Some good news during bad times

This whole story started on a cold Sunday in July, 2012 with  Eleonora; yes, the one with surprises … I think that this was probably the first … She asked me if I could speak English because she wanted to give my contact info to an American coworker of Juan’s, her boyfriend at the time and now husband. That was the starting point of this story, of this Life in the Movies.

Just this week I received a letter in the mail with my new status in the United States. As of now I am a permanent resident. This news made us very happy, but not only us, but also our neighbors who quickly surprised me with balloons and a celebratory cake 🙂
The process for my residency started in October 2016:  after the submission of documents, in-person interviews, letters of recommendation signed twice (after our marriage and again last year) by Chris MacMillan, Valerie Ebinger, Andy Friedman, Lisa McCaffrey and Peter Stroeve and in the second stage by Cherie Guppenberger and Sheila Britschgi (my new neighbors and friends) culminated in the arrival of my Green Card. I thank all of them infinitely for the trust they had in me 🙂
And to celebrate this event I want to tell you about my very first trip to the United States.

In August 2014 Barnaby and I decided to take a vacation in his country. That was, as I mentioned before, my first trip to the United States. I think if someone at that time asked me if I would come to live in this country, I would have said no … but many circumstances changed the following year (now I realize for the better) and that is why, among many other reasons, I am living here.

But let’s go back to the trip … The idea was to start in Portland, which is where Barnaby had his house, and drive south to see different places with the final destination being Los Angeles (about 1,200 miles). That was our first “road trip”  Every year since then we’ve continued the tradition of taking a road trip to different places and hopefully this year (such a strange one) we can take the one we had planned for the state of Washington … we’ll see 🙂

The arrival in Portland was emotional:  there I had the opportunity to meet Paige, Barnaby’s daughter, his friends Val, Rod, Lisa, Patty, Jeff and Martin and even his ex-wife, an event that was far from planned, but it happened 🙂 . The lesson I learned through that experience is that it is an investment to travel while dressed elegantly rather than comfortably 😉

What was my impression of the United States? The truth is that everything drew my attention, the very American thing in which everything is big: the stores, the cars, the portions of food, to name a few. A place where everything works and customer service is excellent: that made a huge impression on me. But the Pacific Northwest is also (I use the present tense because I still feel this way) impressive, it has things that made me fall in love, such as, for example, a summer with extra long and dry days, stunning sunsets, many roses, forests next to the highway and spaces full of nature in the middle of the city, and also people who smiled at you on the street … I had had a totally different idea about Americans, and that made me think that it is never good to have preconceptions.

I’m going to tell you that I loved Portland at first sight: the bridges, the Willamette and Columbia rivers, the colors of the sky, the trees, the people wearing weird clothes, Powell’s bookstore which is huge, in which you can spend a whole day, anyway It all seemed amazing to me.

After a few days in Portland and the surrounding area we headed south, our first stop being Crater Lake, located in the National Park of the same name, in Oregon. They say it is the deepest lake in the United States; the truth is that that fact does not matter to me, but the interesting thing was the blue color of the water and that it looked really impressive. To think that there was once there a volcano … I am always surprised by the force of nature. It is on my list of places to return to. 

After this exciting place I had the opportunity to meet Katherine and Wendell, Barnaby’s parents, at a restaurant in Medford, Oregon. Both of them looked very excited, I imagine it would have been a rarity for Barnaby to introduce them to an Argentine 🙂 .From there we drove to California and arrived at the Coast Redwoods park, where we saw some gigantic trees that, as you can see, don’t really fit within any single picture 🙂 .Really spectacular.

We continued towards the wine country; surely you have heard of or even tasted Californian wines (today I tell you that those from Oregon or Washington are just as good and also cost half as much, heh!).  We rented a place in the middle of the vineyards near to Healdsburg in Sonoma. BEAUTIFUL 🙂

To go visit a few wineries Barnaby had the thought that we could explore them by bicycle…. looking back today I do not understand how I survived that experience: the road was full of ups and downs, my physical condition left a lot to be desired and at times it was impossible for me to pedal (obviously on the climbs) … but I did survive and the truth is that it was hard but also very fun, although I would not repeat it again 😉

Remember to always be elegant

Saying goodbye to the wine country, we visited one last winery, in a manner that was to my thinking more civilized (that is, without the bicycles) and we found that they also had planted Malbec and that’s why I took my picture among the vineyards.

 Zinfandel is one of the Californian classic wine grapes

From Sonoma we headed to  San Francisco, a city with which I fell madly in love. The city just appeared as we were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge that I had seen so many times in movies: I was fascinated. Here I tried clam chowder for the first time, and in any opportunity I have a chance, I keep trying it in different places and here I have a spoiler: the best chowders are in Seattle but this is for a future story ….

