Beautiful normality and human connection.

Beautiful normality and human connection. My Wednesday in photos

A daily occurrence
Fatherly teachings
Binh Ahn came to watch TV with Hao and his brother

It was Thiens turn to come hang out with the brothers
Physio time
Daily hair play activity with Ngu Phuong
This staff member is so lovely with the kids, she gently stretches their limbs each day
Learning new juggling tricks
She LOVES the camera!!!

Library time

Then I stumble across a kiwi and an Aussie!!!
Out for bubble tea with Ru and May

Flowers outside the babies room

Then out to do a bit of business s

Add caption

Then off for dinner for glass noodles (thai), tofu, prawns and fish cakes…

Michelle my friend, interpreter and (poor navigator)…but you look purdy 😉
Night time stop to get fruit
Florist shop at night, I love how it looks like an aquarium
Stopping for coconut drink

and off to zzzz

Love, Sharon x

Today was special beyond words

Today was special beyond words

Ken and his two families…..

Its 12:34 am and someone has finally got off the internet so that I can upload photos, so I will blog, but probably for not as long as I would like…because I need to get up in 6 hours.

A year ago when I was back at Go Vap I was in the babies room for 10 minutes before lunch.  I would often do this as its a nice ‘wind down’ from working in the terminal ward, its a nice time to see the babies and help with feeding.  Anyway, this one particular day there were a few families in the room with the kids.  I plonked myself down on the mat and started talking to the babies. Of course I noticed my favourite little boy and I watched him walk around the room and saw that he was spending time with an Irish couple.  I thought they must just be other visitors that are paraded through the centre and didn’t think much of it.  I talked about how special this little boy was and said “you should take him home”…to which they replied “we are”.  Holy crap did I feel emotional!

Emotional to bare witness to a dream some true for this family and a pivotal moment in Ken’s life.  I will never forget that day and even now I get tingles when I reminisce.  

Sabrina and I kept in contact and today I arranged a surprise Skype meeting with Ken’s Go Vap mum.  It was beautiful and I think through the grainy reception Ken saw her and recognised her.  He changed from a little wriggling boy to a boy glued to the screen….searching the computer screen and I guess his little brain was being triggered by the surroundings that were once his home, 4 walls that he spent 95% of his life in.

Then I come home to this lovely email….. 🙂 🙂 🙂

The internet is crappy again, so I will blog tomorrow.

Love you all, thanks for reading and following my journey….for being with me in spirit and for your support.

xx

The importance of KINFOLK

The importance of KINFOLK

An old friend of mine use to talk about the “highs the lows and plateaus” of a relationship and sometimes the plateaus were the hardest.  I always thought this was really insightful….as was she.

I have learnt to like the plateaus in my life and just accept them for what they are, but the lows are hard and as a creative with a very sensitive spirit these moments can really knock me for a 6.  I’m expressive and an open book so I am extremely lucky to have amazing friends back home who will always be there for me.

There are the friends who tell it like it is…

The “no bullshit YOU are better/bigger than this” kind of advice.  

The friend who is SO bloody reasonable its almost frustrating, (but you know there is truth in it).  

The friend who wants to wrap you up in cotton wool and just wants everything to be lovely.

The friend who says “visualise and reconnect with yourself, get back up again”.

Then there is my best friend, my soul sister who can almost do it all because she is Wonder Woman and I love the hell out of her and I know she loves me for all my imperfections. 

I am so lucky for every single of these precious gems that I have in my life.  I feel like my friendships and connections get richer and more valuable as time goes on.  Don’t get me wrong, I have had friends come and go and even the ones that have moved on, still hold value for me.  They have been painful break ups, there have been tears and sadness for the end of a friendship but I look back with love. They have taught me, about them and they have taught me about myself.  They were simply just there for a ‘season’ of my life.

The friends I have now know that honesty is my number one value and that we can be brutally honest with each other, even if the conversations may not be easy.  I have become more discerning with age and I know the type of person I want to surround myself with.  People who are honest, gentle but fierce, vulnerable yet brave, authentic, positive and slightly nuts.  Oh… and they usually swear quite a bit 😉 The relationships feel beautifully in balance, that we both bring things to the table and share life.

