April 29, 2012

Nothing Better than a Pool Party in the Sunshine!

This weekend was a busy one! Baptism, planning a large community service project, Church meetings, helping missionaries, getting ready for youth conference, a pool party, and spending time with friends from Hawaii! We started out Saturday morning with fifty 12-13 year olds and about 20 adults at a pool party. They had a blast! It was extremely HOT but that did not deter them at all!

The activity was designed for them to work on leadership, spiritual and physical skills. The Young Women did several team building activities and the Young Men set personal goals to accomplish in the up-coming week then a few games in the pool. The first game was designed so they paddle out into the pool to get balls with scores on them. But soon after we stated all of them were no longer in the lines to see who was next, instead they were IN the pool! So much for the game, let just swim!

It was non-stop for several hours.  I am sure we all went home a few shades darker and more tired than when we came! It was a great experience.

Then in the afternoon we had some of our really great friends from Hawaii stop by—Jamie-san and Ckaz. It was so great to see them, we have missed having them around.
We are glad to have the work week ahead of us so we can rest! HAHA! We are exhausted, but would not change it for anything! So many happy memories.

April 19, 2012

IN FRONT OF THE CAMERA: Speaking In Another Language

At work they are trying to highlight the Americans that speak the local language: Tagalog. Not like putting my second language skills on show for the whole world to see. (no pressure, no pressure) I was the first one up to film and kick off the series of us all giving a short presentation on one topic or another. After working with the public relations team we decided to do my “Kwento” (story) out in the inner city.

Lady Hiva and I spend most of our weekends and quite a few of our week nights with Filipinos in the area. Either for church or some other service activity; so the PR team thought it would be good to film me doing that.

We had it arranged so that one of the families in our congregation that Lady Hiva have gotten to know and love could be in the video with me. I thought that it would be fun because as a family of 6 children ranging from 17 to 6 months they have quite a bit going on. One of the younger kids loves to dance (as do many Filipino children) so I thought it would be fun to dance with him on film…It was a nice idea anyway. However, when we arrived with the camera crew and all of the big shiny cameras, the little family, normally active, family became a bit shy. The youngest boy, that Lady Hiva and I affectionately call “Malikot” (naughty) because he is always running around involved in something, was mesmerized by the camera and had an overpowering urge to continually touch it. In the middle of filming it would go all E.T. style and with his arm straight out and one finger pointing he would slowly move in a wide-eyed trance to towards the camera…we would call him back. Sit him down and start rolling the camera again!

They of course wanted to do the Dougie. I tried to dance with them. But, much like my accent sounds like a white man, my dancing looks like a white man too. Luckily they spared us all and cut that part of the video short! I told one of my cousins I am not sure where I missed out on the dancing gene. THEY ALL DANCE—all of them! My sister, my brother, my nieces, my aunts, a few of my uncles, my cousins, my cousins kids, the dog, their neighbors…(hahaha…ok, I got a bit emotionally carried away!) But seriously, they all dance—and as you can all see from the movie my skills left something to be desired! (It causes nightmarish flashbacks of our wedding reception when I got up to dance the traditional style with Lady Hiva and I look like a huge flopping chicken (they got that on film too, I am sure it will pop us sometime in an embarrassing roast *sigh*) Can’t have it all though, right?!

It was a fun day of filming. I had a blast! The people in the streets were VERY interested in who the white guy was being filmed. It was funny to just walk up and ask some random person if we can film them and they would not hesitate to be in the shot! At one point the LDS missionaries from the U.S. happened to walk by so I was talking to them (in Tagalog, which I am not sure I realized at the time) and since they also know the language responded in Tagalog too! I was shocked the conversation was filmed and they put it into the video. Kind of fun!

One of the last parts I filmed was the very first clip where I introduce the series. Yes, we filmed it not in order. And NO, it is not a green screen as one of my colleagues asked me. It is really in the back streets of their homes. This was the only part of the filming that they wanted me to say something specific. The rest is me just talking to whomever about whatever—nothing prepared, totally impromptu and natural (well my accent is a bit off so maybe not SO natural, but I was trying!) They wanted me to say, “Mabuhay, heto ang Kwentuhan Tayo, Filipino Style” (Hello! This is “Let’s have a conversation Filipino Style!”) But I kept saying “Heto an Kwentuhan Style, Filipino Tayo!” (This is Lets have a conversation style, we are all Filipino!) BRMP…FAIL! I was glad that I had a patient camera crew with me because I had to say it almost 10 times before I got it right! TEN TIMES!!! AYE YAY YAE! By the time I had it done the WHOLE neighborhood was standing behind the camera watching it all happen. LOL! Too bad they did not take a photo of that.

So here is the video that introduces the series with a clip from each of us that will have a video. Then the second video is my clip! ENJOY! I will look forward to your comments! 

The Introduction to the Series:

 My Video Clip:

April 10, 2012

Rumors of War: Cu Chi tunnels and Mekong Delta, Vietnam Part 2

We started our morning going to the Mekong Delta for a tour. It was about a two hour drive south of Ho Chi Minh. As you get out of the city into the provinces, the scenery begins to look similar to other South East Asian countries we have seen: a hodgepodge of little houses made of various materials , dirt roads, small shops lining the streets, and people of all ages going about their daily activities.

