Out and About in Saigon (with new GoPro)

Turns out any luddite can make a GoPro video of their weekend at home.

I promise more text in the next post…

My brief English Odyssey

london

A glorious London skyline from the CARE office in Vauxhall

I am back in Saigon, having missed most of the Tet celebrations this month. Instead, London was calling, and I returned there for two weeks…

Tet, by all accounts, went off smoothly without me.

The weather was perfect and, in Daddy’s absence, Florence and Martha at least dressed up ‘proper’ for the occasion…

flo and martha

Florence and Martha, ready for Tet!

I still can’t quite believe that, this time last week, I was sharing a pint in a Nunhead beer shop with a certain Mr Barmby – kept warm later that evening from the (frankly) glacial temperatures, thanks to our wise move to follow up the pie and gravy supper with a boat load of apple crumble and custard.

In the UK, we may entertain far too many grey and cold days each year than is good for anyone, however, we are also world class experts in tactics to at least keep the soul and the belly in fine fettle, whatever the conditions.

In every house at which I stayed throughout this last trip, without exception, the living room fires were roaring, and the alcohol and indulgent food made for a daily, and delicious, concoction.

Fish and chips, curry, roast beef, lasagne, bangers and mash. I could go on.

whiskey

Late night whiskey sampling at The Wickhams

It tends to be unsatisfactory, trying to make sense of flying halfway round the world, immersing yourself in surroundings so familiar you feel an integral part of what is going on, only to then jettison back into surroundings utterly removed from where you have been, yet at the same time also totally familiar.

On this trip, whether I was with family, with friends, on the London Underground, or pounding pavements that I used to run down to catch my evening bus home, I could very easily have forgotten all about Vietnam in an instant.

London, in particular for me after 14 years living there, will always hold a special place in my heart. I know it intricately, yet it is also not quite how I left it, and I saw myself bounding about last week as if observing a former me from the past. Steering a pushchair through a park, tapping out a text message as I headed out of the office, leafing through a Metro newspaper, waiting for something to jump off the pages at me.

holborn

London hustle

On the one hand, my visit was intense on the work front (although hugely rewarding) but then surprisingly calming on the social front. Non-stop “catching up” with various folks, everyday, was, for a change, a much more languid and reflective and nourishing affair.

And I thank each and every one responsible for that – it was needed!

There were family trips to watch England vs Italy at Twickenham, visits to new babies, meeting new partners, rubbing shoulders with new and old work colleagues. There was nostalgia, contemplation, and a barrel of laughs (more pics below for posterity).

Meantime, over in Laos, heady with exploits of coming face-to-face with abandoned wild bears, and riding on the backs of elephants, my children threw themselves into yet more adventures and experiences that will shape them forever.

That, and I was also sent a photo of Martha yesterday learning how to fire a crossbow. I can only imagine how excited she will be tomorrow when she tells me all about that.

martha with crossbow

Martha firing a crossbow in Luang Prabang. It may not be wise in the future for this picture to be on a public website.

With Tet decorations now down, and schools back tomorrow, the end of February will close out what has been a very special few months. On all fronts.

In missing people along the way, I only feel more deeply touched by what is to come, and how lucky I am.

For this, and on many other levels (including the important role that pictures play in my life) my anthem of choice flying back here at the weekend was a real blast from the past – and therefore it does come with a warning to anyone who, like me, fast approaching 40, may not need reminding that this track first came out twenty six years ago.

Enjoy – all you 90’s disciples!

And some more pics, just for the helluvit…..

cafe

Surely one of the best bacon sandwiches a frozen commuter from Saigon has EVER tasted.

twickers

Brothers in Arms. Twickenham. Valentine’s Day, 2015.

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The Harp. A finer establishment in Soho you’ll be hard pushed to find.

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Teddy Brackley. 3 months old and wondering what all the fuss is about, as the rest of us get to grips with Sunday morning in Cheltenham (bloody mary’s at the ready).

Springtime in Saigon

Originally posted on saigonsays:

washing Even washing lines look better in Spring

It’s 2015. It’s mid January. And spring is here in Saigon.

In what has become my annual celebration of just how pleasant a time of year it is over here, when so many other parts of the world are either sweltering in their own juices, or snow ploughing their way to the office, I can’t resist once more in proclaiming the bleeding obvious: life is so much easier when you have the weather on your side.

