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On Tuesdays and Fridays I particularly enjoy coming home as these are the days my maid has visited and I love returning to a sparkling clean apartment. I also love to turn the television on to see what she’s been watching. The days when she’s had MTV on, I have to wonder if she’s been dancing around the house while mopping the floor, or if she just wanted some up-tempo background music.
When I turned on the TV this evening, I could see that she had been watching a local channel, probably some afternoon drama. But the program being shown this evening was Vietnam’s answer to the Home Shopping Channel. And I was captivated by these two silly men who (I’m assuming) were debating the value and quality of this chair. I immediately whipped out my new camera and snapped a few shots (see below).
To you and I, this would be just a lawn chair that we keep folded up in the garage and take out when we have a party in the backyard, a picnic in the park or head to the beach for the day. But for folks in a developing country like Vietnam, this is a piece of furniture which may or may not end up in the living room, kitchen or a top floor balcony.
The guy in red must be some television personality. After the chair demonstration was over, the show cut to him live in a studio, in a different pair of silk pajamas, but same towel, glasses and hat. A lady had joined him in the studio to describe and promote a television stand (which was a very retro black plastic with frosted glass shelves). Folks, I am easily entertained. ; – )
Two for tea
What do you get when you put two friends together who love the Metropole, who are starvin’ Marvins and have pretty much skipped the lunch hour altogether? You get Pete and Shanna at the Metropole for high tea! I’m not a super fancy person, but there is a certain joy which comes with stepping into a historic property such as the Metropole. Add what is to be a formal service like high tea, and I feel like a little girl dressed in her Sunday best (except that it was Saturday and I was in my jeans).
Both Pete and I were quite starved. Neither of us had a big breakfast and it was nearly 3:00p.m. I thought about getting a salad or a sandwich, but the high tea service comes with a chocolate buffet. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a chocolate addict and pretty much eat some form of chocolate every day. It’s a must. I truly believe that if chocolate were to disappear, I could not go on living. I would have to just give up and go to heaven (which would smell like the Ishiya cookie factory I once visited in Sapporo, Japan).
Our tea came with a three-tiered plate of goodness. Tea sandwiches, fruit and some sweets are nicely presented for two. However, with a fruit and chocolate buffet available to those who enjoy the high tea, Pete and I were both of the opinion that the biggest plate should have been tea sandwiches, not sweets. Note to Metropole – switch this because it looks cheap on your part to give us just 3 little tea sandwiches each when we are paying $25 per person for the service.
Since I had just bought my iPhone, we spent much of our time playing with my new gadget as well as Pete’s iPad. And as is the case with us, forgetting all about where we were, we resorted to taking a few silly photos of each other. Do you like the ganache photo? ;p
Actually, we overdosed on the chocolate treats, making sure to try every piece on offer. I haven’t had a sugar rush like that since Halloween 1983! My goodness! If we weren’t silly before we sat down, we were bouncing off the walls by the end of our 2 hour tea time! If you happen to be in Hanoi, than you must treat yourself to this service. It is special and it will no doubt make your eyes pop out when you see all that chocolate! Yum!
Meet Ross & Tom!
Meet Ross and Tom! These two were introduced to me through my friend, Joe, whom I met while living in Japan. Joe now lives in Osaka, and that’s how he met these two characters. Tom is studying human rights policy at Kanasi University and Ross is teaching through a special English program sponsored by Disney (which sounds really awesome).
Joe remembered that I was in Hanoi, and so when Tom and Ross mentioned their plans to travel to Vietnam, he put us in touch. The day after the boys arrived, I met them at Le Pub to show them a fun local joint and to also get an idea where they planned to travel. I wanted to make sure they knew which taxi’s to ride in, how to get train tickets, what the cost of some basic items are and what not to do.
We got acquainted over a “boozy lunch,” as Tom called it, and I sent some emails to Pete in Sapa, Viet in Hanoi and Onslo out in Halong Bay/Cat Ba Island. My new friends decided they would spend the majority of their time up in Sapa, as they wanted to get in a few good hikes and unique culture. Viet helped me secure their train tickets and also two motorbike drivers who would shuttle them around Hanoi so they could see the city.
