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culture shock

Hold The Bacon

It may be the case that I am still in reverse culture shock, because for the life of me, I cannot remember when all of our menus included so many items with bacon. Salads, chicken sandwiches, burgers, and now, thanks to Burger King, sundaes.  What? Ice cream with bacon? That’s right, Burger King has introduced a bacon sundae.  And I have to finally exclaim, “That’s just WRONG!!!”

I expressed recently how a popular L.A. restaurant served a burger that included bacon which was strictly served with “no modifications.” When it was delivered, I promptly removed the bacon. I’ve also seen some bacon comments pop up on Twitter. Is bacon worthy of a tweet? This video was shared on Twitter too. Do you think bacon solves all problems?  It just seems everyone is in love with bacon and that all food should be garnished or served with bacon. Does bacon really make the world taste better?

Every once in a while, I do enjoy a couple of slices of bacon with eggs, or a BLT sandwich, but a sundae? A dessert with meat flavor? I’m sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me. Seriously, I’m so over this insane enthusiasm for bacon. I’m going to have to say, “Hold the bacon.”


Name Your Restaurant!

It’s been just over a year since I’ve been back in San Diego.  I have to admit, I am still getting familiar with the lay of the land.  Just tonight, someone asked me about my favorite sushi place.  Rightly so… you would think that after spending five years in Japan that I would have staked out every sushi restaurant in the hood!  But the reality is… I’m still finding my way around my lovely hometown.

When I returned, I told myself I would treat San Diego like a new foreign city…that I would take the time to explore and discover and find my favorite spots. While I am discovering new places all the time, I recognize that San Diego is a pretty large city and at that a town I haven’t lived in since I was 19 years old. San Diego has changed a lot since then!

What’s funny to me is that all my memories of San Diego are childhood/young-adult memories. I’m a great tour guide for anyone who has never been here because hot spots like the zoo, Sea World and the Hotel Del Coronado never go out of style.  But my favorite dive bar or sushi place, a hot spot for Sunday brunch or the best craft beers? I’m at a loss.

So help me feel at home, dear friends. What places do I need to discover?  Where do you like to like to dine? What San Diego hot spots do I need to check out? Please leave your comments below or post on my Facebook Page On The Bright Side.

Thanks so much!

Who is to blame?

Summer in San Diego is really a treat, and a season I have missed a lot while living abroad.  Most people are out and about, seek activities outdoors and just soak up the blue skies and sunny weather.

Coronado has a Concerts in the Park series which began May 29th and runs until September 11th.  My friends Michelle and Carrie invited me to the July 3rd concert and I accepted with enthusiasm.  I love Coronado and was eager to celebrate 4th of July weekend.

Michelle and I were lucky to find a great parking spot (thanks to the miniature sizeof my MINI!) right across the street from the park and met up with Carrie, who lives in Coronado to reserve her favorite and “usual” spot on the grass.

I was impressed with all of the things people brought with them to the park. Large ice chests and folding chairs aside, people brought full-sized/on wheels BBQs, large foldable tables and some tables which looked straight from the dining room.  The city lifted an alcohol ban for the concert series and so the bottles of wine, beer and mixers flowed generously.  It was a first for Michelle and I who brought only a blanket to sit on, making us feel not only a novice, but as though we were seated at the kids table in and amongst adults in camping chairs.

The music starts at 6:00pm, and some enthusiastic visitors make their way toward the gazebo to dance on the grass or just dance at their picnic spot.  Most folks enjoy the music as a backdrop to friendly conversation and campfire-like storytelling.

The three of us gals were talking, actually is was me who was yapping, when an absolutely unexpected and not-in-the-program event took place. In mid sentence, I heard this crackle and pop and looked up at a large Eucalyptus tree. At that moment, a large branch had snapped and was falling to the ground.  Without other branches to break the fall, few people under the tree were able to move quickly enough and get out of the way.  One man who was sitting in a chair, just wasn’t able to move at all and happened to be right in the line of the falling branch.  It struck him on the head.

