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Office moving day

Today was the chosen lucky day for our Emeraude Sales Office to move across town and into a fine location right on Hoan Kiem Lake.  I had a lunch appointment with a client today and so at 1:00pm, the lucky time for the movers to arrive, I was at the office to lend a hand to the team.

A few men arrived, dirty, smelly, and without any packing materials.  No boxes, bubble wrap, box cutters, nothing.  The truck didn’t even arrive with them.  They made a phone call and another guy came with some tape.  And so they used what boxes we had and started to throw things together, place them outside of the office and right in the pathway of the fire exit and doorway where they would need to haul the larger items like our desks, couch, chairs, etc.

I watched as the one little guy, who like the others immediately took their shoes off once they started working, taped the hard drives together with the keyboard and mouse for each work station.  Two computer screens were taped together and set outside the office.

When one worker started to take things downstairs and line the sidewalk, I had to yell for them to stop and actually made them take things back upstairs.  The truck still hadn’t arrived and lining up the sidewalk with the office valuables is welcoming an unwanted street market!

The boys insisted that the computers would be carried by the individuals, but I insisted that they be wrapped up.  And so finally a man on a motor bike arrived with about 8 boxes and 2 blankets.  Still no bubble wrap.

When the truck finally did arrive, along with a few more colorful characters to help, I then tried to orchestrate the circus of idiots to load the truck properly with heavy and large items first, then helped to arrange boxes neatly in the truck.  I had to object to them setting the safe on top of the computers.

I let Kurt welcome the trucks on the other side of the project, as our new office has too many windows, glass, tiles and freshly painted walls to worry about.  I’m sure I would have had a heart attack watching them take the bulky desks up the spiral stairs and over the railing.


The office manager tried hard to get a good quote on the job, I suppose, and I learned that it only cost $130 for the cross-town move.  She learned this was probably a job we could have paid a bit more for, as the headaches caused in a cost savings effort just wasn’t worth it!


On the Bright Side,


Travel nightmares

You know that movie, Snakes on a Plane?  I’d like to do a re-make called Babies on a Plane except that my movie will actually be frightfully scary and realistic. The synopsis would go something like this…


When a young man (Nathan Phillips) witnesses a brutal mob murder, it falls to FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) to escort his charge safely from Hawaii to Los Angeles to testify. But in an act of self-preservation, the crime boss facing prison strategically places bad parents with bratty kids onto the commercial aircraft, specially timed so that halfway over the Pacific, all of the babies and toddlers are uncontrollably screaming in unison. Flynn, along with a frightened flight crew and passengers, must then band together, in spite of nosebleeds and pierced ear drums, in a desperate attempt to survive.  The question remains. Will they?


And that pretty much sums up the return portion of my travels from Europe.  Honestly, though…they should give parents and kids a test before they let them on the plane.  If they can’t play nice and shut their kid up in a reasonably quick amount of time then, I’m sorry, they are not allowed to fly and piss-off scores of passengers simply  trying to catch a wink.  I love kids, but not mis-behaved assholes with parents to match. Can babies be assholes?

With most all flights overbooked these days, it is inevitable that there will be a baby or a young child on board.  What I don’t understand is how the only little people who fly, it seems, are actually beasts, capable only of brutish grunts, monsterous roars and screams in pitches only dogs can appreciate.  I haven’t encountered one nice young child who is pleasant and cute and adorably silent.  And my luck has been not only to have these little shits on my flights, but then to be seated way-to-close to these freaks of nature. I want to toss them out the window. Or place them in the dog-carrier cages and put them in cargo.  Or allow the parents to give them a shot of brandy to knock the kid out for the flight.  Perhaps there is a dog muzzle which can be adapted for kids?

Who’s with me?  ;p


Another day another Dong

Sometime in July my company decided to pay all of us expats in Vietnamese Dong (VND).  This decision came after the government cracked down on accepting dollars.  We had to change all promotional materials, menus and such to VND.  This in itself is a bit of a nightmare.  Instead of $130 per person you list 2.400.000VND per person.  Perhaps you can see where that gets confusing, especially for tourists.  There are other, more lazy reasons for this decision, but that’s another blog entry.

This movement toward a dong-only system is bad for the country.  VND is not an internationally exchanged currency.  So even if I go to Thailand for the weekend, I can’t change my dong for baht at the Bangkok airport.  Thailand wont accept the currency.  The only place I can use dong is in dongville, and that’s Vietnam.  And let’s face it – I can’t even say the currency name with a straight face, much less take this worthless currency seriously.

Managing my finances in dong wouldn’t be so bad if there weren’t so many restrictions on what I can actually do with the dong, once I am paid in this currency.  Here are the only things I can do with the dong directly deposited into my VND account at HSBC.

