Wanderlusting

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Sunset on Dili beach, Timor-Leste

I double checked the meaning of Wanderlust – which turns out to be the “strong desire for, or impulse to, wander or travel and explore the world”.

Since running off to Uganda when I was 21 years old, in the absence of having any more concrete a plan for how to handle life after university, I’d say my Wanderlust levels have remained piqued ever since.

No doubt some genetic influence from my parents helped fuel my appetite for getting out and “seeing the world”. In reading Dr Suess poems to my daughters (as well as flying them off to different countries almost every school holiday) I suppose instinctively it feels appropriate to want to pass on that particular piece of DNA, connected to wandering, to them also.

Over the past five years, even without that DNA, the travel I’ve undertaken as part of my job has secured for me a schedule for which any aspiring “Wanderluster” would have been thrilled.

As someone working in international development, I can’t quite settle my mind about how conflated my footprint and actions in the world are. Choosing to direct my career into finding better ways to serve the poor, whilst simultaneously responsible for emitting more carbon in an average month than the output my entire family back in the UK manage in a year (ok, Mum and Dad are relatively guilty on the carbon too, but I wanted the analogy to sound extreme!)      Continue reading

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A Brief Spell Down Under

Monday. And, so far today, I’ve flown to Singapore and just put in six hours working out of a business lounge and still have another eight to go before I get to kip (am Colombo bound this evening for the week…)

Mustn’t grumble however as, since my last post about our summer holidaying in Europe, Issy and I have also just indulged in a trip over to Melbourne earlier this month for weddings, family birthday partying and some brief flirting with a delicious vineyard and the salty ocean road inhalations on offer down in Sorrento.

As is the form when I get back over to the UK, trips like these are extremely special and also meticulously executed, in order to maximise each and every hour with all the important things in life.  In the case of this particular trip, the important things consisted of: new babies; zany nieces; legendary siblings; old school friends; and then an inevitable immersion in all of the particular shopping experiences and drinking haunts yet to reach the humid back-streets of Saigon.

We fitted it all in, and lapped it up (although, truth be told, for me to be accepted into the funky suburb of Fitzoy I’ll need to grow an exceptionally impressive beard – and this may take me a while.)

Video compilations with be forthcoming however, in the meantime, heartfelt thanks to Mark for the most spectacular day at Yabby Lake, to Phoebe for all the snippets of special laughs and larks, to Pobby for the Aga coffee and the egg and bacon pie on arrival (plus about two dozen other mouth-watering dishes enjoyed throughout the week) and to Mike for a lesson in cryptic cross-wording that I will never forget (I hope the Tuesday Latin tutorials continue to go well).

To all the other family and friends entourage, thank you for making me feel at home and for making me smile, constantly.

And to Alice and Richard Cook-Watkins. For seating me opposite the bride (I have been dining out on that since) and for laying on a seamless day of memories for us all.

So, as Mike would recommend – to anyone curious enough to ask – it is with whisky that one should finish one’s day and so, in spite of the fact that I am long off being asleep, I may just – on this one occasion – take him up on that and bid you farewell, for now…

Until next time.

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Melbourne skyline. Obvs.

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Emily, Archie and Ben. Stripey boys.

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Fitzroy chic. Also obvs.

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OK, I’ll admit it, the coffee ain’t too bad here…

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These lot know how to do ice creams.

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Replica clock-tower from Ben Thanh Market, Saigon. Love it!

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End of day beer at Naked for Satan. Yeeees.

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Brunswick Street bakery. Spectacular.

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‘Knock off’ gin and tonic time in the garden.

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Pobby’s kitchen. Aga toast – ooooooooooooooooh!

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Yabby Lake vineyard.

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The calm espressos before the twelve bottle tasting storm. Happy days.

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The BEST lunch.

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Diamond Bay. Hmmm.

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Issy likes green. I like blue.

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Everyone likes a good sunset.

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Pin the tail. Hazy’s 3rd birthday.

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Squirt the person who is pinning the tail.

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It’s OK, it’s only Sam!

The Art of Smiling

Late to the party, as usual, I’ve been enjoying the work of Yang Liu – a Chinese-German artist http://www.yangliudesign.com/ whose interpretations of the differences between these two cultures is captured in her East vs West series.

Interpretations which make for some fun talking points for a Brit like me, who has now been living in Vietnam for a year or so.  Take a look at your leisure…

Continue reading

Model parenting

When I am not travelling with my job, (I like to think) I play a key role in the “getting up and getting ready” part of our family’s day, as well as offer some well-timed interventions at the “winding down, it’s time for sleep now” part.

However, at weekends I get the chance to experience the full effects of being in charge of both our children for longer than about two hours at a time.  With Lou out shopping yesterday for our upcoming trip back to the UK, up stepped Mr Model Dad, on hand to ensure a day of quality food and entertainment lay ahead for everyone.  I realised though, on reflection later in the evening, that I may still have a way to go. Continue reading

January journal + Hoi An photos

Although I went back to work on Friday, it was with a sense of having been somewhat indulgent, as Vietnam enjoyed its annual lunar New Year shut down last week and, life as we know it here in Saigon, ground to a very pleasant halt.

