Covert Operation Collect Cash..

So Saturday arrives and I drag myself out of bed and begin the pottering that I have now become accustomed to since my life is not filled with roller derby and CrossFit. I am making the most of this aforementioned pottering and I suspect I have become rather excellent at the art of procrastination in spite of having no television and very limited other time wasting devices.

It has rained torrentially and steadily since I woke up this morning & in the back of my mind & one of the reasons behind my reluctancy to do anything proper is because of the mission that awaits me – collecting my emergency Western Union money transfer. I am sort of hoping that the rain stops, or at least dies down, but in the very short time that I have lived here I have soon learnt that often it doesn’t.

I map out my route noting that it is only a 10 minute walk, the bank is open (according to this website) until 3:30pm I have managed to accomplish pretty much nothing up until this point so decide it’s time to spring.. yes SPRING into action. So I gather my passport my scrap of paper with everything I need written on it, obligatory backpack for stuff I might need to buy, bumbag with phone for music – headphones also for music. I then decide I need to re-write the scrap of paper so it’s legible in case anyone else needs to see it. Yes that’s better now it’s very neat. Flip flops are on, music is on, rain mac on, umbrella up and off we go….

See it’s not so bad, just a little gloomy & wet. Always warm too, so it’s not so bad getting wet when it’s still nice & toasty. I find the bank that’s website promised me it would still be open. It looks very closed, I can see a security guard inside but that looks about it. I try calling them, it rings & rings. I summise that this bank is shut, but as I have now established that I appear to be in some sort of financial area there are many banks. Many banks that are all closed.. Hmmm. I am about to give up when I see one that is open – the door is open – the workers are sat around eating their lunch with a security guy. HOORAY I found one, I walk in beaming ready to get all my money, & am met with gasps of horror followed by the security shoeing me out whilst telling me they are closed. AGHHHH.

That’s it I am defeated. The banks are shut my money will have to wait. I try an assortment of credit cards in numerous cash machines (it’s a bit of a luck of the draw as to which cash machines will dispense money to you at any given time) until I manage to successfully get myself millions of dong, then go & buy some completely unessential nonsense in the supermarket so it doesn’t feel like a totally wasted trip. Then I flip flop my way back across the river thinking how it sounded a lot more exciting when I spoke to Jessica in Miami. I suppose the excitement will have to wait until Monday now.

Stupidity in foreign countries…

Week 2 and my confidence is strong. I have joined a CrossFit box, can direct a taxi to the castle & have located a nail shop less than 7 minutes walk from aforementioned castle. Not 5, not 10… 7, things are going well.

And then… BOOM. It’s not there.

I have searched everything drunk, sober, everywhere… I think back to the storm.. I left the COOP and bravely decided to get my shopping delivered. On arrival at the area where you arrange this I note the trolleys and bags strewn everywhere and wonder if this is normal. ‘Sorry madam so busy, the rain’ the earliest they can deliver is tomorrow, I look at the disorderly mass of other peoples shopping and think that is seems quite probably this will end in disaster, so after some Tetris style repacking utilising every bag I have available to me I drag the shopping to the taxi rank, where one of the security men rushes over to help me with my hundreds of bags, umbrella and god knows what else, jump into  a taxi and thank my lucky stars I was able to get the shopping to it. On arrival at the castle, the taxi driver helps me to unload and we both hear a noise, it’s dark, we obviously both think something has been dropped and scurry around searching the floor of the taxi, the floor floor and finding nothing, conclude it was indeed nothing.


I speak to HR on the extremely unlikely off chance that maybe they can hunt it down, I speak to the bank, they tell me cancel cancel. I give it a day, the ringing around has been done, the card is gone.


I call the bank, I am put through to a man who speaks perfect english with a thick American accent. ‘Welcome to Visa Emergency Services’….. He asks me a lot of questions, tells me I can have emergency cash, I say yes please. He says how much. I say 500 us dollars. There is a long pause.

‘Can you repeat that please?’

‘yeah sure, 500 us dollars’

‘You realise this is a 1 time thing, you can’t repeat it, we advise people to ask for as much as they can afford’

I am sure my brow furrowed right at this point, but seriously, 500 us dollars in this country is and inordinate amount of money, I really don’t need any more than that.

‘Then ok, if you are sure – 500 – is it ok for someone to call you anytime?’