1.  Keep it in the account (never gonna happen).

2.  Withdraw in VND ( a must for daily expenses).

3.  Transfer in foreign currency to account in foreign country

4.  Withdraw in foreign currency provided I have proof of air ticket and visa, if needed, and explain for what purpose I need the money.  (The tellers can be more aggressive than immigration.  Upon going to London I had to argue that as a US Citizen I did not, in fact, need a visa for the UK.)

If the direct deposit from my company is not earmarked as salary, then items 3 and 4 are null and void.  I’m stuck with the dong.  The only place I can exchange dong for dollars is the black market, the gold/jewelry stores peppered throughout the city.  The hotels (even the 5 Star ones) wont exchange money this way either (total bullshit – good luck if you pull too much dong on your stay in dongville) and not all of the “exchange” booths at the airport exchange money in the other direction.  When I went to Laos in October, I had to go to 4 booths to accumulate $500 because 2 of the booths refused to give me USD, despite being a money “exchange”.

In order to make bank transfers online, you have to set up your online banking.  Fine.  You have to register the bank(s) you want to transfer to and if you plan to transfer a decent amount of cash, you have to “apply” to raise your daily limits.  Done.

So last night when I went to transfer funds to my US account, it wouldn’t process my transfer because it said I was over the daily transfer limit. (I so wish I was talking large sums of cash here, but it’s a normal amount to prepare for a two week vacation in the US.) So apparently the paperwork I filed months ago was pointless and never processed.  I was pissed.

Today I went to the bank to check on that paperwork.  I had to fill out the form a second time. I’m assured that it will be processed this time. And so then I went to get my cash, because frankly, between now and Friday, I don’t have the time to dilly dally around with a wire transfer.  I don’t really have time to make a personal appearance at the bank, either and wouldn’t need to had the damn people at the bank processed my paperwork!!!

So, I filled out my withdraw slip and waited in line. (Remind me to mention in another post how the Vietnamese do not like to wait in line and find no problem in just going up to the counter ahead of people.)  Once I made it to a counter and elbowed a couple line-cutters out of the way, I was told that the maximum amount of USD I could be given “today” was $1000 (This figure, I was told, changes on a daily basis depending on the bank’s USD cash situation.  It’s a frickin bank!!!)

I explained the situation about the unprocessed paperwork and told the teller that had HSBC done their job months ago and processed my paperwork, we wouldn’t be in this situation. I would have been able to smoothly transfer the funds I wanted.  I went round and round with the teller and actually said the following on more than one occasion, “I am the customer.  I already did my job.  The bank has not done theirs. ”  And a few “I should not have to work this hard to make a withdrawal.  It is my money.” And also, “I am not leaving here until you give me the cash I am asking for.”  One thing this country does not understand is customer service. But let’s just say that persistence does pay, and I left with my desired amount of cash.

I can’t tell you how annoying it is that even this aspect of my life comes with a set of challenges.  Everything requires extra effort, but this is an area I really don’t want to have to put up a fight.  She works hard for the dong just doesn’t have the same ring to it.  Dong dong dong.  Nope, still can’t say it with a straight face. Stupid dong.


Vietnameses Engrish Tourisme

I mentioned just a few posts ago how I have not ventured far from my days as an English teacher.  Well, today made for another classic.  I received a call from a Mr. Duc yesterday (passed on to me by my staff who encouraged me to talk to him because his offer sounded “exciting”).  Mr. Duc explained that his firm does direct mail marketing.  I explained that we have no budget nor do we desire for such service.  He begged for a meeting with me.  I said no. He was confused and wanted an explanation why we don’t need his service.  I explained I was busy and that we do all direct marketing ourselves.

This morning, one of his staff members came to my office (entered from my side door through the Emeraude office – staff was still excited for me to speak to these folks) to drop off their proposal and insisted that she leave with one of my business cards.  I reminded her that I will not enlist their services.  She did not seem to understand the concept of “zero percent chance” and told me that Mr. Duc will contact me and “really requests” and appointment.

Within an hour of her visit, I received this e-mail:

Good morning Shanna,

As per our short talk of yesterday on phone, I would like to send you here attached our general presentation & our main products & services for your info. In the current contexte of crisis & strong competition, I think enterprise like yours probally need to do some direct advetising mail to promote your businesses. I understand that today 70% of your clients come directly from oversea & only 30% are vietnameses. Why do not make bigger this part of vietnamese people since more & more vietnameses want to enjoy better services than the normal & low standard boat in Halong. I think many “high incomes” local individuals still do not know about Emeurade & they are still hesitating come to see you due to the lack of information. Among your other means of media such as Heritage magazine, forum, name card  collecting, incentive, email which are very efficient also , I think Media Post can help you to do some interesting advertising campaign by direct mail. We can provide you some database of potential vietnameses with high income, tourisme oriented( full name, postal addresse, company, postion, car name owner, consumption habit….) which are regularly updated then we are in charge of sending your advertising piece to these people in the best way( Media Post is using postmen of Vnpost to distribue mail) . In the same way , Media Post has our own checking system to control the quality of distribution( phone call, random check, POD…) The percentage of replying people depend of course in the attractiveness of your products & the potential interest of the recipient but in all cases we can be sure about the accuracy of database, good quality of mail distribution( by minimising loss)…ect. 