From there we continued to Los Angeles and stayed at the home of Andy, Barnaby’s college friend. The story is kind of funny because when I first met Barnaby in Buenos Aires (back in 2012), he was with Andy, so I had met them both together 🙂

He took us to different places in LA for me to get to know, and I’m a little ashamed to say that, although I enjoyed the city, it is not among my favorites; it felt extremely artificial, but like everything, everybody has their own taste in things.

Strolling around Santa Monica and trying a corn dog

One of the things I liked the most was going to Universal Studios, a place where for a day (or however long you are there) you will feel like a child again. When we went it was very hot but our “skip the line” passes let us avoid the lines, and we also took advantage of the water roller coaster twice to refresh ourselves, a huge thanks to Jurassic Park. 

For the end of our trip, Andy invited us to a somewhat secret place, called the Magic Castle, because you had to go with an invitation and be all dressed up, where everything revolved around magic, very entertaining and something totally different.

I like remembering this trip and I hope you enjoyed it along with me. See you soon and thanks for joining me on my adventures. And of course thanks to my husband for helping me with the English and be my partner in crime 😉

Still exploring the flavors of Vietnam

Before concentrating again on the food tour, I want to tell you that a few days ago I received a surprise gift from one of my friends from Argentina. It’s not the first time that Eleonora has surprised me, and I think that doing it again will “leave me dry,” a rather old phrase that means giving someone a heart attack 🙂 . I love the Italian exaggerations that course through my veins.

Giving a bit of the back story (and it is not an “ass story,” a concept that I will explain sometime), she and Juan appeared by surprise in Portland for our wedding (only surprising me because everything had been arranged). That day I almost had a heart attack. This time finding this beautiful package delivered to my house, taking into account that we do not know when we are going to see each other again because of the virus situation, it filled me with joy but also moved my cuore. Thanks, Ele!!  And for the moment I prefer not to have any more surprises 😉

How well this body cream would have served me during the visit to the rice factory 🙂

OK, now we get back to the trip. We arrived on a Sunday afternoon in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, and as we had made a change of plans, it turned out that we had a few more days to visit it than originally planned.
Because we were feeling brave we hired a food tour by Vespa…. yes I know, the traffic and everything else … but I would have missed something truly authentic if we had not encouraged ourselves to travel the crazy streets on a motorcycle. And today I can say that it was one of the best experiences of my life. We were picked up at the hotel and before going to eat we posed in a few places and started the adventure.

Continuing on our way to food, our first stop was at a place where the specialty was Bahn Cuon, which is like an empanada (turnover) of very fine steamed rice dough, which can be stuffed with vegetables or meat or both. To eat it, in addition to using chopsticks, you dip it in a broth, and it really tasted delicious. It should be noted that we did not choose either the menu or the places, they took us to restaurants known for each specialty, checking with us beforehand if we had any dietary restrictions.

Our second stop was at Bun Cha Huong Lien, a mythical place because it was visited by Anthony Bourdain and Barack Obama, and from that moment, the place has become hyper-touristy.  It may not be the best bun cha on the planet but it is impossible to be in Hanoi and not go there.

The historic visit

Here I show you a bit of the tour from one place to another. As I mentioned earlier: an unforgettable experience.

And I dared to make a video while traveling

From there we continued on to try pho cuon, again the main event was rice dough but cut and assembled in a different way. Simply impeccable.

Writing about this makes me hungry
The guys happy to be photographed
I was surprised by paparazzis… but did not care 🙂

From here we went on to a place where we were served fish and snails and although it seems unbelievable, I tried one … full of sauce … luckily I have no picture of this event 🙂
But I do have a picture of the guys who drove the Vespas and guided us on the tour, who did everything wonderfully. They drove the Vespas with great skill, not going very fast and making us feel very safe despite the chaos of the traffic. I tend to think it was an organized chaos.

The end of the night was with my favorite dessert, egg coffee, where I also tried coconut coffee, which is served cold and I didn’t like it that much. We were already full but something sweet always feels good.

On the next day we chose an excursion, a little less risky, that consisted of shopping at a market in Hanoi and then cooking those delicious dishes that we had been trying throughout the trip. It was an unforgettable experience for two reasons.  The first is that the markets are very different: the noises, the products, the disorder, while we were looking at the fruits or waiting for us to be attended by motorcycles with people who were also shopping. And obviously the smells that are special in any market that you visit. I am particularly sensitive to what I smell.

And the other thing we learned is that preparing Vietnamese food takes a lot of time and a lot of effort. It was a lot of fun having a cooking experience with other couples from different parts of the world: Australia, Germany and Indonesia. And the geniuses who were the true cooks who made all the preparations. A real pleasure.

