…working hard mostly. I’m been meaning to update my blog for ages, so apologies to anyone that still checks in every now and then. Short story: I’ve started a business here in Vietnam. We’ve been open for about 10 months now and it’s going very very well. It seems that I’ll be living in Vietnam for the foreseeable future, so when I have more free time I’ll try to write more.
For those that haven’t read some of my earliest posts, I had moved to Vietnam in late 2009 and planned on doing volunteer work for about a year and then moving back to United States. Back then, I could have never imagined I would be where I am today. As my 1 year sabbatical in Vietnam was coming to a close last December, I began to reevaluate my reasons for leaving after such a short time and with all the opportunities I saw in Vietnam, I probably would have regretted going back without at least trying to start a business over here. click here to read more...
Linh and her grandfather
I know that it’s been awhile since I’ve mentioned my volunteer work, and you’d be forgiven if you thought that I’d forgotten all about it. I am proud to say that I have kept up with it throughout my time here in Vietnam. Recently, I’ve traveled to Vinh Long with a group of doctors and helped hand out free medication for the elderly and indigent; went to Thu Duc district with an NGO (Ngan Hac Giay) to feed and provide school supplies to poor “Khmer” children; also went with NHG to give clothes, food and medicine to homeless people in Saigon in the wee hours of the morning. In addition, I’ve been teaching English to disabled adults at DRD (Disability Resource and Development) and was involved in the establishment of an English club there.
However, as I am in the process of starting up not one, but two businesses in Saigon, I am afraid that I must for the foreseeable future concentrate on building my businesses and therefore will be unable to continue my volunteer work until things stabilize and I can free up more time.
At the moment, I am tutoring 2 female students here in Saigon, Binh and Linh. Binh is a very sweet 22 year old lady who is physically disabled and Linh is a bright 10 year old year girl who was abandoned by her parents and is currently being cared for by her grandparents. Both are from very poor families, and cannot afford to pay to attend a proper English school. I hope to be able to find one or more persons to take over the tutoring sessions. click here to read more...
My rebuilt 1967 Honda Benly 50s
This is my new bike. It’s a completely rebuilt 1967 Honda Benly 50s. Yes I know the color isn’t very manly. Was going to go with black and silver, but eventually decided to make it white so I could use it in the promo/ads for my new business. I got the bike last week and have been enjoying it very much. It’s so much lighter than my old bike. And it actually looks much more like a motorcycle than 99% of the bikes you see in VN. I’ll write up a full review on the bike soon!!
More pics available here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saigoninacup/
Many thanks to my friend Huong who took these pics.
My dad's gift to me
My dad must really love me. He gave me the gift to poop fire and develop severe diabetes when he arrived in Saigon last night :). I believe I had mentioned in one of my older posts that my dad is a Buddhist Monk. Actually he’s a Doctor/Monk. He stills runs his medical practice in full monk regalia during the week and holds Buddhist services at his temple in San Antonio during the weekends. Regardless of his current position as doctor/monk….I still view him as just my dad. And he doesn’t treat me much differently now than he did before he joined the monkhood. My father is in Vietnam to escort a younger Vietnamese monk (who he is sponsoring) back to the U.S. to help him run his temple. He is getting up there in age so I guess he wants to make sure that his temple will be in capable hands in the future by bringing over a young monk that he can groom to be his successor.
I haven’t seen my father or anyone in my family for over 9 months now, so it was nice to see him. He looked the same as last I saw him…much younger than his 72 years of age. The poor guy and the nun who was accompanying him had the most luggage I’ve ever seen 2 people travel with. I think they had 10 suitcases between them….of which 2 were for me. I had ordered a new laptop and a bunch of other stuff and requested that he bring them over for me. Yeah, I could have bought a nice laptop in Vietnam, but I think the prices over here are at least 20% higher than in the States.
So where do the Kit Kats and the 15 lbs of Jalapenos come into play? Well you can blame Twitter on that…. click here to read more...
Penny impersonating the Twitter bird
I’m going to start a small business in Vietnam soon (shhhhhh….it’s still a secret!) so I thought it might be smart to do a bit of networking. I’ve managed to avoid using most of the social networks in the past, although I did try Facebook for a few months last year until I realized how much of a time waster it was. I’m going to use Twitter to follow the exploits of some of my fellow expats and hopefully be able to contribute a bit to the conversation. I’m also going to attend the Tweetup event tomorrow (9/14/2010) in Saigon so if anyone reading this attends I’d love to meet you.