I am blessed with the kinfolk I have in my life.  

SO…..when you are in a foreign country and a low hits like a massive hurricane I need to call on the feminine spirits of my kinfolk.

Last night I had a massive cry.  I mean a BIG cry.  A cry that meant I woke up today with eyes “like piss holes in the snow”, eyes that looked like I had chubby translucent caterpillars sleeping on them.  A big cry about my life, a drama queen moment (as my ex husband would say)… a letting out, a letting go a healthy release.

I called on my sisters…..the “no bullshit” friend was in the room with me, also the “cotton wool” friend and the friend that kicks me up the ass!  You were all with me last night as I curled up and sobbed, my stomach ached, the lump in my throat numb and swollen. A purging of emotions.

I grabbed my pillows and was catastrophic for about an hour, I physically manifested all the stress that was building up in my body and let it out.  It was painful at the time, but necessary.  I completed a course about freeing yourself from emotional pain and this was something I learnt the value of. It was intense… but today I feel like I have lightened the load.  I have addressed my panic and my stress levels and I know what I need to do to make things easier.

I now know that last night was my body/heart/soul saying I need a ‘plot change’…its me saying to ‘myself’ something has to change before I snap and break.  So after a big ugly snot running crying session I have decided to make a few changes with my life and what I do with it (more about that later).

So this post is just an honest talk to myself and to say thank you to my darling friends.  Its also time to catch up with some overdue photos for you…..so lets go….

Its Tuesday now and I have taken the day off ‘work’ to look after myself, but I want to talk about how lucky I am to have met some awesome women here in Vietnam.  Woman that I am grateful for.

PHUONG

I met Phuong on the first ever trip to HCMC and I think I was the first foreigner she had every spoken to.  She was about 17 at the time and with her friend in the tourist area. We spoke for about an hour.  Her lips quivering with nerves as she practised her english….now almost 5 years later she is a confident and self assured young woman.  We catch up for coffee and talk freely and easily.  Phuong I am grateful for you. I love being silly with you, I love your sense of humour and sweet sweet nature.

CHI

On Sunday morning I met up with an inspiring woman by the name of Chi at my favourite cafe (Kujuz).  I met her via the Female Expat page her as I mentioned prior to my visit that I would like to spend 24 hours with a rural family and she messaged me.  Not only does she have an amazing family that I will be visiting this weekend (her great grandmother is almost 115 years old), but she is also in the creative arts and film.

We met for coffee and talked about all aspects of life, about women in Vietnam, culture, sex education, lifestyle and more.  We only had about 90 minutes together but I could’ve sat for hours!  Chi, I cannot wait to spend the weekend with you and your family in the Mekong Delta this weekend.

Chi, I bow my head to you.  You are one inspiring person so thank you so much for you time.

MICHELLE

After I met with Chi I was catching up with another chick I had met via the Female Expat page.  A local by the name of Michelle.  She had lived in the US for almost 10 years and so her english is almost perfect.  I knew that we would get on like a house on fire and we did.  It was like catching up with an old friend who I could talk about ANYTHING with.  We went to the local market, did tarot for fun, I had my portrait done and we talked about men 😉  Michelle, you are a ray of sunshine.

I am coming back here with my Courage My Love leg skins for a photo!!!
Saigon Pancakes

Thinking of you Hien
This guy was doing ‘tricks’ with straws.  Or just holding them and looking at them.  I bought him a drink and some lunch

Street food.
Post office
Groom, bride and bridesmaids…..one had had enough

Book street
Book street
Catching some zzzz’s a very common site in Vietnam.  Your bike doubles as a bed

“I know, I will walk and look over my shoulder casually and you take a pic”

A little bit of a genius, but not a lot
Kyla I thought you would like this
Teeny tiny figurines

The tarot reader was 17, he looked about 30.

