Saturday, April 24, 2010

Our Vietnam Trip comes to a Close

So we are getting to the end of our visit here to Vietnam. We've been able to see many things and meet many new people. I have felt during this trip that we have been where we needed to be and that we belong here at this time. I especially have felt that way as we attended church. I don't know what things God has in store for us, but I hope that I can be in tune to the Spirit to be able to be an instrument in his hands when he calls for my help. In Vietnam there are many beautiful places in the city. We come across very pretty buildings that are mixed up with the rickety shops and street vendors. Everything here is a mash of color and variety.
We even found a Vietnemese-German restaurant. Go figure.
We even stumbled across a sculpture park right in the middle of downtown where people come to play all different kinds of sports.
Many of the people we've met here are awesome. The members of our new branch are pretty cool. We went to a Hawaiian party on Saturday where we got to socialize a little more with everyone. We were basically there all afternoon. We ate, we chatted, we went swimming, Sean played basketball and we really had a great time.

Now we are looking forward to being home for one more month before we move. We've missed our family and friends and most especially our little Terryn. We'll be sad to say goodbye to everyone when we move, but we really feel like we are doing the right thing for our family by moving to Vietnam. God has shown us many miracles and we've seen his hand in our lives as he's been directing us here.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pagodas

On Wednesday we were done a little early with house hunting. We asked Phat, our driver for the week, if he would take us to a pagoda. We went to two different ones. The first one was right in the middle of District 1, but it appeared to be closed at that time. The second one (all the pictures are from the second one) was also in District 1 (I think). We were able to take some pictures and walk around. We weren't able to go inside the main building because Phat said the monks were praying.
We were able however, to see some of the monks walking around later. Some people were preparing food outside. They were using a machette like knife and hacking away at some sort of fruit or vegetable.
Here's Phat walking around with Sean. He was so funny. He kept teaching us Vietnemese and we would teach him some English. We had a really great time with him as our driver. We laughed a lot. Phat said he would miss us for the month we'd be gone before we move back.
I told Sean that this picture looks like I had my head photoshopped in. Hahahaha.
It was pretty cool walking around the pagoda. And when I say cool I mean it was interesting and pretty (definately not cold). We were so hot and sweaty when we were done. Thank goodness for an air-conditioned car!
Today we are excited to be done with house shopping and really being able to enjoy ourselves. I haven't really taken a whole lot of pictures since we've been here because we've been house hunting most of the time. We've been going to bed pretty early too because I keep waking up so early. I keep waking up at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning.
So our plans for today are to get a massage. Yeah! It's so cheap here. It's like $20 for 75 minutes. Today is also a holiday, so there will be a bunch of festivities going on. It's the anniversary of some Vietnemese king and they have some games going on and a concert downtown. We will also probably go back to the market since there's a few other things we want to buy.
So far, aside from the grueling house hunting everyday and the heat, this trip has been awesome! I can't wait to come back here with little Terryn. I miss him so much. I also hope that some of our friends will be able to visit us here because we will be living in a beautiful, spacious house and Vietnam is AMAZING!

Our New Home!

In my last post I showed some pictures of a home that we really liked. The only problem was that the price was over our housing allowance from DHL. We have been looking for homes for the last week we've been here. It's been a grueling processing. Last night we were so frustrated and we didn't know what to do. We didn't want to pay anything out of pocket, but we felt like we were running out of time. We hadn't seen anything else that felt right.

This morning we prayed very sincerely for God's help. We didn't receive an answer right away, but we felt like we should go out and look some more and things would work out. Sean had emailed the realtor we were working with about our predicament the night before. During the day she emailed us back saying that the landlord lowered the rent to what was in our allowance.

Can you believe it? We will be living in this beautiful house!!! We are so thankful for God's guidance in helping us find a home. We are so indebted to him for having everything work out the way it did... and before we had to leave. I love my Heavenly Father so much for looking out for us. Thank you!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

House Hunting

So we've been going out everyday looking at different villas in Ho Chi Minh City. We've looked at many in Thao Dien, An Phu and Tran Nao. We even found a really great community out in District 9 that had resort like ammenities, but the commute would be WAY too long for Sean everyday. The house we are in love with is in An Phu in District 2. It's in a gated community or compound with a few other villas and it has security guards that watch the gate. The villa itself is in it's own gated compound. So I would feel very safe in this house.
The landlord has amazing reviews from the reality company and he's very nice. All the decor and layout of the house is very tastefully done. The bottom floor living room is HUGE.
The downstairs entertainment area is HUGE. And of course... my favorite room...
The kitchen is AMAZING! Can you see this? It makes my kitchen in Federal Way look like a child's kitchen.
This room is the second floor entertainment area. One thing I also like about this house is that all the windows are very good quality. They make the villa very cool and very quiet.
This villa has eight.... yes eight rooms that could possibly be bedrooms. All the furniture you see from the photos are included with the villa. We would have four beds provided.
The above photo is a different view of the second floor entertainment area.
This photo (above) is the third floor.
And here is another view of that third floor common space.
This is a view of the neighborhood. There are tons of flowering trees everywhere. My favorite are the plumeria trees. I love them!
This is the fourth floor sitting area. Also on the fourth floor is a nice patio and wash room. We really hope that this villa will be our new home, but we have to wait for my husband's company to negotiate the contract. Hopefully we'll know soon.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Haggling

