May 30, 2002

Okay, so I opted for the All-Clad over the BED. I'll be sleeping on an aero bed for another month or two till I've got enough to buy myself a bed as I've just made a major pots & pans purchase (rationale is that I will be happily cooking and eating at home and for lunch and it will pay for itself!). Pretty happy about that. Got the stainless steel set and a few accessories too. AND purchased great metro shelving & a butcher's block. We know where my priorities are.

Off to dinner with friends from the AIDS ride who are in town from DC for only a day - Dan and Liz Kohan. Hopefully this weekend I'll get some wood to paint & build my shelves & desk. Met more of my neighbors - have I mentioned that at least half of them are asian? The landlord knows WHO PAYS!


May 28, 2002

Just got invite from Uncle Mike for the RES launch party. NYC at the Eyebeam Atelier on Sunday.

May 25, 2002

I forgot to mention -
Today I stepped in the elevator with Mario Cuomo so I greeted him. At first I thought, "gee this guy looks familiar" and then Maxine whispered "Cuomo!" to me. "oh yeahhhh," I thought. After meeting David Dinkins, I figure I would probably not know Guiliani if he ran smack into me.
Just went to see Star Wars, episode II with Kaly.
Wednesday night celebrated Bruce's 40th birthday and then had a glass of champagne at Serena in the Chelsea Hotel for the ICI Spring Benefit. ICI is Independent Curators International, an innovative nonprofit art organization founded in 1975. Click on the link to read more about it.

i'm still beat. tomorrow will go out looking for shelving so i can dump out a few more boxes.
gradually moving along.
5.20.2002 11:47:18 PM
With the help of my great friends, I moved!
Saturday morning at 6:45 Ed came by to pick me up at home with a sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich from a Manhassat Deli for me for our very rainy ride to Arlington. Arrive at Enterprise rent-a-car at 11:30, got the minivan, loaded up from Mike & Eileen's, loaded up at mom & dad's, Shawn brought over my CD collection she had been graciously storing, dinner at Two Chefs (steak & cheese, what else?), stayed up late discussing Feng Shui with mom, picked up Mike at 8:30 Sunday morning with Kaly, drove back to NYC, arrived at 1:35. Bruce waiting at the door, Adam and Souris show up, the 3 of them and Mike shuffle boxes to the apartment while I unload & keep watch on the van, Jonathan shows up 15 minutes later, but we were so quick he only caught the last load. My move took a total of 20 minutes beginning to end. I advertised to my movers that I had NO furniture and that it would be quick. But didn't expect it to only take 20 minutes! Lisa joined us for brunch and all is now well. I have lots of sorting ahead of me (I found notes from Japanese class from tenth grade) and lots to trash (notes from Japanese class). This morning Mike breakfasted with Sor & I before driving the rented car back to Arlington. I love my friends.
5.15.2002 11:24:05 PM
Greenwich Village
Finally, an evening without plans. I am beat, have no food in my fridge, and no pots with which to cook. This Saturday I'll go to Arlington for less than 24 hours to grab all my things in four different addresses and drive it back up to NYC. I am beat.
Tuesday night had a four course dinner at the French Culinary Institute restaurant, L'Ecole. Great dinner. Maybe I can become a chef instead of a law firm marketer. Not a difficult decision.
(put back carnegie story) May 9
5.9.2002 2:09:52 AM
Greenwich Village.
Inaugural blog from home. I have a home. Sure, it's without a mobile phone, but it's a home. It's a hundred and twenty square feet (galley kitchen included) and I get another 20 square feet if you count the hallway to the bathroom and closet. I have a cordless phone, quite unnecessary considering any phone cord could reach every corner of the place. Not quite moved in, but sleeping on the aero bed, courtesy of Souris and Silvio.

