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She’s the cutest little girl!

This little girl is quickly becoming the highlight of my vacation – and only on day three!  My cutie-pie little niece, Laniah will be two in April and boy is she full of personality already.  This picture is from one of the many moments we spend in the front yard.  NiNi loves her little chair and umbrella.  She is never without her sippy cup and her “nummy nums”.

I am delighted to have the time to bond with this little one.  I had about 8 months with her before I moved to Vietnam and while I know she recognizes my voice, I want her to remember me…cool, wacky, fun and playful Auntie Shanna.

My sister, Angie, will have her hands full with this little one in year two.  Laniah is very clear as to the things she likes and doesn’t, the things she’ll do and wont.  NO is said very distinctly and with lots of conviction.  But for goodness sake, don’t tell this child NO – ever.  Say this to her and her lower lip goes south, her hands are on her cheeks, her head slightly bows and she looks up at you as though you are the meanest person on the entire planet.  Say NO to her for something particularly important to her and you get these gestures coupled with her elbows propped on her knees and a fake cry. Diva-licious!

I hope two weeks will be enough to get my fill of this little love-bug.  But my hunch is that I could spend all day every day of my vacation with this adorable munchkin and not quite get my fix.  Maybe I need to get one of my own?  ;p


The fight continues

Previously I posted information about my childhood friend, Jeff Lapinski, who has been battling cancer this year.  After a successful lymph node removal surgery, we all had great hopes that this battle had come to an end.  However, a recent scan showed an enlarged node, which may or may not be news.  We have to wait and see.  I’m sure the waiting is the worst part!

To read more about Jeff’s status and to leave him a message of support, please visit his website, www.jefflapinksi.com.

Jeff, like my friend Bobby, has an amazingly positive attitude and is so highly admired for the manner in which he has taken on his battle with cancer.  If you know Jeff, please leave him a message on his website.  If you don’t know him, please send him some positive energy and your prayers. Every ounce of support matters!

On the Bright Side,


Bouncy Fresh Goodness

In the scope of life, this is really not that important.  I recognize this, but will still share this story anyway. So please enjoy!

I was disappointed today.  My parents sent me Bounce dryer sheets in a care package recently and I’ve been so excited to use them…especially for my new bedding in my new home.

Last week, I left a note for Hien, my maid. (Regardless that everyone has a maid here in Vietnam, I do admit that I feel very fortunate and lucky that I have someone to help me out at home. I am appreciative.)  Last week, I asked her to wash my clothes and to use the dryer sheets for my bed linens and mixed colors, and to hang my dark clothes.

So I came home last Tuesday and found no dryer sheet smell in my sheets, and both my mixed and dark clothes hung dry, as well as my underwear strung all over the clothes rack (This is located on the floor above me, a balcony used by everyone in my building.)  I immediately put all the mixed stuff in the dryer with a dryer sheet and took down my underwear – so embarrassing!  I went to sleep that night wishing I were rolling in soft, good-smelling bedding.  But no luck.  Happy that I caught my jeans and t-shirts in time to make them soft and all freshness-scented!

So this past Saturday, I showed Hien the dryer sheets and explained how they worked. You have to understand that she has never seen this product in her life. I am also lucky and fortunate to have a dryer.  I also explained to Hien which clothes go in the dryer and which ones get hung and reminded her that my underwear is not for public display!

So today, I was excited to come home to clean sheets and Bounce-y goodness.  I love to come home after Hien’s been there.  The kitchen is spotless, fresh flowers are bound to be somewhere and…..why don’t my bed sheets smell like Bounce?  She made the bed up so nicely, but there was no smell at all and the stiff and crinkled dryer sheet sat at the foot of the bed.  Hmmm….so that made me wonder…where are my clothes?  Take a guess?  All hanging to dry, including my underwear!

I love Hien so much.  She’s an adorable lady and is happy to take care of me.  BUT – I really need to figure out how to get her to use the darn Bounce sheets!

On the Bright Side,


What’s next?

4.29.2009 Update

Just thought I would let you know…I have an appointment this Saturday with an agent to look at some houses.  I’m contracted and paid up until June, so that gives me a bit of time to hunt.  I’ll keep you posted!

4.18.2009 Update

The weather forecast said there would be a thunderstorm on Tuesday.  It just didn’t say that it would blow in at 4am!  And that it did.  The thunder was super loud and the lighting bordered on an electric storm.  I don’t sleep well during storms anyway, the pounding of the rain didn’t help lull me to sleep!

I find it very strange that my first instinct was to pop out of bed and check for roof leaks.  After the whole water heater incident, I clearly don’t have the greatest confidence that my apartment building is built soundly or with terrifically skilled workers.

Sure enough, with just a 45 minute storm, though it was a heavy downpour, several water spots appeared all over the house.  I’m glad I thought to take photos, it came in handy explaining it to the apartment management.

I met the “technicians” on Wednesday morning.  As it turns out, one was the plumber, which made me think that the crew didn’t understand that this wasn’t a pipe leak, but parts of the building that weren’t sealed properly.  I walked through the house, showing them the photos and the location of each leak.

