Friday, February 29, 2008

What's going on...

Well, we've been home about a week now, and we're slowly (very slowly) settling back in.  All three of us are sick (ear and sinus infections, stomach blechiness, bronchitis, lots of good time fun), and Norah is on a completely jacked-up sleep schedule (her main sleep period is from 3am to 1pm or so).  It's slowly (very slowly) moving towards normal hours but it definitely doesn't feel much like it.  Norah's been to see her pediatrician and we're going to see a specialist soon. 


So, yeah.  We're so glad to be home and so glad to have Norah with us FINALLY.  But maaaaaaan, we are T.I.R.E.D.  We're talking Home of the Living Dead.  I'm still trying to get Live Writer to work so there will be many, many more pictures coming.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Live Writer Not Working Makes Me Sad

It's looking like Live Writer won't post any posts that have pictures attached....

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cu Chi Tunnels (War is Hell) - part one

On Monday we went to the tunnels at Cu Chi.  This, for me, was a humbling experience, and there are some somewhat gruesome pictures of traps used below.  Please beware, and I just wanted to post them because I had never seen anything quite like it (and I'm fairly well-informed when it comes to history and this war).  Here's Wikipedia's description of the area:  "The tunnels of Củ Chi are an immense network of connecting underground tunnels located in the Cu Chi district of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, and are part of a much larger network of tunnels that underlie much of the country. The Củ Chi tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam's base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968.  The tunnels were used by NLF guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters. The role of the tunnel systems should not be underestimated in its importance to the NLF in resisting American operations and protracting the war, eventually persuading the weary Americans into withdrawal."



It was another two-hour drive to Cu Chi (not a 30-minute drive as estimated by someone a few days before, but, oh well.)  Cu Chi is another fairly small village (I use this term loosely, since it's obviously not made up of little straw huts or anything like that).  There were lots of gorgeous green fields on the way there.



We passed some rubber tree plantations on the way there.   Rubber is one of Vietnam's main export products (I spent a lot of time last night reading wikipedia about Vietnam, can't you tell?)



About 30 minutes away from Cu Chi, Devon calmly said from the back seat, "Uh, Hue?  He's throwing up back here.  Yeah, right now."  So non-chalantly--it was hilarious.  He was telling her this, of course, so we could pull over and they could clean themselves up (this picture is a very mild picture of the pukage) and she said, "Oh, we're almost there."  Aaaaaaaand then we drove for 30 more minutes, all the while Devon and Deacon sat completely still, trying not to let any of know, stuff...spill out onto the seat.  Good times, good times.



Ticket booth.



Dani can't pass flowers without taking their pictures.  She's just not capable.



Lots of souvenir stands and whatnot.  Here are some shells.  There were lots of reminders that this was a war site.



We started the tour with a video about Cu Chi and its role in the American War.   It really was an amazing accomplishment.  It took them over 20 years to complete the tunnels (they started them during the French occupation).  It was a little odd watching the video and hearing about different local heroes given honorary titles such as "Hero American Killer."   



Some of the weapons used by both sides.




The entrance down into the tunnel area (itself a big concrete tunnel).





Interspersed throughout the area are these tiny little hatches around 10"x12", covered by leaves and dirt.  These are the hidden entrances into the tunnels.  Our tour guide showed us how they would lower themselves into the tunnel.  He asked us if we wanted to try.  Dani and I looked at each other and laughed.




Leia had no problem getting into the tunnel and Devon just barely made it (he's about the height of two average Vietnamese men, so it was a little tricky). 



One of the many traps designed for massive damage.  Our guide assured me that the examples were not actual traps. 



There were many, many bomb craters made by bombs dropped from B-52 bombers.



A larger tunnel entrance.  The tour area was lightly covered in small trees and had a dirt walking path.  During the war, of course, all of the trees were gone, destroyed by constant bombing and agent orange and general warfare.  




Norah was fairly well-behaved until towards the end of the walk.  There was something a bit eerie to me to have a baby crying in the middle of all this.



There were mannequins dressed as the fighters would have been dressed.  From a distance we all thought there were random soldiers sitting around.  It was a little startling, to say the least.



Dani and I chillin' with a couple of our peeps, just kickin' it.




A tank incapacitated by a land mine (the land mines would destroy their treads and render them mostly useless).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

We made it!

After a loooooooooong trip halfway around the world, we're finally back home.  There are still a few posts from Vietnam that aren't uploading for some reason, so I'll get those up at some point.  Just wanted to let everyone know we made it back safe and sound.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

We're coming home!

The internet here in Hanoi has been pretty much the suck so not much posting, but hopefully this one will make it.  It's 6:42am and we're packing up our stuff and getting ready for our flights to Hong Kong, LA (eek) and then FINALLY St. Louis.  We'll get caught back up on posts once we get back home and get semi-settled. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pooper Ducky

Since several people have asked, the blow up duck came from Walmart (about $10) and it has been wonderful here. So much so that I don't think I can part with it when we leave. We might just have to find a way to cram it in. I can't take the credit for it though. I got this great idea from Laura! Thanks Laura!!

Ben Thanh Market

Sunday we walked down the road from the Rex and paid a quicker-than-we-planned visit to Ben Thanh Market.  Picture a typical flea market-type atmosphere (enclosed space, lots of vendors crammed into too little of a space, moderately icky heat) and then throw in the smell of fish and a whole lot of people not speaking english, and you'll have a pretty good picture of the trip. 



A friendly reminder of my employer. 




At some point I realized that not all of the vendors were open to bartering.  Above some of the vendors were signs that said, among other things, "Fixed Price."  I guess that's why the women was so offended when I tried to get a better price on a little turtle-compass thingy. 





Around the perimeter of the market was the non-food type items and, what we saw of it, the middle was more produce and the like.






Apparently LISA brand mayonnaise is all the rage.







The way the packaging looks of so many items in Vietnam (and in Asia in general) so much stuff looks like candy to me.






A good shot of dragon fruit (the one in the back row in the center).  Weird, crazy-looking fruit, but very very good.



In the middle of the produce area are little food stands with tiny tables and tiny chairs (they look like kids-sized tables and chairs, a bit) where people quickly grab a bite.



We bought a yummy baguette here.  The french tradition definitely lives on in the breads and pastries.



Imagine setting your wares up right on the side of the street.



The bananas here are smaller and, I think, a little better than the ones we get in the states.  They're a little bit more starchy, kind of like a plantain, but still sweet and tasty.



A statue of someone famous in the middle of one the roundabouts-of-doom.



The Happy New Year banners and decorations stay up for about 15 days after Tet.



More cool architecture.  This building defies the norm of Saigon, neither neo-classical nor boring Communist pragmatic Modern....oh, sorry.  This building shur iz purty.



Hats for sale.  If I hadn't known that none of them would fit my mondo noggin, I would have bought a couple.



People really DO wear the conical hats here.  It seems like just one of those cliche type of things, but they really do wear them.



Shirts.  Again, I think I need to buy a 3XL here for it to ALMOST fit (I wear XL in the states).