Looking for a futon / sofa bed (must be beautiful to look at) and a Verizon mobile phone (must not be ugly). I've gotten to the point in my life when I can't own anything ugly anymore. Even a vegetable peeler. It's just the way it is.
Times Square.
Technology does not stick with me. Last night my cousin Nam-Tan crashed at my new place with me. I got Verizon to hook up my landline within 24 hours (a miracle) but I don't own a telephone so I have no phone. I also own 2 laptops - one with a broken modem and the other without a phone cord to use with the landline. And the palm pilot is of no use since the cat broke it (knocked it off a desk). So I'm left with my fabulous reliable Motorola V60c cell phone which I uh.... lost. Fred Durst's hand me down five hundred dollar phone and I lost it. I was VERY depressed. So now I'm in search of a new Verizon phone, but can't justify replacing the phone with the same model - it's a phone! I could buy 3 DVD players instead. And I don't wanna reprogram 125 phone numbers. Oh, and I lost Ben Stiller's number in Fred's voice recognition recording too. Damn.

I called the Verizon store and said "uh, I lost my V60" and the guy goes "ooooohhhhhh. Do you have insurance?"
"Ooooooohhhhhhhh. [pause] How long have you had it?"
"Two months."
"Ooooooohhhhhhhhhh. You're gonna have to come in to see what we can do for you."
That bad, huh?
Off to the Tokion party tonight in the lower east side
5.5.2002 9:19 PM
Upper West Side.
Moved stuff into the new place and put the A/C in with Uncle Mike today. Mike said to Kaly and I, "I wish one of you would get married and have kids." I asked him "so our kids can play with your kids?" and he said "No, so I can play with your kids! Mine are getting big!" He's like mom!

I then headed to Central Park to meet up with Kirt & Ed to hang out on the lawn; Italian dinner afterwards. The park is such a perfect place for people watching.

Found some gorgeous Italian designed sofa beds / futons today on JocoItalia and compared to the ugly American futons, I thought it might be worth investing. Out of my price range of course.
5.4.2002 9:19 PM
Upper West Side.
Star Wars exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art - very cool, especially the models. Lots of costumes - most beautiful was the red Imperial guard costume. I'm definitely taller than an Ewok, twice the size of Yoda, and half the size of our beloved Wookie Chewbacca. All the main characters & costumes were there, including models of all the fighter jets, ships, and droids.

I also walked around my new 'hood today and Greenwich Village is so fantastic. Can't wait to have visitors (uh... bring a sleeping bag will ya?)...
5.4.2002 1:20:40 AM
Upper West Side.
Several hours later. Spider Man was funny and fun. Go see it. The line was HUGE and there was a 12:45 showing even. Sor and Silvio got in line at 7 for our 9:30 show (and bought our tix 3 days ago on ticket master) and we weren't even first. We saw it at the huge Loews cineplex in Times Square.

Tomorrow we're off to the Star Wars exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Sunday I meet up with Ed & Kirt if I can, and will try to move a few things into my new place if I have the time.
5.3.2002 6:49 PM
Upper West Side.
All week I've been staying at Kaly's (since Sunday). I've been incredibly busy. Brunch & the KleinReid sale on Sunday, a loooooong week at work (good overtime), Monday looked at some apartments in Brooklyn with a broker, Tuesday signed a lease on a place in Greenwich Village (it's cute, but you can't even imagine how small unless you've ever lived in New York before), Wednesday I worked till midnight, Thursday I did "a very Hong thing and had two dinners" as Lisa would put it. I had plans for Mexican fare in a new place in Brooklyn with Jim, Dave, and Lisa, planned for 7-9. Souris called me at 6 and said "Hani, can you come to Blue Ribbon tonight? We have a reservation for 5 people but one can't make it and we need another person to keep the reservation." Blue Ribbon is one of the best restaurants in New York City (in the USA I dare say) and does not take reservations for less than 5 people and the wait is generally two hours for a table. Their hours are 4 pm to 4 am and Souris managed a 10:30 reservation. After suggesting she knew Kyle, one of my dear old friends, her res was magically bumped to 9:30. Anyway, Sor literally only needed a body to keep the res so I joined them directly from my pork taco, grilled mexican corn, spicy chocolate cake, and lemon cinnamon flan dinner to have an oyster, clam, crayfish, foie gras, marrow with ox tail marmalade, and fried chicken for my second meal. I skipped dessert that time but so did everybody else. Today we had a quick good day at work where our team went out for margaritas that not only cost more, but were larger than our meals. Now I'm off to see Spiderman on opening night (can you believe NY movie tix are $11 a pop?) with Sor's gang (again, filling in to take their extra tix). Last night I was their Pinch Eater, tonight, as Souris says to her friends in today's email
if we need her to fill a spot, she comes and joins.
otherwise, i wouldn't invite her all the time.
cause she's my sister...
but she knows i love her so that ain't a bad thing."