I also showed them that the window that they sealed up in the living room, wasn’t properly sealed on the outside of the building.  I don’t know what the hell these people were thinking!  I serve enough as a teacher in my work in hospitality, I just don’t have it in me to teach someone why the construction of a building is not strong enough!  No one understood why I was knocking on the bedroom window seal, trying to explain that the area underneath the window is hollow.  They couldn’t hear the difference in sound when I knocked on different parts of the walls!

Of course, the security dude who I’ve locked out by changing the locks, took his golden opportunity to explore my apartment, opening the bathroom and bedroom doors to take his peak everywhere.  I should have yelled at him, but I’m somewhat fascinated by how curious he is about the apartment.  He looked around and then went back downstairs.

I just couldn’t get over how clueless these folks were.  They asked several times how the water leak started.  Through the interpreter, I kept telling them the water came from the outside, from the storm.  All the leaks are from the storm.  Yet they still asked in a couple of locations if the water came from the inside.  Umm…yeah.  I threw water against the wall, and particularly near power outlets because I think it’s hilarious!

So, two scrawny little teenagers showed up this morning to get up on the roof and put down some more material over the bathroom.  That part was easy.  In the living room, another guy stood on a bucket on a chair and chipped away at the moldy part of my wall.  You can see in the pictures that one he exposed the brick, there was even one big hole that was never sealed up at all!  Yikes!

What ticked me off is that everyone planned to meet here Saturday and get everything done.  But I was told that they would come back Thursday to paint and fix the outside of the building.  I’m not happy about this.  I hate having to arrange my schedule to be home.  But they were not prepared to fix anything but the big hole in my living room wall.  And I can’t do a damn thing about it!

I sent an e-mail to the management asking them why they weren’t prepared.  It makes me feel better, but it is in vain.

Ms. Ngoc, our HR executive and I discussed this and the other things which have popped up since I moved in.  She strongly encourages me to find a new place to live. Since Ericsson employees occupy the rest of the building, I think they would be happy to have one more unit in the same building.  This would sure make it easy to break the contract.  While there is a part of me which does desire a better living situation, another part is not willing to go through a search and a move.  Yuck.  what a pain in the ass!

What would you do if you were me?


On the Bright Side,




A window in my bedroom. A line formed and then the water just started dripping.  You can see the wall opening was too big for the window and improperly sealed.

I’m angry.

My face today. I have lots of patience.  But when other people waste my precious free time on a Saturday, I get a bit steamed.


Remember how excited I was for this weekend…for my designer appointment and the plant guy to come over and help me choose plants to help spruce up the place?

Well today was one of those days which teaches you not to have expectations.

I scooted out of work “early” today to meet the team from Dome.  They were coming here to measure my spaces, suggest materials for curtains and the sofa and design ideas for the big pieces of furniture.  So I’m in the taxi on the way home and I get a message from the designer to say that they couldn’t come, “I forgot about another appointment.”  Seriously?  I’m ready to drop some serious cash on living, dining and bedroom furniture and they leave it on the table?  What kind of craziness is that?

So I come home and see that Hien is still here and I ask if she minds staying because I had also scheduled the plant guy and he speaks no English at all.  She agreed.  And so we waited and we waited.  30 minutes after the appointment time, we called his number.  He forgot about the appointment and was sleeping.  He said he’d be here in 10 minutes.

30 minutes later I give up and Hien and I called it a day.  He showed up.  And he goes nuts.  I need 20 expensive plants in my window box for $100 and other super tall plants for another $200, and ??? and ??? and the total starts growing.  And then he said he would need an advance.

I should say that this is the gardener for the Press Club.  Instead of showing some respect, he chose the option to take advantage.  Me no likey.

So I drew the type of plant I wanted and how many and asked him to see if he has them and then to come back at me with cost.  Yeah – let’s see where that goes.  Disappointing.

So instead of spending the afternoon hours of my Saturday being productive and checking some boxes on my To Do list, I am no further in filling my apartment with beautiful things than I was last week.

Damn it.  I’m pissed off about this, but I just need to chill out and stay focused.  Things don’t happen that easily in Vietnam, I’m learning.

Breathe.  Remember that some things happen for a reason.  Respect that and move on….it’ll come together.  It WILL come together.

On the Bright Side,


Privacy Please

We Westerners sure love our space.  And we adore privacy.  We put a fence up around our homes and stick signs up to say KEEP OUT.  At hotels, we have the option of letting everyone know that we do not want to be disturbed.  Even on SKYPE, you can select a status of “do not disturb” which, frankly I wonder why someone wouldn’t just log off, but that’s a story for another day.

We value our personal space and privacy.  As much experience as I’ve had and as much traveling as I’ve done, I still value it, too.  But this is not the case in Vietnam.

As soon as I moved into my apartment, I noticed that while I was away at work, people, someone, who knows who, had been in my apartment while I was at work.  I would return to opened curtains, new paintings hung on the wall, or a note left on my coffee table telling me that the internet was working.  At first, I tried not to get upset, because I realized that they were simply trying to check on things and spruce the place up.