A sample of the experience
I do more posing than cooking…. that’s how I roll  🙂 🙂

Thank you very much for having accompanied me to eat in Hanoi, I hope you liked it and I’ll see you soon. And special thanks to Barnaby who helped me with my English and supports my crazy ideas 🙂

Flavors of Southeast Asia

I have been and still am a fan of Anthony Bourdain and his programs, in which he travels the world trying out different foods, some of which had never crossed my mind to try.  His program was really entertaining because, in addition to the food, he talked about the history of each place he visited.  Bourdain was a great admirer of Vietnam and its food, and having been there I agree that some flavors are unique to Vietnam, as well as to Cambodia.  It’s a shame I can’t share my opinion with him on Instagram 😦

When we arrived at Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) we first stayed in the Hotel Sofitel for one night.  That next morning we went for breakfast in the hotel, and I can assure you that never in my life have I seen a hotel with so many options for breakfast.  There were sections devoted to different cuisines, such as Asian, in which my favorite was the dim sum.  Also there was a French pastry section, Italian (were they’d make you a pizza to order), and American with bagels, french toast, and omelettes.  Really impressive!  If I had thought at that time to go on a diet, it would have been an impossible mission.

The breakfast at the Sofitel

During the eight days that we were on the cruise, we had a variety of meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The chef tried to keep the menu varied so that it was never monotonous.  One day he made a special meal dedicated to the street food of Cambodia, which as a trip highlight, but of course I did not try it.  Luckily there were many other nice foods to try instead.

Impressive, right¨?

Our last day on the boat we were at port where we needed to get to an ATM, and we were tempted to get a little snack, but looking at the signs we were a little discouraged (look at the photo) 🙂

I invite you to try to pronounce the food names, let alone know what they contain 🙂

Once off the boat, our itinerary took us to Siem Reap in Cambodia, where we needed to find some good eating, and of course we did.
One was the restaurant Cuisine Wat Damnak run by the French chef Joannes Riviere who uses mostly products from Cambodian farms.  His menu is therefore ever changing as he prepares his dishes with seasonal produce.  He offers two tasting menus (I think we had one with 12 dishes) with small portions and impressive flavors.  In addition, the place was lovely:  a large house decorated in a minimalist style, with a large terrace and impeccable service.  At the end of the dinner Joannes stopped by our table and asked us what we thought of dinner.

Upon returning to Vietnam we went to Hoi An, a place that really fascinated me.  We arrived in the afternoon, and later went on a walk in the town (I’ll tell you more in another post), looking for a place for dinner, when we happened on Le Fe, a really pretty place that had a pond of koi in the middle of the restaurant, which you could feed if you dared.  Here’s my video of it.

Koi always get my attention;  they are delightful and I love it when I see them in the Japanese Garden in Buenos Aires.

The service in the restaurant was incredible.  Our waitress asked us if we knew how to eat each dish that we were served, and when we answered in the negative, we were given a mini-course on how to eat … of which we really took advantage.

I’ll tell you one thing that I learned.  In the following photo, you’ll see some leaves that seemed to me to be decoration (evidently I didn’t understand anything).  You take one of these leaves, add a little sauce and then one of the little round bites which were made of shrimp, wrap it up and into the mouth … it was incredibly delicious and I learned that no part of the meal was to be wasted.

Crab and chicken, which we ate with chopsticks

The next day we signed up for a food tour, in which we were to visit various places for food so that we could try different dishes.  Me met two very enthusiastic young women at 3:00 PM, figuring we would not eat lunch beforehand because we would be eating too much.  A big mistake!!
We started with a visit to the rice fields which are only 10 minutes outside of the city.  Then we went to a kind of factory where a guy was in charge of cleaning the rice and getting it ready for sale:  I cannot describe odor of shit, yes shit, excrement (whatever you want to call it) in that place.  It almost killed me, and our guide telling us things that were absolutely inconsequential to me because my focus was on not breathing through my nose.  That’s when my bad mood started, which when it starts is very difficult to stop.  Anyway, I bring this up because in every trip there is always a side of great enjoyment and a B side, which I also want to share because that is what my posts are about: what I liked very much and what I would rather forget, but that today makes me laugh because, ultimately, it was not so serious.

So that you can see I’m not exaggerating 🙂  What an “ass-face”!!!

As you may have noticed, this tour started poorly and the worst thing is that it continued to go downhill.  Our first food stop was a little cart in the street, with low chairs for seating, the specialty of which was a soup so dark that it looked like tar … I didn’t even try it.  My “asshole face” (this is the direct translation of the Argentine expression “cara de orto”, which is a ruder version of the more common Spanish expression “cara de culo”, or “butt face”, meaning a very displeased face) was even more evident because the soup worsened my mood even more… Now I look back and laugh, although at the time it was not in the least funny. 

The soup is called black sesame;  I love sesame but in this color, no :-).  The unusual thing is that people stopped by on their scooters, buying a little soup in a plastic bag to heat and eat at home.

