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Gobble wobble...

...Thanksgiving with cosmos

overcast 11 °C
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I unwittingly spent Thanksgiving in San Francisco last week. Flying back to the west coast for interviews, I needed to be in town and getting over jet lag before my first interview. Virtually everyone I know was gone for the holiday, so I ended up taking myself for a motorcycle ride that day, and then treated moi to a tasty turkey dinner at the House of Prime Rib, one of my favorite restaurants in San Francisco. Since I was flying out to Seattle and Portland in a couple days for the interviews, I took my notebook full of practice questions with me so as to get some studying done over dinner, and sat there with my cosmo and the biggest plate of food I've ever seen, mulling things over, and talking to myself. I'm sure folks thought I was mental - gesturing across the food trough and talking toward an empty seat across from me.

Seriously, that was more food than I've seen at one time in the last 6 months. While the food was quite delicious, the sheer quantity was a bit....well...disgusting. Honestly, it put me off my appetite the second it came to the table - it looked like a platter for 4. If you're planning on going there, I recommend SHARING a plate! One cosmo was all it took, and I was tipsy. Thankfully, the food caused a sort of mini heart attack in which my heart started pumping like mad, and seemed to take care of the alcohol in short order.

I proceeded to drive home and pop a bottle of champagne and watch Napoleon Dynamite for the hundredth time. It was a relaxing day, though I did miss the antics of my family - never a dull moment, with shots of whiskey over the turkey deep fryer, food fights, and pie stealing, my family takes the cake (or pie) when it comes to entertainment value during Thanksgiving.

My friends, who graciously allowed me to stay in their house while they were away for the holiday, came home a day early, so I got to hang out with them. It was an unexpected and fantastic surprise, especially since I haven't seen them in about a million years! Their friend Steve, who they introduced me to, was hilarious, but made me yawn a little bit. ;-)

I'm now sitting in the lobby of the Holiday Inn in Seattle...right next to a really irritating fountain that's making me have to pee. I had the first of 2 interviews yesterday, and the next one tomorrow in Portland. Half way there!

Posted by kmpossible 15:06 Archived in USA Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Last day in Mui Ne

Heading back to Saigon for the evening, then flying out to San Francisco.

sunny 30 °C
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Well, it's officially our last few hours here in Mui Ne.

The last couple weeks have been somewhat disappointing when it comes to wind. All told, the week of October 27th was a wash, but we kited 4 days the week of November 3rd, 1 day the week of the 10th, and 3 days the week of the 17th. I hear that it's blowing less this year than in previous years...who knows. I have definitely enjoyed the time I've had out on the water...even those times I crashed so hard that I ripped the screws right out of my board/board leash. My legs are battered and bruised from the board, but I'm really no worse for the wear. The other kiters here have all been really friendly, helping you out with launching/landing your kite, or rescuing your board when you lose it. There are quite a few schools here, though our only experience with any of them is with Mr. Lee's kite school (Vietnamese instructors) and Windchamps/WAX (British and Russian instructors). Both have really friendly staff, though one of the instructors at Mr. Lee's had a really bad habit of jumping really near the beach and other kiters. At one point he almost landed right on top of Mike - you could hear Mike swearing at him, even from where I stood on the beach.

My favorite 2 places for breakfast were Full Moon (at the back of the hotel, on the beach) and Mellow. Full Moon does a nice fried egg or omelet with toast, w/ free Wifi, and Mellow has nice fruit, muesli and yoghurt, as well as scrambled eggs and omelets. Full Moon also let me print my flight details for my next flight, free of charge. Offer to pay for the paper, though if you're printing a lot of stuff. This may have been a one-time thing, as we've been here for breakfast quite a lot - maybe they were just being nice?

For lunch:
Nam Khai, our hotel, had nice chicken curry, chicken w/ chili and garlic, french fries, sauteed noodles w/ beef or chicken (ask for it spicy!), and you can take the plates to your room, if you're staying there. A fantastic option for when you're terribly hung over from the full moon party.

Before & Now, the Italian & Vietnamese place down the street. The tagliatelle and penne were fantastic, and the bruschetta was tasty as well.

Mango has my favorite pho - nice and spicy.

Full Moon - fish baguette, burgers, club sandwich.

For dinner:
Mango - fresh fish BBQ. Get the prawns or red snapper grilled. They'll also chop up a whole tomato for you - I like it on my rice w/ a little lime and soy sauce.

Before & Now - we ate there about 4-5 times a week. It never gets old and is always on point.

SNOW - good mini pizzas, sushi was OK, but get the sashimi, not the rolls. The rolls tended to be really chewy - too much rice and seaweed wrapper and not enough fish/veggies. The sashimi came to the table, and we couldn't even tell there was rice underneath - the pieces were a bit bigger than I like on top of rice, but it's better than having barely any fish. The tuna was lovely. Free wifi w/ purchase.