The Birdie dance (video), babies and a lovely surprise…

The Birdie dance (video), babies and a lovely surprise…

It’s Friday!!

As a bit of a tradition I like to take a few treats to the staff on a Friday. I don’t know when it started, but it just kind of seems right to look after them while they are looking after the kids.  I guess its my way of saying thank you without speaking bad vietnamese all the time.

So I stopped at the supermarket and got Oreo’s and some fresh passionfruit….balanced, naughty AND nice.

The staff were in a raucous happy mood…so was Thien.  I had to keep away from him while he was being fed as each time his eyes caught mine, he would laugh and spray food everywhere….the staff thought it was pretty funny too – thank goodness!!

I left the room so that he could focus and saw that kids were pouring into the communal area again for dance and singing time…I was SO there!! I followed the trail of kids..

Then this happened….I got the giggles and lost co-ordination….oh and there is a bit too much bosom! 🙂

The Birdie Dance (video)

After my dance I popped back to the room and spent some time with Hung and gave him a foot massage with some lovely oils that my lovely friend Julie Edlin gave to me.  I used orange and he LOVED it.  So did his ‘neighbour’ as his face was right near his feet so he was getting a good wiff of citrus goodness.

Time for some chilling out with the girls

Then I found a wee fella in the middle room who needed some TLC, so Ed Sheeran came out again (I love that guy….) and a gentle hand massage. We hung out together for about 30 minutes while his oxygen levels got up a bit more.

Then it was off to the babies room for a quick visit and to show a very special carer some photos.

I think it was about a year ago when I was here I met a couple who were also in the babies room and we with a little boy that I had a bit of a ‘soft spot’ for.  I joked and said “oh you should take HIM home with you”….to my surprise they said “we are”.  I got tingles and I think I almost cried.  This little boy had something very special about him and I had been photographing him on a few occasions as I was quite taken by his energy.

Anyway, long story short, Ken’s mum and I have kept in contact over email ever since that day.  She has told me about life with a adopted child and I shed light on things when I could.  Just like any other parent, you don’t get an instruction guide…but adopting a child who already has established routines is a whole new level of challenge! So…when I told her that I was going back I wanted to arrange a Skype call.  That hasn’t happened yet, but I’m aiming for next week.  Today I just wanted to test the coverage.

I showed Ken’s Go Vap mum the photos of  the little boy she took great care of.  I also had a friend translate an email so that she could hear how he has been doing.  She was over the moon!!! All the staff swarmed around my phone to get a close glimpse at Ken and how much he had grown.  They were all so delighted and I shared photos with them via bluetooth and they sat looking at them for ages.  It was such a lovely moment to be able to share with her.


Then I got to help feed and have cuddles before lunch.

Then it was off to the fabric market….ooh brocade!!!

After a few hours of hunting I went back to town to a central park to unwind (as much as you can in this big busy bustling city).  I watched families play badminton, walk together, tai chi, dancing and cross fit.

Then out for dinner ($7.50) and a walk around the river

Off to sleep now.  It’s the weekend and I am off to the market again tomorrow morning to pick up some more fabric and take to get samples made.  Then meeting a friend for coffee.  Then the evening will be mine to relax.

Thanks for reading!! Send me positive vibes. I miss you all!  I love this place, but I miss my kinfolk.

Lots of love

Sharon x

“Give me your ticket…take off your clothes!”

“Give me your ticket…take off your clothes!”

I went to see the kids on Wednesday with a big ass headache.

I just couldn’t shake it! I had been making a conscious effort to drink loads of water and seemed to be getting enough sleep.  I have also started having normal dreams now, instead of about the traffic which is great! But I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling yuck.  I didn’t remember feeling like this last time…or did I?

Sleepy eyes and hair pulling

I was lying down with Thien in the therapy room and just wanted to shut my eyes. I felt for him today too and really needed to be present with him.

He had a rough morning.  