So, I've had keys to my new apartment since Tuesday and I have yet to set foot into it!!! That's how busy I am.
Oh, and 57 emails to read when I get home.
Times square
quick - got an apartment in greenwich village; cool neighborhood, close to all the trains, working fireplace, exposed brick.
teeny tiny tiny studio. but cute. rent stabilized, which is good, but not a steal; it's a fair price by New York standards. Downtown; somewhere around $10/sq foot per month. Oi.

The decision came pretty quickly so I haven't gotten anything together. I've had the keys for two days and tonight I go back up to Kaly's for the night, probably till Saturday when I'll get a few things from Uncle Mike's and Kel's to the apartment. Saturday we go see the Star Wars exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Can't wait.
KleinReid C-thru IceLast weekend went to the KleinReid studio sale and bought lots from Jim & Dave, who also gifted me a beautiful vase. photo © KleinReid
more later
4.25.2002 10:08 PM
Times Square
Working late... logging overtime, and the plus of temping is that I get paid for the OT.
Today is the 2 year anniversary of Ong Ngoai's death and I forgot to eat vegetarian, but then I talked to mom and she said she had fish today. Apparently, the lunar date matters more, and May 3 will be the 2 year anniversary of his death on the lunar calendar. Gotta remember Friday to not eat meat!
[4/24/2002 11:52:17 PM]
New York City.
Just back from Brooklyn - BAM -- the Brooklyn Academy of Music that is. Lisa and I went to see the Chicago Opera Theater perform Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607). Very nice to look at, wonderful interpretation and fun for me to pick out my italian vocabulary from the music. A couple of great performers, although I didn't love the lead, and in general, just enjoyed myself at the Harvey Theatre. Afterwards we went to Junior's, a Brooklyn staple diner where I had fabulous matzoh ball soup, a grilled cheese sandwich, and french fries. Good ol' American diner.
New York City.
This morning at about 10:30 my sister Kaly called me and offered me her pair of tickets to the Murray Perahia concert at Carnegie Hall for the afternoon. I gave her my typical answer - yes - and then she asked me if I knew how to get to Carnegie Hall. "Practice, practice, practice," I said. But either Kaly didn't think that was funny or she was ignoring me so she just gave me directions to take the N/R train to 57th & 7th.

Murray Perahia is a phenomal pianist and a passionate performer. The concert was so amazing and so wonderful, I was beside myself. I sat in one of Kaly's 2 seats on the balcony level where I had a great view of Mr. Perahia's hands on the keys and of the inside of the piano, an awesome spectacle. Then Kaly, who was sitting below in the orchestra seats with her friend David, had to leave at intermission to catch an LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) concert at Lincoln Center, so I got lucky and saw the second half of the show from the orchestra seats. Experiencing the recital from two different perspectives in the red plush seats of the Isaac Stern Auditorium was really a great way to spend my rainy Sunday afternoon. We were even treated to an additional three Chopin encores. If you have never heard Murray Perahia, you ought to. He is absolutely spectacular. I love New York.
[4/20/2002 6:31:06 PM]
New York City. Greenwich Village.
How could I not have thought of it sooner??? On Sunday, April 28, I am going to the KleinReid Spring Studio Sale hosted by the fabulous hostess Lisa and it has just occurred to me to post it in my blog.