Continuing with the tour things began to improve and there was a change of attitude on my part … well, I started to smell good things and my hunger passed, that easily 🙂
I am a bread fanatic and in Vietnam, due to the influence of the French, they make baguettes which, just in thinking about them right now, makes me drool like Pavlov’s dog, and no bell is ringing…

The place chosen by our guides was Madam Khahn Bahn My Queen.  It was a little stand on the street with a separate room to sit and enjoy your baguette.  Impressive!!  You can add pork, chicken or vegetables.  That warm bread and its ingredients evidently cooked slowly over open flame makes the bahn mi an unforgettable dish.

Our tour then stopped at a place where we ate bahn cuon, which is like a roll of a very thin rice pancake filled with different vegetables and pork or chicken, if you don’t want to be only a vegetarian.  Very delicious.

The end of the tour was in a really pretty place to have an egg coffee, which is coffee, sweetened condensed milk, and egg … although this seems a strange combination, it’s a delight. 

Thanks once again for coming with me on this adventure. And thanks to Barnaby for helping me with my travels (travails?) in English :).

In my next post I will tell you about my experiences with the food of Hanoi, this time without a B side 🙂

A little more from Cambodia

Before coming back to my trip I want to say that last week was a little hard for me, maybe because we had tickets to go to Buenos Aires at the beginning of April, and of course we couldn’t go; maybe because April 2nd is the anniversary of the Malvinas war, and this is a very sad day remembering that a crazy man sent into an absurd war (like all wars are) very young men with no military preparation. And among all those mixed emotions I received a letter with a pendrive of 36 drawings that recapped the Vietnam and Cambodia trip Robyn Diener, the artist, was on the cruise traveling with us. You can’t imagine how much I cried with that letter in my hands:  it symbolized all my pain and gratitude and it was a relief to let all my emotions out.
I saw Robyn drawing in her sketchbook during our excursions and with Chris’s help (her husband) she converted all her work to jpg format and had the generosity to send them from Australia to the United States. I have lot of gratitude for that.

This couple is Robyn and Chris 🙂

Here are some of her postcards 🙂

Now after all this emotion I can continue telling more about the trip. If you had thought that traveling by tuk tuk or rickshaw was exotic, you have no idea how exciting is to travel by ox cart. Something very unusual.
We disembarked and lots of carts were ready to take us to visit a local temple. As you are going to see in the pictures we travelled two in each cart and a person with some expertise drove, or rather, guided the oxen. It seemed that it wasn’t a usual way to travel because people in the streets were taking pictures of us. We were the attraction. Anyway, the experience was fun and, besides, pretty uncomfortable 🙂

This is my video of the ride

We arrived at a local temple and we participated in a ceremony and received a blessing by a Buddhist monk. I’m not a religious person but I felt touched, especially by the petals that they were throwing at us.  We had to take into account was the dress code to visit religious places. Women and men must cover their shoulders and knees. And to voice a potentially controversial opinion, I don’t like when men wear shirts where their shoulders are visible… this could be generational but I don’t like guys in tank tops no matter how buff their bodies are.

You are right 🙂
Here are the pictures at the ceremony

That night there was a pool party on the boat with music, and some enthusiastic people (me included) danced.  The best part was when one of the passengers took off her dress (she was wearing her swimsuit underneath) and got into the pool. Her name is Peree and she‘s Australian and I know all this because even though I wasn’t wearing a swimsuit I got into the pool with my dress… on 🙂 We had lot of fun. Next time I will be more prepared.

The next day we went to the temples of Phnom Srey and Phnom Pros which had lots of wild monkeys; some were big and followed us for food.  They were a little scary, even though you were not supposed to be feeding them. We saw also a photography session for a wedding. The couple didn’t look very happy but I understood that with almost 40 degrees (Celsius), one hundred percent humidity, lots of uncomfortable clothes and the photographer asking for more poses…  I would have had this face too in that situation.

Back on the boat our countdown started:  the cruise was almost over. We had dinner with our new Australian friends Ilona, Alan, Sandie and Brian, people who made us laugh a lot.  Barnaby and I hope to see them again to have more fun.

And here I am in a picture with some of the people who worked on the cruise, serving food and making our lives very easy there. Such a nice and kind group who always tried to make me laugh. “Arkoun,” which means thank you in Khmer, to all of them.

And thanks to Barnaby again for helping me correct this text and thanks to all of you for coming with me on this trip.

Here we go again

Hi my friends, during the last week I have wanted to come back to my blog to continue with the trip in Asia. I opened a section called Misceláneas but it’s only in Rioplatense Spanish, with some expressions that are only understood in Argentina. Here’s a video from an American guy called Dustin Luke who used to live in Buenos Aires and explained something of the culture from there. By the way I have to say that his accent is impeccable.