‘Yeah of course’

I go to bed, I am furious with my stupidity, my card is stopped so for now and until I have sorted this mess I am going to have to use my credit cards, I hate having to use credit cards. I must have passed out as I am awoken by the phone ringing:

‘hi my name is Jessica, I am calling from visa emergency services in Miami, Florida – it’s important you remember that as you might need to quote it, you should probably write that down’

Another painful series of questions and I am told that they have made the transfer and I can collect the money from any Western Union Affiliate and just need the reference number she has given me & my passport. I investigate and find out that there are loads of Western Union places really close to my house, several of which are open on a Saturday. I go back to sleep relieved…..


Madam madam no working..

So my last post was about supermarkets. I have several near to me, but on the way back from somewhere I can’t remember the other night I stopped at one of my 2 most local and (as always) ended up with loads of things I didn’t actually need and hardly any of the things I did. I went to the checkout ‘membersip please?’ I am not a member – you get asked this same question almost everywhere and I have taken to saying ‘how do I become a member?’ I am pretty certain they are seething when I do this. Also I am a member of many places & so far have had no rewards that I can work out for these memberships. I have no idea what it means, but I feel like I want to/need to be a member of everything, just because I can. I couldn’t be bothered tonight, I shook my head, I just wanted to eat my ice cream, it had blue stuff on it and looked magical. My card didn’t work, I gave her another card – didn’t work, they tried it in multiple machines, the manager came, different cards, NOTHING WORKED. For some reason I cannot explain I didn’t feel embarrassed or horrified as I would have done in the UK, I don’t know why, it was both of these things. I took the cards back from the manager and tried to draw cash out of the cash machine in the supermarket. (I had tried this before – it didn’t work then) It didn’t work. I put my card in, waited about 15 seconds, it spat it out, I showed the manager, he looked at me and shook his head sadly. This is it I thought, I shall starve, no blue ice cream *sob* – ‘DELIVERY?’ he says… ‘now?’ I am puzzled, most supermarkets deliver for free, I had no idea this one did, certainly not NOW as he said. He waves at a young boy in a pink t-shirt with the store logo, he collects my 3 bags of shopping, nods at me and gestures for me to follow. I am a bit confused about this, I live so close, even a sprint home and he would beat me. He ties the bags round bits of his little scooter and slaps the seat and looks at me. I look behind me, he says something and moves the bike off the curb and slaps the seat again… I haven’t been on a motorbike since Kunal took me to college on one that he had acquired from God knows where, I climbed on the back sheepishly, told him my address and he immediately went in the opposite direction, but I thought perhaps he knew a shortcut. I don’t know, maybe I said it wrong, maybe it was some sort of weird fate, because here I am sat on the back of this scooter, whizzing around my fancy neighbourhood, no helmet (sorry mum) weaving in and out of the speed humps to get my shopping delivered as I have cash at home, and I completely forget about all of this because it is the best feeling and I NEED TO GET A BIKE BECAUSE A BIKE IS FREEDOM. He pulls over, I show him my address on the phone, he laughs at me says exactly what I said (or so I thought) and we are at my house, and he is trying to give me a fraction of a penny change. I shoe him off, put my melted blue ice cream in the freezer and after whatsapping various friends who are confused by the legalities of this situation, I declare that I love this place dearly and add motorbike to my list of things to do 😀

Supermarkets – giver of extreme happiness…..

And so, when you move to a different country, and let’s not miss out the fact it is a country in Asia, and that this country is not Hong Kong, you realise that you are getting irrationally excited about ridiculous things. I thought the novelty value of these numerous situations would eventually wear off, but alas no, in fact thinking about this logically I feel like it is gaining momentum.. But let us start from the beginning…

So on my maiden voyage to Vietnam my bosses long suffering, kind and tolerant husband took us to the supermarket to show us, well to show us what was in it, where it was, that sort of thing. The fruit and vegetable section is the first thing you reach after bread, which I am not so bothered about, but actually I should digress just very briefly as I have now stumbled across another phenomenon just by the order in which the supermarket is set out…

