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Wedding extravaganza 12 September 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Life, Travelling.
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I spent Friday preparing for and celebrating the wedding of two friends of ours. It was a beautiful day, with the most amazing people. I wish them both all the absolute best in life, and I feel so lucky to have such immeasurably valuable friends.

Weddings are, to me, one of the big three – one of the three events in life, next to births and deaths, that one should endeavour not to miss.

It might be the only opportunity one ever has to gather family and friends together to celebrate what matters most in life, namely love between people.

I felt so privileged to have been present at this one, and I regret that I have not been able to go to all the weddings I have been invited to in the past. Seeing the love that my two friends have for each other, celebrating it and sharing it with us all was a most touching experience.

Good luck, dear friends, and I wish you a very romantic honeymoon. I look forward to seeing you both again soon.

A night to remember 23 August 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Happiness, Life, Vietnam.
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Last night was memorable. It was one of those nights that just developed with little planning, and which I will cherish as one of the nicest nights out in Hanoi.

Friends of my partner, whom we have not seen for a while came to our house for the first time. They played the piano and sang, and we all drank green tea. The house virtually shook under the force of one of their voices at his rendition of “O Sole Mio”, and my partner was given extensive instructions in Vietnamese pronunciation of his songs.

Soon we were invited to join them for dinner, although our suggested venue was not accepted, because it was “too expensive and not good”. Instead, we went to a Vietnamese seafood restaurant which sports two gigantic prawns at the entrance. We have only ever admired this venue from afar, and never thought we would ever try it. But the food was amazing.

We took a private room, and we let our friends do all the ordering.

Conversation went surprisingly smoothly, even for me, and we talked about music and singing, about family and travelling, work and play. Two of our friends have a young son whom we had met last time we saw them, so there was an opportunity for me to ooh and aah over his most recent pictures. He’s turning into a very handsome little boy indeed.

The food was way too much – I have literally never eaten that much in my entire life. And they would not accept that I was full, especially because they didn’t think I had eaten that much. It is still astonishing to me how much food can go down the hatch for some Vietnamese people, yet they are still as skinny as they are.

I felt sick from overeating before the final courses were even ordered, when two gigantic crabs and an entire fish was brought out. Out of politeness (and being served with the insistence paralleled only by Italian women!) I had some of each, but I could hardly even chew through the meal.

They ended up asking to get the final course (yes, there was rice porridge yet to come) take away, because there was just no way for me to have another bite.

But the food was really good. There were prawns, clams, squid, fish, soup, crab, more fish, oysters the size of your fist, noodles, vegetables and french fries. All the amazing joys that is Vietnamese seafood. And the people we were with were genuinely just the loveliest people you could possibly spend an evening with. We chatted, learnt new Vietnamese expressions (all Kosher, of course) and enjoyed each other’s company. Or at least I enjoyed theirs.

What a lovely Sunday.

(My) expat life 21 July 2010

Posted by uggclogs in Life, Travelling, Vietnam.
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As much as I have tried to learn Vietnamese, and as much as I try to use it every day, the fact of the matter is, that I am not able to hold very long, meaningful or deep conversations with the average populace. This pains me.

I think that had I spent the last two years exclusively with Vietnamese, speaking, living and breathing Vietnamese, I would have been fluent by now. But the fact of the matter is that I have not. I speak more English in a day than I speak Vietnamese.

My passive language skills are actually quite good, and I can understand a lot when people speak. I can even read quite a lot, too (albeit very slowly).

It is funny how you come across as shy, demure or even a little stupid when you don’t say very much. Luckily, I have by now perfected my smile-and-nod routine.

But nights like tonight make me realise that I am blessed that I have friends and colleagues that have made the effort to learn English as well as they have (putting me to total and utter shame!).

This was my night:

Pho cuon with colleagues at a tiny restaurant where we sit on the floor, legs bent double. Being tall really cramps my style at those places.

Then out for a drink at one of the local expat watering holes, with a beer and shisha (turkish waterpipe) to finish off the evening. Good conversation, many laughs. How was I so lucky as to end up here?