From our twenty-fifth floor apartment, we can see them coming from miles away. Across the horizon there can be a rainbow, gray sky, a storm, blue sky, another storm and a semi-sunset all at once. The Saigon sky is a whole other post I want to write. It changes constantly, and now, with the rain, we have a chance for blue skies on a regular basis. Sometimes, it is even cool (high 70s) after it rains. For those of you who don’t know, it never gets cold in Saigon. The two times I’ve gotten goosebumps here were wind-induced. It’s seems to be breezy to windy here year-round, but I think it helps with the pollution.

 

 

Besides motorbikes, rain, and writing, I’ve started my Vietnamese lessons again, and I’m learning to cook Vietnamese food. We found a company that would normally come to your house and cook for you, but they’ve agreed to take me to the alley market to shop for food, then come back to the apartment and let me cook with them. Our cook’s name is Xuan (Swan) and, in spite of the fact that we speak very little of each other’s language, we have a good time.

 

 

We went to Nha Trang last weekend with some friends. There we saw what is, so far, the most beautiful beach in Vietnam, and one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. It was a great trip, and the story will be published in the Hanoi magazine. Jonathan has been working from 1pm to 11pm most days that he works which has helped us get into a bit of a routine. It’s something that I need. I go to yoga and body toning class at the gym and am learning that exercise is necessary for my sanity. I also took a pottery class one Sunday with some new, Christian friends. It was great to be doing something artistic and meeting other people who love God.

Otherwise, I’m preparing to go home again, but this time for my sister Joy’s wedding. We took a risk and had her wedding dress made here – copied from two of her dresses – and that has been another interesting adventure. It is one step away from completion and is beautiful. I’m flying standby so I don’t know exactly when I’ll get to Atlanta, but hopefully it will be around the middle of next week. Before I go, I have an interview, a restaurant review, and a spa review. Yay!

 

Wild Beach Resort, Ninh Phuoc Village

 

Thanks for reading and for your encouraging, interesting comments. Let me know if you have questions. I am getting to the point where I forget how unusual certain parts of life are, so thinking about it from your perspective gives me fresh eyes for it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2011 05:26

    I see that you’ve been making ‘canh chua’ in the kitchen. How did it taste?

    • July 1, 2011 03:56

      It was good. I would’ve never thought to put pineapple and okra in the same dish. Tasty though. Do you know the name of the white vegetable in the bowl with the sprouts, okra, and tomato?

      • Robert Tran permalink
        July 3, 2011 05:31

        It’s called Bac Ha in the southern part of VN. You’d have to check with a botanist for its English name.

  2. Alice Kennison permalink
    July 2, 2011 00:59

    I knew you had the talent, Grace, and I’m so excited about your writing job. I would love to be able to read your pieces. This is just the beginning of a great career!

  3. July 6, 2011 10:54

    Like Alice, I’m excited for the new opportunities that are opening up for you as a writer. you are getting better at this too. Congrats!

  4. August 27, 2011 10:58

    I haven’t read a post in a while and I’m really glad that this is the first one I’ve read since. You’ve grown a lot as a person and as a writer. I’m extremely proud of all these big accomplishments, and the independence and confidence that makes you “Grace of Vietnam.”

    The last post I read you had just returned back to Vietnam and you were having some trouble readjusting, I’m very happy to hear that you’re doing well again. It takes a lot of bravery to overcome the fear of riding those motorbikes–and with a dress! Kudos for you!

    Hugs, Vannoch

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