Jim and David are two talented artists of beautiful ceramics sold in fine stores across the world (Barney's, Harrod's in London, Tokyo, and other fabulous places). These are fine ceramics that you can buy at BARGAIN prices from the artists' very own studio in Williamsburg, just in time for Mother's Day, Spring Cleaning, and Weddings!

There will be an open house at Lisa's with pastries, coffee, and prosecco! Please RSVP to Lisa to be sure there are enough pastries to go 'round. See you there.
[4/19/2002 1:27:15 PM]
Times Square / Mid-town
New York City
I've got a long term temp gig at the law offices of WF&G where I've been for a couple of weeks now. Though law-firm marketing is far from my life's purpose, it'll help pay the NYC rent. One of these days, I will truly get to be a toy engineer, or maybe work with these guys, get a law degree, and establish public policies for special education. I'm in need of soulful work. Got something?
[4/18/2002 12:52:52 AM]
New York City. Greenwich Village
Just back from a party in Chinatown at Dietmar & nunet's new New York office.

I went up the elevator with Dan Stube who is an architect for Polshek Partnership Architects - the guys who designed the Rose Center for Earth and Space (which houses the Hayden Planetarium at the American Museum of Natural History, Carnegie Hall, and other museums and theatres in New York City) and we talk about the glories of bicycling in New York. Then I instantly see dear Dietmar (it has been since September 2000) and he introduces me to an avuncular person who is leaving by saying, "This is my friend Hani. She has just come back from traveling around the world." So the nice gentleman asks me where I'd been and I say "blah blah blah.... and I'm sorry, what is your name?" (as Dietmar had not actually introduced the gentleman to me; only me to the kind sir). And he says "David Dinkins." Heh heh. "Nice to meet you" I say and Dietmar who returned just as I asked David who he is, says to me "David is the former mayor of New York" and turns to David and gives him a kind excuse for my ignorance. Hee hee. I'm amused. It's classic. So David left just after our short exchange, and I moved onward into the crowd.

Next, I was stopped by Aileen and then Artie, both AIDS ride people I trained with for the Alaska Ride. I met a very interesting Japanese American woman from California who is in media and entertainment and invited me to go rock climbing which we planned for possibly the end of May. She had just come back from living in Barcelona (and has also been to Vietnam before!) and has probably been to more countries than I have. Onward, Julie passed through our conversation and with total confidence said "you're a Libra aren't you?" before inviting me to go to a poetry reading on Monday. Then we met Pilar who is a Spanish woman from just outside Bilbao who lives in Miami and does marketing! And before the evening was over, I met guitarist Will, Aileen's best friend and comrade, and while on the elevator down we decided to go to Coney Island to ride the Cyclone this summer only because the industrial smell in the elevator made us think of it.

And that, you see, is why I live in New York City, and truly why I love NY.
[4/16/2002 12:57:05 AM]
New York City. Greenwich Village.
Got a second hand-me down laptop today to go with the ghetto one I was using the last couple of weeks. 28.8 modem connection makes me feel like I'm back in Vietnam.

My next goal is to get a new apartment by June 1 to get a phone line to get DSL. That, and to have Souris furnish the place with her leftover goods. (Delicious furniture)

Last weekend I went to DC and downtown with Les to see the Cherry Blossoms in bright bloom, shortly after their peak, at the point when the flowers have turned white and the slightest breeze leaves you in a Spring snowstorm of petals. You've seen one, you've seen 'em all, but the great thing is, you don't get tired of looking.

This week I go to Dietmar's (fellow Alaska AIDS Rider) inauguration/networking party for nunet. At some point, I'll also meet up with Marcus, who I met at Angkor Wat in January while in Cambodia.

Other plans? Work (which is fun), KleinReid Sale (which grows the art collection), possibly Bike NY (which will be 42 miles of biking in the 5 boros after not having been on the bike since August of 2000) and a wedding at West Point (I know neither the bride nor the groom).
[4/14/2002 4:34:01 PM]
New York City. Greenwich Village.
Am making mushroom & chicken risotto.