I met with the guys tonight and was happy to hear they had a fantastic time in Vietnam. They loved Sapa, having signed up for a long, guided hike and a homestay. Even though they were met with some heavy rains, they made the most out of their time there. They also squeezed in some time in Halong Bay, even though they couldn’t make it over to Cat Ba island for some kayaking. They were happy to see this amazing wonder of the world. Halong Bay is magical, no matter how much time or money you spend to see it.
I’m super glad I could be here to meet and greet Ross and Tom. They are fabulous people, funny guys and my kind of traveler – open to new experiences and willing to just go with the flow. The summer months are coming to a close here in Vietnam. September – December is a wonderful time of the year to visit with mild temperatures, less humidity. Let me know if you plan a visit! Would love to meet up with you too!
A new view
Much like I did in May of 2006, when I bought my Canon S3IS, I now have a new camera! I still love my Canon, however, as a mid-sized camera, I realized that I am not taking the amount of photos I love to simply because I don’t have a camera I can slip in my purse. The Panasonic Lumix is one I considered buying four years ago, and now that the DMC-ZS7 comes with GPS, HD video and all sorts of other nifty features, I figured it was time I updated my photo taking ability.
Bangkok is great for tech purchases. Pete (who joined me for the weekend) and I even loaded up on some Mac software (I just have to find the time to play with it all). I was able to buy the camera for less than what I expected to pay, yet I couldn’t purchases the Lumix camera case or an additional battery. Those things I can get in Vietnam, most likely. I also attempted to buy an iPhone 3Gs but they were still pretty expensive in Bangkok and the 4g have not yet arrived.
I’m super happy with my purchase and hopeful that this will help me to take and post more photos. My blog has been a bit void of good daily-life photos and that’s a feature I really love. I’m enjoying my new camera and I hope you will too!
The Villa, continued – I’ve been taking lots of photos of the Villa the workers are destroying across the lane, which is also lending new views. This one cracked me up…the motorcycle helmet doing double duty as construction helmet! Creative!
Good luck Trung
I’ve mentioned before how lucky I am to live in the home that I do. I have a two bedroom apartment and the landlords are just about the nicest people I have met in Vietnam.
Both of their sons, Trung and Duc study and speak English. Trung has served as the liaison between the tenants and his parents. I’ve enjoyed the handful of times they’ve invited me into their home to have a meal, chat about their schooling or my lack of a husband, and other significant topics.
Trung is 23 years old and he seeks a better opportunity to speak English fluently and to gain international experience. So he’s signed up with a program in Australia and Deakin University. In order to send their son to Australia, Mr. & Mrs. Phan have moved out of the two-story apartment in the building and enclosed the downstairs, ground-floor area which is not really set up for living. Prior to being their apartment, this was the motorbike parking. It had been set-up with gas and water connections, but I would never anticipate the area being walled-up to serve as an apartment.
Trung’s parents will live in this one-room apartment for two years while he’s in school. I’ve already had the conversation with Trung about the sacrifice his parents are making for him. I’m in such awe and admiration that they would sacrifice so much to further his education. They are truly wonderful parents!
Today Trung left for Melbourne. I saw the family for a bit last night after I returned from my trip to Bangkok. I met up with them again this morning to take photos and say goodbye to Trung. Tonight when I came home, the family had their front door open and I said hello. Duc recounted that many family members went to the airport with Trung and everyone cried upon his departure. Mr. Phan still had tears in his eyes, but said that he was ok. To me, he just looked like a loving father full of pride. Same look you’d find in any father anywhere in the world who was able to provide the same for their son. So touching.
Duc is researching exchange programs in America. He starts his senior year in high school in September. If anyone knows of a good exchange program he could participate in, please let me know in the comments or via email. I’m happy to see this family so eager to provide a good education for their kids!
