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Posts Tagged ‘Christmas’

It’s a little late to write about Christmas, but I’m feeling festive so here goes. Mitchell and I went home to America for a couple of weeks for the holidays. By America, I mean Colorado (Mitchell’s “countryside”) and Kansas City (where my sister, aunt and uncle live).  As is my custom, I dreaded it.  It’s not that I don’t like visiting my family (really, mom!), it’s Christmas itself.  Let’s face it: it’s a cheesy, shallow holiday.  Nothing makes my soul recoil like Christmas-related music and movies (Home Alone being an exception). The worst part, though, by far  is the shopping. Our tendency to deplete our bank accounts in some misguided effort to express love through stuff is…is…neurotic, exhausting, bizarre, depressing. I don’t know.  It’s a tired liberal rant, but it’s tired because it’s true. In sum: yes, I’m a Grinch bitch.  But no, this doesn’t mean that I had a bad time.  And no, it doesn’t mean that I donated all of my awesome gifts to charity (blush).  I’m just prone to tired, liberal rants is all.

Even Hanoi has embraced Christmas. No, I'm not amused.

Speaking of rants, my family especially likes the holiday tradition of bickering over politics. We are firmly divided into two camps: 1) thoughtful, concerned, informed lefties and 2) wacky, confused, brainwashed Republicans.  (No bias there; to my astonishment, most of my family members reside in the latter camp).  This means that the dinner table frequently turns from civil and content to frothy and aggressive.  To my surprise, this year the topic that set us off was not Occupy Wall Street as I’d expected. I’d been telling Mitchell for weeks, “If they even mention the word ‘bongos,’ I’m gonna completely lose my shit!”  By this I meant that I’d jump on the table, mimic an enraged ape and throw the turkey across the room, behavior that has been scientifically proven to change hearts and minds. In the jungle at least.  No, the topic was Guantanamo Bay.  My uncle mentioned it to illustrate Obama’s failure to keep promises, my sister and I started pulling our hair out and screaming about Bush being a war criminal, our cousin asserted that Bush saved the Middle East, so on and so forth.  Lovely time.  Anyway, I’m not sure how we can learn to engage in these conversations in a more flattering and sane fashion.  At present, our country is experiencing a time in which the extremes we hear seem to be true. Bush really is a war criminal after all. Our civil rights really are being violated. And Newt Gingrich really is an evil, baby-eating robot troll sent from China to destroy American democracy. God, it’s so obvious. Just look at the guy:

However, that was the only maddening thing that happened this Christmas.  Most of it was really great.  Because they are so young, seeing our nieces on visits home is like meeting entirely new people.  Mitchell’s niece Catey Rose (age 16 months) knows sign language and can navigate an iPod. My niece Evelyn Grace (age 2 years, 4 months) can actually form and understand whole sentences and is learning to break dance.  They’re like real humans now!

Catey Rose

Evelyn break dancing

I was inordinately proud of the gifts I had made in Hanoi for my two nieces, Bettye Rose and Eviecakes (hồng = rose; bánh = cake):

Bettye Rose and Eviecakes

In Colorado, we got to go swimming in some nice hot springs.  Mmmm…hot springs.  (Words of wisdom: some friends and I learned the hard way that the hot springs in Kim Boi, Vietnam are not to be confused for actual hot springs. They are lukewarm springs meant for lukewarm weather.)

In Kansas City, I was taught to love my family’s newfound obsession with ping pong and the Wii Just Dance game.  The latter obsession has followed me back to Hanoi. Embarrassing as it is to admit, I’ve found the Wii Just Dance videos on YouTube, which means that yes, I can be found clumsily shaking and jiggling around my house to Gwen Stefani and Daft Punk.  I realize that no self-respecting person should do this after the age of 15.  But I have a problem. And no, I will not post a video of myself, but I might perform one of the dances for you if you are exceptionally charming and get me really drunk, as Huong has discovered.  The new hobby has inspired me to make a New Year’s resolution – learn Michael Jackson’s Thriller dance. Whenever the Thriller song comes on, I inevitably turn to the nearest person and proclaim, “I have to learn that dance before I die.”  Seeing that the world is supposed to end in 2012, it may be my last chance to fulfill this lofty goal.

My parents playing a cut throat game of ping pong.

Just Dance 3 - Wii Game; This guy is totally a burner.

I would write more about the wonders of Christmas, but the man sitting next to me at Joma is talking to himself while emitting an onslaught of coughing, snorting, slurping, sniffing, throat-clearing, and chugging noises.  He’s a symphony of bodily functions and my cue to leave. Happy post-holidays!