So we went to the Ben Thanh Market to buy a few things. Sean really wanted these suitcases that had four wheels. We went around and around in the market to figure otu the cheapest we could get them. We ended up spending about 30 minutes negotiating the price at this one stall and got three pieces of luggage for about $100 USD. What was funny is Sean tried to get to help out in his system of haggling, but I couldn't do it right. I kept pulling out more money than he wanted me to. It was quite comical.

If you want to get a good deal here you really have to gage how much things are and then undertake a painful negotiation process. You may even have to walk away a few times. They always say, "What you price?" "How much you want?" Most of the time you can get the item down to about half... depending on what it is. We also bought a few other things, but I really like the market. I think it's fun. It is super hot in there though.

The only thing that isn't negotiable is food and taxis. For food, you pay what is listed and they add the service fee in the price. So you don't have to tip. That always feels weird for me not to tip. Everything else here is basically negotiable.... and I mean EVERYTHING. Guess I need to learn how to haggle better. :)

Monday, April 19, 2010

Vietnam

We left for our trip to Vietnam on Wednesday. We brought a TON of suitcases because we are leaving some stuff here with friends so we have less stuff to bring over when we move. I think Terryn knew something was up. Here he had climbed into my suitcase as if to say, "Mommy... don't go without me."Our travel time was about 24 hours. We had a short layover in San Fransisco and 2 hour layover in Hong Kong. Our flight from San Fran to Hong Kong was FOREVER long! I do have to say though that the flight wasn't too bad other than the length. We flew United and they were very nice and accomodating. We left Seattle early in the morning and it stayed light outside the airlplane window until we got to Hong Kong. We kept chasing the light. I can honestly say it was the longest day I've ever experienced. When we arrived in Ho Chi Minh I remember stepping out of the airport and there were so many people outside waiting for other passengers. I almost felt like I was in a parade. Then we found our shuttle driver to the hotel. He drove like a MANIAC! But then we realized... so did everybody else!
We are staying in the Sheraton Hotel in downtown Ho Chi Minh City. It's right in the center of everything. Above is the picture of the fruit they left us in our room. The half eaten one is dragon fruit. I'd never had it before. It was pretty good. It kinda reminds me of a mild tasting kiwi. On friday Sean had to go into the office and so I was on my own. I of course had to look at a map and I had my camera slung over my shoulder. Does that scream tourist or what? I kept having people accost me for rides on their motorbikes or to buy whatever they were selling. I quickly realized that I needed to put the map away and ignore everyone who tried to talk to me. That was weird for me, but it worked. I picked out my destination and began to walk toward the Ben Thanh Market.
The market actually reminded me a lot of a place in Santa Ana from my mission. There were hundreds of stalls of people selling all sort of goods. People yelling, "Miss, Miss I have something for you." "What you like Madam?" I have to say I REALLY enjoyed going there. There were so many things to see. You just have to be careful inquiring for a price because if you're not totally serious about buying, the people will grab you as you walk away. "What price?" Everything is a negotiation here.
Probably the first thing we noticed were the number of mopeds. Probably 85% of the traffic is mopeds here. You'll see a whole family on one. We saw two small children, one basically Terryn's age, squished between their parents on a moped. Sometimes you'll see a huge stack of packages or boxes stacked precariously on the back of them.
Crossing the street is always an experience and not for the faint of heart. You just basically have to go. Many intersections don't have lights or anything. It's just mass pandamonium. Everyone trying to squish through at the same time.
Our hotel had quite the nice view of downtown. There's so much new construction going on everywhere here.
The Opera House was on the same street as our hotel and the People's Commitee building was also very close. Many building have French inspired architecture.
Unfortunately, I haven't taken very many pictures yet, so these are the best I've taken so far.
Most of our time has been spent looking for housing. It's so hard to know where we'd want to live. Really nice houses are next to grass shacks. Wherever we live I want to feel safe and I want to be able to go around the city and leave the house and not feel like it's going to get broken into.
On Sunday we went to church here. It was quite the adventure getting there since our taxi driver dropped us off in the wrong place. We had to call a member (thank goodness I had the number with me) and he gave us directions. Our only problem was that there was this huge, deep puddle we had to cross to get there. That's another story though... hahaha... There church building was a converted villa. And it was so HOT! We met a lot of really interesting people from all over the world though. The meeting was in Vietnemese, but they had English translators and so we wore headsets. It was kinda funny though because the power kept going on and off the whole time. Apparently that's totally normal. Anyway we met a nice lady from South Africa who works as a nurse. Sean was also super excited to meet a family from Hungary and Switzerland. They invited us over for dinner that night and we had a blast. Sean got to practice his Swiss German. I also fell in love with the neighborhood they lived in. It's basically like a resort. It has a double gate and security guards that patrol the area too so it feels very safe. The villas are all fairly new and they have two really nice swimming pools, a gym, a play ground and it's quiet and by a lake. Plus there's another member family that lives there so we'd already have friends there. Anyways... we continue to look for housing and we pray that we will find the place that's right for our family.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Seattle

