Saturday, August 24, 2013

Playing Catch Up

The past few weeks have been packed full of the last few days of summer and the first few days of an exciting new school year; my first outside of the US.  The move to Hanoi has been filled with a million and one new experiences that continue to surprise and amaze me.  

Apartment Update: I was really surprised that no one picked apartment #3...but I did.  I wish that I could report that it looks much different today than it did in the original photos that I posted, but that's not the case.  I'm supposed to move in next weekend, but I'm not thinking that it's going to happen. We just came back from checking in on the progress and nothing has been done.  Guess who's going to be sending a strongly worded email in a bit?!  

Hong Kong
Before my Dad headed back to the US and before I started school, we took a quick trip to Hong Kong.  It's been my favorite part of moving to South East Asia so far!  What a vibrant and modern city.  Here are a few of my favorite memories.  
The view from the top of Victoria Peak
The view from our hotel room!  It was absolutely beautiful.

The view was crystal clear from the top of the peak.
Daddy at the top of the peak with the harbor in the background.
We had such a nice time, but boy was it hot!
We took the Peak Tram back down the mountain. You ride down backwards and at its steepest point, the tram is at an angle of 27 degrees.

Our view from the cable car overlooking the South China Sea
We rode the Ngong Ping 360 cable car to the Ngong Ping Village.  The bottom was glass so that we could see the mountains and waterfalls below. 

We were 12,968 Km away from the Statue of Liberty, USA.  I really should have paid more attention in math class when the metric system was being taught.  Thank goodness for my convertor app.  
Daddy and I in front of the arch at Ngong Ping Village.
This is the Tian Tan Buddha.  The largest seated Buddah in the world.  There were 238 steps up!

The view on the way up to the Ngong Ping Village. The view of the South China Sea was awesome.
We found a really cool garden on afternoon.  Yes, I'm wearing a's beyond hot here.

Another Buddah picture...this was my favorite thing.  It's massive!

School Starts
I knew all along that moving to a new country to live and work would be an amazing life experience.  After month and months of looking at pictures online, I was excited to begin the school year.  I'd already met most of the other teachers as we're all staying in the same hotel.  Everyone is incredibly kind and excited to begin the year.  So far, we only have about 50 students enrolled, but that is expected to increase throughout the course of the year.  This year we will have students in grades Pre-Kinder to 5th grade and will expand to 6th-11th grade next year.  These first few days of school have been great!  We've planned curriculum, ordered materials and started setting up our classrooms. Now all we need are some kiddos to turn our beautiful building into a school :)  

Top 5 New Things I've Learned
1.  Crossing the street isn't nearly as scary on day 26 as it was on day 1!
2. A taxi is not the best place to practice the new direction words you know in Vietnamese!  (I'm really good at turn left, turn right and go straight)
3. In Vietnam, nearly everyone is a millionaire!
4. Almost anything will fit on the back of a motorbike!
5.  Living in a hotel for a month isn't all that it's cracked up to be!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

House Hunters International

When I first told people that I was moving to Hanoi, almost everyone suggested that I sign up for HGTV House Hunters International.  I've watched dozens of episodes and let's just say that apartment shopping is a bit different in Vietnam.  I'd been in communication with a recommended realtor for months and she had been sending me apartments that met my requirements.  We made plans to meet up to see 6 places on the rainiest day in months here.  That was an experience!  In and out of the car, up and down elevators and through all six places and still nothing that I loved.  We did find 2 places that were nice, but I just didn't know.  

Later than night, I met up with Lizzie and Steph, two teachers who will be working at ISV with me.  They recommended another real estate agency, so I reached out to a realtor from there.  Within 10 minutes, we'd made plans to see a few more places that same day.  Ahhh!  Now I know why realtors only show 3-4 places at a time.  It's a good thing that I was taking pictures of each place to keep track of things.  

Below are pictures of the 3 properties that I liked.  See if you can figure out which one I chose.  

House #1 ~ 2 Bedroom/1 Bathroom, 9th floor, big balcony

House #2 ~ 2 Bedroom/ 2 Bathroom, 3rd floor in the city center and brand new

House #3 ~ 2 Bedroom/ 2 Bathroom, 5th floor in the city center and brand new. 