For your information, we started our company last july & we already work for Big C Casino, Nestle, Societe General Viet Finance, Ruby Plaza, Prevoir insurance company, CCIFV, ISIVIC…If you are interested, I can come at any time as I base in Hanoi to have further talk with you & Mr Nam.

Meanwhile, please do not hesitate to let me know any information you need & hope to see you soon.

 Best regards

Dang Minh Duc

Deputy General Director(Marketing & Sales)



The fact that they used postmen of Vietnam Post almost had me hooked!!!

On the Bright Side,


Watch Your Step

Photo: The steps in my building. Hard marble steps may look nice, but they don’t feel so good when you fall flat on your ass!

I returned home late last night.  I had my suitcase with me.  It was heavy.  I was tired.  I was swinging the suitcase up a few stairs and then stepping up behind the suitcase.  I got tot he second floor landing.  I swung the suitcase, began to move upward, but the suitcase fell back ward and took me with in.  In the blink of an eye I had fallen backward and landed (fortunately) on my right butt cheek.

After I recovered from the shock of falling, I started to get up and collect myself.  Except that when I did, my right foot screamed at me.  It was really sore and immediately swelled up a bit.  I was on the second floor and I live on the 5th.  OMG.

I started crying because the pain was quite bad and then I started cursing because I was angry that I had fallen.  What a klutz!

I’m sure I spent more than 10 minutes in the echo-chamber stairwell.  What I realized was that while I knew my neighbors were home, no one bothered to open their doors and come see what all the commotion was about.

I wiped my tears, took a deep breath and got me and my stupid suitcase up three more stories.  Once inside, I cursed my non-helpful neighbors as I iced my ankle and shed a few more tears.

I went to sleep with my foot propped up on two pillows and managed to sleep that way all night.  Good.

I also stayed home and worked from my sofa today, doing my best to not use my foot.  It’s not too puffy, but it is super, super sore.  I feel like I bruised it, perhaps the suitcase hit the top of it or something.  It was a weird fall.  I also have a nice bruise coming out on my butt cheek.

As much as it sucks to have this injured foot, I’m super grateful I didn’t crack my head open.  No drama intended, but I could have bled to dead in the hallway, since my stupid neighbors couldn’t be bothered to even open their doors to see why someone was cursing like a sailor in the hallway!

Anywhoo, I should probably get this checked out, but the athlete in me says, “Suck it up and walk it off.  It’s not broken.”

On the Bright Side,



4.19.2009 Update

They say that sometimes a severe sprain is worse than a clean break.  Well, I’m beginning to agree with this.   I still have the doctors’ words echoing in my head, “Why did you wait 10 days to see me?”  Two tendons on both sides of my ankle were strained, and I have a contusion on the top of my foot.  The internal bleeding was bad enough that my toes are green and purple.  Yuck.  I have a monster foot!

I would love to follow doctor’s orders and use the cane he gave me, but it seems so silly after not using one.  I didn’t mind taping up my ankle, but after one shower, it complete became useless.  I was told I could get it wet, but it just didn’t hold.  The doctor wanted to give me a soft cast, but they just aren’t available in Vietnam.

I was supposed to go to a special pharmacy and buy my own cane this weekend, but I really don’t want to spend money on something I know I won’t use.  I’m going to keep it elevated, keep icing it and trying to stay off of it.  I know myself pretty well, and while this is the most serious injury I’ve ever had, it’s not so serious that I need casts and canes and regular physical therapy.

I’m a tough chick and while this is not fun, I can handle it.

4.26.2009 Update

Nearly three weeks after my fall, I still have a slight bit of swelling in my ankle which is worse at the end of a work day or like yesterday’s music festival where I stood most of the day.  But I am committed to having this thing heal, because not only is it a big deal to not have your feet in order, but I don’t want to have continued issues with this ankle. I’m just surprised it’s taking so long!  As I mentioned, this is the worst injury I’ve ever had, so the concept that this will likely take another three weeks to heal up is just mind-boggling!  I want my right foot back!

Major league loosers

Forget financial bailouts for a moment.  This is what’s REALLY wrong with America – Competitive Eating.

Major League Eating?  Professional sport?  Eating sensation?  Rising stars?  No. 1-ranked eater in the world?  Place in the history books?  $20,000 prize?


