Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Christmas in Saigon...

...was amazing. I didn't think it was possible to have such a fun Christmas because I'm  away from my family for the first time, it's not cold and the people I was spending Christmas with are people I only met a few months ago. I think it's both a  testament to how well I can adapt when I put my mind to it and how amazing my friends are that Christmas was such a hit. First off I woke up at 6am like I do every year on Christmas. My little kid alarm clock goes off and I'm up like I was just injected with a shot of adrenaline. I, of course, have to taper down the excitement because no one else is up. Even my family sleeps until they're right and ready to roll out of bed. So I went back to bed. Woke up again at 8 and then decided I could putter around and make enough 'noise' so someone would hear me and eventually start to stir as well. That got H out of bed but by the time she came to see if I was awake I'd already called the fam back home and so she went to shower. The fam were of course baking our annual traditions: cheese rolls, pine tarts, rum cake and pound cake. They were too busy to skype with me so I said adios and ventured out to see who else was awake. Both K and H were up but then K decided she had to slap some makeup on because she knows what a shutterbug I am. "Good idea" I thought to myself so I forced myself to freshen up because when these pictures make it on the blog the whole world can see them. I like to put my best foot forward. It's kinda why people think I'm photogenic. I'm not really. I only post the best photos which is every 1 out of 1000.
There were actual gifts under our pitiful little tree, but I can't be too harsh on it because it was free after all.. I begged it off a TA at my centre and she didn't mind. So we had a half a tree and a fair amount of presents. Most of which K poked at the night before so it wasn't much of a surprise to her. H and I were a little more contained and therefore more surprised the next morning. I got a Tintin in Saigon painting (even though he was never in Vietnam), a bangle and several bracelets, a K-Pop DVD, a keychain and a wallet. Amazing haul considering I wasn't really expecting anything. I also got presents from Katie but I'll mention that later.
We then puttered around, I made breakfast, then went back to bed for a bit before our friend Caitlin popped over. We gave her our presents and then headed downstairs to see the others. Matt, Gemma and Theresa were supposed to be our other housemates but we couldn't find any houses that we all agreed on (read: anyone's that I liked) and so I found two apartments in the same building, which also happen to be the same place that our friends Hannah and JP live. It's a pretty awesome arrangement.
So we popped over to the other's apartment and exchanged presents there. Matt popped a bottle of champagne open and we toasted to our awesomeness. Well I'm not sure what they toasted to but that's what I did. :D
Then we headed to JP's and H's to give them our apartment present to them. Their apartment present to us btw, which is totally just for me, is a shuttlecock. Or maybe that's not what it's really called but since I don't know the real name I'm just going to call it that for the time being. Basically Vietnamese youth kick and swat it around while playing on the street and it's SO MUCH FUN. I've played it with my Juniors during their break time before and they were well impressed with me. I haven't convinced any of the others to play with me just yet but I'm sure I'll find a taker soon enough.
After exchanging all our gifts we headed upstairs to get ready because we decided (read: I decided) to go out for lunch. I know it sounds like I'm bossy but I'm the oldest female in the bunch and as such I take it upon myself to 'mother' the others and they're pretty awesome about it. Plus, I cooked for Thanksgiving and couldn't fathom doing it again for Christmas for 14 people. Especially since I don't know how to delegate and so I never have any help.
We got all gussied up and went to KOTO, a restaurant/charity that helps disadvantaged youth in the area by training them to work in restaurants. It was amazing. For 750,000VND we had a wide range of foods and free flow wine and champagne. We had grilled prawns, scallops and smoked salmon for appetizers. Our main course was grilled vegetables, roasted potatoes, and what I think is sweet potatoes, but there was some debate, pork, beef, and turkey with an amazing gravy and applesauce thing. Not sure but it was delicious. The wine was also amazing. I've had some pretty bitter wine in my lifetime but this was so good and I was so happy. We ate, we laughed, we exchanged gifts in an semi-awesome white elephant game. I say semi because we received a goldfish for a gift but then he died an hour after we brought him home. We named him Mr. Simple (after a K-Pop song that H and I are obsessed with) and he will forever live on in our hearts. We'll probably get a new one and name him Mr. Simple Junior. Long story. I'll tell you more about the memorial service soon.
So after about 3 hours we figured we needed to get home because we were tired, full, some of us were drunk and we had Mr. Simple and had to get him acclimated to his new home soon, which is probably what killed. That or starvation. So we got home, dispersed for a bit and then everyone reconvened in our living room for a showing of Elf. I love that movie but I was so exhausted so I promptly passed out on our couch. I think pretty much everyone did. I slept for an hour but in reality in was like 10 minutes. It was such an awesome nap though and I was sad to leave the couch but more fun was awaiting us. And by more fun I mean the most amazing homemade apple and pumpkin pies I've ever had.
Katie invited me over for Christmas dinner because her kids and mom were in town and she said I could bring a couple of friends so I took K and H with me. They were blown away by everything. First off, Katie lives in Diamond Plaza. I've already blogged about it so you know what I mean. It's one thing to hear about it and one thing to see it. Plus K's apartment is amazing. It's full of stuff from all of her travels and it's just a traveler's paradise. Also, K and her family are amazing and they were so welcoming and natural and the girls just felt instantly at home. We all got little presents. The girls got small elephants and a Chinese wand. Fun but useless thing. I also received a lacquer jewelry box, a notebook made of paper that's made by hand from India and a small lapis pendant from Arizona. Completely amazing. I gave K and S two lacquerware paintings, a bottle of whiskey and a bottle of rum. The food was so good and the pies were tantalizing (you thought I was going to say amazing didn't you?) and the company was warm and genuine and I was so glad to be with a family for Christmas even if they weren't my own. In all honesty though, Katie and Steve have adopted me as a niece and I know I can go to them for anything and they'll always help if they can. If they can't they'll find someone who can and trust me when I say that they know everyone. Big shout out to the Kaur twins for the introduction.
We ate and then played Balderdash for a couple of hours and left shortly after midnight. As fun as it was they had to be up early for a cyclotour of Chinatown. So we headed home. K went over to T's to watch a movie and spend more time with them and so H and I headed home. It was a rather chilly night, which is amazing for Saigon, so I suggested we go up to our roof, wear our sweaters and sit up there. Our roof is pretty nice and will be more so when we get folding chairs so we can take them up there at night and relax more. There isn't really a place to sit up there. Well for the rest of us there isn't. K scales up the ladder and sits on the furthest reaches of the roof because she's a little daredevil and loves to give me palpitations. It's the big sister/mother/worry wart in me kicking in. Plus I'm not sure what the emergency number is in HCMC and I'm afraid I'll need it and not know it.
So we were all up there discussing our days and how amazing it was and how much we love each other and how we're not really taking advantage of this really great city that we live in and how we should do a tour and make a pact to do so the very next day. We were either going to do a cyclotour of Chinatown, walk around District 5 (where we live) or do a city tour. We need none of the above because we got tempted by the pool instead. Spent Boxing Day at Van Thanh pool out in Binh Thanh District (super expensive taxi ride, like $7) and it was quite possibly the most fun I've had on consecutive days in HCMC. I'll post pictures in a bit. This was a long post and a lot to digest. I hope all of you had amazingly wonderful holidays and if you didn't I wish nothing but the best for your new year.
Also, I have now really do have a full weekend at school. My last class is a Jumpstart class, 4-6 year olds, and I'm beyond excited for it. :)

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