When I arrived he was being fed and I think the spoon may (?) have hit his bad tooth or he did something wrong and was “told off”.  He was picked up and put back in his cot.  He was holding his breath and inhaling to maximum lung capacity.  He let out a huge guttural sobbing wail….

His eyes spilling over with tears and over flowing to his wee cheeks.  I squatted down beside his bed and put my face on the cold steel of the bed, and just looked at him.  I just ‘spoke’ to him with my eyes, my energy and my heart.  He lay…I sat….just with him.

Thien cried for about 3 long minutes.  I wasn’t going to try and make him smile, make him forget about what just happened, I was just going to sit with him and his emotions.  Poor poor Thien.  Slowly the tears stopped, the chest heaving gasps had stilled and his face softened.  He smiled that warm smile…

It was an awful morning for him and it made my headache feel minimal in the scheme of things and I just couldn’t keep my eyes open long (and it was only 1030!).

We lay and played, then I DID try and shut my eyes.  I think I slept for about 5 minutes until I woke up to him pulling my hair with fingers.  He thought this was brilliant, so of course I allowed him to do this a bit longer.  It was a lovely morning dedicated to just him.

I

I did see the others but I wanted him to know I was taking time for just him (even though I may have fallen asleep a little bit).

I went to lunch and had some paracetamol which helped.  Lunch was cool.  I met 2 families who had come back to Go Vap for the first time since adopting their kids.  It was awesome to talk to them (they were from Canada)

I went to the fabric market….But actually I didn’t.  I got epically lost and ended up about 25 kms on the other side of town. Kind of like the Rangiora of HCMC. So I ate cake and spoke to Aimee on FB (yay for technology).

Then made my way back to town and took photos on the way…I stopped at “puppy/calculator” street (as that is what they sell) and really I should’ve stopped.  These are sold as pets.  They are crammed in.  I felt tormented as I rode off…..

This really upset me…..
She was selling puppies, kittens, rabbits and guinea pigs.  All crammed with no water….

Seeing the animals shook me.  I had to pull over by ‘roasted duck’ street (at least they were already dead…sorry Sara Bailey I know that doesn’t make it right) to get my concentration back to focus on the traffic.

I got back into town a went for a massage at the Blind Foundation.  Its only $5 for an hour massage and from what I can tell they are happy in their work and appear to be treated really well.  I love supporting them and go a few times each visit.  I always tip.  I love their english.  With perfect pronunciation she says “give me your ticket. Take off your clothes!”  Almost in a military command.  It made me smile.  I did as she told me and got naked (apart from my grundies).

I often lie there and wonder what can they tell about me from body.  They can’t see, but can only feel, smell and sense. …could she smell that I was a bit moist (tee hee) under the pits?

I drove home, had a shower and took myself out for a mojito to celebrate that I am in fact here in HCMC.  A date night with myself over some dinner and a cocktail, so on went the lips and my favourite leg skins from Courage my Love.

No hair dryer, so I just use the ceiling fan on ‘high’ – boom! #creative
My ‘Courage My Love’ leg skins

I decided to give myself the day ‘off’ on Thursday to edit, go to the (correct) market and have a bit of me time.

THURSDAY

I slept in till about 9.  Ate my chia, yoghurt and passionfruit that I had prepared the night before (so virtuous!)  Walked to my local coffee shop (Kujuz), its only 3 doors down and coffee is $2!  I listened to music, chatted to Ash and Emma, did some editing, spoke to my Liam and wrote a haiku in the visitor book.



I then went to the (correct fabric market) with my awesome navigationing skills.

Afternoon tea.  Watermelon and some coconut rice paper wrap thing
Waiting at the lights

Another moment that stuck with me.  The tube is a sign to say that they help you with your bike, so if you need air in your tyres or you get a puncture etc, you pull over and see these people.

If you look closely you will see two people (a man and a woman) under the red lines.  I think there ar grandma and grandad.  They both appear to have dementia.  She is tied to her chair so she can’t get, but he ambles around (his shirt is off).  He is frail and has a lost look on his face.  How he doesn’t walk into the traffic I do not know.