Just went to the Magnolia Bakery and bought a chocolate cupcake with chocolate icing and chocolate and rainbow jimmies on top. Took it to the park with my 65-cent deli coffee and enjoyed it on the bench. It tasted a little bit like chocolate and a lot like vegetable oil. Oh well.

Went to the grocery as Mike has nothing in this apartment - he is here so seldomly and the macrobiotic diet does not leave much in the pantry for me.

Alas... cooking my own meals. Joy.
[4/5/2002 11:44:52 PM]
Arlington, VA
Headed to VA today to get a few things together for NY, pay a few pals a visit, and enjoy the museums downtown a bit. What's with all the traffic lately?
Maybe the suspense of the Hanoi stalker? Short version:
I was on yahoo messenger chatting with my friend Xuan Anh in VN and he was in an internet cafe (the only place you can get a cam to work in VN for reasons only the commies can answer) and a kid next to Xuan Anh saw me on XA's monitor. Next day, the kid sends me instant messages telling me he stole my name off the computer and saw me on the screen, and that he would really like to get to know me. Then he asks if i would please put the video cam on again so he could see me. Uh... no. And could he please stay in contact with me and email me. Did I say no??? I was nice. That was about it. Like I said, there is no sense of privacy in Vietnam...
New York City
Today I went to Yves Durif Salon where my friend Patti works and had Yves cut off nearly 14 inches of my hair to donate to Locks of Love (but you can also donate to WigsForKids if you're thinking about it). It's a charity that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged children with medical hair loss. We needed 10 inches, thought that's what we cut, but now I'm home and have to measure it (required for the short form I have to fill out), and it turns out we cut nearly 14 inches. Yves, a true master (Aveda calls him a "world renowned master") who makes cutting hair look like mixing salad, worked his magic since Patti was tied up with another customer. So for doing a good thing, I was treated to a cut by Yves - okay, here's a shot of me before and below for the after, at Souris' computer. If you're ever looking for a fabulous cut, you should definitely go there ($110 by Patti [ed. note: updated early 2006]). So grateful to both Patti (who so thoughtfully suggested the donation to me in the first place) and Yves (who was so generous to offer his salon, his time, and his incredible talent).

Here I am from Souris' web cam:
13 inches off!
[3/29/2002 9:37:19 PM]
New York City
Ground Zero. This morning I went to Lisa's new Robin Hood office and then followed her down to the old office in the Financial District. Their old office sat on the 19th floor wherein I was able to view the enormity of the damage and the emptiness left behind where the World Trade Center once stood. It was good for me to be there with Lisa and her colleague Karen, and also to be given the time to spend some time alone and make peace of it. The angle from which I stood gave me an aerial view of the entire area - sixteen square acres, where I could watch the workers - who looked like miniscule figurines - raking through the rubble with hand rakes, and the enormity of their task was weighted on my mind. I watched the bull dozers - they looked like children's play things - strewn about the lot, now about four to six stories deep underground - all shiny and yellow in the bright sunlight today. It's truly amazing, what all these people have done, all of the work they have accomplished, and the extreme gratefulness I feel for everyone who has aided in the clean up of this herculean task. It is moving and sad and well, the sadness just sort of stays.
[3/25/2002 3:20:26 AM]
New York City
So, as of late, have gone to see a play called Voices on the Hill with Lisa, had mexican food, saw Delicatassen, walked Bruce's dog and went to a cool dog run in Chelsea, and worked on my resume and will apply for one job tomorrow. Tuesday, I have MORE Vietnamese food. Must discover decent VN food in New York - it just does not exist. Must learn how to cook like mom is perhaps the only solution.

