Baby Frogs and Worms

Living here has brought many changes to our lives. One big change is that we have grown more accustomed to taking risks. We are so safety conscious in the United States (okay well I am!).  But in Hanoi you have to just let some things go.  Like say, for instance, when your cab driver has an iPad mounted to his dashboard and is fiddling around on Facebook while driving.

Even what seems ordinary has something unexpected and new. The kids had a spring program at their school recently.  I felt like I could have been at any school in the world it seemed so normal – kids smiling, nervous, happy and proud. Just like home.

Take a look at the video of the third graders — the second half has a beautiful Japanese fan dance:

But after the program we had a wonderful international treat. At the reception the parents were invited to bring food and items from their home countries to share. We had an amazing international buffet (in case you’re wondering what we served at the U.S. table, it was lemonade, banana pudding with Nilla wafers that were brought in a special diplomatic pouch delivery as they don’t exist here, Nestle Toll House chocolate chip cookies and a yummy Hawaiian meat dish).  Here are some Korean moms dressed in their beautiful traditional outfits:

Entertaining ourselves has been a challenge at times because of the lack of green space. One great indoor activity turned out to be our parakeets….Anna, Kate and Matthew create all kinds of homemade playgrounds and toys for them, feed them, and take them out of the cage to stretch their wings.

While not totally tame (hard to do with two birds), they tolerate us pretty well.

Matthew and Cheerio

The weather has been a drastic change from what we’re used to in Cleveland.  (By the way, we are not discussing the fact that it was the warmest winter in Cleveland in 2,000 years).  The Hanoi winter was all humidity and damp cold.  Now there is withering heat and humidity. No spring at all.  Our cellos and violin can attest to the extreme weather here — take a look at the warped bridge on Anna’s cello.  We are hoping it makes it till we get home in July and get a replacement (not available here apparently):

At least with the super hot weather we can go swimming at a pool near our house right on West Lake.

Blowing bubbles at the pool

The rain and warm weather brought out thousands of baby frogs. You have to step carefully to avoid squashing them in the street. They are apparently loads of fun to play with (I am not sure how the frogs feel about that though).

Baby frog world

In addition to the frogs, the rain brought massive worms – this guy was over a foot long and looked more like a snake to me:

One great thing about coming here is having the chance to meet so many amazing and interesting people from all over the world. In addition to our new Vietnamese friends, we’ve met people from other countries, including Israel, Korea, Japan, Belgium, China and Chile!

Dinner with the Valdes family.

The soccer season came to an end last weekend.  There was a tournament with real refs, which meant they kept score and there were winners and losers.

Kate’s team came in first in the second grade division. Anna’s team came in 2nd place. It was great to see how hard the kids played in the competition.

Every day brings interesting sights to us. Here’s a few of the fun, beautiful and weird.

Pinwheels for sale

There are a lot of fowl on the streets.  Somehow they learn to stay on the side and manage to not get run down.

Chickens on our street. We’ve watched these guys grow from baby chicks over the last few months.

These are fighting cocks.

When a wedding happens here, the family sets up a tent right in the street and has a reception there. We’ve seen them several times all over the city, but this one was in front of our apartment building last week.  That’s the Concordia school bus trying to squeeze by:

A wedding party tent.

As I mentioned before, safety isn’t quite as high profile here as it is at home.  I am sure if there were more resources, things might get more attention.  This hole in the road has been here since we arrived in January:

On the other hand, the city does spend money flower and plant beds around West Lake (which people then use to let the chickens roam in, but no matter):

I think the Vietnamese believe that trees have spirits.  Here is a little altar to put incense and make a prayer for this beautiful big tree:

The kids have been upset about this little Chihuahua on our street.  Every day he’s tied up on a very short leash with no water for hours. If I had to choose a place to be a pet, it would not be Vietnam.

In Vietnam we often see examples of stark differences between the haves and have-nots.  This photo shows a small hut made of corrugated iron and wood.  A family with children and several ducks live there. Their neighbor is the fancy Intercontinental Hotel. What a contrast!

This is another home on our street, surrounded by many fancy new houses and cars.

People have to get around on their motorbikes, no matter the weather. When it’s raining, out come the big raincoats:

But I guess an umbrella will do if you don’t go too fast:

Most of the streets are lined with places to pull up a (very tiny) stool and have something to drink or eat.

Note the tree in the wall behind – also with a place for incense and praying.

If you need air for your tires, here’s the guy to see:

Last week I attended a lacquer painting demonstration. What a time consuming and tedious art form – with beautiful results!

Michael has been very busy doing lectures on entrepreneurship in Laos and Cambodia and working with the Vietnamese Ministry of Science and Technology on a week long seminar, amongst other things. In Laos all sorts of people came to hear Michael, eager to learn about starting and funding businesses:

Last weekend we had a family recital.  All three kids did a wonderful job practicing and performing. Our friend Joanie kindly offered to accompany them on the piano!

Kate and Anna play a fun duet.

Thirty friends came… how nice!

It’s May 23rd. We have just over a month left before we leave Hanoi for good and do some traveling in the region.  It’s not always been easy, but we’ve enjoyed and embraced the newness and unexpectedness and even the confusion (yes, the daily and even hourly confusion of not knowing what anyone is saying or doing). Mostly, we have loved watching our children learn and grow and embrace the unexpected.  They’ve even made up a few funny rap songs about their lives here.  You’ll have to ask for a performance when we get home.