Posted in a-spoiling we will go, oh, hcmc!, saigon, baby

Saigon-Related Throwback Thursday – so you moved here with small children. now what?

The following is an un-finished post that I started in April 2013!

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So, when we left Bangkok, I wrote up a few posts (largely on my other abandoned blog) that kind of summarized all of the things that I ended up liking about our life there. I'm not really sure that I'm going to feel sentimental about anything here in Saigon, but I figure that since our moving day is coming up, I'd put something to together about living here with small kids. 

Firstly, googling "things to do with kids in HCMC" isn't going to produce a lot of hits (as I write this in April 2013 (particularly, if you're looking for a website in English)). We find out about family-friendly events through more traditional mediums, like notices posted at cafes, local-interest magazine like The Word, and advertising posters at the schools our kids attend. The Word has actually been a really good resource for us over the years – the back section has a large listing of restaurants, places to shop, and this "Generation V" category that has information on where to buy baby gear, shop for clothes, shop for schools, and so on. 

There are also a few message groups that are used for finding out all manner of things about living here: Vietnam Parents Network, An Phu Neighbours, and Phu My Hung Neighbours (and there are probably more of these for other communities with a decent ex-pat population  that I don't know about!). 

I'm not a great authority on areas of this city beyond the one that I live in, but there appears to more indoor playgrounds here than outdoor ones (though there is a very nice one in Pham Ngu Lao – the backpacker area). We've always found them very affordable (like, one dollar per hour affordable), but the quality does vary. The newest one in our area put a trampoline right up against a glass window, for example. The funnest one might have been the one with the zip line that I blogged about here, but there's a very tidy and well-maintained one called "Joymax" across from the British International School in District 2. 

I ran into a suprising problem clothing my children here. Places like Saigon Square and the markets are fantastic for buying inexpensive clothes for babies and toddlers (and American brands like Carters, BabyGap, Old Navy, etc. are easily found), but finding items in larger sizes (Madeline's worn sizes 6 – 8 while we've been here) has been more challenging! Once I even resorted going to the newly-opened Gap Kids in the Vincom shopping center to buy her a pair of jeans (seriously, it's like blasphemy here to buy Gap clothes at the actual Gap store when you can buy Gap clothes cheap at the markets). We haven't had to buy Madeline much clothing here in Saigon, thanks to the school uniform policy, but there's a chain called DLS (outlets across the city) where we've found some lovely pieces in her size, and a newer shop on Xuan Thuy (D2) called Pure Heaven that carries this European Copenhagen Delights line of apparel (up to size 12, I believe), and Madeline's really liked the quality of the outfits she has. 

 

 

 

 

Posted in ex-pat confidential, saigon, baby

if I were the reviewing type

I'd be raging somewhere against the (fellow foreigner) photographer we had a photo session with two weekend ago.

The crimes:

  • Actually telling me that I am a "lady of leisure" without actually inquiring into how I spend my time here in Saigon. There is nothing that I despise more than being stereotyped as a typical ex-pat wife, because I'm really not. 
  • Frequent high-pressure emails, like he's trying to sell us a brand-new Prius to make an end-of-the-month sales quota.  We don't want to upgrade the trim line!
  • Sending us proofs that look lower-resolution than the images on my child's Fisher Price digicam. Seriously, I can't see my childrens' faces in the proofs well enough to see if their eyes are open or if they're smiling. 
  • Quoting me a price for an 5×7-ish  print that is equal to what he'd sell an 11×14-ish for. 

Well, I feel better by typing out my itemized list of complaints, really I do. Now, onto bigger (actual) problems. 

Posted in ex-pat confidential, oh, hcmc!, saigon, baby

field trips: not always the best idea

Today, Madeline's class went on a field trip to the zoo here in Ho Chi Minh City to study animal habitats. Both Chris and I were wondering about what the outing was intended to achieve; we've been to the Saigon Zoo before and it's more of a lesson in "habitat don't" than "habitat do". This is the developing world, after all … 

Still, when Madeline's teacher stopped me in the corrider to talk, I was internally freaking out that she'd unleased her belligerent streak again. Instead, he apologetically recounted all of the things that apparently deeply upset her on the excursion, like:

  • the elephant was chained up
  • the otters had no access to water
  • she heard some classmates excitedly talk about how one of the snakes was being given a cute little bunny to eat*

I'm still unclear what the point of going to the Saigon Zoo was, but I do know that I'm pleased that the treatment of animals in captivity is something that matters to my kid. 

 

*I wasn't sure what Madeline thought that snakes ate. I asked her, and she figured that it was animals that were "less cute" than bunnies.

Posted in ex-pat confidential, saigon, baby

sometimes the story is better …

So, it was my husband's birthday yesterday, and I've been in a Saigon's-a-cool-place-to-be mindset, so I thought that the gifts that I'd found locally here were thoughtful and kind of awesome. Exhibit A: A print of the part of HCMC that his office is in from a funky gallery (Tara & Kys) he likes:

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Exhibit B (not pictured) would be a lacquer tea box (similar to this), because Chris likes tea and has a variety of different varieties sitting out on our kitchen countertop. 