I struggle often when I see this kind of stuff.  I have given money to people (usually when there aren’t too many other people round to see), but I literally spent my last $20 on fabric samples….We have it SO lucky!

Tonights ‘House of Sharon’ beauty treatment is brought to you buy Coconut oil, fresh limes and random fruit.

#duckface

Thanks for reading! Thanks for being part of my life, for sharing my page, liking my photos, dresses and perhaps thinking I’m alright too.

Sharon x

My first 2 days back at the Orphanage

My first 2 days back at the Orphanage

Sorry about the hard to read font, I can’t fix it and I’m too tired to try 🙂

I didn’t blog last night as after dinner I wasn’t too sure if my dinner was going to come up and revisit me.

I think my body is struggling with the humidity and perhaps I’m not drinking enough water. Also I miss my exercise. I love the gym (and lifting) but in hindsight I would not have the energy to deadlift here, so I just need to listen to my body, drink more and try and live a bit slowly (which seems crazy in such a huge and busy city).

I’m not sleeping the best as I’m constantly dreaming about the traffic here. Riding a motorbike here is awesome but it takes so much concentration and I am constantly amazing myself that I’m actually doing it ….it’s just hard switching my bike brain off at night.  I’m sure it will pass, but for now I will just have to endure it.  I’m stoked to have a bundle of sleeping pills that I kept for the plane, so if I am really struggling I can always drop one of them 🙂

My breakfast.  Yoghurt with chia seeds and fresh passionfruit (made the night before)
All ready for work, sensible flat shoes and all!

I don’t know where to start to explain how it was to return so here is a video.

Returning to the children again

There were a few pretty cool and funny moments on the first day.  Poor Binh An (in the video towards the end), was having a big coughing fit so I held her and rubbed her back, waiting to see what she would bring up…(so I could check the colour).  I was happy to see it was clear and it must’ve just been a bit filmy from her feeding tube.  It was a relief that it wasn’t green.  Her face was so sweet, she was watching me, watching her…then once she cleared her throat she started ‘talking’ to me.  She has the cutest soft little voice, she doesn’t use it often, but when it does, it just melts me! 

I heard loud music from the room next door so I lifted Bai up and took her to investigate.  There was karaoke and singing in the special needs room so we sat and joined in.  One wee boy came up and grabbed my bicep, I flexed and he said “OMG!!” it was hilarious.  He grabbed his friends to come over and feel my arms, I flexed for about 8 kids.  I don’t think they had met an amazonian before 😉

Son Michael Pham (Founder of Kids with no Borders)

On the last day of the war, Son Michael Pham left Viet Nam as a refugee. He and his family started their lives in the U.S with nothing except the generosity and care of community and church members in Chicago. A natural volunteer, Son Michael served others in the refugee camp, and continued to serve others as he worked his way to become a successful business person. A proud member of Rotary International, Son Michael lives his life according to the organization’s motto – “Service Above Self.” So, for most of his life, Son Michael has tirelessly championed causes for children.

It was awesome to chat with Son Michael, I had heard a lot about him and I was so happy when he said he had seen the felt the happiness and joy that had been captured in my last photo series with the kids!

I brought the other kids around in their therapy chairs to watch and we stayed there for about 20 minutes. It was loud and chaotic but pretty cool. We went back and I lay with them in the hallway.  One poor wee fella had a massive coughing episode so went to lift him up and help him clear his chest (as he was on his back).  At this moment the biggest snot snake flew out his face.  Oh…my…goodness…did I gag?!! I didn’t think I was the queazy type but I clearly am.  I went to get a cloth from the wash room and was heaving all the way.  Thien and Chau thought it was SO funny.  These kids have the blackest sense of humour, even without speaking the same language we can have a laugh at farts or snot.  I had to sit and take my breath for a moment 🙂

Last time I was here I had a lovely moment with a young man I now know as Hung. He has cerebral palsy.

Last time I was here he hardly responded and I guess I just assumed he was almost “locked” in his body somehow.