I would definitely come back to Mui Ne, but I'd leave it until December/January when the wind is more reliable. Also, I'd bring more friends for the entire time. It was great having my friend Candy here, and became quite boring after she left, when there was no wind! I don't think I'd stay longer than 3 weeks next time. I've run out of things to do/see. Mui Ne is quite isolated, and once you've done all the local tours (which will take 2-3 days total), there is really not much to do.

I'll be flying to San Francisco on the 25th of November, arriving at 6:30pm...let me know if you wanna get Chinese food on Thanksgiving with me! Then flying to Seattle on the 1st, Portland on the 3rd, San Francisco on the 5th, Manila on the 6th, and Caticlan (Philippines) on the 8th, where I'll hop onto a boat w/ my kiting gear and head to Boracay, my final stop for December. I'm worn out just writing that! It's going to be a helluva 2 weeks coming up - I'm interviewing a 2 med schools while in Seattle and Portland...wish me luck!

Posted by kmpossible 18:30 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Bananas gone wild!

…and a feminine Vietnamese fist fight….

sunny 30 °C
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Sorry, it’s not nearly as exciting as it sounds. We have been really enjoying the bananas here in Vietnam – very small and sweet with a fantastic texture. Some places tend to have bananas with pits…yes, PITS! And they sneak up on you like, you know, something really SNEAKY! I just found out that only the wild variety of bananas has pits, while the other “culinary” bananas are seedless. The unfortunate thing is that you really don’t see them coming. With such a dense fruit, you can’t see the pits until you’ve cracked a filling on one, and then spat the shrapnel back into your fruit, yoghurt and muesli bowl (minus ants, thank you very much!).

Down the street from Nam Khai, Mike and I sat one evening for a before dinner cocktail, which turned into 4 before dinner cocktails. After our 2nd drink, we heard a commotion coming from in front of the coconut tree near our table. We looked up, expecting to see someone sprawled on the pavement, domed by a falling coconut, but no. Our tiny Vietnamese waitress was in the middle of a fistfight with another of the women on staff. They were yelling and throwing haymakers…it was awesome! The bartender came and broke it up, making the two women go to their respective corners, much to our dismay. Our waitress brushed her hair back from her face, smoothed her blouse, and promptly brought us 2 more drinks. As she approached the table and I put my fists up and said, “Ready for round two?” She laughed – I don’t think she understood what I said, but realized I was teasing her about the fight. Two people who almost had their asses in the chairs next to us jumped up upon seeing the fight and moved on. Guess they aren’t into chick brawls.

In other news, did you know that more people worldwide are killed per year by falling coconuts than by shark attacks? 150 per year killed, according to UniSci (http://www.unisci.com/stories/20022/0523024.htm). Every time I walk under a coconut tree here, which happens to be about every 10 steps, I wonder if I’m about to be brained by falling fruit. My headstone would read: “Here lies Kim. She loved coconuts. They did not love her.”

Last week at Mango, as we sat waiting for our lovely dinner to arrive at the table (grilled prawns the size of lobsters and a large red snapper), a cat-sized rat approached the couple sitting at the table near the edge of the restaurant. They looked over at me, like I was supposed to do something. Galvanized by my familial instincts to bash it to pieces with a Mag light (big flashlight, or torch), I started to rise from my seat. Thinking twice, I sat back down and laughed at what I almost did. Back in my seat, I realized I was clutching my chopsticks in a death grip…I was about to spear a rat with chopsticks. The rat, seeing his error, bounded back the way he came. I feel I must explain myself here. Growing up on a farm with livestock and smaller animals around, it was sometimes necessary to protect them from predators and/or the possibility of getting rabies from some wild animal. I’ve witnessed both my parents regulating on said vermin with various instruments – mag light, shovel, you get the idea. I, myself, have been known to chase raccoons with a 2x4 if provoked while taking my trash to the dumpster. So I suppose, skewering a large rodent w/ a small stick is in my genes.

After that, Mike swallowed a fish bone, and it was lodged in his throat for a couple days. Not pleasant. Out of concern for him, I went to the front desk to ask Kan if he had a remedy. He didn’t understand “fish bone”, and thought I was asking for paracetamol (pain killer). I grabbed a bit of paper and a pen and proceeded to embarrass myself by attempting to draw a fish skeleton, with an arrow pointing to one of the small bones, like the one that was in Mike’s throat. I pointed to the paper, and then to my throat, and then to our room. I don’t know how he puts up with us…he’s quite patient. I also don’t know how he wasn’t laughing his ass off at my terrible drawing. He finally got what I was saying, and grabbed his mom, who got a big dinner roll for me, and told me to have Mike swallow it whole, without chewing. Then she tore off a small piece – thankfully, she just meant to swallow pieces of it whole, not the whole thing, cuz it was HUGE! That seemed to help a little, and I repeated the drawing for Mike to lighten the mood…he was quite uncomfortable, poor dear! He laughed a bit, which seemed to help as well.