I am a little sad to report that neither of those lovely gifts excited him nearly as much as this did:

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This is exactly what it looks like: a slice of a tree trunk with the bark removed. It's also a cutting board that is roughly sixteen inches across and three inches high, and it weighs so much that dropping it on one's foot might actually break bones. 

Chris bought it from the guy who drives around on his motorbike selling wooden cutting boards on the street. I guess that he was admiring a pair of the cutting boards, each from a different kind of tree, before finally selecting the one above (Exhibit C?) for the actual purchase. Apparently, he chose wisely, as he was later informed that he picked the one that he "can chop up a snake on and not get poisoned from the wood."  Which leaves me wondering why cutting boards are even made from toxic trees? Or was the snake the important thing to focus on in Chris's warning? Could we have chopped up a chicken on the other cutting board and been totally fine? 

This is just something that I didn't have to think about when I lived in Calgary. I'd just go to Ikea and buy a cutting board in the prettiest colour. Easy peasy, and no one gets sick and no snakes are harmed.

 

Posted in saigon, baby

made in vietnam

I'm not sure what's gotten into me, but in the past few weeks, I've been doing much better at living in Saigon. Usually this time of year is terrifically frustrating with two birthdays to shop for, and Christmas coming up, and a very poor selection of goods at the toys stores unless one is looking for Barbies, Hot Wheels, or Lego. But it's been different here lately. Maybe I've been different. I'm still awfully excited about the new hand-stitched quilts for my kids. 

A pair of these are their other Christmas gift:

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If they look familiar, it's probably because these doll bunkbeds are based on this Ana White plan. I didn't build the beds myself, as we haven't actually bought any 220V power tools since we moved to SE Asia. I know someone who knows someone who owns a power saw, and that's how I ended up with two sets of doll bunkbeds for a total of $65. I did convert all of the measurements into metric, so I did contribute something besides capital to this endeavor.

The neat thing about these gifts are going to be the off-shoot DIY projects. I'll have to sew mattresses and bedding for them, and I'm kind of tempted to recycle Madeline and Sadie's old crib sheets that I'm still hanging onto for sentimental reasons. And then I'll have to see what Saigon has to offer in terms of paint. The really poor quality paint on the walls of our rental house here has me worried that there isn't much selection, but maybe somewhere out there I'll find primer and some satin-finish latex interior. It's probably going to be an adventure to find out.

 

Posted in saigon, baby

weekend update or something

Two rare things happened today! 1. We spent the better part of the day in downtown Saigon, doing the things that one does in downtown Saigon and 2. I actually had my camera with me instead of leaving it at home locked up in a very heavy safe for fear of someone swiping it out of my hands. 

The kids and a started out at the Vincom shopping centre. I was looking for fall/winter shoes and found cute pair of boots at Ecco, but the pair on the shelf were the last ones and the wrong size (or else the salesperson just wasn't interesting in checking the stock room). 

After our window-shopping was done, we met up with Chris at his office. His office is on the sixteenth floor of the office tower, and it's right across from the basilica, so I was happy to hang out amongst the cubicles for the photo-taking perspective. Chris doesn't actually have a view of Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica, but he snuck me into the office of a co-worker who does. The basilica was a busy place today; there were a lot of tourists out and about because a Princess cruise ship was docked in town,  and we definitely noticed a larger police presence out on the streets. 

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After lunch we wandered through the Ben Thanh market and the surrounding side-streets and were approached at least a dozen times by people wanting to sell us sunglasses. Sadie fell in love with a pair of Adidas sneakers from one of the counterfeit shoe shops, and I'm hoping that they turn out to be a good purchase (read: last through twelve days of an upcoming vacation) for the $17 that we paid for them.

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Posted in saigon, baby

cupcakes for the other lazy people of saigon

This post is mainly a commercial plug for the adorable cupcakes that we ordered for Sadie's fourth birthday on Monday:

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They're much too pink and purple for my taste, but Sadie had been talking about a "ballet cake" for a few months, so to her, they were perfect. 

I adore baking , but between trying to knit a lace scarf and having a splint on my thumb (bizarre idiotic accident with a broom and dustpan), my fingers were really too busy of late to try out gumpaste modelling. So, these lovely cupcakes are from a neighbourhood place – Bakery by Sweet & Sour. I think they might make the best cupcakes in town – real butter in the buttercream – so much tastier than the shortening that other Saigon cupcake places seem to use.

I think that Sadie would say that she had a good birthday – it's fall break at her preschool, so we were able to meet Chris downtown for lunch for hotdogs (well, she ordered a hotdog while we shared sandwiches), she wore a brand-new blue dress, and she really likes the Lite Sprite wand gizmo that we hauled back to Saigon from our summer holiday.