This week…

November 9th, 2010

Either I have completely acclimated or the weather has been just wonderful in Saigon. The other day I was walking home from work and actually caught a chill; I had to ask myself what the feeling was. It was the feeling of San Francisco – warm with a cool breeze. Sleeping has been wonderful and I have for the first time in a long time, gone to sleep without the air conditioning on—for days in a row!

The weather improving is perfectly timed since I’ve decided that, despite having water pressure in the shower superior to ours at home, I hate going to the gym. I stopped going to classes a long time ago. They are crowded, the yoga is too aggressive and the dance classes involve me being pushed around by Vietnamese women who think that I take up too much space. For awhile I was using the cardio machines, but how exciting is it spending hours each week running or riding from nowhere to nowhere? So I’ve decided to take it off the treadmill and into the park. As I’m not accustomed to running on anything but a treadmill, I’ve decided to start from the beginning using the Couch-to-5K program and running it outside. I found a great link to some podcasts and now look forward to the early morning runs in the park. Much more interesting scenery and people watching – and appropriately Vietnamese – people are starting to recognize me out there and wave as I run by.

Also perfectly timed, some friends of mine recently moved from an apartment with a balcony to one without, leaving an outdoor table and four chairs with no home. I volunteered my roof and they gave me the furniture. Delivery men brought the furniture over last Sunday: 2 men, the table and 4 chairs, all on one motorbike! I had Monday morning off of work, ordered breakfast, made a coffee and some juice and spent a relaxing morning on the roof at the table, reading, eating and enjoying the beautiful weather. Today I did the same, making my own breakfast this time, and life just seems a little more luxurious with the new outdoor opportunity. This begs the question, why didn’t I think of doing this before???

On Saturday night I had dinner with some friends at one of my favorite restaurants in town that I always forget about. A small French restaurant on the upper floors of a large house, Ty Coz is never disappointing. The food is fresh; the menu written on an easeled whiteboard is different every time with a few trusty standbys: namely, mussels. Really good mussels. One of the owners is a character, he describes each dish in his heavily accented English and alors, everything sounds delicious – even things I would never eat: duck, lamb, liver. I can never decide what I want until the moment I’m ordering and half the time I change my mind seconds after the waiter has walked away. My mouth waters now just thinking about it. I would brag about the salmon three ways (smoked, carpaccio, and baked) I had, but my friend Ryan had it over me with his duck 5 ways. After dinner we decided to do a bit of karaoke and the friends accepted my demand to try the new place just around the corner from home. A happy find; the place is new so doesn’t smell like a smoker’s den and the song selection is pretty good. This can only mean more karaoke nights as I won’t have to go all the way to District 5 to get my Bon Jovi on.

Tuesday night I made tacos with the taco kit Mom and Dad sent me for my birthday. Yum. Have I mentioned how much I miss Mexican food? There is a decent fish taco place open now, but to get a swallow-worthy beef taco is near impossible. Sigh…But these kits do the trick when I’m really fiending. They were delicious! Having tacos on Tuesday didn’t keep me from ordering fajitas when I went to dinner with some former trainees on Wednesday! The weather was so nice, I decided to walk back home from there. It was nearly 10pm so I was being very vigilant with my bag, negotiating the insane traffic, and being aware of my surroundings. When I was about half way home, I noticed someone behind me who was too close for comfort. I started to freak out a little thinking this is the sort of thing that Steve dreams up when he always asks me to ‘be extra careful’ every time I leave the house. I sped up and felt that I had lost the person. Then, I became aware that someone behind was running after me. I practically peed myself before I heard the soft female voice calling out, “teacher, my teacher!” My stalker was a friend that Steve has made in the park who has been attending free classes at work as part of our training program. She is a practice student our trainees cut their baby teacher teeth on. I was relieved that I wasn’t being hunted by some maniac, but she is beginner in terms of her language ability and I ended up spending the last 20 minutes of my walk home being told how lovely and beautiful I was…common for Vietnamese learners when they don’t have enough language to ask you what is wrong with you — how can you be 37 and not be married with children? I didn’t want her to know where I live; I’m ashamed to say I don’t want to be a victim of drop by for free English lessons, so I negotiated a plan to lose her. As it turns out, Steve had already had her round the house and she’s never just popped by. So there will be a special room in hell for ungrateful teachers like me where I will be stalked by beginner students who will never leave me alone and will tell me over and over how lovely I am when I know what they really want to know is what’s wrong with me. And I probably deserve it.