BREAD…. Now I LOVE LOVE LOVE bread, I can eat an entire baguette before I reach the checkout, like nothing better than dunking almost an entire loaf of granary into a thimble of soup, but my body is not designed to eat bread, so I eat it as a special treat fully aware of the consequences of my actions. People here talk about bread a LOT, and to be clear, this is all people, from all backgrounds, cultures, countries, everyone. They all unite in this one simple common love, the love of bread. They get really excited about a good bakery, which bread stays freshest the longest, the different varieties.. I have even stood there aghast whilst someone has given me the run down on all of the types of breads available in the Paris Baguette bakery and how it is the best one, but extremely expensive so she only goes there for treats. Curious hey, the basic, fundamental food of the UK/Europe/France – so very expensive that it is a treat. After much discussion I have concluded that bread is the replacement for weather, because here there are two weathers – 1. HOT, 2.HOT + RAINY, that’s it, not much of a conversation is it? So here, and I could be wrong, but I feel like it’s a practical assumption, and still feels rather British or French, your conversation starter, or ice breaker is to talk about the bread!

So yes the fruit and veg section. Dragon fruit is quite possibly the most striking and exotic fruit in my opinion, they look so pretty and taste so delicious, so we didn’t get very far before I was cooing over one, it was taken to be weighed and put in my trolley. Next we had a run down on soya milk and milk with and without sugar, then I think perhaps we had got to the coffee isle and our guide had that look in his eye of total and utter despair and left to run errands. About 60 seconds later we realised we were pretty jet lagged and departed with beer and the dragon fruit.

This is one of my local supermarkets, I say one, as after a week or so you realise different supermarkets are good at different things, nothing keeps very long, so when you are here by yourself your life turns into a series of daily trips to different supermarkets where you ran out of something, or it went off, or you forgot something OR they didn’t have it.

The first 2 things I became inordinately excited about were really small limes which are sort of orange in the middle and taste like a mix between a lime and an orange. You are always taking a chance here with what you buy until you understand the language. The other was rice noodles in a bag. I particularly loved this as it reminded me of the pack ups that Henah has left on my windowsill in Belgrave from time to time…

Other things about supermarkets are free things. I can’t be sure but I think it’s worth noting that things always come with random free things. So for example my bug spray came with free washing up liquid. My healthy bacteria breakfast drinks came with a free spoon. Beer with free beer glasses. Pasta with a free canvas shopper, and a transparent shopper. You do gravitate towards the things with the free things, but I had to talk myself out of a toilet duck the other day because I didn’t need a random pink plastic basket, and I got a free umbrella somewhere else, which will come in handy yes, but did I need it? Not really..

I am sure a long time ago I saw a program where someone was trying to live from the free food you get in a supermarket. Never have I had such an extreme experience of this as here on a Saturday, in D7. I could have had: cheese, cheese & meat, yoghurt, ice cream (took that), fish, fish & cheese, noodles, rice (took that), desert I couldn’t distinguish, some sort of potent alcohol, and it is aggressive they want you to have the samples..

What happens when you come across someone of your cultural heritage? It can go either way. I was stood in the cheese section trying to work out how much this block of parmesan cost, when a large hairy American man, said ‘decisions, decisions’ so naturally being British and polite I responded with ‘I am just trying to work out if this block of parmesan really costs 9gbp’ I hadn’t even finished my sentence and he had bolted, bizarre, then in complete contrast I had a couple ask me if I was vegetarian having assessed my shopping and come to this conclusion… also bizarre..

Anyway, you cannot write a list, go to the shop and buy everything on it. It’s kind of like we have seasonal in the UK, well it’s a daily seasonal here, you can only plan ahead with things you have frozen, so when you stumble across something like DILL it provokes such a totally and utterly ridiculous reaction it takes all your strength to get it weighed and put in a bag before your eyes start to leak uncontrollably.

There is a whole nother separate post about the things you win – yes WIN at the supermarket, sit tight for that exciting adventure. In the meantime, look at how good I am getting at this – NATIVE!


Oh shit I haven’t got a car..

So the first thing you forget or perhaps underestimate is how used to having a car we all are. Yes there is a sort of romanticism around this ideal, much the same as not having a mobile phone, but I tell you what, you try buying everything you need so you can move into your new house, in a different country, whilst living only 10 minutes away in 1 day, without a car. It should be a lot easier than it actually is, it’s fucking intense! I think I had 3 round trips on foot between the serviced apartment and the house. Then a taxi to and from a bigger super market, then a taxi to and from the Vietnamese Ikea (yep even here as apparently NOONE ELSE SELLS CURTAINS – REMEMBER THE CURTAINS THAT I HAVE NONE OF)  then a taxi to the house, and I was just going to abandon it all but I couldn’t do it. Brief stop for some Thai ‘fast food’….2016-10-16-21-19-19

So at 3am when the 2 pairs of curtains I had managed to buy were up, the bedding was on my bed, there were a couple of bits in the fridge and I had got out some essentials ready for day 1, I put the giant backpack back on and walked down the rainy tree lined street and across the bridge rewarding myself with a kit kat ice cream, to get a couple of hours shut eye before I walked back to the house to be collected by the bus for my first day at work in this new world of mine….



