Friday, February 27, 2015

The Big Move...Q & A #22

"Beep.. Beep"  Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

When I was told we were moving to Vietnam I went into full Google search mode. Who, what, where, when, how...lay it on me. I searched out other expat bloggers living in Ho Chi Minh City, sent my list of questions and waited patiently. One person answered and I was grateful to her for taking the time. It was a start.

So here I am, nearly three years later and now the questions are coming to me. I feel like the expat "Dear Abby" of Vietnam. What goes around, comes around. I like that. 

Taking a moment...Saigon

People mostly connect through my other blog, Expat Diary: Viet Nam. I started the blog before we moved to Saigon, as a place store all the information from my Google searches. Since then, I have written sporadically.... but it seems to be enough for people to reach out.

"Fruit for Sale"...Saigon

My most recent request came from Esteban in Argentina in response to my blog post.. A Love Affair..with Vietnam

I'm thinking to live in Vietnam for a year to change the air, imbue my in their culture and break with my actual routine. I'm independent translator and I have many happy and loyal clients, so it I can work in any place in the world with Internet.
I like nature, sailing, reading. I consume tons of silence, makes me happy :)
I don't want to be travelling like a tourist during this year, so my plan is to rent a place that will be my home during the entire year. Eventually I wish to visit on some weekends other places in Asia: Cambodia, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, other places in Vietnam, Hong Kong and China. 
My wish is to live alone with my wife in a place near some river, beach or sea, with kitchen (I like to cook every day, this make me feel in home), minimum comfort. Nightlife is not for me, I prefer family lifestyle.
Can you recommend me some cities in Vietnam to do this?

Thank you very much!

Best regards from Argentina,


"Fruit Juice for Sale"...Saigon

Did I mention how much I enjoy receiving notes like this? I think Esteban has the making of a great story. I wrote to him with a few suggestions. I am curious to see if he makes his dream a reality. 

The questions I recieve vary...

Do Vietnamese eat dogs?
Should I bring mine?
What is compound living like?
Which schools do you recommend?
How do you find the medical care in Vietnam?
Do you drive in Vietnam?
What is it like living in a Communist country?
How do I find house staff? How much should I pay them?
What should I bring with, medicine, beauty products?
I am looking for a job, what should I do? How does it work?
How much money do I need to make to live comfortably?
Where should I live?
How do I find an apartment, house?

and from future Vietnam travellers..

I want to travel to Vietnam, where should I go?
Can you recommend shops, restaurants, places to stay?
I want to have furniture made, where should I go?

I admit, some questions are beyond me and some are to complex to answer, but for the most part, I try to answer them the best I can. I am now to the point where I can copy and paste information in response to the most popular questions. I wonder if "Dear Abby" does that..  ;)

"Park Here"...Saigon

So.. in the spirit of powering along with my 28 Day Writing Challenge (the one I am five days behind on).. I thought I would ask if you have any questions for me about life in Vietnam or any other topics that interest you. I find that when you live in a place for a time, you start to forget about the gems that intrigued you when you first settled in. The questions coming my way keep it fresh, allowing me to make the most of my time here.

If you would rather write to me, please do!

Sending you a big "Beep..Beep" 
from Vietnam 
for a wonderful weekend!

Jeanne xx

28 Day Writing Challenge, #22
February 27, 2015
Writing from Chateau Mango
Vietnam time

From Saigon...."Beep..Beep"

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

Photos above taken along my travels
around Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).

Thursday, February 26, 2015

New Friends and Old Friends #21

New Friends and Old Friends

Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.
New-made friendships, like new wine,
Age will mellow and refine.

Friendships that have stood the test-
Time and change-are surely best;
Brow may wrinkle, hair may gray,
Friendships never know decay.

For' mid old friends, tired and true,
Once more we our youth renew.
But old friends, alas! may die,
New friends must their place supply.

Cherish friendship in your breast-
New is good, but old is best;
Make new friends, but keep the old;
Those are silver, these are gold.

by Joseph Parry

The Big Chill  (1983) Jo Beth Williams, 
Kevin Kline, William Hurt, Glenn Close

A few posts back, I wrote about the ins and outs of making friends in your 50's.  Life has a way of presenting us with new opportunities and those who take them, often make the most of it. I mentioned the analogy of being an adult in the proverbial sandbox. Sometimes it is empty and sometimes it is full, how you deal with it either way makes all the difference. 

Mr. H and I were in the USA last week, checking on the construction progress of Tahilla Farm. We also used that time to play in the sandbox or snow pile, depending on how you look at it. 

It was a series of reunions starting with new friends made since we bought Tahilla Farm and old friends..the ones that go all the way back to our college years. It reminded me of movies like "The Big Chill", a group of friends coming together, whatever the occasion, who connect spontaneously and joyfully. The kind of friends you can kick back with and just hang.

When we waved goodbye to our friends in Connecticut, 17 years ago, I said we would be back in two years, five at the most. And there we were, all those years later, chatting away as if we were still on playground duty, watching our kids and making plans for the next playdate.  Except, the kids are grown and on their own and we are that much older and wiser. 