Work has been somewhat slow lately. I am not training on the current CELTA course and am doing projects, covering bits here and there and spending time at my old haunts the big center on Nguyen Thi Minh Khai. I do like being back in the building where I was once the assistant manager and felt a little like a celebrity when all the teachers I used to work with stopped by the desk where I was sitting to check in. I was there on the weekend of Halloween and you can imagine the chaos of 6,000 children having been scared sh*tless by the haunted house the school puts on every year. The manager asked me if I’d be willing to help with the haunted house as in, “would you like to help scare the children?” but being more afraid than most children, I politely declined. My favorite costume of the year goes to my friend Tagg, who is 7 months pregnant. She had a baby doll hanging out of her belly and was nice and bloodied up. She has a wonderfully sick sense of humor; rest assured this costume would not have been allowed in any educational institution in the States!

This morning, I taught trainees of the TKT: Cambridge’s Teacher Knowledge Test. The trainees are Vietnamese teachers of English for the Vietnamese Department of Education. Today was a practice exam and again I was reminded of the differences in educational practices between Vietnamese and western students. Three things stand out:

1. Vietnamese students don’t bring their own supplies.

The TKT is a standardized test – meaning there is what I used to call a scantron involved. This one was of the narrow rectangle variety rather than the traditional bubbles. Just checked about the number 2 pencil thing and according to any old pencil will do. Of the 11 students who showed for the test, 9 of them had pencils, 2 had erasers. We did some negotiating around the room so everyone had a pencil but the erasers were an issue – the trainees engaged in an elaborately choreographed eraser sharing dance that had me convinced that they were cheating. Which wouldn’t be all that far off since:

2. Vietnamese students don’t think cheating is bad.

What we consider cheating, Vietnamese learners consider ‘inspiration’ or ‘ideas sharing’. Talking during exams, opening books, copying essays off the internet…these are all considered good practice. It is difficult to explain to a room full of teachers who ‘allow’ cheating that this is bad and even could result in their exams being confiscated. As it was a practice exam, I let the trainees do what they do, but after the exam I wrote test day rules on the board: no talking, no cell phones, etc…and one of the trainees was flabbergasted, ‘no one ever said Cambridge was this strict.’ I’m not sure if he was concerned about the cheating, but he was probably concerned that if you are late for the exam, you will not be allowed to take it … as:

3. Vietnamese students are often late.

3 people showed up more than 20 minutes into the test. And wanted extra time to finish! An oft-used excuse is traffic – which is believable here. But sometimes there isn’t any excuse at all; being late isn’t at all aberrant. I’ve taught three hour lessons where adult students showed up 30 minutes before the class was finished. I must admit I’m not the non-judgmental anthropologist I once thought I was. This stuff really gets on my nerves and I sometimes have to give myself a time out before I start reacting.

Day 2: The Yucky Day?

February 14th, 2010

The schedule for day 2 is similar to day 1 minus the extra Thai massage and plus another colema. That’s right, twice a day self-administered enemas using a colema board.

The Process:

First you set up the board. Place a catch basket into the toilet so you can take a looksee at what alien matter you produce during this process.

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Then you balance the colema board on top of the toilet and a step stool with a towel on it to make the angle conducive to stuff draining into the toilet rather than on your back.

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Then you fill the bucket. When you retrieve the bucket from the detox center there’s some coffee and apple cider vinegar in it, but you need to supply the water to make the bucket completely full. You suspend the bucket on a hook and then start pouring pitchers in. Once full, you start a siphon by sucking on one end of the tube. Then you clamp the tube to prevent coffee spillage and attach the tube to the bit you insert anally.

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Then apply lubrication liberally. Lay on the colema board, insert and let the clip go.

The first day, I started to get very bad cramps from the colema. I’ve diagnosed that I was tense and held everything in too long. I base this diagnosis on the fact that the two colemas today were A-OK. Day one I released an entire basket full of ‘stuff’ – mostly looking like the detox beverage we consume to be fair. Today there was significantly less matter coming out…I guess that’s what happens when you stop eating. Imagine a mucousy gel yellowish in color with seed looking stuff in it. That’s what I’m currently producing.