Our blossoming Tễt tree

Families and friends idled away four days of public holidaying, the focus being on eating festive foods, drinking large quantities of alcohol, and speculating at length what the year ahead might hold (see previous post on Dragons, although for those with less time to spare to read post, the nuts and bolts of it is that the Year of the Dragon is an auspicious year in the twelve yearly zodiac cycle, and there is heightened expectation amongst people here about what 2012 will bring.) Continue reading

December journal + Hanoi photos

Sunday afternoon, and I have a hangover.

A fitting state perhaps to welcome in the start of the festive season, although the combination of last night’s beers, 5 hours sleep, Martha wailing like a banshee, and Florence enthusiastically using me as her personal drum-kit, was not quite the ideal scenario first thing this morning in terms of remedying a sore head.

I used to love December back in the UK.  It can be the most indulgent month of the year, and also the most random in terms of habits.

On the social side, for example, people start warming up their red wine and adding in fruit. More pastry gets consumed in one month than during the whole of the rest of the year.  For some reason, we also decide it important that we simply must meet up with certain friends for Christmas drinks, often people we haven’t seen or heard from since the previous year when we committed to do the same, but one of us bailed out due to being “crazy at work”, “down with the flu” or “double booked” for the night. Continue reading

August journal

We’ve been living in Saigon for very nearly half a year now. 

It’s hard to imagine that the school summer holidays are coming to an end, we’re back into a new term and new class for Florence tomorrow, and fast kicking at the heels of September.

Living where we do in District 2, a heavily concentrated area for foreigners, there has been noticeably more ex-pats moving around over the past fortnight, as a new influx of residents arrives, and those overseas from their summer vacations return. 

In the local supermarket yesterday we saw a couple piling high their trolley with mops, buckets, coat hangers and many other tell-tale signs that they were obviously fresh on the scene, and kitting out an empty apartment. Continue reading

April journal

Just back from lunch, and tapping away quietly writing this as   Lou is sleeping in one bedroom and Flo is supposedly doing the same in hers…although I can still hear her singing.  Sarah is with us and downstairs having a swim.

So – 5 weeks on from the last pause for thought, and glad to report that things going well out here in Saigon.  In fact I mentioned to Lou this morning that living in Vietnam has started to feel real now, as opposed to the sense we had for a while that we were on some extended holiday out in South East Asia.  Work took me to Bangkok in the middle of March, and then a week more recently up to Hanoi, and it was upon arriving back from this last trip that it began to feel like coming ‘home’. 

True, Hanoi had been quite cold and my time there largely spent holed up in a hotel conducting workshops and meetings in window-less rooms, indulging in too much coffee, too many table mints, and having despairing Groundhog Day moments as I floated round the hotel’s endless buffet at lunchtimes wondering whether research had ever been conducted on linkages between crème brule consumption and various internal organ malfunctions. 

On the back of 7 days of seeing the inside of a hotel (with the odd skirmish at some local bars inbetween) I’d have been excited about the prospect of flying out of Hanoi and arriving back on the Isle of Sheppey but, as it was, touching down in Saigon was a real treat.  The senses were invaded with what were quite familiar sounds and feelings – the throng of chatter awaiting arrivals at Tam Son Nhat airport and the thick, hot air wrapping itself around you as you wait to jump in a taxi and weave your way through the neon lights and motor bike horns, over the Saigon bridge, and into Thao Dien district and our 9th floor apartment, where we’ve been residing for the past 3 weeks.

We’ve been exceptionally lucky since arriving in Vietnam, and this apartment was another good find.  Despite a relatively stressful weekend last month moving in (complete with lugging boxes around town, dusting and cleaning the place itself, and entertaining Flo at the same time) it’s been a great place to settle into and has some very useful amenities (pool, gym, kids area, café) onsite.  We also have a large sexy plasma screen TV, which many people will appreciate is something I’ve long dreamt of owning – although if truth be told the viewing options are not exactly cutting edge, unless you are an avid Vietnamese soap opera fan.

Flo’s school has also worked out extremely well.  We had enrolled her into the Montessori School here within 4 days of arriving and she started immediately.  Their facilities are really impressive, and she settled pretty quickly all things considered.  We’ve got our first experience this coming week of school Easter holidays (2 weeks) which will be fun, but also a bit of a juggling act for Lou.  The combination of 40 degree temperatures and an impressively weighted 5lb bump (not bad for 34 weeks) mean that keeping Flo occupied for a day can be quite tiring – I’m slightly more fortunate as my bump is only around 4.5lbs so am a tad more nimble under foot.

Anyway, I decided about an hour ago to start a blog.  Not sure what this means, other than I’ll have a convenient central space on which to keep these rambling notes, that one day might make for an interesting (for me at least) reflection of our time out in Vietnam.  Please manage your expectations carefully in terms of what you might find on this site (I’m struggling already with just downloading pictures), but I’ll do my best to entertain.  I’ve no doubt anyone who actually reads this will know better than I how to make their reactions heard.  In the meantime, go Rory Mc!  I’ll be sleeping sweetly as you hopefully clean up the Open.