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Ace Ventura is My Mailman

So the epic story of my boxes continues.  I last wrote on December 20th, a month after I had mailed them from the US.  At that time there was no sign at all that the boxes would ever arrive.

Shortly after the New Year, I randomly received a notice one day.  The ladies in the office got excited, as it was clearly from the post office.  It asked me to send a copy of my passport, my visa and then the original customs form.  So we messengered that along to the main post office, somewhere in the heart of Hanoi.

About a week later, I got another letter which said that boxes had arrived at the local post office and were ready for pick up.  It also informed me I needed to pay a customs fee – 30,000 VND.  Equivalent of about $2.00.

So with Ms. Linh, I  headed to the post office with all my papers.  When we arrived, the woman behind the counter and pull out a huge stack of papers, held together with one butterfly clip.  She flipped through the papers until she found my sheets.  And then a few people began retrieving my boxes from the back of the room.

The sight of the first box made my heart stop for just a moment.  And then one after another, torn, squished and lifeless boxes came out from behind the counter.  I kid you not – they truly looked like Ace Ventura had gotten a hold with them and played a few games of soccer.  This photo does not lie.


IN the end, 9 of my 10 boxes arrived, the missing one being my box of CDs.  That was not surprising to me.  And after surveying the boxes, the damage and wondering the state of the contents inside, the woman asked for my 30,000 VND.  I laughed.  I asked her who would pay me for all of the damage they had done to my things.  I asked her about the value of the missing box and who would pay me.  She didn’t find this funny.  But I put my foot down.  I told them that when my 10th box arrived, I would happily pay the 30,000 VND.  The women sounded like clucking chickens as they argued about why I need to pay the money.

Ms. Linh was good at standing firm, too.  She understood my emotions and my reasoning completely.  She said she was also worried about the contents inside and the arrival of the 10th box.  The ladies wanted me to sign paperwork and pay the money, but I refused.  I figured it gave them incentive for getting that 10th box.  (Everyone who lives in Vietnam is laughing at that statement right now.  Still, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt.)

Once home, I took photos of all my boxes in their horrid state and then began the process of unwrapping everything.  All of my boxes had been opened and much of the contents had been unwrapped.  Although in one box, I think they gave up because I wrapped everything so ridiculously much that it must have taken to long to cut the tape and layers of newspaper.  I was particularly pissed when I realized that instead of just cutting the one piece of scotch tape to open the lovely wooden boxes containing Japanese pottery, they pried open the boxes, breaking them in the process.  Can I hear a collective, “$%&!@”!!!

Only a few items ended up being broken, precious though they were.  The long-stem martini glasses I bought in Kamakura at 5,000 yen a glass is not a set of one.  Five sake glasses bought in Fuji are now three.  The bowl which Daisuke and Miyako gave all their wedding guests was too fragile to withstand the pressure of the beating those boxes took.  And really, I could have moved anywhere in the world and lost those items, so I’m quite fortunate, really.

And what do you know.  Two days after I picked up nine boxes and refused to pay the customs fee until the tenth box arrived, I received a notice that my tenth box was on its way from customs.  I have sent off my customs form and copies of my passport and visa.  Now I will wait until I hear notice that the box has arrived at the local post office.  I wonder if all of the CDs will be in the box?  And I really wonder what fee they will try to charge me.

How would you react after you paid $1300 for 10 day service and received your belongings 2 months later in this condition (minus one box)???

On the Bright Side,


Yaaay for 2009!

Happy New Year!  On this New Year’s Eve, we are getting ready to host a fantastic party on the Press Club Terrace and I am excited to enjoy the festivities and meet many more locals.  We expect a large and fun crowd of people.

Of course part of me will always be in Shizuoka, climbing that mountain so early in the morning and watching the sunrise behind Fuji-san on New Year’s Day.  That has to be my favorite New Year tradition of all.

Things have been more than busy here in Hanoi with my new job.  Long hours, lots to do and getting everything sorted.  I’ve spent just 3 nights in my new apartment, and have had little time to nest.  I like a warm and cozy home and I have much to do before my apartment will get to that point, but I love the process of decorating and setting up house.

Someone recently wished me a smooth process of unpacking.  I wish I could unpack.  Those ten boxes and their whereabouts are still a mystery.  The USPS is ridiculously unhelpful.  “We have no information” is really not a pleasant answer to hear!  But I’m still holding hope that with Dad’s efforts and the efforts on this end, at least some of my boxes will appear.  I would love to unpack them and find good places for them in my new home.

I will write more this weekend when I have a chance.  I really just wanted to wish you all a terrific New Year.  As you know, I don’t make resolutions, but choose personal themes.  This year I have two.  On the professional front this year’s theme is “Knock It Out Of The Park” and my personal theme this year, “Be Love.”  I’ll explain next time…

Happy Happy New Year!

On the Bright Side,


Season’s Greetings from Hanoi

Hellooooo!  It’s Sunday afternoon and I am sitting in the Tamarind Cafe, a favorite vegetarian restaurant I discovered when I was in Hanoi in May (Sara – You’d love it!). I’m working on my second cup of coffee (delicious) and I am hoping to meet up in a bit with my friend Pete who runs the hotel I stayed in in Sapa.  He’s in town for the weekend opening a cafe with his business partner.  I’ll probably take a long walk around the lake at some point today, too.  I have refused to even look at work stuff today – I need a mental break.