What ensued after that was a series of events which still have me shaking my head…

Many people stood around staring at the man and not helping. The people who were there with the man were taking care of him, and a few other guys pitched in to remove the branch (The branch was so big it took 3 grown men to lift it), but most onlookers just stood and stared. (It made me feel like I was in Vietnam, where everyone stares, but doesn’t help the hapless victim.)

All around, you could hear people say, “Well, there’s a lawsuit,” or “That’s an expensive tree,” and “That guy is going to get a lot of money from this.”  Really? The branch randomly snapped off. It was really a freak accident. Why is it that someone has to be “at fault” for the incident?  Why does blame need to be placed?  Can we really not comprehend that it was an unfortunate accident?  For goodness sake, no one could imagine this scenario nor want for it to happen.

The paramedics arrived quickly and which drew even more looky-loos as the guy was taken away.  The city workers showed up about the same time, and along with the firemen, decided they needed to move everyone away from the tree and with police tape, sectioned off a circle around the tree, about 20 feet in diameter.  Is this the protocol for fallen branches?  Was this done because there might actually be a danger that more branches would fall, or was it done to just look good and responsible, as though the situation was being taken seriously and appropriate response taking place?  Do you think there is a page in some manual that refers to this type of incident?  Will they write one?

Most of the people at the park did not see the event and simply carried on with their picnics.  The band still played and people still ate, drank and danced.  But even after the man had been taken away and the under-tree had been sectioned off, several people came over to the section and stood there looking up at the tree.  Were they trying to identify the guilty branch stub? Searching for the next branch likely to fall? Were they silently cursing the tree?  More than one person stood in several spots and glanced up, trying to solve the crime, apparently. I was puzzled.  What purpose did that serve? (That’s about the time I took a picture, because I was baffled by the number of people looking at the darn tree.)

As it got darker and we decided to meet up at McPhee’s, the city trucks drove up under the tree.  I was almost certain they were going to cut the darn thing down and so had to ask a worker what they were doing.  He said they had to assess if there were any other loose branches or any weak ones which may fall.  I asked if they had to do this at night, and he explained that it had to be done before people were in the park the next day (early action in the park on 4th of July).  I imagine the efforts were made simply to avoid any lawsuits from future falling branches.

I’m sorry that guy got hit in the head by a branch. That pretty much sucks. What a crappy thing to happen when you’re just trying to enjoy a picnic and some live music.  But the over-reaction afterward and the assumption that the city would be sued and this guy would get millions of dollars… well that just makes me mad and embarrassed.  That’s not my America.

Welcome to America

It was a long plane ride back.  There was a very strange man two rows ahead of me who was super fat, unable to breathe and possibly on some sleep medication.  Thank goodness no one was seated around him.  He flopped violently in his chair leaning to the right and to the left, forward and back, waking himself up because he was snoring so loud and was kind of snorting to breathe.  He was out cold before the plane took off and was awake only to eat and use the restroom.  I’ve never seen anything like it. According to the other passengers around me, they never have either.  For probably the first time ever, I was happy to arrive at LAX!

The final leg of my journey was the short flight to San Diego.  When the plane took off from LAX, I got really excited.  With only a 20 minute flight, it’s hard to maintain any emotion, but I looked out the window the whole time and as the plane was landing and San Diego neighborhoods were passing below, I felt a wave of calm and happiness take over.

The buzz kill was that one of my suitcases didn’t get on the plane with me and the United employee couldn’t account for my bag and couldn’t tell me where in LAX it was…it wasn’t even popping up on the system.  They assured me that my case would be delivered.  (See, this is why I carry-on those journals!) My parents and I left the airport doubtful and with hope, all mixed into one.  I was too tired to be angry.

