Friday, August 22, 2014

Grocery shopping in Vietnam

Some people were curious about what grocery shopping is like here. There are many ways to shop, including Giant supermarket, convenience stores, fruit vendors on motorbikes, and the mall.  I like to go to Citimart, a tiny grocery/department store, a short walk from my house. There are numerous Citimarts throughout District 7, of different sizes; mine is actually one of the bigger ones. They have a pharmacy, a produce section, a butcher, a wine department, clothing, housewares, and even toys. Everything is tiny tiny, but it's all in there.

I always try to limit my purchases to what I can carry home, although they are happy to lend a delivery guy on a motorbike for larger orders. and here's what I bought today:

I got a lot of produce this time. Nobody sells frozen vegetables, so I have to plan ahead and buy small portions of fresh veggies frequently. There are some familiar tomatoes and onions in there, a bag of what I think might be spinach, broccoli, an eggplant that I think might go well with the Korean barbecue sauce, and just for fun, I bought a dragonfruit. It's the bright pink thing with light green trim. It's a very cartoony-looking fruit.

I also bought some rice noodles, some Minute Maid orange soda, some packages of frozen chicken, and some Catsan Kitty Litter. The last two are for the cats.

I'll talk about the cats more in another post.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Wildlife of HCMC

 Mynah birds. They are the Vietnamese equivalent of starlings, and although they don't speak in the wild, they do make a lot of very interesting noises.

 This pieridae species has a broken wing, but is still pretty. IDing my butterflies and other organisms takes a while and I still have a lot to do.
 The nearby park where I find most of my butterflies is also very popular with wedding photographers. In fact I have nicknamed the park "Wedding Shoot Park."
 Here is one of my prime wildlife sighting spots. Decorative ponds are extremely popular here.
 After sitting quiet and still for about 20 minutes, I managed to see this fellow show himself. I sure could hear him, though!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

First day of school, first big mistake

Today is the Kiddo's first day of school! They start early here in Vietnam.  Early in the day, too - we set off to catch a 7:20 AM bus. Back home in Massachusetts, we always left the house at 8:45.

Aaaand... we caught the wrong bus.

We'd made arrangements for Kid to ride the faculty bus. Previously when we'd ridden the faculty bus, for pre-school-year faculty-and-family events, we boarded it on the Nguyễn Van Linh side of Sky Garden. This time, the faculty bus was going to be elsewhere, near the Sky Garden Skymart, but I don't know where that is exactly.  And since we had to walk up Nguyễn Van Linh anyhow, we got to the old bus stop first.

At that bus stop were three AIS buses, but they all had students in them. All of a sudden a man started shouting at me. All I understood was, "Nhà bè? Nhà bè?" And all he understood was nod nod nod. So he whisked my son away from me and put him in the bus.

And I let it happen, because in the half-second I had to analyze the situation, it occurred to me that while this bus was the wrong bus, it was going to the right school. And the right bus was still at an unknown location. If I'd refused this bus and kept walking, I might have trouble finding the faculty bus and we might miss it, and we'd miss this one too. It seemed less of a risk to get the kid to the right location via the wrong bus than to possibly not get him there at all.

The problem is that the kid's name is not on the bus list, and we didn't pay for this service.

But somehow, out of the six AIS drivers and attendants present, plus two security guards who were probably employed by Sky Garden but were helping out, not one of them spoke English. So I couldn't explain my problem to them. I tried. I failed. So, with no other recourse, I raised my camera and tried to take the first day of school picture that I missed taking while my child was getting whisked.

He looks pretty distressed! Haha, actually he was grinning ear to ear most of the time he was in there. And chatting happily with any student who would speak English to him. I think he was just straining to see me out the window at that moment.

Here are the other pictures I took this morning:

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Aussie TV and cat food disasters

We have cable here, for the first time in years. It's so cheap, though - $10 per month! What a nice change from having to deal with Comcast. We're not big TV watchers, though, so we're giving it a try and if it turns out to be interesting but not disruptive (i.e. if the kid doesn't become obsessed with it) then we may keep it.

It is hypothetically a good language-learning tool.

But it can be hard to find something worth watching, nevermind something that specifically has subtitles in Vietnamese, and now I'm watching "Australia TV" which teaches me nothing about my new country or its language. But it's playing biopics of historical figures and thesbians, and it's better than "Gold Diggers" or the local soap operas where they talk too fast.

Today I was trying to boil some chicken to make cat food, and I burned it. This is the third time I've done that. I have a gas range top, and it burns really hot. Ridiculously hot. I can't simmer on it to save my life - everything burns withing 30 minutes.  And I haven't even been cooking our own food on it. I use the rice cooker almost exclusively so far. We bought a 5 lb bag of rice, some fresh vegetables, and some frozen dim sum that, as far as I can read the cooking instructions, needs to be steamed. And besides cookies, that's all the food we have in the house so far.

I've just been advised to buy an induction cooker, though, so I will have to shop around for one. In the meantime, I'm out of dry food - I have about 10 kernels left - and Melody's gotta eat. I saw a bag of Whiskas at the co-op market down the street, so I'll have to buy that tomorrow.

Oh hey, enjoy this mynah bird who lives on my street.

I sure do. Early each morning, the mynahs twitter and sing in a most entertaining way.