It felt sooo good, to have that feeling again, where you can start talking as if you were picking up from your last conversation. A few months, a few years…no difference.

Speaking of love, couldn't resist...

The Big Chill video clip here

The dictionary says a reunion is an instance of two or more people coming together again after a period of separation.  When you reconnect with good friends, you realise, no matter the age, you can still have just as much fun. All those "remember when?" stories never get old. Some girls just gotta have fun..all through the years. This movie scene from Mamma Mia (2008) a classic and another "feel good" "pick me up" movie clip. 

Meryl Street, Julie Walters and Christine Baranski

Mamma Mia Video clip here

Phyllida Law and Linda Kerr Scott in Saving Grace.

Ok…I had to throw this in, because I could see myself and a few other friends getting into this same predicament. Cracks me up every time I watch it. If you have not seen the movie, Saving Grace,  I highly recommend it. I will save the reason for the scene below…you will just have to see it. I will tell you that it involves brownies…I just love it! 

Saving Grace video clip here

This all came about because I was thinking about reunions, not just the one we create by catching up with friends, but the ones when you come together with classmates. I have never been to a single high school or college reunion. Living overseas had something to do with it but even during the years when we were living in the USA, within a reasonable distance…I always had an excuse. One of those things I can not really explain. But…I have an invitation, to my 40th  High School Reunion and I might be within driving distance….or I might not. But if I am, I wonder if I should just do it.

How about you? Where do you fall on high school and college reunions? Are you a regular or do you prefer to keep the memories as they were?

Just curious….in the meantime, I hope you can check out the videos above, my "go to" "feel good" movie clips. Perfect for jet lag . Enjoy!

Jeanne :)

PS.. I am back in Vietnam, coasting through jet lag and catching up with blog posts. Thanks so much for your comments (mine coming) to my Mother of the Groom dress predicament. Wonderful suggestions! 

28 Day Writing Challenge, #21
February 26, 2015
Writing from Chateau Mango
Vietnam time

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Mother of the Groom Dress...

My son Patrick is getting married to a lovely Australian girl, Cherie, next month and we are all so excited. The wedding will be in the Yarra Valley, an Australian wine region near Melbourne, Victoria. Cherie has organised the wedding and I know it will be beautiful.

There is only one small matter nagging at me. I have been waiting six months for an epiphany…on what to wear to the wedding. When I was in Australia last November I thought I might find the perfect dress. I didn't. When I was in Hong Kong earlier in the month, I thought I might find the perfect dress. I didn't. So yesterday…I went on the hunt for the perfect dress in Connecticut. 

I learned a very important lesson yesterday. It is never a good idea to walk into a bridal shop and announce that you are looking for a dress, off the rack, with no time to spare. The chances of finding "the dress" in your size is next to nil..especially if you are not a size 2, 4 or 6 and so on.

I looked at the rack and sighed…I knew right away that this was not the "look" I was going for. I would have snuck out of the shop if the saleswoman was not on my heels trying to help. I explained that I was the mother of the groom, the wedding was next month, in Australia and I was flying back to Vietnam tomorrow and would take care of alterations there. I thought for sure that would be the end of the story…but she said not to worry, she would find the perfect dress for me. I was dubious.

I waited in the changing room and watched one taffeta creation after another float into the room. Because I am the sort of person that I am, I smiled politely and interesting. Truth be told, I wanted to run out the door and lock myself in my car.

I persevered and as I suspected..many of the dresses were for petite framed women, of which I am not. She was determined to squeeze me into a lacy skirt the colour of mint julep and I quickly suggested she might be dreaming on that one.

She did manage to convince me to try on a full length burgundy taffeta creation with sparkling embellishments swirling around my waist line. It was hard not to laugh. I felt like the shy 13 years old girl again, in a dressing room with my mother, convincing me that I just had to suck it in and all would be well. This was not the feeling I was going for at 57.

I knew my time was up when she pulled out what she called a "bargain".  It was somewhere between the colour of Dijon mustard and a lime…and it had one big enormous ruffle at the neckline, waistline AND….a large taffeta rosette to cover the derriere. I just couldn't…. I said it really was not me, muttered something along the lines of  "I would think about it", stuffed her business card into my coat pocket and ran out the door.

It was an interesting experience and I learned a few things…an adult prom dress was not for me and I needed to rethink my strategy. I was looking for something more in tune with my style.

I picked up a few things in other shops, with a mind to have a dress made in Vietnam. I found a delicate Japanese kimono inspired waist jacket which might do the trick. I am going to go for Plan A, Plan B and Plan C…and I have just under a month to do it. The nice thing about Vietnam is that anything is possible. 

On that note, I am signing off with #20 of my 28 Day Writing Challenge. It is hard to believe I have written 20 posts already when I only published 41 posts in all of 2014. I am a 2-3 posts behind where I want to be but my overall batting average is looking pretty good. are so kind to follow along. My gratitude knows no bounds. Thank you!