I just read the news today that Joey “Jaws” Chestnut shoved 93 burgers in his face to repeat the title “World Hamburger Eating Champion”.  Can I get a – Whoopdeedooo!!!!?????

This idiot won $20,000 for over-eating.  And scores of people attended the event to cheer on these freaks who compete every year.  Here is the entire article from the Krystal Square Off official website.

American eating sensation Joey Chestnut retained his hamburger eating title today at the Krystal Square Off V World Hamburger Eating Championship in Chattanooga, Tenn. The 24-year-old from San Jose, Calif. downed 93 Krystal hamburgers in eight minutes, ten shy of his world record mark set at last year’s championship.

Billed as the highly anticipated rematch between Chestnut, the No.1-ranked eater in the world, and Japan’s speed-eating legend Takeru Kobayashi, the contest quickly became a one-man show as Chestnut jumped out to an early lead and never looked back as a crowd of 10,000 cheered him on in downtown Chattanooga.

Kobayashi, a three-time Krystal Square Off winner who missed last year’s championship due to a jaw injury, finished in a disappointing third place, eating just 84 Krystals, 13 less than he ate when he won Krystal Square Off III in 2006. Twenty-three-year-old rising star Patrick “Deep Dish” Bertoletti was the second-place spoiler, out-eating Kobayashi by just one Krystal.

“Chestnut’s win today at Krystal Square Off V proves once again that he is competitive eating’s new superstar and the undisputed number one ranked eater in the world,” said Brad Wahl, vice president of marketing, The Krystal Company.

Chestnut pockets $20,000 for his win, along with the coveted Krystal Square Off Champion’s Belt and Trophy made out of crystal. Bertoletti earns $10,00 for his second place finish while Kobayashi takes away $5,000. The remaining top eleven finalists receive payouts ranging from $3,000 to $500. The $50,000 total cash purse is the largest in competitive eating history.

Presented by The Krystal Company and featuring the iconic fresh, hot, small, square Krystal hamburger, the Krystal Square Off is one of the two majors in the sport of competitive eating and the only world hamburger eating championship sanctioned by Major League Eating, the governing body of all stomach-centric sports.

“There are precious few moments in professional sports when you can watch as a competitor affirms his place in the history books. With this win today, Joey Chestnut just said to the world: I am Krystal King hear me growl,” said Richard Shea, president of Major League Eating. “In today’s economy anybody can be negatively impacted by unforeseen circumstances. Kobayashi is feeling that impact, but if I know him he’ll be back.”

Today’s victory was Chestnut’s first win over Kobayashi in a Krystal-eating contest, and further cements his dominance over the 30-year-old Japanese eating star. Kobayashi is responsible for first bringing the sport of competitive eating into the American mainstream more than seven years ago, only to see his star fall lately after several high-profile losses.

The official results are as follows:

1. Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, San Jose, Calif. – 93 Krystals
2. Pat “”Deep Dish”” Bertoletti, Chicago, Ill. – 85 Krystals
3. Takeru Kobayashi, Tokyo, Japan – 84 Krystals
4. “Humble” Bob Shoudt, Philadelphia, Pa. – 76 Krystals
5. Tim “”Eater X”” Janus, New York, N.Y. – 64 Krystals
6. Hall “Hoover” Hunt, Jacksonville, Fla. – 63 Krystals
7. Juliet “The Lovely” Lee, Germantown, Md. – 55 Krystals
8. Crazy Legs Conti, New York, N.Y. – 49 Krystals
9. Rich “”The Locust”” LeFevre, Henderson, Nev. – 47 Krystals
10. Juris “Dr. Bigtime” Shibayama, Murfreesboro, Tenn. – 43 Krystals
11. Eric “Badlands” Booker, Long Island, N.Y. – 41 Krystals
12. Kyle “12th Eater” Brogdon, Hixson, Tenn. – 10 Krystals

OMG!  I don’t even know where to start.  How about those nicknames?  Or my favorite quote from the article, “In today’s economy anybody can be negatively impacted by unforeseen circumstances. Kobayashi is feeling that impact, but if I know him he’ll be back.”  What the hell does that even mean?

For crying out loud…how much money does all this nonsense cost each year?  How many people could all those mini-burgers and the $50,000 cash purse (the largest in competitive eating history!) feed???

There are so, so, so many things wrong with this, my head hurts.  If you want to learn more about this disgrace to humanity, you can go to the official website at www.krystalsquareoff.com.  You can even join the Fantasy Eating League! Sign me up!


Are these people for real? – Joey “Jaws” Chestnut, the “undisputed number one ranked eater in the world” holds up his “coveted Krystal Square Off Champion’s Belt and Trophy made out of crystal.”  Cool!  Eer…not!




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