Oh, and was harrassed by spying Vietnamese fellow in Hanoi. Can we say "stalker?"
more later
[3/17/2002 12:34:55 AM]
New York, New York
Oooohhhh, I am soooo FREE. Just me and Atari (Souris' kitty) and Silvio's cable connected souped up computer sitting on his Aeron chair with the flat-wide-screen HDTV cable channel on in the other room full of DVDs, video games, and well designed furniture including an assortment of godzilla toys and other random objects. Where am I? Oh, catsitting (yes, I am still allergic to cats) for Souris and Silvio while they spend a few days in Rome and then at the family farm in Arpino.

This is the life! Well, their life. But mine for ten days.

Spent the afternoon rug shopping with Kaly and John, stopped over to Celia's for some tea, and walked around downtown in general. Tomorrow I am off to Chinatown for brunch with dear Adam whom I've known about half my life. I have still not been to Ground Zero which is something I may do at some quiet moment alone this week. I haven't even see the area.

I am still waiting for my "calling" re: the job front ... I just haven't been hit with anything yet. Where am I to go? Who am I to help? I am slowly moving forward. Frankly, I've not tried yet. I am still enjoying my vacation in NY. I will let you know when I change that status to "actively in search of very cool job" and in the meantime, will blog whatever I can.
[3/16/2002 12:12:51 AM]
New York, New York
Life is good. Yes, I'm sleeping late, I'm going to see live music, visited the Children's Museum of Manhattan to see the Maurice Sendak exhibit (sadly, I missed the Curious George exhibit), and taught Mica how to ice skate at Wollman rink in Central Park - it's beautiful. Oh, and I also caught an hour at the Children's zoo where Mica named all of the twenty-something penguins for me.

And the H&H bagels - yum.

The subway has changed much since I was last here - new trains, old trains changing routes and colors, and of course, the half dozen stops that are temporarily closed from the September 11 attacks. Another thing? There's a U.S. flag on every subway car and nearly every bus in the city. Not to mention all the flags all over the rest of New York. And even more so, there are public ad campaigns about New Yorkers "In this together" to help people cope. Pretty amazing. I love this city.
[3/8/2002 12:18:29 AM]
Arlington VA
for one more day. Heading to NYC on Saturday morning. Eat lots with sibs. Hang out. Have fun.
Saturday night I go see a jazz band with Lisa in the city - I love listening to jazz live and seriously missed it while in 'nam. Sunday we're having a big family dinner with Kaly & Souris, and Mike & Lori with the kids. Spend the week breathing in the NY scene and, hopefully, finding work and a place to call home.

Now that mom's home, dad is settled - his count of the casualties while she was away: 1 fighting fish and 3 plants - DEAD. That's not so bad. I told her at least there's still one husband - Alive. All's well and I'm over my jetlag.

More news from New York soon. Life has been on the slow side but I am just chilling out - apologies for recent blog content. Seriously, read Australia and New Zealand blogs (links are on the right, under Oz Adventure) for a lot of fun.
[3/4/2002 11:59:22 PM]
Arlington, VA
I am filling up on AMERICANA. I spent one day last week eating nothing but American junk food which included a hot dog, packaged pudding, a croissant, chili, a donut, nachos, and a chicken sub. GROSS, eh? But very American. Just watched Moulin Rouge with Lori and Ori (really) and we were all in for a treat as I had not expectations nor preconceptions of the movie. The other day went to see Harry Potter in stadium seating theatre - enjoyed it. Read the paper nearly daily with dad. Have instant coffee. Who really cares? Well, as interesting as Vietnam was to you all, America is interesting to the folks I left behind in Saigon so you'll have to bear it. The Adventures in Nam have ended, as you can see, and now we're back to the OTHER SIDE of the earth. Gotta make it so.