So in the last post we were about to disembark in the port of Phnom Penh.  Then we took an excursion around the city by tuk tuk. This is a motor bike with a cart in the back with no windows or doors, it’s like traveling in a bike but more comfortable, but you still have the sensation that the cars, bikes, other tuk tuks are going to hit you. Trust me, there is a lot of fun involved.  Here are some pictures where you can see some of our traveling friends.

Brian and Sandie saying hi

One of the stops was at Sihanouk Memorial dedicated to the King Norodom Sihanouk who left his crown to his son Norodom Sihamoni in 2003. Big bronze statue at the Independence Monument.
Here are some pictures and to my own surprise… I’m becoming more and more used to technological tools… Look at me!! I have a Youtube channel and I posted a great video that Barnaby filmed during our drive.

Barnaby filmed this video during the ride

Another stop was at the Central Market, a place where you can find watches, clothes, bags from very well known and expensive brands but they were fake. Kind of bizarre. I liked the places where they sold flowers and the small stands for exchanging money with windows making the bills very visible.

Are you a football (soccer) fan? If the answer is NO you can go to the next paragraph but if it’s YES, you probably saw Agüero (Kun) in the picture. I found that they have football players in beer cans, in this case from Manchester City. Something funny that happened was that we were asked all the time from where we came, and when I said Argentina, they said “Messi”: they knew that the guy plays in Barcelona but he is Argentinian.

We went to have tea at the Raffles Le Royal Hotel, a very luxurious place which was visited by Jacqueline Kennedy once upon a time;  they kept the cocktail glass with her lipstick mark on it.  Besides they dedicated a cocktail in her honor named Femme Fatale… beautiful name and even though we were supposed to be having tea, I asked for one, I felt that I couldn’t miss the opportunity to try it. It was a shame that I wasn’t wearing lipstick 😉

At night we went around the city in the tuk tuk again. It was an unforgettable excursion, seeing all the very bright city lights and feeling free in those vehicles on such a refreshing night. We had lost all the fear of the crazy traffic. Amazing!!

Another video from Barnaby

After that we had our dinner in our “normal” schedule around nine and two great members of the ship’s crew were waiting for us with everything arranged.  It’s funny that in United States we start barbecuing at 9pm when everyone else is getting ready to go to bed.

The next day we went to the Royal Palace where the King lives, and the gardens are beautiful and very well cared for. All the buildings were beautiful—my pictures not so much—so I have a video that will show you the place in a better way.

That day we finished by visiting families who produce silver handcrafted objects and jewelry.  Walking around there the kids were smiling and shouting, giving joy to the place.

Thanks for coming with me again.  Stay home, take care and we will continue this trip together and special thanks to Barnaby, my husband, who helped me correcting my English 🙂

See you soon

Strange days

Last Sunday from our home window

Hi everybody, I had resolved for the new year to start rewriting my blog about my trips and living in the northwest of the United States. The idea has been to share stories in a funny and entertaining way.
I had thought to post a new article every week as a kind of routine in my life.I’m pretty sure that everyone made a lot of resolutions for the new year like: lose weight (that topic has been on my list for years with no success :)), learn a language (I’m feeling interested in Japanese), join a gym and GO (this has been removed from my operating system), and travel (impossible nowadays). Those were mine, and probably you had your own ideas.

Nobody thought that, with the coronavirus, our “priorities” would change completely and everything that we had been doing would be on pause. From one day to the other we have had to start a new way of living.
I think that I told you that writing is therapeutic for me. Makes me feel that I’m having a conversation with the person who is reading. Besides it helps me to remember trips, organize pictures, challenges me to write better… just makes me feel good. But last week it was almost impossible to get close to the blog because I was feeling worried and down (not all the time but part of it), and writing about Vietnam and Cambodia was nonsense to me.
We had plans to go to Buenos Aires in April and we can’t;  we are at home, not receiving or visiting our neighbors or friends, we can’t go to shows or restaurants, all the normal stuff that we used to do.  This makes us feel overwhelmed.
But I stopped examining my belly button and started thinking of how other people are living in this particular time. My family and friends in Argentina, all the friends that I have around the world:  in other states in America, Spain, Italy, Australia, Uruguay, Peru, Brazil, Canada and Australia. And besides all the lovely people that we met on the trip in Vietnam and Cambodia.  It just breaks my heart. Are they all doing ok? Because we are fine, lucky to be in a good relationship… maybe you should double check this with Barnaby 🙂 although sometimes we feel anxious to be far from our daughters.

On Friday I called Guille, a friend from high school, and while talking about different topics I said that I felt it impossible to write, that I didn’t have energy but on the other hand I needed to let my feelings out. He suggested to me to write a special article about those feelings and what I am doing during these days.  Sometimes I feel that my body is here in Camas while my heart is divided between here and Buenos Aires. This conversation really energized me and I started to write something special for this week.