Biking into work these days you are struck by the golden light, the intensely perfumed scents of the orchids and bogainvilleas, and the breeze. The fact that there is a breeze is enough to be thankful for, given Saigon’s notorious humidity track record. The New Year marks the lowest temperatures Saigon will experience until next January – somewhere in the mid 20’s – perfection in my mind…

View original 427 more words

Springtime in Saigon

washing

Even washing lines look better in Spring

It’s 2015. It’s mid January. And spring is here in Saigon.

In what has become my annual celebration of just how pleasant a time of year it is over here, when so many other parts of the world are either sweltering in their own juices, or snow ploughing their way to the office, I can’t resist once more in proclaiming the bleeding obvious: life is so much easier when you have the weather on your side.

Biking into work these days you are struck by the golden light, the intensely perfumed scents of the orchids and bogainvilleas, and the breeze. The fact that there is a breeze is enough to be thankful for, given Saigon’s notorious humidity track record. The New Year marks the lowest temperatures Saigon will experience until next January – somewhere in the mid 20’s – perfection in my mind, although many locals are already donning their puffer jackets and scarves in protest at the chilly starts to their days.

2015 – no resolutions for me, a year instead to appreciate all that comes my way and to embrace the here and now. I am grounded in Saigon until a UK visit next month, hosting as I am a regional workshop here at the end of the month, and enjoying the novelty of “routine” after a fabulous Christmas break, involving some long weekends away, and plenty of indulgent moments of sheer fun with Florence and Martha.

Perhaps a suitable 2015 resolution after two months absence from this blog (I’ve been peppering the sister site – http://www.definitelymaybe.me – with musings on development issues over the past few months instead) would be to post a bit more regularly.

Let me see…

Meantime, a lazy capture of the last quarter of 2014, which saw me travel extensively, can be found below in the form of pictures. I took to instagram last year, so check out @saigonsays on that if you are similarly hooked.

Wishing you all a very prosperous New Year to come.

September 2014

bkk

View over Bangkok on a work trip home

hk

The Kowloon ferry, Hong Kong. I was speaking at a CSR Summit. Check out the post: http://definitelymaybe.me/2014/09/17/the-future-of-csr/

flobirthday

Happy 6th Birthday Florence!

IMG_4601

Martha back at school and in a new (big girls) kindergarten class!

pak2

Back in Islamabad with work. Mountain top dinner! Check out the post: http://definitelymaybe.me/2014/09/29/what-can-care-do-for-business/

October 2014

sing

Speaking at a conference in Singapore. Post here: http://definitelymaybe.me/2014/10/13/true-power-lies-within/

sapa

A weekend escape to Sapa

sl

Dawn during a tea plantation visit whilst on a work trip to Sri Lanka. Post here: http://definitelymaybe.me/2014/10/31/sri-lanka-preparing-for-a-future-without-international-aid/

November 2014

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Back in Bangkok traffic for more workshops

raiders

Saigon Raider’s football tournament in Phnom Penh (me, German Alex and German Daniel and a crate of beer Lao in a tuk-tuk)

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Back in Singapore for more conferences. Clearly I hadn’t washed that morning.

December 2014

lemon

Lemonheads gig at Cargo, Saigon, with “Sluke” and Issy

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Back in Hong Kong for Awards event (and some dim sum)

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Hanoi for long weekend with the Suarez family

myanm

Myanmar work trip, project visit in Lashio. Check out the blog here: http://definitelymaybe.me/2014/12/13/myanmar-bringing-about-change-in-a-frontier-market/

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My final Bangkok immigration queue of 2014

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Pre-Christmas swinging at Saigon Outcasts

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A trio of poseurs at Saigon Outcasts.

xmas

Christmas 2014 is here. Woohoo! Flo with Sarah from the UK

skate

Skater Girl

moo2

Scooter Girl

muine

Mui Ne white dunes with Issy and Luke

coco

Last holiday sunset Coco Beach, Mui Ne

us

Last balcony shot of the Christmas holidays

Out of the blocks

swim meet

Best of friends and a great result

Well, I’ve officially moved into an exciting new phase of parenting: attending school swimming “meets”.

By ‘attending’ I mean standing proud on the side-lines, pretending to be calm when in fact am sweating buckets at the sight of Florence trying to keep up in the freestyle against kids nearly twice her age, whilst simultaneously I’m being watched by other more seasoned onlookers, with dozens of these outings notched up, and who seem to view me as “fresh meat” at which to be mocked.

