Monday, January 30, 2012

I get asked what my life is like

I get asked what my life is like here in Vietnam and its simple really; I eat, sleep and do essential activities related to caring for animals, a home-office and a human body.

It depends on my CEF work and travel commitments but when I am not running a culinary tour here (only twice a year) or in the States or in Australia and when I don't have child and family interviews, home visits, or payment visits to make, my life is almost identical seven days a week.

Most days I get up about 5.30 and play with Zen, my Doberman-Rottweiler for a while, then I feed her and Karma my wild, stripped cat. Photos of them are included, as well as the garden and my views, plus a shot of Hoi An, my local town.

I then meditate (after feeding them so they don't play up and try to get my attention), then do some yoga or go for a walk with Zen.

I sweep through the house, empty the 3 dehumidifiers, water the lush green plants and eat breakfast.

Then I might skype or call family or friends, clean some mould off furniture, wash some damp-smelling clothes, or clean off some of the dirty patches on walls Zen has managed to make yet again. The climate is not very easy to live in with its long wet rainy season and humidity all year long, but it just becomes part of my daily life to deal with the mould and other effects of rain and humidity.

I start work around 8am and take a Vietnamese tea break and play with Zen mid- morning, then work until lunch time. I don't usually take much time off after eating.

I get back to work until I take another tea and play break in the afternoon.
I give Zen a shower once a week and on other days I might sit with her, just brush her and have a chat with her; it's rather one-sided but she shows interest as she tilts her head from side to side.

I work until dinner time and have another delicious Vietnamese vegetarian meal. The de-humidifiers usually need emptying again by now as the humidity is so high. 4-5 nights a week I work until I can't keep my eyes open (11'ish) but doing work I generally enjoy; blogs, facebook, emails. Sometimes I am trying to meet a deadline, which isn't fun, but satisfying when done!

To balance all the work I go out to eat with friends two or three nights a week
in town somewhere, and sometimes I read a good book before bed or watch a DVD. I mainly watch documentaries and true life stories. Sometimes I buy a good comedy as occasionally I need it as we meet many families in dire situations and the sadness I feel can get overwhelming. A good laugh is very nourishing.

It's a simple life, but a blessed life.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

New staff member

Duyen who has done the book keeping for CEF for the last few years has now passed it over to Hieu. It's good to have Hieu start with the new year; it's considered auspicious here. Welcome Hieu!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A New Year has started

It's the end of one year and a new one has just started today here in Vietnam; it's officially spring now.

Everywhere looks so lovely, colorful and spring-like in the leadup to Tet and during Tet. The pavements of several streets in Hoi An are covered with pot plants for sale that are to brighten up a home and bring good luck. Most of blooms are shades of yellow. The golds represent coins and if you have a golden-coloured plant you should be prosperity over the following year. No matter how poor someone is they will buy a golden-yellow flowering plant.

The busiest day is the day before Tet when many have got some time off. It's hard to move through the traffic with the hundreds purchasing plants on this day. But also many just go to see the beautiful flowers and bushes and not to purchase. It's a pleasurable evening activity leading up to Tet. By late evening of new years eve all the plants have been sold or cleared away the pavements scubbed down.

Day one of New Year or Tet is the day you spend with close family, so today the town and streets were almost abandoned as most people were at home with relatives.

As today is the day to be with close family, that includes their nearest and dearest deceased relatives. Everyone who can manage it goes to their graves to take flowers and food for them and to talk to them about the year just passed; they tell the good news and the bad news. One friend told me she is never too sure whether to give the good news or the bad news first and her decision varies from year to year.

Day two is the day you visit friends mainly, but also relatives who live further afield. On this day there are many accidents as there is much drinking and merriment. As motorbikes are the main form of transport everyone is driving from one friend or relative to another and mainly in an intoxicated state. It is the males who drink and the males who drive the motorbikes on this day. This is a day to avoid being on the streets!

I am doing Tet in reverse. I can do that as I am a westerner. I had a lovely day visited my close western friends. It was quiet and safe on the roads and tomorrow I will be home while it is busy and dangerous on the roads.

Today wasa good start to the year; the weather was good, the plants in the courtyards and on front door steps looked so bright and chearful, and it was special to see many good friends in one day, and one at a time.

Chuc mung nam moi! (Happy new year)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Ao Mua is what they call all rain coats here

Here are five of the children who received 'ao mua' this Tet in their food parcel. Miriam our volunteer social worker asked her friend Andrew of Platinum Global if he had any spare 'ao mua'. He didn't have any, but made CEF 50 'ao mua' this Tet for the children. This is a fantastic present. When you live here you know why. Children get chills and colds through the rainy season due to getting wet on the way to school and staying wet through the school day. This Tet gift will help keep them healthier in wet weather.

Tet food parcels

Thank you so much everyone who donated to the fund for Tet food parcels for the poorest of the families we help. To us it seems such a little money for each of them, but for them it makes a big difference this Tet and for some time afterwards.

We met with the children and a family member or with a nun from a pagoda that helps us with the children. We met at three locations; at the CEF office, at Bao Thang pagoda and at the ferry port of the boat that goes to the Hoa Van community.

Our original plan for the food parcels made an unmanageable parcel. We had to change plans on the goodies, so it wasn't too heavy and could be carried. In the end staff made the decisions based on what they know is needed the most and would be appreciated. We gave to the poorest families mainly basics and a few treats. They received a small sack of rice, cooking oil, soy sauce, salt, sugar, mushroom seasoning, seaweed, crystalized ginger and some Tet candies. A high quality water proof was donated by Platinum Global and added to the parcel.

Some funds were received too late for this batch of pre-Tet food parcels, and these funds will also be used for food parcels, just post Tet. This gift will still be very needed and will help more families cover the last of the period of the year when they are poorest.

In the next few months the weather will be improving, they will have more work and income. In the meantime the food parcels will help them through this period.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Some New Year thoughts

It's the western new year at present and Tet, the Vietnamese one, is in about three weeks. Whether in a western country or in an Asian country New Year has some meanings in common.

It is considered a time of renewal. It's a chance to start again, to do the things we need to do for our well being, lives and the world, that we didn't do over the last year.

It's a time of inspiration; it's at this time of year many feel inspired to take on the challenges of change that are meaningful to you, whether to exercise more, eat a better diet, to meditate on a daily basis, to go to university and become more qualified or to volunteer regularly.

It's also a time when we think about how we can be a better person, how we can contribute to the world, how we can make the world a better place.

But for this all to happen on an ongoing basis, the challenge is to stay inspired each and every day, not just on New Year's day and for the week afterwards. Inspiration can displace personal doubt and cynicism which hold us back in achieving what is important to us.

Wishing you all an inspired life so that you can be the best person you can and contribute to the world in a meaningful way to make our world a better place each day!