Trung – you have an amazing support system here in Hanoi. Keep in touch, keep us posted and make your mother and father even more proud than they already are! We all miss you already!!!
(Trung is in the green shirt)
Oh no she didn’t
NOTE: The original post was a bit different than this at the end. I took the advice of a reader and softened my reaction and tone. On The Bright Side tends to be a positive outlook on even a sometimes challenging life. I’m surprised how on the few occasions I’ve been negative over the last 8 years abroad, that those moments spark the most response and perhaps overshadow all the good. Believe it or not, even life On The Bright Side has a bad day once in awhile!!! I would be lying to you if I portrayed my experiences in foreign countries as 100% sunshine and rainbows. I do recognize, however, that there have been a slew of less than peppy entries in the last few weeks. And that raises some concerns and has inspired me to … look On The Bright Side.
Anywhoo, I still think my shock and horror, my disbelief, frustration and ultimately my disappointment with this particular expereince are more than adequately conveyed, even in this edited version of this story. Need I say that if you read the next post, you will know that July 30, 2010 was a pretty crappy day in Hanoi and one of those “character building” days that I really surely didn’t need nor sign up for!!!
The reader also suggested I pull this post. But I think that would be a disservice to those who follow On The Bright Side. I’ve stated on the home page that, “I’m eager to share with you all the fun, humorous, crazy, embarrassing, heart-warming, heart-breaking, unbelievable and unforgettable stories from my life abroad.” I think qualifies as heart-breaking and unbelievable. Therefore, it stays. Buckle up…
About two weeks ago, my assistant, Ms. Ngoc came to my office to show me that Bhaya Cruises, a direct competitor of Apple Tree’s property, Emeraude Classic Cruises, was nicely featured in the Heritage Magazine. I opened the magazine to read the article and was a wee bit surprised to see a photo of Emeraude Classic Cruises 2009 Wine & Dine Cruise Classic. I know the photo very well, as it is one I used in press releases after the event and also to promote the 2010 gala. I was confused as to why Heritage Magazine would use an Emeraude photo to promote and feature Bhaya Cruises’ programs.
After our first notification of the error, two sales & marketing staff members, came to our offices to apologize. They were very kind and understanding, but working in sales & marketing, they could not offer any solutions to clarify or rectify the situation. My assistant made an appointment with Ms. Pham Thu Hoa, Editor, the person responsible for the article. I was told that she was very reluctant to take the meeting, as Heritage Magazine “never officially apologizes for mistakes.” Great journalism!
My goal for the meeting was to understand why an Emeraude photo was used to promote Bhaya Cruises and also to speak positively about solutions to resolve this issue. There is no question that Heritage Magazine does owe Emeraude Classic Cruises some form of attribution for this error. I was eager to hear the options and hoped to walk away from the meeting with a positive outcome and strengthened relations.
My meeting with Ms. Pham Thu Hoa did not go very smoothly. She wanted to place all of the blame on Bhaya Cruises. “They gave me this photo. How was I supposed to know that it wasn’t theirs? This is not my fault!” I explained to her that I will have a separate conversation with Bhaya to ask them why they have stolen our photo and used it to promote their services. However that is a separate issue from our photo being used within Heritage Magazine.
I reminded her that the publication is responsible for the content that it prints and in this case, the information was incorrect. She offered to provide us with a small space of 200 words in the Heritage Fashion Magazine in the “New Flash” section. I explained that this was not a good solution to the problem. The space is small, it appears in the back of the magazine and while it has more readers, it is not the same magazine in which the error occurred. I requested that she provide other options such as a full article or free advertising space. “The News Flash is free advertising. You should take this.” I was grew more irritated as she wouldn’t look at me when she spoke and then kept having side conversations in Vietnamese with my assistant, Ngoc.