I am already looking forward to doing the same next year and turning the tables.

Hosting children’s play-dates and organising birthday parties have been my bread and butter for a while, however, with competitive intra-school races now on the agenda, we are entering truly ‘embarrassing Dad’ territory… Continue reading

Now We Are Six

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I am an hour shy of boarding my sixth flight in the past ten days, having recently spun through Bangkok and Hong Kong on various work assignments. Today, I am back in Thailand, awaiting a connection across to Islamabad, where I’ll be stationed for four days of meetings and workshops.

Two years back I penned a whimsical departure post on my last day in Pakistan, after a fascinating week there, and I’m excited about returning.

Travelling days like these play tricks with your mind. Today started with a 4:45am wake-up call from Florence, as she kicked off Day 2 of being six years old, albeit rather blurry-eyed and still coping with a sugar come-down from her Frozen themed birthday party yesterday after school. In the middle of the night, several hours from now, I’ll go to bed in the CARE staff house, in the centre of Islamabad, a masala omlette and some sweet tea awaiting me for breakfast when I wake up on Sunday. Continue reading

And off we go again

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Flo’s first day at her new school

It’s been so long since I wrote a blog here, that I had to remind myself of the correct address of my own site.

August 11th, and too much to fill in since my last post, but several fabulous weeks back in the UK recently – both girls had 6 weeks over there in total, having a blast up north, down south, in London and on the beaches of Cornwall and Devon – and then a new school term underway as of this morning, back here in Saigon, and we are off again, refreshed (partly, the jet-lag this weekend was a killer) and ready for the long run into the next break at Christmas…

The merry-go-round is in full tilt.

The happy and somewhat jaded campers (above) took it in their stride this morning that the summer holiday adventures were over. Bless them both, Florence and Martha just seem to take whatever is thrown at them and make it fun. 

Flo was not the least bit put out for example that it took me twenty minutes this morning to realise that her penguin stepping around the apartment in her new skirt/shorts combo for Day 1 at the Australian International School, was in fact because when she’d got dressed she had put both feet into one shorts leg, rather than what she was thinking to herself at the time, which was that her new school practice some quasi-Geisha ritual for their Year 2’s, by forcing them to hop about the classroom for the first term.

Nor did she seem intimated by the chaos of the busy new school gates, or the strangeness of her new surrounds. She was too busy taking it all in to kiss us goodbye.

Anyway, you’ll hopefully find me more prominent on these pages soon, but in the meantime I wish you all happy ends of the holidays when you get to yours.

Much love to all.

Happy Daddy

Florence's Father's Day card

Florence’s Father’s Day card

For the past three years I have been overseas during my daughter’s school Father’s Day Celebrations. This year had to see the record set straight, and so I put in a special request for the school to host their 2014 “Daddy’s Day Breakfast” today, as I am flying to Amman tonight for the rest of the week.

The children sang all of us Dads a special song, served up croissants and boiled eggs, and then Florence and Martha even made me a coffee between them (with Martha on mixing duty, and Flo doing the more precarious carrying work). All of this on the back of another fun-filled weekend of parties, dancing in monsoon rain, ten-pin bowling competitions, and watching 28 performances at the annual Dance Centre Show.

Leaving to spend the rest of the week in Jordan will no doubt produce some new thoughts to populate the pages of this blog, however after spending quality time at home it doesn’t get any easier hauling myself 1,000 of miles around the region, and having to stage a not-too-dramatic goodbye to the girls.

That said, this morning was the perfect send off.

I was crowned a mini VIP for half an hour, wearing the brightly coloured hats the girls had made for me, and touched by the two wonderful cards they’d prepared the week before (above and below).

Martha's Father's Day card

Martha’s Father’s Day card

And if the wise words on Martha’s card above weren’t thought-provoking enough, I feel today is my day to challenge the most enthusiastic team of Poet Laureates to stir up something more magical and endearing than the poem which I found inside Flo’s card:

Daddy, you are
as smart as Ironman
as fast as Superman
as brave as Batman,
you are my
favourite Superhero
XX.”
Florence

I’ll not stop smiling all week now.

Daddy's Day Selfie

Daddy’s Day Selfie