Other variations on the day:

  • Different meditation and yoga instructor, Sue. Although I didn’t prefer her meditation session — a breathing meditation, a walking mediation and more breathing, she was a great yoga teacher. I haven’t had a yoga teacher who actually sees what each person is doing and makes adjustments. She made several adjustments to poses I’ve been doing for a long time and all beneficial.
  • I stirred things up by having Thai herbs in my morning broth.
  • Infared Sauna instead of steam room.

Everyone here says there is a day when you don’t feel so great and most agree that day 4 is the day. I hope they’re wrong because I wasn’t feeling very good this afternoon. I felt nauseous and had a couple emergency toilet runs. I discussed this with Johannes,  who Steve has now taken to calling Helmut. He advised that all this was normal and to go ahead. So despite having just had bowel troubles I did the ampuku massage. You can imagine the moments when I was trying to ‘keep things together’ while a strong handed masseuse is gripping my colon and leaning on my abdominal aorta. Nothing horrible happened, but I feared for it. And, it worked. I felt much better after the massage and colema number 2. Am I becoming a believer??? I’m not sure yet.

Mini-drama of the night: giant, I’m talking 10 inches here, centipede in our bathroom. The bathroom that I’m waking up several times a night to pee in without turning on the lights. It freaked me out enough that I managed not to get the idea to take a picture before Steve euthanized it. Sorry to miss the photo and to have contributed to his demise.

Sweet dreams!

Fast Day 1

February 13th, 2010

Day 1:


7am:     Detox Drink.

A filling (no kidding) combination of clay, psyllium husk, and fruit juice to be drunk as quickly as possible or else it gels up. Followed with a lot of water.

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7:30 – 8:30am: Meditation

Today the guide was a platinum blonde lady with lots of makeup called Jazz, an NLP practitioner who also works with EFT – Emotional Freedom Technique. During meditation, we set intentions, took a journey, and were given a gift. In my meditation my gift was a rock. We could opt to leave it in our ‘inner sanctum’ or bring it with us. I thought my inner sanctum wanted the rock so I left it.

8:30     Supplements

6 of them every time: 3 ‘Intestinal cleansers’ and 3 ‘Herbal nutrients’

8:45-10:15 Yoga

A gentle yoga/pilates class with a very nice instructor named Louise, who reminds me of several people I know. Nothing like the yoga I do at home, much safer and lower impact. My body is thanking me for the break.

10:15   Detox Drink # 2

11:30   Supplements #2

With a stop at the restaurant for a Spa Broth (plain vegetable broth with no spices.)

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1:00     Detox Drink #3

2:30     Supplements #3 with a carrot juice

3:00     Ampuku Massage

A Japanese massage technique to encourage elimination, ie a colon massage.

4:00     Detox Drink #4

4:30     Colema

My first experience of the colema: totally strange and a little painful. More details in next post.

5:30     Supplement #4 with Coconut water

6:30 – 7:30: Thai Oil Massage

Not part of the program…I added it to make myself relax at the end of my first day.

7:30     Detox Drink #5

7:30 – 8:30:      Steam Bath, Freezing Shower, Steam Bath, Freezing Shower

8:30     Supplements #5 with Liver Flush Drink and more broth

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Liver flush drink is the one they warn you about. If you have a ‘sluggish’ liver – I’ve heard a variety of descriptions of this but I think it has to do with not living on a diet of raw foods and drinking alcohol, it might make you nauseous. I can’t imagine why a drink of fruit juice blended with ginger, garlic, olive and other junk would make anyone sick. It’s like drinking salad dressing mixed with fruit juice. But somehow, it tastes good. I guess when you’re starving yourself, everything tastes good!

Bedtime (now):             take an acidophilus/lactobacillus compound to regrow all the healthy bacteria we murdered with coffee earlier today.

As you can see, there is rarely time to think about being hungry, being uncomfortable with the colema or doing much of anything at all. I did squeeze a swim in though.

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It’s 10:30 and I’m REALLY tired. Back at it again at 7am. More details to follow.