Monday, July 18, 2011


I’m writing now from the Ho Tram beach resort. Our exit from Ho Chi min city was a little rough on me. Note to self: if the sign says yogurt with roasted nuts, DON’T eat it. Somehow I’ve made it through two months in a place with foods that are totally mysterious and not a word of English without incident and a giant English sign got me in trouble (Manuel was great, very kind and supportive toward me and taking over all matters logistical while wrangling the children, who were acting as though they had taken the epinephrine shot. Later he told me he was thinking the exact same thing, “We finally get to a place where they tell you in English what the food is, and you eat NUTS!”). So, thanks to the allergic reaction, an epipen, and three Benadryl, I spent most of the first day at the beach asleep. The R and R is great for Manuel and me; we are both physically exhausted from our time in the jungle. But, more importantly, the kids love this, which reinforces one of the most important rules for traveling with kids; plan lots of down time and things that will thrill them and that will feel familiar. Our hotel room has an outside bathroom—as in you can lie in the bathtub and look at the stars. The restaurant has Vietnamese and western food, which works fabulously for us. Other highlights include the playground, collecting shells on the beach, and the cartoon channel. Eli summed it up by saying, “they do all of our jobs here and all we have to do is eat and drink.” Eli looks dapper this morning in the gap pj’s I purchased for 70 cents at the Saigon market the other night.

In Food news we especially liked the Vietnamese Hot pot which was not at all what we expected and included an array of freshly caught seafood that we then cooked in the pot. Rebecca had a fabulous sea bass in a clay pot and we drank wine and cocktails. While we were cooking squid and mystery fish Jonathan entertained us with his summary of a baroque mystery. He’s reading my kindle since he left his on the plane. He found Cruel Music, a terrible mystery that has a castrato in it. His narration included discussions of the “Jewess” who had decided to become “pagan” pronounced with a soft g like agent. She discovered the magic of Diana and could not resist apparently. He’d like to meet some pagans in Charlottesville. He then explained to his siblings that castrati, which they all know about, had high voices because someone found the very best boy singers in all of Italy and cut off little bits of their tongues or maybe their vocal cords. I have to admit that I’ve glossed over the mechanics of making a castrato with the kids; they’ve heard tons of music for castrati, heard me lecture about it, and even read some of my sources. And they’ve even heard me explain the procedure. But I’ve never quite explained it all to them. So Manuel carefully explained the whole business of smushing testicles and hormones and the way that voices get low when you hit puberty. And in the end what they took from it was that it must have been very hard to live with smushed “intestines”, and they couldn’t figure out why smashed intestines made it hard to get married. Given that we’ve already covered the Vietnam war, the needless death of children, and abandoned orphans since we got here, we decided to just leave the whole testicle thing alone. (I’m still processing the war parts of the trip so more on that later)

We head back to Ho Chi Min city this morning and will do some errands and take the kids to a water puppet show. We need to buy coffee, chocolate, cereal, pasta, butter, cheese, antibacterial soap, and hand sanitizer. If we have time I will probably buy a few more clothing items for the kids. Nothing gets clean in the jungle so their clothes are just nasty and both boys have outgrown shoes. And I probably need some sort of fashion treat for myself!

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