Anyhow my tweets are going to either be the most mind numbingly boring or the most life altering tweets in history. Epic (fail) I tell ya! So follow me (odgnut) if you want to read some more frequent ramblings from yours truly. I will tweet my latest blog posts so you will know when I put something new up. You can also read my tweets on the right sidebar of this blog.
I went to exchange money for the first time in a couple months today and was a little surprised by the current rate for the dollar. The gold shops are currently giving 19,500 Vietnamese Dong for $1. That’s about the highest I’ve seen it even as it seems that the dollar is weakening against most of the other currencies around the world.
Sorry for the lack of updates. I will be back this weekend with a post.
Update 11/11/2010: The current exchange rate has risen to almost 21,000VND/$1USD
Saigon Central Post Office
I asked my sister to mail me some stuff from the U.S recently….some white undershirts, a couple of pairs of shoes, 6 books and some various knick knacks that I needed. The United States Postal Service (USPS) has fixed price priority mail boxes that costs a little more than $40 to ship to Vietnam. Those boxes aren’t very big, so I told my sister to just fit whatever she could into the largest priority mail box that they had and and anything leftover could be mailed at a later date. My sis, ever the generous soul that she is, decided instead to go ahead and ship me everything I asked for in a big box that cost her $143 to mail to Vietnam. The box weighed about 23 lbs or a bit more than 10 kgs, mostly because of the books and shoes.
The package was shipped on July 9th, with an estimated delivery time of 7 days….even so, I didn’t realistically expect to see my stuff for 2-3 weeks. I’ve seen my mom mail enough packages to Vietnam over the years to know that although whatever you send may arrive in Vietnam in the estimated date….the time it takes for your things to go through customs, sorted and screened (and sometimes opened) by the local postal service (buu dien) often adds a significant amount of time to the date of delivery. In this case, I didn’t get my box until August 16th. It took over 5 weeks!! In additional to the horrible delay, the local VNPT post office ended up charging me an additional 1,400,000 Dong tax ($75) on top of the $143 my sister paid to send me everything. Why? Who knows? click here to read more...
Knife Victim in Saigon
Last Friday there was a road rage incident on Cong Quynh street in Saigon. Three friends (on 2 motorbikes) were returning home from a night of drinking when they got into a close call with a couple of other guys on another motorbike…..an argument ensued and one of the 3 friends thought it was a good idea to take off his belt and start whipping the guys on the offending motorbike. Needless to say this wasn’t too smart.
One of the guys being whipped didn’t take too kindly to the abuse and pulled out a couple knives . Hmmm…2 knives vs. a belt….I think I would have started running the other way if I were the guy with the belt. Maybe he was too drunk to comprehend that he was at a severe disadvantage. Amazingly the guy with the belt survived albeit with severe injuries from 3 stab wounds….unfortunately his 2 friends who probably came to his aid weren’t so lucky…..both died. Apparently there were plenty of witnesses to the murders, but they were too afraid to interfere in the fight….hopefully someone at least wrote down the license plate and the cops will catch the killer. click here to read more...
Life on the Mekong
I get asked every now and then how hard it was for me to adapt to living in Vietnam. Personally, I think I had it much easier than most expatriates. I speak the language and I have relatives in Saigon who were more than happy to help me with any issues I might have had. It was nice to be able to show up in Vietnam knowing that I had a place to stay and a person that would take care of my daily meals.
Unlike most expats, I am not the adventurous type…far from it actually. I have always been quite conservative and never enjoyed traveling much. I really admire people that have the courage to move to another a country without any real previous experience with the people or the culture. Most of the expats I’ve met fall into this category. They arrive and stay at one of the cheap mini hotels in District 1 and then start looking for employment. Many find quick work at the multitude of English Schools throughout Vietnam and gradually settle into a more permanent living arrangement…while simultaneously trying to learn about the culture and society in which they live. click here to read more...
Earlier this month, my Aunt (Di Tu) asked me to go with her to a large electronics store in Saigon called Nguyen Kim, to help her pick out a new CD player. I recommended that she buy a portable media player like an iPod instead since they can store hundreds of CDs; which means not having to swap out discs all the time. Di Tu said that she would still prefer a CD player because she didn’t think she could figure out how to use an iPod at her age.
Nguyen Kim (63-65-67 Tran Hung Dao, District 1, HCMC) is a huge electronics store in the same vein as Best Buy or Circuit City (R.I.P.). They sell all the latest and greatest gadgets. I haven’t been in a store like this since I left the U.S. I was impressed with the size of the store and the large selection of gizmos. They even carried the latest 3D TVs! click here to read more...