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I just realized while promising to call family back home that Christmas day is in a week.  Hanoi has the same reminders as back home, and although the decorations lack the obsessive fervor of those donned by hungry stores in the US, there are still Santa Clauses and Christmas trees to be seen.  december-008The owners of my old apartment complex put up a tree in our lobby – a nice gesture, but a waste on a foreigner like me.  These things tend to make my eyes roll rather than wet more often than not.  Ba humbug.   My Christmas will most likely be spent attempting to get drunk with coworkers at a restaurant called the Green Mango.   My school is throwing a party for the orphans.  No, it’s not to be confused with a charitable event – the “orphans” are those of us with no family on this side of the globe.  The drinking plan isn’t meant to be an attempt to drown my lonely orphan sorrows, but rather to get my money’s worth.  We’re paying about $25 for unlimited booze and food  – a fortune by our new adjusted standards.  Not so bad actually, but I have to remind myself occasionally that although things in Vietnam are usually a bargain by American standards, I don’t get an American salary.  Right-oh.  That being said, despite my guilty feelings over participating in the Christmas shopping frenzy, I still feel the need to send gifts back home to the fam.  Bad hippie liberal.  Actually, I’d like to send them something Vietnamese, although they can find a plethora of Vietnamese-made goods at their local Target.  How neat to be so close to those places where all my clothes and cheap plastic crap are made!  Yikes, this blog is getting dangerously close to getting preachy and political.  Sorry folks, but I’m a grumpy bear.  I’ve been infected first with some sort of respiratory infection, followed by “amoeba”, and now cabin fever.  Yes, I could leave my apartment, but the smells in the street that used to peak curiosity now induce nausea.  Two days ago my tummy began swelling.  I tried to sleep it off, but I still felt pregnant an hour later.  I then vomited, which was quite a relief actually.  That is, until I vomited again and my intestines started contracting.  Uh oh.  I spent the next several hours unsuccessfully trying to convince my body that there was nothing left to throw up in my tummy and that I need all that precious water that’s gushing out of my colon.  It felt like someone was wringing my intestines.  At first I figured I’d just wait it out until the next day when I would go to a doctor if necessary.  I looked online for the location of a Western-style clinic I’d heard about, and one of the news headlines on the website read “Cholera outbreak in Hanoi.”  Of course I immediately diagnosed myself with cholera (hey, the symptoms do match), and kind of pondered over the fact that this was the random disease I joked about in one of my earlier blog entries.  It was meant to be hyperbolic.  Hilarious!  Anyway, I took the most unpleasant taxi ride of my life to the clinic, praying that I wouldn’t shit on the seat (how much of a tip would I need to give to make up for that?).  The clinic was awesome.  They actually seemed concerned about me, I didn’t have to wait for hours just to be told to wait a little more, the doctor saw me numerous times, and there were two nurses checking up on me regularly.  I got an IV for fluid replacement, my blood and guts were tested, and I got pain meds.  I gotta say – compared to my last ridiculous illness episode (I got the mumps or some such thing last Easter), the treatment I got here would have to be rated higher.  Michael Moore, I’m ready for my interview.  The doctor lady said that it appears I’m infected with “amoeba” but they can’t be 100% sure since it shows up in the stool only 30-40% of the time.  The medicine they gave me appears to be working, so I’m assuming the diagnosis is correct.  I’m supposing she meant amebic dysentery when she said amoeba, which sounds terrible, and the internet will confirm that it is indeed terrible.  It describes this disease with words like parasite, cysts, liver abscesses, and years.  It also says that many people are infected without knowing it and may never show symptoms.  Strange little finicky parasite this amoeba.  You get it from contaminated food or drink, but because it can be latent for weeks to months, it’s impossible to tell what food or drink you contracted it from.  I’m not sure what place is responsible, but I’ll still boycott the last place I ate at because that’s what I tasted the second time round.  Yuck.  This has put quite the damper on my eating random weird street food adventures.  I’ve only eaten canned goods that I could’ve gotten at Safeway since. No more frogs or unidentified meatballs.  If my old textbooks are right about the Indians making use of every part of the animal, the Vietnamese follow the same doctrine.  You’ll find chicken feet, pig tail, snake blood, cow uterus, tongue, embryos, and whatever your imagination can dream up on the menus here.  I imagine past wars and famines have something to do with this penchant for conservation.  I gave my teen class a survey where one of the questions was, “What’s the strangest food you’ve ever eaten?”  They didn’t know how to answer that question.  Strange food?  Maybe a pop tart?  (When you think about it, a pop tart is stranger than a cow tongue).  My parents took the news of this infection better than I thought they would.  Bravo dad for not demanding my immediate return home.  Although, I’m afraid it doesn’t lend much to my arguments trying to convince them to come visit me out here.  They might settle for Japan, though, and that’s my new angle.

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