I spent yesterday at the office and last night at Kurt and Anna’s home watching a movie.  Kurt and I haven’t really seen each other for almost two weeks.  He was at a luxury travel trade event in Cannes (lucky bastard!) and I was in Saigon and Hue this past week.  So it was good to catch up and hang out.  Kurt also asked if I was still happy to be here in Vietnam, if I still feel like I’m doing the right thing.  And you know what?  I really am.

The past three weeks have been a whirlwind for sure.  I am meeting new people left and right.  I’m soaking in all sorts of information about my new company, new job and the tasks in front of me.  I looked for and found my new home; a lovely apartment in Tay Ho District.  Hopefully I will be getting settled in my new place next weekend – I can’t wait!!!  I will have to discover where to buy linens, housewares and even furniture, as the apartment is sparsely furnished.  I’ll need to buy motorbike (and helmet!) and find some time somewhere in my busy schedule to get more and more familiar with Hanoi.  It’s all very exciting, but taxing at the same time.  In some moments, my head feels like it will burst!

I spent the last week in the Southern part of Vietnam…Saigon and Hue.  In Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City, take your pick, is where you’ll find the main Apple Tree offices.  I flew in for a visit with the owners, the CFO and the IT Director, among other key people.  Then I was off to the ancient city of Hue, the home of our very stylish and popular hotel, La Residence.  Here, I became familiar with every aspect of the hotel and much to my delight, even the spa!  Fabulous!  I was also keen to explore the other hotels in the city, to check out the competition, so to speak.  But I can honestly tell you that La Residence is one of a kind.  The history of the property, combined with the art deco style and richly appointed rooms, sets it far apart from the other hotels in town.  It is a unique property, indeed, and I can’t see how I would have any trouble selling.

I was also able to take a private tour of the Citadel and Forbidden Purple City.  Hue is the city in which all of the Emperors of vietnam resided.  You can tour the grounds of the royal palace, visit tombs of three famous Emperors and take in numerous other points of interest.  The cuisine in Hue is some of the finest, as the Emperors demanded their meals never be repeated within a calendar year.  This forced immense creativity in ingredients and presentation.  La Parfum Restaurant, named after the Perfume River (another story), has an extensive Vietnamese menu.  I love that my job requires me to try numerous items so I can speak of the Chef’s talents when I am selling the hotel!  I learned a lot about Hue, and especially the Emperors, and fell in love with La Residence.

The holidays are approaching and I while I do feel a little sad that I won’t be home to celebrate Christmas, it’s not the first time, so I’m ok with that.  I can SKYPE my parents, and be there through cyberspace!  Plus we have lots of celebrations at the Press Club and I am very excited for the New Year’s Eve Party on the Terrace.  Should be a good time!  That Terrace sees a lot of terrific parties!

I hope you have a very festive holiday week.  I’ll post again once I’ve moved into my home and have some more stories to share.  I’m sure there will never be a shortage in Vietnam!!!

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,


Vietnamese Beauties

On my tour of the Citadel and Forbidden Purple Palace, I was waiting for my tour guide to park his motorbike.  I took a few shots of the citadel with the huge flag and then turned around to find my guide.  I saw four Vietnamese ladies getting prepared for a photo shoot.  The one in the purple was getting the one in orange prepared.  At first I didn’t think this was a great photo, but now that I’m looking at it again, I think it’s a good candid!

On the Bright Side,


Lucky #28

It just so happens that 28 is one of my lucky numbers.  It is my “ideal” age, if anyone asks.  It is also the year I went to Italy for a 3 week vacation – a trip which inspired me to live abroad, travel, etc.  28 was a good year.

In Hanoi, it was the 28th apartment I viewed which brought me luck.  I just finished my meeting with the owner and HR Director for my company – I GOT IT!!!

I will be living right in the neighborhood I’ve been hoping for, behind the Sheraton and Intercontinental hotels.  I have a brand-spanking-new apartment. In fact, they are still finishing construction. It is 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, top floor, furnished and nice, bright and beautiful.  Very open floor plan and comfortable.

The owner, Mr. Thien, said the apartment will be ready December 25th.  Merry Christmas to me!  Woo Hoo!!!

On the Bright Side,


Gotta love it!

A quick hello and a note to let you know that things are going well in Hanoi.  I hope to negotiate a contract on my apartment tomorrow, a huge task which I will be very glad to get out of the way.  I now have a cell phone and am starting to feel a bit more settled.  Not 100%, mind you, but closer.

On my way back from apartment hunting today, I just had to pull out my camera and take this photo.  Mind you, I was on the back of a motorbike, so it is not the clearest photo in the world, but you get the idea.  I don’t think I will ever tire of seeing what the Vietnamese can carry on a motorbike!

I hope to continue to post snapshots like this.  Stay tuned.

And when I get a break this weekend, I will continue my story from home hunting.  You would not even believe…

On the Bright Side,



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