Working hard in my new post 🙂

My website’s name is in Spanish and means “travels, adventures and something more…” and this article is about the “something more” that nobody expected which changed all our routines.
So here are the things that that we’ve been doing (it’s not an XXX blog so I will only tell the uncensored things 😉 ).  As background, schools, the library and some of the shops in downtown Camas were closed last week. In general all the shops are small businesses that have been trying to stay alive. Very hard times for them. 

Beautiful downtown Camas

In our case we have been isolated for two weeks, no visitors, but we created a way to be with our neighbors in a common area in which we have enough distance to be protected from contagion but close enough to listen to what everyone’s saying (we are all kind of old).  The interesting thing is that we discovered we were repeating the same conversations two days in a row… symptoms of the virus? Not at all, just old people saying the same things over and over again. We corrected that and the third evening we were very alert about distance and topics 🙂
Besides this, we go to the supermarket and take some walks besides the river:  we are very lucky to live close to nature (forest and river).  We have been cooking a lot, not me, just Barnaby. He has been great looking for new recipes and preparing them. I help by doing dishes and eating, of course.  And he is helping me correct my English for the blog.

Waffles gluten free made by favourite chef

Besides I have my other activities:  photography lessons online, not a very good student but I have been trying to do my best in my homework. And besides I’m trying to learn to draw (mission impossible).

My homework: backlithing photos

Something that I enjoy a lot is working in my yard. Some years ago in Argentina there were people saying that talking to the plants made them grow healthier and nicer…. I was kind of skeptic about that, so I am not doing this, besides in which language do I talk to them? What happens if the plant misunderstands what I’m saying? I prefer to keep silent 🙂 

Some of my plants

Something else that I do is listen to podcasts.  I do this in Spanish so I can’t recommend many (just the Ted Talks) just to say that there are thousands of topics and people and if you find whatever helps you, try it. It’s a very entertaining activity.There are people organizing online courses, museums that give virtual visits, and of course you can read or watch movies. I will try a new app called House-party to have conversations with several people simultaneously, for now it’s an experiment.Try to keep busy with things that you enjoy and make you feel happy. Stay at home, but watch out for too much news and too much information (sometimes fake), which is not healthy.
I want to express my gratitude to all the people working in health, on the battlefront:  you are our new superheroes. Thanks a lot!

Thanks for reading my blog.

P.S. As I am posting this, the state of Washington has ordered all people to stay inside and closed all non-essential businesses.

The Asia trip continues

Before starting with tales about the trip I want to share something that I have been thinking during the whole week, related to the coronavirus. It crossed my mind that I could be kind of shallow if I spent my time writing about trips and seemed not to be concerned about this big topic (I’m still in the real world).
In my case (and probably yours, as reader) I have been feeling the need for something different than news, which sometimes is not helpful. And because of that I decided to write my weekly post, which is therapeutic for me.
We are living in uncertain times right now, when we are supposed to be at home, so why don’t we take advantage of doing things in our homes that we never find time to do? Besides we are in a time when we need to open our minds and souls; we are all human, and any of us could get this virus, or any sickness;  there are no frontiers more dangerous than the mental ones.  Let’s have more solidarity;  let’s be more empathic. Let’s take care of ourselves to take care of others.

Here is my space to read, write and learn new things

Now after this comment, come with me to continue exploring Vietnam.
The next day out of the boat we chose an excursion to go to a silk factory.  Vietnam produces a big quantity for export.  Most of the production of the family that we visited went to a French designer.
It made an impact to see those noisy and old-fashioned machines where people manually chose patterns, combined the threads, and everything else to make the cloth, besides the all the previous manual work collecting cocoons and dyeing the silk. 

The family asked that all the visitor wore masks

To get to the factory we had the choice of going in a van or a rickshaw. If you know me just a little you will guess that I chose the latter for my transportation 🙂 . So much fun going in this little box behind the bicycle!  I was a little scared at the beginning because bigger vehicles drove very close to us, but soon I relaxed and enjoyed the experience. That was the first of many times in strange transport;  I will tell you more in other posts.

Kids were very excited when we passed in the rickshaw, so cute 🙂

When we finished the silk factory visit we went to Evergreen Island:  hot and humid weather but worth the experience. We walked through lands where the majority of people are farmers:  rice and chiles are the main crops.  They have two very well defined seasons: wet in summer and dry in winter. Our visit took place in dry season, so we had the opportunity to see the crops drying in the sun like the picture shows.A little piece of information: Vietnam is the second largest exporter of rice behind Thailand.
The kids we saw were very cute—I need to say that I like kids a lot—they were excited to see us and always said “hello, hello” when we were walking by. There was also a mobile shopkeeper that had whatever you might imagine on his motorcycle.  Look at the picture to see if I’m telling the truth 🙂

That evening there was a show on the boat performed by the Traditional Vietnamese Lion Dance Show, which was very entertaining, and at the end they invited people to join them dancing Gamgam Style from Psy (a big hit some years ago).  I went to dance like crazy, and I was very lucky that my new friend Ilona from Sydney danced with me:  the picture shows us tired but happy.