It was clear that Ms. Pham Thu Hoa was not comfortable in this meeting. She expressed several times that Heritage Magazine does not print apologies. I never asked for her to print an apology, but rather a note of attribution. She told me that nobody cared about the mistake, the readers don’t care about corrections and that I shouldn’t be upset. She also told me that I was only thinking about what was good for me, not what was good for the readers. I had to point out to her that it is my duty to protect the interests of my company and the interests of Emeraude Classic Cruises. It was growing evident that she didn’t get the fact that using our photo to promote our competitor’s services is a big no-no.
She continued to insist that she already had a conversation with Ngoc and that she already offered “the solution” and “already told her everything.” I had to remind her that I am the Group Director of Sales & Marketing and that in my role, and given the situation, I have to have a conversation with her directly. It was very clear that she not only did not want to speak to me, but also that she was not interested in resolving the issue. Frankly, she was a royal pain in the ass to deal with!
I explained a second time that I came to her office prepared to have a positive and helpful conversation and that I did not appreciate her negative attitude. I explained that in light of the situation, the best way to handle this would have been for her and Heritage Magazine to be proactive and make a visit to my office to apologize for the error and discuss a variety of solutions. I expressed that I was not pleased with the direction of the conversation and that I hoped to hear more positive discussion from her. “Look, I am trying to have a positive conversation with you and you are being very uncooperative. I don’t understand why you are behaving this way. I am trying to be nice to you.”
You can imagine my surprise when she then said, “You are American. Right?” I replied with a questioning, “Yes…???” I anticipated the direction she was about to take…She looked right at me, squinted her eyes and said, “Your country dropped many bombs on my country and you did not apologize.”
And with that, my friends, I had my first experience of being on the receiving end of the bomb card. I did not remain calm at that point and volleyed with, “Excuse me? What does that have to do with anything we are discussing? I am done being nice to you. That is totally out of line and uncalled for (and the smile on her face at this point, her sign of discomfort, did nothing to keep me calm and collected). How dare you speak to a client that way. Our company advertises with your magazine and you speak to me this way? This conversation is OVER.”
I practically pulled Ngoc out of the office with me as I stormed out in Rachel Berry style. I could not get out of there fast enough. Seriously – WTF?????
As soon as I returned to my desk, I banged out a letter to the Editor-In-Chief, put lots of official company stamps on it and had it hand delivered to him. I am most curious to see if I will receive the courtesy of a response.
I remain angry and appalled and frustrated and disappointed all at the same time….mostly disappointed.
And to think…all that because of a stupid photo???
Has anyone every said anything like this to you?
The photo used here was the photo printed in the magazine. Our event photo used to promote our competitor’s services.
Itty bitty gecko
I’m a bit worried tonight about this tiny little gecko (no bigger than my pinky finger). I came home and found him on the wall. Camera was nearby and I took a photo. Had some dinner, watched some TV and then came back to my room to my desk to do my computer stuff.
I walked over to my bed to get my cell phone out of my purse, and there he was, lounging on my sheets! I have to say, I actually like geckos. The fact they can walk on walls and ceilings is a skill I highly admire. I even like the way they make their little chirping sound.
So while most chicks would scream and freak out that a gecko so tiny was getting comfortable on their bed, I was more concerned that if I let him stay there, I would smush him sometime during the night. So I tried to steer him down the side of the bed, which ended up with my left hand having a tiny gecko stuck to it. In an effort to get him to safer ground, I slowly turned around and started to put my hand on the floor. But being significantly smaller than me, and I’m sure a bit panicked, he jumped. And he landed on his little suction-cupped feet.
Two hours later he’s still on the floor and I’m pretty sure this little gecko is injured. He’s barely moved at all. I put a plant on the floor in case he wants to crawl into it and look for some bugs. I don’t know what to do! I sort of believe geckos to be lucky and I’m super worried that in my efforts to save him from imminent death in the middle of the night tonight and a squished gecko in my sheets, I’ve sent him to his doom a few hours earlier.
Have you ever accidentally killed a creature that you were trying to save? Ever wanted to get rid of a creature and couldn’t?
I’ll let you know if this little dude is still alive in the morning. I hope so. I’m so worried!
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