Saturday, December 13, 2008

Idioms and the tailor

Mr. Lovely’s idioms included the inspiration that he would say ‘Rise and Shine’ after the four hour bus ride. He also talked about the nepotism in his family run business, just like the former president of Vietnam. He was riddled with idioms but our memories fail. Dawna did suggest to him that he could say that the local pig that was the 'real money maker' at the noodle factory really ‘brought home the bacon’…he was not impressed and told us that he already knew about that one.

On Friday, we went to the disturbing ‘War Remnants Museum’. It was pretty graphic, included was quite a good photo exhibit about Vietnam photojournalists. The museum itself was pretty insubstantial. So we moved on…next stop was the Reunification Palace. It was just fascinating in that it was totally a ‘60’s building architecturally, furnishings, there was even a framed Hair poster in the gambling room. It had a nice tawdry feel. but was redeemed by a really cool fourth floor roof top dancing area where you could just step out to the helicopter landing pad that included a US Air Force chopper. Finally, we headed to the basement bunker, which was equally bizarre with numerous coloured rotary dial phones and ancient looking communication telex machines and an austere bed and side table for the president. So that was cool.

There is also a fairly lovely post office which was just bustling with activity. There were even folks there seated at writing desks composing their missives home.

Waiting now for the delayed Air Canada flight home. Project a huge success and now for the pain of the evaluation report- oh yeah also there is the exam for school that we both have to write. The real work strikes fast and furious.

Unless we are missing something there really wasn’t much else going on in Ho Chi Minh. We went to the local market and we are pretty marketed out…we didn’t buy a thing. We did stop at a tailors at the beginning of the trip and each had some custom made clothes to pick up.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Canthos and Mr. Lovely

Back from the Mekong delta - a tourist trip of the cheap kind. For 25 US we took a bus tour of a couple of plantations, saw how coconut candy is made and also rice noodles. Saw a snake or two and took slightly sketchy boat rides.
Today we visited a floating market which really was quite cool.

The tour cleverly doesn't tell you the details of the itinerary so you can't squawk at the waits here and the waits there and the 2-3 hours on the bus with no stopping and little notice- leaving us scrambling for washroom facilities... Hilariously we had a major journey at the end of the day - 4 hours. We thought we were headed to the hotel but no first we had to get across the river on a ferry so another wait and chaos. Then another 15-20 minutes and the hotel. We thanked our lucky stars we weren't with the tour group we picked up who were stranded at the side of the road due to a bus breakdown and at the mercy of other tour companies. When we arrived after this 4 hour journey they were headed to a home stay with a Vietnamese family, dinner included (which cost them a bit more!) which meant another half hour trip on a motorcycle to a homestay complex of some kind.

Meanwhile we ponied up another 5 bucks to get air conditioning which is just as well since we gather the other rooms with a fan were a bit 'musty'. It was a 1 star hotel after all.

Anyway Mr. Lovely our tour guide was quick with the idioms, so entertaining and we got to places we never would have landed without the tour. Back now in our Spring hotel which is quite serviceable and close to a main drag in town.

Off to pick up our custom made clothes from a Ho Chi Minh tailor.

Monday, December 8, 2008

temples and making it to 10 p.m.

First full day in Siem Reap. It is a great place- comfortable with great food choices and furniture that doesn't wobble when you sit in it.

Actually the temples are truly extraordinary and extensive. We spend a full day walking from place to place and didn't come near to covering the ground. The favourite is Angkor Wat - the relief is massive telling the story of the creation of the earth out of the milky waters.

Tuk tuk is the way to go - same a becak in Indonesia- although here they wear helmets and have official vests. Things are quite nicely organized.

We have left the project behind except for the constant rehashing of events - this doesn't however result in the finishing of the evaluation report. This looms on our horizon. For now we have the excuse of the lack of internet although there is no need for the internet to finish the report. Still it is an impediment. javascript:void(0)

Much silk was purchased today. After a walk through of the market one knows that it is all much the same and truth be told could perhaps be purchased in T.O. for a relatively close price. The exception is the finer silk which we don't know how to assess properly.

We witnessed people getting a foot manicure and massage by fish tonight. Dawna has the pictures and we'll post when we get a chance. It looked pretty weird as there is a pool of water with a number of people sitting around the edge with feet dangling. At first we thought there was some kind of magic fish pond idea akin to those at fun fairs but .... no it was a manicure.

We are beat and it is 7 pm. we are strategizing about how to stay awake until 10 pm as it would be a poor showing to be on vacation and not make it until then (also considering we didn't get up until about 8 a.m.)

On to Vietnam tomorrow.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Going to KL

Traveling again, on the way to KL

Left Banda after another pleasant visit with Sosi, who got up early to have breakfast with us at the hotel.

The last couple of days have been bittersweet, with farewells all ‘round. We visited the library one last time and couldn’t resist making the staff work for a little while on the evaluation statistics and we even did an on-the-spot demonstration of how to apply a book jacket cover onto a hardcover book.