Ilona and me, dancing queens 🙂

At some point in the trip we crossed the border by water into Cambodia, actually called Kampuchea. That morning Immigration came to check our passports and visas on the boat, something so easy and quick, a very different experience from the usual to enter a country.
The boat crew was Cambodian.  Their language is called Khmer and they have a special way of greeting called Sompiah. People don’t shake hands or kiss, they make a little show of respect by putting their palms together and bowing slightly.  If they are saying hi to equals, the hands are close to the chest, and closer to the chin if they are greeting parents or older people. It was very disappointing that everyone put their hands in the chin position to greet Barnaby and me:  clearly we are old :D. Here’s a video to learn a little more about this topic.

It was expected that we greet people in the same way which was difficult to get used to…. I am talking about the greeting, not the being older 🙂

After immigration the boat docked in Phnom Penh, which is the capital of Cambodia.  Here we could choose different excursions;  some people picked Tuol Sleng which is known as the Killing Fields, where there is a museum about the Cambodian genocide that took place from 1975 to 1979.  Around two million people were killed: very, very sad. There was a movie with the same name released in 1984 that told the horrible story;  one of the advantages of being older is that I watched it when it came out. Being serious, we didn’t have the spirit to go there, so we chose to visit the capital city by tuk tuk. It was a fantastic way to travel in the city;  here’s a shot of us.

We had a great time on the tuk tuk

Thanks for coming with me on this very educational trip, with a lot of beautiful things and with lots of questions about the reasons that life has been and continues being so hard in some parts of the world.

Discovering Asia

Ha Long Bay- Vietnam

The trip that we took to Vietnam and Cambodia imparted many life lessons;  I enjoyed it especially because I wasn’t really crazy about going there, even though that part of the world intrigued me, but these two countries were not the first on my list to visit.
But when you are in a couple, decisions are taken together, and it was a destination that Barnaby had wanted to visit.  Thanks to his insistence I agreed to go, not completely convinced (besides the corona virus showing up, giving more emotion to everything) but I have no regrets and am very happy to have had this opportunity, and to correct some of my misperceptions about that part of the world… trips are for that, don’t you think?
For many of us it is a long distance trip, we picked only Vietnam and Kampuchea (the real name of Cambodia) for our 18 day journey because we did not want to rush.  It turned out not to be enough time.
I like to show on a map where places are, I used the big globe we have at home (love them!!), and I took a picture of it to show you.

I have to confess that I like geography but I didn’t know where these countries were with certainty.  I knew that they were far away but I really understood that after spending so much time flying there 🙂
If you decide to visit keep in mind that you will need visas for both countries.  In Cambodia the visa is good for a month and for three in Vietnam, but be careful if you are thinking in coming and going more than once, for you will need a multiple entry visa.
My first step in Asia, because it was my debut in this big continent, was in South Korea, at the airport in Seoul.  We flew Korean Airlines and I loved the very cool security video where the guys SuperM do their thing.

The airport was amazing too, maybe because I was excited to put my feet on the ground after so many hours flying or just because the aestethic of the place with the puppets and the design of the stores looked extremely beautiful.

From there we flew to Ho Chi Minh City, the city that used to be Saigon until 1975. We didn’t stay too much time there, but we visited some of the recommended places such as the Notre Dame Cathedral (same name as in Paris, built by the French in 1863) which was being repaired when we were there :(, and the Post Office built by Gustave Eiffel, yes yes, the same guy from the tower.
We walked through a street where only sold books were sold, and I was especially happy to be there because it was beautiful and no motorcycles could enter.  Motorbikes are used everywhere, which made street crossings feel like adventures:  they sideswipe you, you have to walk calmly and never stop;  just go, go, go and good luck.  The sidewalks are full of parked motorcycles and, as in the picture, you will see vendors cooking on the sidewalk and people sitting around in low seats enjoying lunch. All very different but fun, being a pedestrian could be a high risk activity.

I would like to share some interesting things about Vietnam.  For example, it is the second largest coffee producer after Brazil, besides which, they prepare coffee in some unusual ways, for example “egg coffee” which contains egg yolk, condensed milk and coffee (of course) … don’t make a face, it’s delicious, very sweet, so you can treat it like a dessert. They also have “coconut coffee”: very refreshing since you drink it cold. And avocado coffee, which I didn’t try:  it didn’t sound like a good combination for my palate.
Of course Vietnam produces a large amount of rice and they export very good quality pepper. I will post more about the food on this trip that I liked a lot.  Anthony Bourdain was also a big fan!