On the last day (of my last trip) he responded to my touch and today he connected with me as soon as I walk up to him and touch his head. His body is so twisted from years of being in his bed. His adams apple is twisted and so too his teeth and jaw. I can’t help but think this could be avoided, but there is no point thinking of that. I just focus on what I can do.

He loves it when I hold his hand..especially if I hold both hands at once!!! So today I spent about 20 minutes with him, played some Coldplay and then hopped in his cot with him. His body twisted with glee as I clambered up into it. Thank goodness they can handle my 75kgs!!! I lay next to him and sung to him. He laughed, he smiled..he didn’t relax his face once.

This precious young man so craving connection…and so he should. It’s so important. His body may look confronting, it’s just he’s tiny and his body contorts, but look at his eyes. I believe He’s feeling happy in that moment.


I also jumped in Thiens cot today and I just lay quietly with him. No silliness, no singing, just lying there.

We both closed our eyes for a moment. I closed mine a bit longer and when I opened them I was greeted by the sweetest content little face. We listened to Ed Sheeran and took some photos. The kids always love seeing themselves in the phone…and they love seeing the photos once again.

My favourite moment so far ‘father’ and daughter.

We painted nails today

Here are some pics of me out and about in HCMC….

Catching up a some zzz and GOT
I look my first Yoga class today (its 2 doors down)….turns out I AM flexible but have SO much to learn!!!

Thanks for reading!!

x

Losing my wallet and 1,000,000 VND

Losing my wallet and 1,000,000 VND

So today I was driving to check out another gym.  Dammit! I WILL find a gym that I can go to while I am here 🙂

The one I went to see yesterday was too far away so I found one closer.  I jumped on my trusty stead and popped my earphones in so that I could listen to Google Maps.

Little Miss Smarty Pants figured she could listen to sweet tunes while riding.  So I pop on some ‘Birdy’ (thanks Liam), then I literally laughed out loud when the next song was Macklemore’s ‘Downtown‘. Hilarious!!!

I went to the moped store with shoppers
Salesman like “What up, what’s your budget?”
And I’m like “Honestly, I don’t know nothing about mopeds”
He said “I got the one for you, follow me”
Oh it’s too real
Chromed out mirror, I don’t need a windshield
But on a seat, how can it be on two wheels
Eight hundred cash, that’s a hell of a deal
I’m headed Downtown, cruising through the alley
Tip-toeing in the street like Dally
Pulled up, moped to the valley
Whitewalls on the wheels like (mayonnaise)
Dope, my crew is ill, and all we need is two good wheels
Got gas in the tank, cash in the bank
And a bad little mama with her ass in my face
I’mma lick that, stick that, break her off, (Kit-Kat)
Snuck her in backstage, you don’t need a wristband
Dope


If you don’t know the song, listen to this and I am sure you can imagine me having a blast, feeling pretty fancy on my moped..
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGhoLcsr8GA  (and it has a cool video!!!)
I was GROOVIN!! Life is good! La le la….
I get to the gym and it looks great!  I pull up to the motorbike park and go to grab my wallet…..yup, you guessed it! I must have “danced” it out of my waist band (it was tucked into my yoga pants).
“Ôi chúa ơi – “Oh my god!”

I could tell the attendant felt really bad for me and was also saying OMG….So with my tail between my legs I head home.  Just to double check I didn’t actually leave it here.  Nope, its GONE!

I just hope a nice deserving family picked it up!

I think I got caught up in the pace of things. So for now I’m slowing down.

I got chatting to a French guy next door and asked if he could lend me 100,000 VND so that I could get a coffee at a local cafe.  A) I wanted to relax and B) it was pouring with rain.

Haven (Kujuz Cafe, 2 doors down from my place)

Reaching out for connection
Thanks Julie, these were my life saver today!
The light, the panels, the angles….SWOON!!

It finally stops raining so I Skype with mum and Bob and ‘walk’ them around my neighbourhood.  I relax for a while and take in the world around me.