Going to NYC on Saturday to find a new path for my very exciting and anticipated future. Plus, I need a space for all my stuff.
Arlington, VA
Out of habit, I almost typed Sai Gon - and stopped myself. Much like writing the wrong year for the first week of January on your checks - as if anyone ever writes checks anymore for anything. But you get the idea. It's a remnant of my year spent abroad. The thing is, as each day passes, I begin to feel such odium for Vietnam. Maybe my emotions are running high, but - you know - my body is becoming reacclimated to dry vs. humid, winter vs. tropics, day into night and night into day. Physically, I'm living in my polar opposite. I'm dealing with a bit of adjustment here. Emotionally, I'm thrilled to be home and I'm happy to be out of Vietnam, and those are not the same thing - there is a nuance in those two statements.

Being home is something of a comfort, always has been. I'm in the house I grew up in, hanging out with dad, doing as I please, relaxing, eating, reading, writing, surfing the net. There's nothing pressing, no deadline, no place to be. There are places to go and people to see - when I feel like it. There's the familiar 2 Chefs down the street, the bike path, the things that made home home to me. Deadlines? Nah. Make phone calls? Can do that tomorrow. Life is at my leisure.

Being out of Vietnam is almost like I've escaped again only this time, I'm old enough to know it. Twenty-seven years ago, when we first left Vietnam, I was merely 18 months old and probably didn't care where we were going, even if it was on a DC-9 cargo plane, so long as I had a bottle of milk with me. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration in comparison, but really - it's as if I've been suddenly thrust free again. I have a CHOICE! I'm around people who have opinions! I can read whatever I want. Travel whereever without reporting to the neighborhood police of my whereabouts.

I go into a retailer and the music is different than the previous dozen venues, unlike in VN where every cafe, hotel, shop, or office has the same soundtrack playing over its p.a. system. As if the government has distributed a nationwide box set and everyone agrees that it's the best music available on earth. And every book store carries the same books. Why? Because the government permits those books to be sold.

I go to the grocery store and I get to buy a loaf of bread for $2.49. So does the white guy behind me. So does the asian in front of me. No more haggling for Vietnamese-prices since I looked mixed and/or don't speak Vietnamese like a native and therefore must pay double for everything.

I walk into a museum and I am mindful of the personal space of those around me. I step back to have a better look at a painting and the people around me respect that. In Vietnam, a family of five would have stepped right in front of my view and a dozen more would shove me from either side. Then they'll touch the canvas and flash photograph it despite the signs that ask you not to.

I drive down the highway and there aren't young children playing on the street shoulder, nor is there a truck oncoming in my lane to overtake the bus he's passing, and there should be seatbelts in the car, including the back seats, and there is law and order to driving and traveling. There are no educated medical professionals throwing plastic bags and litter out my car window here, and I won't get pulled over by a corrupt cop who wants an extra bribe to help him through the New Year.

When I apply for a job here, I won't have to tell my employer my religion, my age, my health status, my siblings names and ages, what they do, what my mother did pre-1975 and post-1975, what my father did pre-1975 and post-1975, and then include a color photograph of my mug. Yeah, that's exactly what my prospective employees in Vietnam had to tell me on their resume when I interviewed them for positions - by LAW. And I said to them, Look, I don't care what the hell your parents did before the war. Are you capable of learning? And all too often the answer was No - because the education system requires everyone to revere their professors - to worship them and to love them, and above all, to NEVER QUESTION THEM so they are all taught to think inside of the box like their professors before them. To the Vietnamese, life beholds what your professor tells you it beholds.

And though I found these events and actions difficult to tolerate while living in Vietnam, my return to the U.S. has only magnified these faults that I find in the Vietnamese culture - and magnified my love of America, my relation to America, and my self-definition as an American. Of course, offer me Italian culture and citizenship and I'll bite. At least I'll have health insurance.

I'm sure that over time, my love of Vietnam, its extraordinary landscapes, hospitality, character, and tradition will draw me back to re-visit. The explorations and adventures I beheld while I lived there are unique and treasured. It's just that - well, I'm glad I'm back.

Not much to blog about till I get back to NYC on March 8th so for the best things to read, click on my Year in Review Letters (the last three years), the Normalcy Debate among the Hong siblings, and my Alaska AIDS Ride newsletter. That is, of course, if you have nothing better in the bathroom (none of them can be described as compendious so you might want to harm a sapling and print them out).