On our way we stopped at a Pagoda of a Happy Buddha. We learned that a temple is where you go worship/pray to your ancestors and a pagoda is where you pray to Buddha. This complex was brightly colored and had plenty of gardens to enjoy. Lady Hiva and several others in the group bought traditional rice patty hats…great for the hot day ahead.

Note to self: no shorts and no cleavage...

Once at the Mekong Delta we boarded a small boat that took us to Turtle island—one of the four large islands inhabited in the Delta. Turtle Island is open to tourists to come and see how Coconut Candy is produced as well has other Vietnamese products like Coconut crackers. (it is fun to see those in the stores now and know how it all works. The part that amazed me the most is how FAST the women fold the candy. It only took a matter of seconds to wrap each piece. I stood there for a few minutes mesmerized by the process.

Collecting Coconut juice to make candy

She was SO Fast

The Finished Product

Coconut crackers. Now we know where the design comes from

Drying the crackers in the sun
 After the candy shop we walked through the jungle to the dirt road that runs through the village. They put us in carts pulled by thin and frail looking horses and we were taken through the village on a quick “tour” then stopped to walk through another part of the jungle to a traditional tea house. At the tea house we were able to eat fresh fruit and they had a boa that you could hold. I offered to take all the photos because holding snakes is NOT high on my priority list!

From there we joined small canal boats propelled by local women. As we paddled down the finger canals of the Mekong I could not help but think how scary it must have been to have a war here. Both side of the canal are flanked by tall bamboo and thick palms. We were out in the open with no cover—no wonder the guerrilla warfare was so successful. A very chilling thought. Thankfully we were traveling down the area in mid day so there was plenty to see.

The boat dropped us off at the mouth of the Delta to meet our boat that dropped us off. Our boat was not there yet, but the women were in a hurry to get us off their canal boats so they could go back and pick up more guests (more money) we were herded onto a 5x5 wooden raft floating alone in the water. As more and more people were squished onto it, the raft started to sink into the brown murky water…YIKES!!  HURRY UP BOAT!! MAYDAY MAYDAY…the raft is going down! Luckily when the boat finally arrived, the driver had prepared fresh coconuts for us all to drink—he had redeemed himself!

All of us crowded on the raft waiting for our boat to come

Lunch anyone?? I am glad I was eating vegetarian the whole trip
This is what I ate--carrots and tofu
Lady Hiva and a few of the group went to the Cu Chi Tunnels (pronounced Choo Chee). These are located just north of Ho Chi Minh and were another place Americans fought with the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war (Or American war as they call it in Ho Chi Minh). For years the local guerrillas used the thick jungle and familiarity with the land to their advantage. Over 250 kilometers of tunnels were built and local people lived in them for the years of the war. We watched a video that had been produced in 1970s and it was interesting to see the “other side of the story.” History is truly in the hands of the author’s perspective. In typical good guy versus bad guy fashion the video we watched how Americans were presented as evil and how people that killed them were heroes. As we toured the tunnels and saw examples of how the guerrilla warfare used simple but brutal tactics in warfare again the realities of what people—on both sides—went through in that war and why it was such a horrifying experience. All the tactics used were designed for surprise of the victim, one minute you are walking, another you are dead. It would make even the most calm people a nervous wreck with suspicion and apprehension. I do not think that I will hear about the Vietnam war without having some of the heavy feelings come back from these two visits. It is one thing to hear stories, it is quite another to go and visit the places these stories took place.

Maps of the tunnels and the video

Crater left from a bomb

Entrance to the tunnels. made small so foreigners could not fit

He fit!

He didn't

I fit!

So did she...so at least some of us could have!
Trap in the woods

What you meet when you fall in--they said they would also coat it with cobra venom

Tunnel air hole disguised as a termite hill

More traps to fall into

Opening un-exploded American bombs to make guerrilla weapons

Entering the tunnels

Claustrophobia! I had to get out as soon as I had the chance

Once back to Ho Chi Minh we arranged for “Cyclos” to pick us up at the hotel to take us to the water puppet show. Every country in Asia seems to have a version of the cyclo—Bangkok they were tuktuks with a covered bench attached to the back of the driver, Philippines has tricycles with a small cab welded to the side of the bicycle, Cambodia the bicycle had a small wagon attached at the back, and here in Vietnam the seat is in the front with the peddler in the back. We had to have one for each person in the group because, as the tour guide politely told us, “little Vietnamese can fit too, but for foreigners you maybe need only one person to fit.” Did he just call us FAT?? Haha

The water puppet show. The puppeteers are behind the green screen

The puppeteers at the finale

I wanted a photo but the thing was hollow and I almost tipped it over! YIKES

The water puppet show was so unique. There were 15 short stories told in Vietnamese, but the puppeteers played the parts so well you could see the different personalities of the puppets come to life. It was such a cute show. One we were glad we experienced.

Of course the nights in Ho Chi Minh were taken up with shopping. There were several more night markets to experience. Ranging from indoor and outdoor…from the street to a sterile looking white walled mall…from fruit to clothes, you could find it ALL! Including Vietnamese lacquerware  that they sold everywhere. We had gone to a factory to see how it is made and again we were amazed at how artistic they are.
The Rex Hotel where the Americans used to go to the bar and drink during the war time

The tacky Asian souvenir shop that we finally found plates from Vietnam

Inlaying oyster shells to make the design on lacquer plates

Look at the details...

PHEW!! What a great trip! So much fun, many laughs, delicious food, way too many photos…and great company.