After the dust settled, though, I told the manager that no one needed to enter the apartment any longer, that I didn’t want strange people going inside.  And me being me, I’d booby trap the place before I left in the morning so I would know exactly if someone had entered and where in the apartment they had been.

One day as I left for work, I was told that a maid would start coming to clean my house and that she would start that day.  I thanked our receptionist but politely declined the service.  I didn’t tell them I would use only someone I know and trust.  When I came home that night, I knew someone had been in my house, but not a maid.  I called the manager and expressed my displeasure.  He assured me it wouldn’t happen again.

But it did happen again, not long after that and I had to have a face-to-face meeting with him to let him know exactly why it was unacceptable for someone I don’t know to go into my apartment when I am not there and when there is no appointment.  He agreed that only by appointment or if I was home would his security or maintenance staff enter.  I told him that if an unwelcome entry happened again, I would change the locks.

So everyday for a few weeks, I maintained my simple booby trap and would come home quite pleased that no one had been inside.  That was until the Friday before I left for Berlin.  The little piece of black paper was not in the door jam.  I looked up and down and could not see it.  My heart started to race as I put my key in my door and opened it.  I could see the little piece of paper in the middle of the hallway.  Someone had been inside.

I looked around everywhere, checked all my belongings, checked everything and then sat down on the couch and tried not to get angry.  I wasn’t sure why someone had been inside, maybe something happened and there was a legitimate reason.  But it felt SO VERY WRONG.  I felt invaded, taken advantage of, all sorts of other horrible emotions.  I mean – who came in?  What did they do?  What did they look through?  Did they sit on my couch, watch a little TV?  Before I got too worked up, I called Mr. Thien, the manager and asked him who had entered my apartment and why.

He responded that the security guard had entered the apartment because he needed to water the plants (I have a window box and a palm on my balcony).  I explained that I water the plants every weekend and that in addition, the weather had been wet and rainy the entire week, so there was no need to water the plants.  “Oh, I see,” was the quiet response.  No apologies, no additional excuses.  I asked him if the security guard had an appointment.  “No.”  I asked him if I was home when the security guard entered. “No.”  So I reminded him of our agreement and he left me with, “It won’t happen again.”

You bet your sweet ass it won’t!

I had the locks changed.  And I can’t even tell you the peace of mind it provides to know that no one can enter my home except me.  I can’t wait for the phone call from Mr. Thien where he says, “Shanna, our security guard tried to enter your apartment today, but maybe you changed the lock.”  And this will actually happen.  And when it does, I’ll let you know!

On the Bright Side,


Where ARE they?

November 25th, Dad and I went to the US Post Office with 10, perfectly wrapped and labeled boxes.  Inside were some clothes, my CDs, household stuff and many of the gifts I received from my friends in Japan.  We anticipated sending the boxes via surface mail, which usually takes a couple of months.  But upon arrival at the post office, we were told that that surface has been canceled.  So we opted for the cheapest – 10 day priority mail.  And paid on average $130 per box.  Ouch.

I don’t have much in life – in terms of ‘things’ anyway.  In fact, aside from what you see in this photo, I have an antique dresser and table, and 8 plastic bins in storage, mostly filled with childhood mementos and oodles of photos.  Oh – and I refuse to throw away my high school and college formal dresses.  Just can’t do it!  But that’s it.  Before I left for Japan, I had a huge yard sale and felt so liberated in getting rid of my ‘stuff’.  And I lived pretty simply in Japan.  I like to keep it that way.  I did manage to collect a few things in Japan, and certainly was given a number of beautiful gifts upon my departure.  I also packed up keepsakes from my travels, college and more. The items in the boxes are my favorite treasures.

In the suitcases were all of the things I felt that I would need sooner rather than later.  And I packed so that all of my business clothes and shoes were in the blue suitcase, so that I could have easy access.  Good plan.  The suitcase system has worked out well, since in my dinky hotel room, I have no space to open all three suitcases.

As I am moving into my new apartment later this week – I am looking forward to spreading out and unpacking.  Except that my boxes have still not arrived.  It’s been nearly a month.  And I am trying to stay calm and not panic, but I’ve heard too many horror stories now.  A large part of me will be devastated (not to mention angry) if I never see these boxes, if the contents have been invasively examined/unwrapped, stolen or damaged.  I am also afraid of what taxes I may have to pay, simply because it’s a good chance to make some money, not because I am actually brining anything new or valuable to the country.  I also have to laugh because I hope they don’t open the two vacuum bags of clothes – won’t that be a shock for them when the stack magically poofs up to 4x the size!  How will they get those clothes back in the box?

I’m not holding my breath, but I will hold out hope that these boxes arrive soon.  I’m having Dad check with the US Post Office to see if they were logged in in Vietnam.  After that, there’s really nothing else for me to do but wait.  Patiently.  Please.  Toto, we are SO not in Kansas anymore!

My worldly possessions – My suitcases and boxes, safe and sound in my parents’ living room.  Can you guess which four items have made it to Vietnam and which ten haven’t?

On the Bright Side,



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