One of the last things that we did was to give the staff certificates for the training they received. The idea for this came about when we were conducting stakeholder interviews with the staff. One of our questions was about the training they received and if they were applying it to their day-to-day work. We were flummoxed when one staff member reported that she hadn’t received any training. We had delivered almost 20 training sessions over the previous 4 missions. Mita was the one that figured it out… Indonesia training is documented with certification….so we made up some certificates and handed them out. Everyone was happy and we had another chance to reinforce the range of skills that had been transferred.

We went out for a traditional Acehnese meal with several library staff. There was much formal speech-ifying from both sides. We exchanged gifts with the staff, leaving behind a gilt cookie jar set and many calendars and posters for the staff. We noticed each of our bags were about 10 kgs lighter upon departure.

Then the goodbyes at the house….Yulia, the person that takes care of the house is still yearning for Mr. Roy who had come with us on the first mission. She was hoping they would marry, but alas that was not to be. We have come in contact with so many people that have been helpful and kind…we had little gifts for the staff and probably the Canada luggage tags were the biggest hit, while we were expecting the Canada flip flops to be the show stopper. Ironically, these dollar store items have circumnavigated the globe, we try not to think of the carbon foot print while gift giving.

The ride back to Banda was uneventful, only notable in the fact that it is the LAST time that we will have to travel that wacky road, which is always under construction. Lately it has also been raining. In case we haven’t mentioned, when there is a hole in the road, or some road work coming up they put a big boulder in the middle of the road, to warn you about the impending danger. And if the rock doesn’t get you, you’ll be suitably warned of the hati-hati (danger-danger) ahead. We have always felt a certain element of danger to this drive and there’s a collective sigh of relief when we arrive at our destination in one piece.

We had a very pleasant evening in Banda, on a girls night out. We visited Gemma’s house, along with Louise and Mita. Gemma has a beautiful home in Banda and it was fun to see some of the artwork from Bali and area hung on her walls. We had a very civilized wine and cheese, with olives and wine. Buying wine in Banda is a bit of a furtive activity, at a certain grocery store you say the code words ‘red’ or ‘white’ and take what you get. (Dawna also found that the code word ‘beer’ worked too.) We proceeded to Pace Bene, now at a different location and had a lovely pizza dinner with some more CALGAP staff.

Today was journeying to KL...somehow it was a very tiring day. We have pampered ourselves with a stay at the Pan Pacific at the airport here. We had a lovely buffet dinner and followed by a swim, steam room and sauna. We will sleep well tonight. We head to Siem Reap, Cambodia tomorrow.

Over and out. K. and D.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Final visit with the government officials

Today we visited the mayor and vice mayor, Mirza Ismael and Nazir Adam. We expected to be there only a few minutes as many other visits had been brief. When the vice mayor realized it was our last visit the conversation continued much longer than expected. He called the mayor to say he needed to come in to see us off as well.

The mayor had visited Toronto and other Canadian cities in the winter of 2008 and Pak Nazir came with us on the exposure tour to Singapore so we had a fun discussion about which library was the best in the world. The mayor and vice mayor both had strong opinions and Dawna and I tried to stay out of it.

Everyone is very proud that as of yesterday the Pidie library has been chosen as the number one library in Aceh province (out of 23 districts). There was much clapping and cheering when this news was shared.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Trying to get a post off before the Internet goes down again. We have had a bout 10 minutes of service per day for the last few days in Sigli. Evaluation workshops are complete and we will meet with the Vice Mayor this afternoon.

We had a lot of fun together as the staff acted out library stories. Now the writing begins.

We'll post this now so it gets up on the blog and add pictures later.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Lampuuk beach, Banda Aceh

We met up with Iwan and Sosi today and took a trip to the beach. This is the same spot we visited on the first mission and it has really changed. When we went in June of 2007 the beach was basically empty.

There are lots of food sellers there and a banana boat that takes people around via a speed boat. We saw a mishap with the banana boat- man overboard (girl overboard) luckily it didn't turn into anything. We suspect there was no one with CPR skills in that business enterprise.

Anyway it stopped raining for one day and so with an overcast sky it was o.k. to be out in the sun and not too hot. Afterward we had the usual visit to Joel's restaurant for pizza. After betting on slow service our optimistic driver was the winner - the pizza came quick - less than 1/2 an hour.

We all exchanged our NGO related stories - Iwan is still with FCM working in Calang and Sosi has recently joined a UNDP project. She is now working as a research person on a listserve to share best practices. We are slowly turning her into a librarian.

We also visited the barge and the boat on the roof of the house - tsunami sites. These two have changed a lot with plaques and a park has been built by the barge to memorialize the loss of lives.

We passed a very fine and relaxing afternoon and evening chatting with our young friends including our most recent member of the family, Mita.

From the Jakarta post of November 29- an article talks about a very popular book 'the History of the CIA' which as been banned in Indonesia. The author noted however that the book is already published and selling like fresh cooked sate.