I love the Hot Toc guys! They are always so happy!!
The charcoal smelt amazing through the damp air
I had to do a double take, this cat was getting blow dried after a wash.
Afternoon tea with mum
Later in the evening I saw behind this gate…and the fancy Mercedes!!!

I was to meet my friend Phuong tonight but have postponed till tomorrow so I can relax.

I’m riding slower, planning slower and even chewing my food slower. 

I was thinking about all this while I was driving (slowly) to the War museum. I was thinking about how the museum will remind me what is really important and to read about the war one more time before going to see the children tomorrow.  I was deep in thought.  The sound of horns now muted, just me, aware of my body and being conscious of being more mindful. I was at the lights and I look right.

This is what I see….

Its a man’s world
Frangipani after the rain smells incredible
A wee night time ride as its quiet and I love the river life at night
For you mum
There are lovely cafes everywhere along the Saigon river
Teenagers hanging out by the river
My house mate


I do a bit of washing so my outfit is ready for tomorrow.  I love the Vietnamese.  They don’t stress about stuff.  The owner saw my washing line and I reverted to a little 4 year old about to be told off….he reached for the remote and turned the fan on to make it dry quicker.



Then my friend Angie sends me this….messages are pouring over me today.

Sharon x

MY FIRST FULL DAY IN VIETNAM

Apart from all the scary trucks that come out at night, the speeding cars that turn from a street head on into you, the judder bars in unlit areas and massive pot holes… it was fun

MY FIRST FULL DAY IN VIETNAM

I started my morning with a wee stroll down by the river to find Banh Mi for breakfast (about 90c).

I hardly eat bread but I will be making an exception for this!!
Opposite my room,  I love the rustic-ness
Spoilt
I adore the contrast in this moment, the colour and symmetry is beautiful
Siblings
HOT TOC (street hairdresser and ear cleaner)
#safety

Riding the bike was one of my biggest challenges here. Not because I’m scared of the traffic (oddly enough). As I’ve got quite used to it over the last few years…my fear was getting lost.  So I did a few small rides around the area and then thought I’d tackle a big ride.

Pollution mask, rain coat, helmet, gloves, water and sensible shoes!

I decided to try and do a dry run to work. I’m best to practice for 2 days before I go on Monday. I searched Google Maps and it seemed straight forward but how would I remember the names of all the streets?  But as soon as I started driving it all came back to me. I thought previously I was just daydreaming on the back of the bike but some of it must’ve sunk in via osmosis. There was the pink church, the river, the balloon street the railway line and…oh my goodness….the supermarket. I soon as I saw that I knew exactly where to go after that. I actually squealed behind my pollution mask and did a happy dance on my bike. 

Perfect opportunity to buy some more fruit. New towels and my sun jacket. Sorted.

Fruity bunch of locals
There is a lot of french influence here so their baking is amazing!!
These creamy little balls of puff are best to be avoided….they are SO good!!
The mystery meat section

Mary. I attempted to make a video just for you but I got told off by security. But I took stealth photo’s for you as I knew you would love to see what is sold here.

Back on my bike after paying 10c to park and by this stage I knew the way off by heart.  But crap I forgot about the MASSIVE roundabout. That was intrepid to say the least!! A swarm of buses trucks and of course bikes. There were many swear words!

I arrived, my heart full with excitement about being back.

I pulled up at the orphanage thinking I just wanted to take a pic to celebrate that I’d made it. The security stopped me. Which is so so good. (I’ll talk about this is a later post). Behind him stood one of the co directors. She recognising me behind my helmet and mask and came out. Said hi to gesture me in. It was SO lovely that she remembered me 🙂  She pointed for me to park my bike but I told her that I would be in on Monday. I wanted to be able to see the kids and spend the entire morning with them, rather than a quick “hi” and leave. Woo hoo I did it…one more practice tomorrow though I think.