Sean had some friends in town so we went into Seattle to pay them a visit. They were staying in downtown and were here for a conference. We only had a couple hours to visit so we walked through Pike's Place and down by the waterfront.It had been awhile for the both of us since we strolled through downtown. I used to spend a lot of time when I was younger wandering the streets of the city with my friends. We were told by Chummie, who's from Hanoi, that the markets in Vietnam are similar to what we see in the Farmer's market.
I love the color and personalities you can see in the market. It'll be a cool experience to see it in our new home too.
I suppose that the familiar buildings of downtown Seattle will be replaced by those of downtown Saigon. Maybe in time they too will become familiar.
Here we are posing with our friends Brett & Chummie down by the waterfront in front of this cool mosaic mural.
Terryn was excited to see all the cars and people. He got really excited when we ran into people who were walking their dogs.
One such fellow let Terryn hold the leash for his husky puppy. Terryn thought that was great. He started walking around the guy and tied his feet up in the leash. Aren't the dogs usually supposed to do that?
He didn't want to stop visiting with the puppy, but we had to go. Here he is waving goodbye.
After we dropped our friends off at the hotel, we walked around the plaza in front of West Lake. There was a guy playing his drums there. Terryn waved to him and the guy dropped one of his sticks because it made him laugh.
Terryn also enjoyed chasing the pigeons around. It was funny to watch him try to catch them because he is still so slow and they are a lot faster than him.
Then I made Sean and Terryn walk through the wall o' water and he got a little wet. I thought this picture turned out pretty cool though.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Tulip Festival

So I finally made it out to the Tulip Festival this year in Mt. Vernon. My friend Jen came up to visit this weekend and I convinced her to go with me. It was quite a long drive up there, but man... was it beautiful!We went to the Roozengaarde Garden. It was very beautiful. I really enjoyed looking at the different varieties of tulips. Even Terryn stopped to smell the flowers.
I loved this interesting tree and these yellow and orange tulips.
Here we are in the garden. Poor Terryn... he just wanted to run around, but I had to confine him to the stroller most of the time.
I love this picture of Jen. The red tulips were so striking, so vibrant.

There were so many colors in the fields. I think we picked the perfect time to visit. Some bulbs hadn't blossomed yet and some had already had their petal fall off, but most were in bloom.
The valley was gorgeous. The mountains had a light sprinkling of snow of them. Very picturesque.


You wouldn't believe how long it took me to take the picture of this tractor. There was this couple that kept hanging around on it, which was fine, but there were a number of us who were waiting for them to move so we could take pictures. I think I waited for like 10 minutes for them to finally move on.
Umm... did I mention you're not supposed to go in between the rows of tulips. :) Heh heh

Terryn was being super cute at this point. The ground was pretty wet and so we had to keep him in the stroller. It was pretty bumpy and he did not like it at all. When we finally let him walk around he was ecstatic.
I love this picture. He had fun tiptoeing through the tulips.

The Fudge Place had this sign out front. Ain't that the truth though? Chocolate... Men... Rich... Yes please. :)
We managed to have someone take our picture in front of the windmill. Amazingly he captured us without too many people in the shot. Yea!
I really loved this barn. It just had something about it. I saw this shot in black and white in my mind so that's why I posted it that way.
Overall, we had a really great time. We were there a lot longer than I had anticipated and poor Terryn was tuckered out. He of course fell asleep on the way home. Every year I always think to myself how I wished I would have gone to the Tulip Festival. I never remember about it until it's too late and it's over. I had a really great time and I think I got a few really great pictures. I'm glad Jen was willing to put up with me taking so many.