And for my favorite photo collections, try these:
Phan Thiet
NZ South Island Scenic Drive
although I had a tough time leaving out Sydney (on New Year's Eve) and the Glacier Hiking. Actually, I love all the photos, so just go to the links on the right and start clicking down the list - from Australia to New Zealand to Vietnam and even some shots of our crazy and funny family.

There are many many many photos I still haven't posted from Vietnam, and none of those of which I photographed at Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom among the many other temples I visited in Cambodia. Eventually I'll get those up.

Arlington VA
I've been asleep pretty much for four days, hence no blogs as I wouldn't want to bore you to death. I have with Timmi, however, managed to spark a series of hilarious communications between my cousins and sibs and well - it looks like normalcy expands beyond my immediate family. I like to think of it as Family Insanity And I guess for a lot of it, you had to be there - but I find it still fairly amusing.

Tomorrow evening, if I'm awake, Mike is making me a five-course Italian (Tuscan) dinner and Eileen is supervising. We're his guinea pigs, he says, but I'm sure tossing all those things in a pot can't come out all that bad!

Oh, and since we're on the subject of COOL, go to Aural Delight, Lisa's new site related to all things music. And send her feedback! She's just starting it up!

My other brilliant sister (I have a few), Kiki, got written up in Atlanta Business Journal "20 Techies to Know". She's the Cathy Hong from UPS at ATV that you'll read about whose quote about "dodging bullets" is apropos of her personality.

Since we're mentioning sibling press appearances, I should also give a shoutout to Souris who was recognized in January's GQ magazine and Silvio (my super brother-in-law) who was quoted in The New York Times Toy Story. Tokion, mentioned in the article, is none other than the super cool Japanese pop culture mag where Souris works.

Oh, and my brother Lobo is thanked in the liner notes of Puddle of Mudd's first album release. And if you didn't catch it earlier, Kaly published a CD review: here's the blog on it
Do I have a cool family or what?

The United States of America
It is sooooo good to be back on US soil. I nearly cried when I could see the snow on the ground from the airplane. When I arrived at the airport, I was welcomed by Uncle 7 and dad (who smartly remembered to bring me a coat because he knew I was coming from spending a year in the tropics) and temperatures of oh... -4C! That's 21F for those of you who need conversion. I can't describe how good the brisk air felt. I love sitting on the sunny side of the car on a blustery cold day - it just feels good.

So first stop from the airport, I tell dad "let's go have a steak and cheese." And we went to 2 Chefs at about 10:50 and I realize - it's CLOSED! And it's closed because in America, it was President's Day! So dad and Cau 7 took me to ... um... Little Saigon restaurant. Yeah. I just flew in from a year in Vietnam and we go to a Vietnamese restaurant. So I had a seven dollar bowl of duck noodle soup which in Vietnam costs $1.30.

This morning I got up and had to make my own coffee and toast my own croissant and this afternoon I had to cook my own food and clean my own dishes and IT FEELS GOOD. And this afternoon, Dad and I went to 2 Chefs and had our steak and cheeses and it tasted so GOOD. And they were open at 11 yesterday but we had just missed them. For shame.

I'm so happy to be back. IÂ’ve talked to all my sisters, I hear English everywhere, I get to chill out with dad and not get bitten by mosquitos. I could even drink the tap water if I wanted to. I feel FREE FREE FREE. I am happy appy appy.

Yup, getting closer and closer to the end... and the beginning. Everyone keeps asking me what I'm going to do and where I'm going to live and the answer is - who knows? I ask that too. Goodbyes were relatively easy, fairly spaced apart, and thankfully not tearful! In about 3 hours I get on a flight to Japan and then spend another 3 hour layover there where I might check in again. I'm really racking up my number of countries visited with this trip, I think Japan will be the eighth country since January 2002.

All right. Logging off. I have a lot of layovering to do.