I woke up this morning, brewed some coffee, chatted with the family and delighted in the fact that my suitcase did actually arrive.  Whew! I’ve never been so happy to see my red suitcase! ;p

As I usually do when I visit the US, the first outing was a visit to Target.  Nothing says “Welcome to America” more than a store where you can buy shampoo, candy, a bathing suit, greeting cards, a BBQ,  underwear and a bicycle all in the same place.  I stuck with toiletries and candy.

And so the adjustment begins…I’m back. I’m here. I’m home.



About the photo: There is a glimpse of San Diego from the plane.  It was near sunset and the marine layer was starting to roll back in. Still a welcome sight for sore eyes!


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.

At the office; Laos

Here’s a vacation request you don’t get everyday…one I received from one of my employees in Laos:

This is Lao culture every son must become a monk for a short period to thanks parents whom gave our life. And I will be leaving from 23 Mar – 08 Apr 2010 for 15 days.

I love how this is not really a request but a statement.  Need I say that the leave was approved.


Have you ever received a strange request for time off?


Vacation’s all I ever wanted

I knew immediately that I had landed back in California.  Standing around the luggage carousel, I watch as nearly everyone put their phone to their ear or talked loudly with their hands-free robotic ear piece safely clipped on.  I’m sure every single person on my flight was some super major important person who just couldn’t wait one more second to retrieve all those way super important and urgent messages!

Walking though the terminal on the way to the United desk, I heard a smattering of  “right on” and “dude” and “cool” with a sprinkling of “that’s how I roll” and “you know what I’m sayin’?”  Aaaaahhhh…California.  Home.

With boarding pass in hand to San Diego, I waited at the gate and heard the following conversation between two ultra-hip dudes, sitting right behind me…

Dude 1: Have you ever been to that restaurant Helen Back?

Dude 2: Hell and back?  What?

Dude 1: No. Helen Beck.  It’s play on words.  It’s a pizza place. Do you know it?

Dude 2: Oh, that’s funny. No. Is it good?

Dude 1. That place rocks, dude.  It’s like my favorite pizza place.

Dude 2: Really? Sounds cool.

(1 minute pause in the conversation)

Dude 2: So what’s the style?

Dude 1: Of what?

Dude 2: Helen Back. What style is it?

Dude 1: What do you mean what style?

Dude 2: Like, what kind of toppings do they have?

Dude 1: Dude, it’s a pizza place, you can get whatever you want. Their sauce is the bomb.

Dude 2: That’s cool.  I’ll have to try it out sometime.

Dude 1: Yeah, you should, it rocks.

Dude 2: Yeah.

(another pause)

Dude 2: Do you know about McGuires?

Dude 1: No, never heard of it.

Dude 2: Oh, it’s the best. But I don’t think they have one in San Diego yet.

Dude 1: Probably why I don’t know it.

Dude 2: Right on.  If it was here, you would totally know it dude.  It’s really good.

Dude 1: Oh yeah?

Dude 2: Yeah.  It’s good to go there when you are like totally starving and stuff cuz you’ll leave full. That’s for sure.

Dude 1: Cool. Sounds awesome.

Dude 2: Man, I love that place.

(pause and then the beginning of a conversation about a co-worker)

Dude 1: I don’t really know him that well, but he seems cool.

Dude 2: Do you know what he does when he’s like, hanging out?

Dude 1: You mean like activities?

Dude 2: Yeah, like what kinds of things does he like to do?

Dude 1: I really don’t know.  But he’s cool.

Dude 2: Yeah, he’s cool.


At this point as I was jotting down notes from their mind-blowingly intelligent conversation, I had the urge to turn around and smack the two of them and yell, “You two are exactly the reason I don’t live here!  You idiots!”  But I imagine that random act of anger would be met with a really profound come back such as…

Dude 1: Wow.  That was like totally unnecessary and uncool of you.

Dude 2: Yeah, totally uncool.


Welcome to California!  Let the vacation begin!



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