Our trip started by cruising up the Mekong River, which is long and crosses several countries: Tibet, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.  We only saw a small part of it. We have not been big cruise lovers but this ship was small, just around 60 passengers, mostly from Australia, United States, Canada and Great Britain.  I was the only Argentine. We met some nice people and we had fun and we hope to keep in touch with them. The boat’s crew were very nice, helpful and made the trip very smooth.
We started the cruise on our wedding anniversary and were greeted by a spectacular sunset.  We learned some of the basic and very helpful words like Xin Chao (Hello) Mot, hai, Ba, Yo (Cheers) y Tam biet (Goodbye) and Cam o´n (Thanks)

The next day we went to Cai Be which is a floating market, where we saw (and sampled) how they prepare different rice products;  also we saw some bottled snake wine, which they called the Vietnamese Viagra… we didn’t try that 😉

In the afternoon we visited Sa Dec, a very interesting place where you can see French architecture from the past.  We visited the Wet Market where they sell all kinds of foods, things that you never thought might be edible (I decided not to take pictures of these items).  Here was my first revelation of the trip:  these people lived through several wars for many years, one of the consequences of which was hunger.  Therefore they took advantage of the entire animal or ate everything;  the banana plant is an example, so who I was to judge what people eat?  They have my respect:  I know nothing and I have to be thankful for what I have everyday. That was one of my big lessons of the trip.

Have you seen the movie The Lover, the one that was at the cinemas in the 90s, which was the love story of Marguerite Duras as a teenager with a very wealthy Chinese man called Huynh Thuy Le?  We visited the house that belonged to his family.  Looking at pictures of the guy, they obviously improved his looks in the movie to make the whole love story thing work.

During excursions on shore from the boat, I realized that Robyn, one of the Australian passengers, was keeping a book with her drawings of the different places we visited. I love people that draw and paint so I approached her and asked her to show me her work.  So beautiful.  But the nicest surprise was that, after coming back home, she emailed me and gave me this beautiful present. The house of lover in Robyn Diener’s version. Lovely … I told you that was a very emotional trip.

The art of Robyn Diener

Thanks for coming with me to re-live this journey. There’s a lot more to share.

I want to thank Barnaby Sheridan for helping me in the corrections 🙂

My blog in English (at last)

In 2016 Barnaby and I decided to come to live to Portland, OR after a couple of years living in sin in Buenos Aires, the city in which I was born, raised and spent all my life. He wanted to return to his country and back to his house, and the good news was that I was included :)It was not an easy decision for me, but my love wanted to go back home, some things had happened where I used to work, and that helped me to move forward.

It was a big challenge being 50 years old at that time, with Spanish as my mother tongue, no job after 32 years of working, and moving to a different culture in which, at the beginning, I tried to kiss everyone (on the cheek, of course) instead of shaking hands….quite a difference. Besides, the few times that I had come to visit Portland had been in summer (maybe you know that summers in the northwest of the States are amazing—long sunny days, dry, not so hot, perfect!), but the problem was that we were moving in January so the weather was very different: rainy and gray every day (notice my very proper American spelling of “gray”). 

All those things were little speed bumps for me, but I survived and adjusted.So, in the summer of 2016 I decided to write a blog telling my friends of my adventures in my new world. And the most important thing: in my fifties I started a very “young life,” learning lots and opening new doors that I had never imagined.My conclusion:  don’t be afraid of the passing years, be afraid of not doing things that you love; there are millions of possibilities and a big world (of places, ideas, and people) to explore no matter your age.  Never forget to feed your inner child!

I wrote a few articles in Spanish about our trips because we love to travel, but for a reason I can’t remember—maybe because I’m over 50—I stopped writing.
Now in 2020 I have decided to return to blogging, of course in Spanish, but I realize that during the last four years I have been meeting a lot of people who speak English and could be interested in what I am doing, so I asked for Barnaby’s help to correct my grammar so the posts will be neat and nice.

My blog is named “A life like in the movies” for two reasons. The first is that, when I moved to the US, some everyday situations were for me like watching a movie, for example the enormous supermarkets, yellow school buses, dogs annoyed with postmen, rings to propose marriage, among many others.  The second is that, at this point in my life, I feel like a movie star (kinda!!)

My writing has been informal, giving my point of view about our trips, and trying to add humor in my own special way.
I hope that this project works in my adopted language:  expressions and humor (and those who spell it “humour” will know what I mean) sometimes are not easy to translate and because of this there will be differences from the Spanish version.
Come along and follow me on this adventure!

Barnaby Sheridan helped in the English corrections 🙂