On the way home I stop for fresh fruit
I get home, pop to the hairdressers for a wee treat (its a quarter of the price!) and celebrate the fact that I am still alive and that I survived driving in HCMC. #jessicaRabbit
I was feeling pretty sassy, I nailed the ride today so thought…”how hard can it be to ride at night?”…so I jumped on the bike to check out the gym that I wanted to go to.  It was in another district and it was still quite light so off I went. LONG LONG stop short….I got very lost and thought it was too far away anyway.  So I found a fancy mall by the river (as the sun was going down), I stopped to observe rather than battle the traffic.
These boys were loving their dad throwing them in the air
Family portrait
Super heroes!!!
and their queen…
Fast asleep while mum works on the beauty counter.
Damn…where is my bike?
Looks simple enough yeah?
But it wasn’t!!!!!
It was a LONG night! much longer than I had expected.  Apart from all the scary trucks that come out at night, the speeding cars that turn from a street head on into you, the judder bars in unlit areas and massive pot holes… it was fun.   The great thing about this part of town is that you can ride one handed with your Google Maps and no one will steal your phone – sweet!!!
If you are interested…here are a few videos of me riding.  Feeling kinda proud actually….I conquered my fear, I got lost and it was ok.

The other side of down

I guess reacquainting with your spirit and finding my passion comes from being a mum at 19 and watching my friends head off on their big OE’s, learning about their lives and searching the world…whilst I was at home struggling with a tiny (but adorable) baby.

I struggled with the normality of the responsibility, but also I struggled emotionally, I was only young myself and I now had a vulnerable little human to look after.

It was a mammoth journey and at times extremely tough. I ended up in Princess Margaret Hospital in the ‘Mothers and Babies’ unit for Post Natal depression. I was admitted for 2 months of ‘care’….but looking back it was just 2 months of confinement and medicating. It was a dark place….although, in hindsight this was just one of the many hurdles I would face over the following 20 years that have made me the person I am today. The black dog is still part of my life and its just something I learn to manage.

It was through the tough times that I thought about what I wanted to do when I was on the ‘other side’ of ‘down’. There were days I would sit on the couch and watch my Liam fast asleep in my arms. There would be dirty nappies strewn across the floor, breakfast, tissues and dirty clothes everywhere. I was a hot mess! I would cry because I was not the tupperware perfect mother with the perfect family and clean carpet. Instead I was the young single mother with ‘second hand’ everything. I had draughty windows and fish fingers (shudders) in the freezer. I couldn’t bring myself to tidy the house or tend to the piles of washing so it just accumulated. I was lucky if I even brushed my hair!! I stayed at home for 3 months with my boy but needed to get a job to pick myself up. Judgement was bitter and apparent, how could I leave my son at a childcare facility when he was so young? Surely that will affect his development, his immunity? I think I actually said to people that it was better than the other option. The alternative would be to have a mum that just cries all day and gets excited when the mail arrives (true story!)

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The older Liam got the more I managed the juggle between being a mum and a young woman. I juggled the housework and a full time job. I found my own way of living. I discovered that hiding the dishes in the oven when visitors came over was better for my stress levels than A) leaving the dishes on the bench, or B) frantically cleaning up. That we could save money by having hot water bottle evenings twice a week in winter, and that curtains over doorways were so good for draughts (and still are!).

In the tough times I would often day dream about what it would feel like to be ‘grown up’ and being able to travel. I would always tell myself that “when Liam was 18 I would be 38…when Liam was 18 I would be 38”, it was almost a mantra and I would repeat it to myself often. It would mean that I was still young enough to experience life and that I hadn’t missed out….it would just happen a little later for me.

If I hadn’t had the crap times that tested my spirit I wouldn’t have learnt that I wanted to live the life that I have now. A life with purpose and intention. A life that I could only imagine because I had some pretty shitty times. The black dog does bite my ankles at times and I am confronted by fear and doubt, but I have to keep telling myself….You can conquer almost any fear if you will only make up your mind to do so. For remember, fear doesn’t exist anywhere except in the mind. ~Dale Carnegie

In a way I am grateful for these experiences as there is always a life lesson somewhere hidden in them. Sometimes it just takes a while to see what they really are.

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