So which one will it be?  

#1 - The apartment on the 9th floor with the huge private balcony and amazing city views?  
#2 - The new apartment on the 3rd floor across the street from the cultural events center in town?
#3 - The new apartment still under construction?

Put your pick in the comment section below. 


On a completely different note, I got mistaken for Serena Williams at dinner on Sunday night!!  The waiter was very attentive and finally got up the courage to ask me if I was her.  I found the entire thing to be absolutely hysterical. 

~ Kelly

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Visiting The International School of Vietnam

After months of eager anticipation, I finally got to see the school where I'll be working for the next two years.  It is truly an impressive place to see in person.  Located south of the city center, we traveled along the closest thing to a "highway" I've seen since we arrived in Hanoi.  

Yes, that's a Honda CRV in front of us
When we pulled up to the front gate, we were greeted by school security and welcomed into the lobby.  Mark gave us a tour of the building highlighting all of the features of the custom built school.  The pictures below are a quick glimpse of building.  I can't wait to meet the kiddos and teachers who will turn this building into a school.  

A view of the playground from the 2nd floor balcomy

Primary school hallway leading to the learning studios.

The Early Childhood common learning area.  Who doesn't want to sit on those colorful bubble seats? 

The learning studios are full of natural light and are packed full of everything any teacher could ever want. 
The huge FIFA football (soccer) field. 

Another view of the playground

The multipurpose gymnasium/auditorium

The swimming pool.  There is also a learning pool that's only 2 feet deep for teaching the children how to swim.

An outdoor learning balcony

The main steps leading up to the middle school floor.  They also double as seating for the school stage. 

Summer vacation is quickly coming to an end and what a summer it's been.  School ended in the middle of June and the packing began.  It was a chore and a half to keep everything straight.  There were things to pack for Vietnam, things to pack into the storage unit, things to pack to go to my parents and things to donate.  The International movers came to pack my shipment for Vietnam and the very next day, I packed the rest of my house into a storage unit.  Then it was off to TX to meet my new niece and hang out with my nephew before the big move.  A few last goodbyes and it was off to Vietnam.  Next week, Daddy and I are headed to Hong Kong for one last vacation before school starts on August 14th.  Looking forward to the adventure.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Sight Seeing

The last two days have been packed full of sight seeing in and around Hanoi.  We've visited the Temple of Literature, The Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, The Vietnam Military Museum and Hoan Kiem Lake. Here are some pictures of our adventures.  Enjoy

The Temple of Literature

That's me!  Just under the Temple of Literature sign.

Van Mieu Gate, the entrance of the Temple of Literature

The Well of Heavenly Clarity

Tortoise Stele - Mounted on giant tortoise pedestals, these stone stelae are inscribed with the names of scholars who passed the examinations. Dating back to 15th-18th centuries.

Inside the Temple of Confucius

The Great Drum

Vietnam Fine Arts Museum
Housed in a Colonial building, the Fine Arts Museum houses a collection of Vietnamese architecture, artifacts, paintings, sculptures and other works of art.  
The Dancer

The Face of the Devil

I don't remember what this one was called, but it was huge!

An idol

The Lion

Hand carved wooden doors dating back to the 12th century

A porcelain scholar statue

Lacquer painting of a King and Queen

Vietnam Military History Museum
The Vietnam Military History Museum is housed in a former French barracks and is comprised of 30 galleries.  The is a compilation of the development and history of the Vietnamese armed forces over centuries.  Vietnam has been in conflict with China, France, Cambodia, the United States, the Soviet Republic.  
The Flag was enormous! 

Captured military equipment belonging to the French and US.

A Vietnamese Tank

US Jeep

A captured U.S Air Force fighter jet.  Dad says that its been repainted. 

Hoan Kiem Lake 

The pagoda in the middle of the lake

The Sunbeam Bridge to a temple in the middle of the lake

The tiger pagoda

A view from the bridge across the lake

Just hanging out in Hanoi

Daddy and I on the bridge