Word to the wise: travelling can be tough business. We’ll manage, somehow.

Sending hugs, peace, and restful sleep….

Posted by kmpossible 04:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Kiting so much my hands don’t work anymore!

…or maybe it’s the yoga?

sunny 34 °C
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Seriously, last week was freakin’ awesome. We kited 4 days out of 7, with 3 of those days being epic, the 4th had up and down wind, but it was still fun hangin on the beach with the all the kiters. One day as we finished our 4-hour session, we got ready to roll the kites up to put them away. We have a system where one of us holds one wing tip while the other pops the inflatable, leading edge and runs out to the other wing tip and pulls it tight, so that the kite doesn’t hit the sand. (Well, maybe a little!) Then we quickly start to roll the kite inward toward the center, popping the inflatable struts as we get to them, thus, avoiding getting a ton of sand and shit in your kite. This must be a quick process for 2 reasons. First, if you go slowly, you run the risk of a gust of wind catching the kite and dragging you both across the sand. Second, my hands wear out quickly with all the hard gripping and rolling motion involved as the air in the kite is pushing back, mostly after a long session on the water. I got just past the second strut (there are 7 struts on the kite we were rolling up), and suddenly my hands just couldn’t grip the kite anymore! I stood there trying to hold the kite up off the sand, and hold tight so Mike could at least pull against me to take up the slack, but the more he pulled, the more my hands gave out. I was busting with laughter, and doubled over my partially-rolled end to avoid dropping it all together. I had it pinned between my thighs and my chest, just standing there laughing my ass off. “They won’t work! They just won’t work anymore!” I must have looked completely ridiculous…my hands were just hanging there like dead sticks…lifeless. Some how, they sprang to action in a final burst of strength and I was able to finish rolling my end, just as they gave out again. Guess I’ve got a death grip on the bar while I’m out on the water…I should knock that off! I suppose that comes with experience and more skill.

The days off kiting are tough…I’m now struggling to find things to do out here, with the exception of Monday – we took our final available tour (reclining Buddha, Cham Towers, Phan Thiet Market, Dragon fruit farm). It’s really a small town/village type area, and we’ve now done all the charter tours you can do, visited the hospital, rented bikes, etc etc…I’m kind of feeling like I’m ready for more action elsewhere. I think the language barrier has a lot to do with that. For instance, we have been going to Before & Now (fantastic home made pasta, Italian style) 3-5 times per week, and are quite friendly with the girl who runs the place, though I still don’t know her name. It was her birthday the other night when we were in there, and I really wanted to talk to her on the level you talk to your friends on their special day…but it was impossible. I’m not sure why really, but I almost cried as we sat there, struggling to understand each other. It’s frustrating. I find Vietnamese exceedingly difficult to learn. Some of the sounds they make, I can’t even begin to make…even saying hello is a challenge. In one area of town it’s pronounced ‘dow’ and in the other it’s pronounced ‘jow’. It would be fantastic to have a translator to take with me for a day to talk to people, ask questions, and share conversation.

I’ve been doing yoga on most of the days we’ve had off from kiting…another activity that requires hand/arm strength. I’ve downloaded several Power Yoga and Baptiste style yoga podcasts from iTunes, and they’re pretty good. Thanks to Mike’s Mom, who made me a travel bag for my yoga mat, I’ve been able to carry my mat with me wherever I want to do yoga. I sometimes carry it down to the lounge area outside WAX Bar and do yoga while gazing out over the rolling sea. It’s quite lovely, though practicing yoga in front of people who are not also practicing yoga at the same time is something new and unusual. It’s another level of meditation I suppose, to really focus internally, with no one else to model or watch for pointers on your own posture, meanwhile, I can’t help but take note of the fact that there are other people walking around, and sitting nearby (drinking BEER, those bastards!). Which reminds me…after yoga, I always crave sushi (maybe from my days of Bikram yoga with Carl & Collin? Hugs, guys), and broccoli. Since the sushi we’ve had here is mediocre and the broccoli has pulled a Houdini act and has escaped all dishes here in Vietnam, I’m now craving beer. Weird, I know, but it’s really refreshing after a tough hour and a half on the mat, and it feeds into that yummy yoga high that I always get…I love EVERYTHING and EVERYONE! People, I’m not joking…I buzz after yoga.