28 Day Writing Challenge, #20
February 23, 2015
From a view to my luggage
bound for Vietnam

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

#20 The Mother of the Groom Dress

Excerpt of a painting: A young boy, Frederick Cooper by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland, 1735-1811

Monday, February 23, 2015

A Bird's Life and Sunflower Hearts… #19

A bird's life in Connecticut

My father was a fanatical 'birder', the kind of person who felt you could never have enough bird feeders or bird baths. We had a bunch…hanging off trees, off the house, attached to windows, sitting on rocks, standing on poles and if he could have, he would have stood outside, arms stretched, embracing a bird feeder and balancing a bird bath on his head, just for the sheer delight of it all. He wanted to make the birds happy…and he did.

My kids would say that I have become a tad fanatical over birds too…but more so on the decorative front. I  find it hard to resist anything relating to birds (and bicycles). One can never have too many, especially when it reminds you of someone you love. 

When we lived in Australia I found myself missing New England songbirds, the screech of a Cockatoo and call of a Kookaburra were off the mark by a few decibels. Easy solution…I bought an audio CD of New England songbirds, brought it back to Sydney and would play it endlessly. I won't comment on what my kids and Mr. H said about that…but it did the trick.

This morning we woke (in Connecticut) to a fresh snowfall..and a flurry of birds feeding on Whole Sunflower Hearts. Mrs. H Sr. swears by them and based on the activity this morning, I would say she it right. The benefit to these seeds is that there are no shells, allowing the birds to get right to the heart of the seed without leaving a mess of cracked seeds on your lawn or terrace. Win, win all around.

Someone asked me earlier in the week if I had thought about where I would place a bird feeder at Tahilla Farm. It was addressed as a singular proposition, just one bird feeder. I stood there, looking out what will one day be french windows in our master bedroom and felt the birding world move around me. Just one? Not a chance…after all, I am my father's daughter.  :)

So how about you? 
Any birds in your views these days? 
Do you have a favourite? 
Would love to know...
If you would like to send me a photo of your
bird views, you can write to me

A Bird's Life..all photos above taken with my Canon EOS 550D

February 22, 2015
28 Day Writing Challenge, #19
From a view to a bird feeder 
New England time

Collage of Life
28 Day Writing Challenge
(click on title to read)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sharing the love…creative souls #18

I am sharing the love today for fellow writers and photographers who live in my neck of the woods. By woods, I mean the ones in New Hampshire. For those of you who may not be aware, 'Tahilla Farm' is located in the woods of New Hampshire, a state in the New England region of the Northeastern United States. It is a state I am learning to love, not only for the land but for the community and spirit of the creative souls in the region. 

I'd like to share the love for a two local writers and photographers today as I have a feeling, if you do not know them already, you will enjoy discovering them. 

Joseph Valentine Garden Photography

Joseph Valentine,  a country gardener 

I have told the "story of Joe" many times on my blog for it was Joe and a wonderful reader, Lisa, who led me to Tahilla Farm. We all met through Collage of Life and I will be forever grateful that we did. 

Joe has just launched a new website, Joseph Valentine Garden Photography, featuring his stunning photography and his blog, Notes from Juniper Hill. His blog is.. "The diary of a country gardener. thoughts, journeys, musings, ramblings, rants, raves and occasional drivel- with a horticultural twist." 

I can tell you that finding a favourite photograph amongst Joe's galleries is next to impossible…they are all works of art. I couldn't resist the beautiful aliums below…especially on this very cold winter's night. Read along on his blog, follow him on Facebook and or Twitter and you will not be disappointed. Promise!

Sarah Kenny @ Thyme

Sarah recently heard the call of the wild woods and moved her family from Texas to New Hampshire. She is a resourceful and talented woman who loves cooking, travel, photography and writing. All of her interests are beautifully featured in her photography portfolio and blog,ThymeSomething I particularly love is a video she created from her recent trip to Florence. It's a must

Sarah's journey has just begun. She is in the throws of finding the perfect property in New Hampshire…and may have found it. I am sure that it will be a beautiful journey from beginning to end. You can follow Sarah on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and her blog. Be sure to pour a cup of tea or coffee before you do, you will want to stay a while. Enjoy!

Between the woods and frozen lake…

We are packing our bags for the next stop before returning to Vietnam next week. The visit to Tahilla was productive but too short. We will return in June to a different landscape, warmer weather and a whole new view of Tahilla Farm. I am already counting the days...  
Stopping by woods…Tahilla Farm

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening

by Robert Frost, 1923
a past New Hampshirite

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

And miles to go before I sleep…Tahilla Farm

WIth thanks for your very kinds words on my last post. So glad to see so many of us on the same wave length. 

With that…signing off

February 20, 2015
28 Day Writing Challenge, #18
From the hearth side
New England time

28 Day Writing Challenge
Posts to Date

click on title to read


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