Sunday, November 24, 2013

Chateau Mango and Lotus Tea

Outside our front door...
little sweetly scented miracles blow in the breeze 
each time a lotus blossom opens to the sun.
They leave me breathless and have enticed me 
to explore the health benefits of drinking lotus tea. 
A combination of green tea and lotus leaves, 
it is high in antioxidant compounds. It is known for it's 
diuretic, astringent and calming health benefits. 
Sounds perfect to me.
Blooming at Chateau Mango this week....
fragrant lotus blossoms.

My lotus tea of choice.. TrĂ  Sen
found at An Phu Supermarket
Thao Dien, D2
Ho Chi Minh City 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Cooking at Chateau Mango with 'My Vietnamese Kitchen'

There is some major kitchen love going on at Chateau Mango for the cookbook 'My Vietnamese Kitchen' by Uyen Luu. I recently discovered the book in Artbook, a local shop in Saigon and have not been able to put it down since. Uyen Luu is based in London, having moved to the UK from Vietnam with her family when she was a young girl.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Expat moves...from one country to another

Once upon a time, we lived in Surrey, England where I wrote a blog Finding My Way in England. We moved from Surrey to Saigon nearly 15 months ago, in preparation of the move, I started this blog Expat Diary: Viet Nam. I have waffled betweent the two blogs...trying to let go of one, while  while writing here and on my primary blog Collage of Life. If you are confused, that's's an expats world. It's what we do.

I wrote the following and posted it on my English blog today. Seeing that I am living and writing from Vietnam, I wanted to share the story here as well. You will understand why I am still writing about England when you read the story below. I have a feeling a few others might be able to relate.

Thank You for reading along...wherever that may be!

P.S..for those of you who know that I have a few more blogs out there..shhhhh...we do not want to confuse people even more. ;)

 One thing I have learned in my 18 years as an expat is that you open a lot of doors. Throw in a few windows and you keep yourself pretty busy trying to keep your expat world in order. This thought came to me today as I assembled all my 'expat england' photos into one file. I admit there were quite a few heart strings that were pulled as I went along. Photos of family gatheringsexpeditions into the English countryside and quiet sojourns into London are now collected into one file. I had to pinch myself, it's surreal to think of a time when I walked to the local train station to catch a 20 minute ride into London.

When we boarded the plane for Vietnam, leaving England behind, I found the easiest way to make the transition was to shut the door until I was ready to open it again. If I had made the transition from a Southeast Asian city to Saigon I would probably have left the door ajar. The differences would not have been so extreme. To move from Surrey to Saigon was a jolt to the senses, I knew I would need time to decompress, if I hadn't closed that door for a time I would have sat on the fence with one foot in each country unable to embrace what was in front of me.

I see it often in Vietnam, that dazed look in a new expats eyes, wondering where they are going, how they will cope and steady themselves for the new experiences ahead of them. I want to tell them it's a matter of doors and windows. You have to know when to shut and open them until you set yourself right.

As for me, the doors are open, the windows are up and I am once again moving through my expat world with greater ease. I know, because it brought me here, to the house below. I would pass it nearly every day on my bike ride into the local village. Every once in a while, just before I turned the corner from our street, I would slow down...stop..and snap a photo. I captured it in all seasons, my favorite being summer and winter.

My view today is very different as I ramble along the streets of Saigon but I feel so very fortunate to have had those days where I imagined the life beyond the garden, the windows and doors that graced this beautiful home. I still wonder...but from further afar...and am so very thankful for the time we had in England.

A passing view in Surrey, England...

From snowy Surrey to our mango coloured home in Saigon, 
Chateau Mango..

 where my English Pashley awaits.

Sending you 'beep, beeps' from Saigon.

until I return with another English memory.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Destination Twitter #typhoon

Morning mass today at Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon

As I write from my desk in Saigon, the sun is shining, big lofty clouds are floating by and a soft breeze rustles outside my window. A far cry from the typhoon that is lashing out and gaining strength in the central and northern regions of Vietnam. We have known it was coming for two days, watching and listening as mother nature tore into regions of the Philippines leaving harrowing scenes behind. I try following the few English TV news channels in Vietnam, I try following the news reports on the Internet media sites but I find, in the face of the emergency, if I need information quickly, Twitter is my 'go to' site. 

I have never experienced a disaster of the magnitude that has just struck the Philippines first hand but I have been on the other end of a disaster trying to reach family. I was once tucked away in a leafy suburb of Surrey, England about to turn out the lights for the evening when I received the following text message.

February 22 2011
12:18 AM
I want to come home. 
Massive earthquake, 
scariest moment of my life, 
but I am fine.

My daughter was in the midst of the earthquake that struck Christchurch, New Zealand with devastating consequences in 2011.  It was a moment when my expat world came crumbling down. I wrote a blog post on the text message here. That was the moment in time when I knew that Twitter was going to be my salvation. I tuned into every reference I could find that involved the earthquake and stayed in touch. She was without power for some time so I fed her 'tweet bites' the best I could. I can tell you in all honesty it is 'a place' I never want to visit again.

I was lucky, my daughter was fine. I know their are mothers, fathers, daughters and sons who will suffer as a result of Typhoon Haiyan and my prayers go out to them. It is an unimaginable tragedy.

If you have a Twitter account and would like to follow my Vietnam List, you can find it here.