In other news, I’m officially a Battlestar Galactica junkie. I’ve watched into the middle of the 3rd season, and I NEED to know: WHO ARE THE FINAL 5 CYLONS???!!! For those of you who know, I’ll give a million dong to the first person who tells me! …..ok ok…..don’t tell me. It’s a really well-written show, if you’re interested!

Posted by kmpossible 21:17 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

It's windy in Mui Ne!

…our first day of kiting this month – 03 Nov 2008.

sunny 33 °C
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Yes, you read correctly, today it was very windy! A good steady blow, dying out somewhat around 2pm (still kite-able, though) and picking back up about 30 minutes later. Mike was on his 12m Helix and custom board, and I was on my 9m Shockwave with my Litewave 133 board. I counted about 40 kites at what seemed to be the busiest part of the day. People here spread out quite a bit, which is nice – you have plenty of room to feel comfortable out there. There seem to be lots of locals kiting and teaching as well, and everyone seems to have a good sense of where they are with respect to other kiters. The beach is quite long and wide enough in most places to safely launch/land. Today the water felt quite warm to me, but maybe that’s because I was workin’ so hard out there!

I had a great day out there – the wind direction is opposite to what it was in Bali, so now I get to practice starting out going the other direction. My first attempt today, it was like I’d done it a hundred times – I was rockin it! Mike was rockin it too, as usual. He’s the coolest. You should see him out there – ziggin and zaggin. We were out for about 4 hours – missed lunch, and got back right before the fresh catch was hauled out for display at Mango, a fantastic restaurant across the street from our home, Nam Khai. I went for a quick, 30-minute back and neck massage at the spa next door to our hotel, and then Mike and I headed over for a lovely dinner: we shared a snapper, rice, and 4 of the biggest prawns I’ve ever seen! Like mini lobsters they were! They make a tasty dipping sauce over here that I’ve never had, but it’s so simple. One part ground black pepper, one part lime juice, stir and dip your prawns! It turns out more like a paste than a sauce, but you can add lime to your liking of course…give it a try! It’s nice on the fish as well.

I can’t say it enough – I’m soooooo relieved that there are better vittles here this time around. Breakfast and lunch are about the same as last time – nothing to write home about, but for dinner, there are many more choices, most of which consist of fresh fish. If given the chance, I’d eat fresh fish for dinner most evenings. I’m so happy to have a happy tummy!

Note: speaking of food, there’s a great Italian & Vietnamese restaurant south of our hotel, on the same side of the street called Before and Now. They have a hand made tagliatelle that is quite nice, very light, and you can order it Arribiata if you like a little spice.

After returning to our room, we promptly got out the ice bags and iced down our backs…these things must be done, you see. Injury prevention people! Ok ok, so maybe we’re getting old….nah, just being pro-active with it.

In other news, we have a resident cat here at Nam Khai, whom I lovingly call Mowser (‘Maow-zer). He is really loving and snuggly and cute and adorable. However, he is also really annoying when you’re drenched in sweat and lying on your yoga mat outside your room while in the middle of a session. He rubbed against my leg and covered me with hair! Ick! He then laid right down in the middle of the mat as I was in Downward Facing Dog, and I almost flattened him when I went into Upward Facing Dog – he just wouldn’t MOVE. I got ready to head back inside after I finished my meditation, only to find the part of my mat that wasn’t covered by my towel had been shredded…little bits of rubber all over the place! F&@#ing cat! I immediately realized that I couldn’t be mad at the little furry beast – he was just doing what cats do. …I don’t think that cat realizes that he was one yoga class away from a boot in his ass. Funny that, yoga definitely helps me make more rational, appropriate decisions!

Speaking of animals, Yang, the girl we met while on the Fairy Spring and Red & White sand dune tour, had an awful animal story. She brought her small dog here with her from Saigon – she, too, has quit her job to be a beach bum like us. The dog is an indoor dog and somehow escaped her room, deciding to cross the road – maybe he was following the chicken? Anyway, someone ran over the dog, and a few seconds later someone else pulled up and picked the dog up, “you know, the people who eat dogs.” Eeek. What do you say to that?

Well, here we are 2 days later (just heard election results this morning! Happy news, Obama won, thank f$#k!), and more wind! Though, it was incredibly gusty. I took out the 7m Shockwave, only to be seriously under-powered, so back to the beach to grab the 9. The kite tumbled out of the sky, and that was all for me. One second there were huge gusts, and the next there was nothing at all! There were some folks out there on the water working it pretty hard – didn’t look like much fun to me. There were also some learners in the water, and I felt really sorry for them. It’s tough to learn in wind conditions like that. As Mike was ending his day after getting racked by his board, he ripped off one of his toenails on a rock on the seabed. The forecast looks good continually with the exception of 1 day this week, so we're stoked! Now to repair the toe (and ice our backs!)...life is good!!

Posted by kmpossible 07:17 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

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