Trying to nest..


I really wanted to capture the moment when he turned round and gave me a big toothless grin and thumbs up for getting it to work but he was too fast!!!

Anyway… So I rearrange my luggage, putting what I really need in one case for the apartment.

The driver had been outside the whole time unbeknown to me, parked quietly behind the hedge. At 4:30pm he moved the car forward so I could see it. He drove me over to the Crescent, helped me out with my case and waved me off, I go to the reception where I am told there is no reservation for me, I suppose I don’t really feel surprised, just tired & I want a shower. A phone call to the admin manager reveals I had been dropped at the wrong place; (the crescent is sprawling, almost Vegas-esque in its size) I am then escorted through a maze of dark corridors – the lights only come on at 5pm, past the gym, which I am dying to try out, to a lady with a walkie talkie who takes over from security and insists on dragging my case down the hall and into the lobby. They take my passport, check me in, escort me to my room and there I am.

It’s a funny feeling, I suppose you could become overwhelmed if you allow yourself to, especially when you are exhausted from traveling and the general sleep deprivation the last 12 months or so has provided. I try to make a list, I realise I am too tired to even be able to do this. I can’t work out what to do. Washing. Yes something nice and normal. I put the washing on and walk down to the supermarket, I want to cook and collapse on the sofa, shower and sleep in whichever order happens first.

I speak to my beloveds to let them know I am there and safe, I try to watch the Mens Derby but I am too tired, I am soon fast asleep.

It rained in the night, it’s still cloudy and grey, it’s Sunday and I am on a mission, I need to be able to live in this house by Monday. I write a series of lists, work out the amount of times I need to go back and forth, where I think I need to go, what I need to buy. It’s going to be a challenge. I get the first load of stuff into JJ’s giant backpack, put on an outfit more appropriate to CrossFit, but I am thinking – moisture wicking, and man it’s hot already. I try to leave the reception, this in itself causes bedlam as I am carrying many things. Many not heavy things for a half mile walk I should add. I do the wavy no thanks I’m fine hand and face and march out determined.

I am sure I slump visibly when I get out of sight of the reception, maybe from the enormity of what’s to come, maybe because I am genuinely pretty bloody tired…2016-10-16-10-48-06-1Gladiators ready…..


So as I am stirred from my back of the car slumber I become aware of the absolute grotesqueness of my general being. I don’t really want to have to face any other humans; at best I have the agent, who is the most beautiful flawless, doll like creature, at worst the extended family of the landlady..

I peer through the window to see what I have been dealt. Obviously. I HAVE BOTH. The extended family of the landlady (extremely curious grandma, kids, etc.) and the beautiful doll agent.

I drag my sweaty flight sock and jean clad self from the car pulling a case behind me. I hadn’t really anticipated that I would actually have to do anything, I thought I would simply arrive, unlock the door, find a bed and collapse. It hadn’t really occurred to me that when you rent a house there is other stuff that you have to do. I mean I haven’t rented since I was 23, that is a fricking long time ago.

I have to check THE list & write notes. Most of the notes are ‘it’s broken, scratched, doesn’t work, damaged’ then it is highlighted to me that they have removed all the window dressings as requested. (I had planned to replace all the curtains and blinds – a bit/room at a time – seriously NOTHING left, not 1 CURTAIN) I am walked around the multiple floors and rooms whilst the agent proudly displays the windows. SHIT. I guess it’s one way of getting acquainted  with the neighbours (sad face). I also note that they have left all of their bedding, some of which (full zebra set) is pretty cool, but mostly kind of gross. The gas is empty, this is imperative when you only have a gas hob, he can come, soon….(arrives on scooter with huge canister)

I get a phonecall from the head of HR – ‘is everything ok, or you need the Crescent a couple of nights?’ Oh sweet Jesus HALLELUJAH!! The Crescent is literally 10 minutes walk, serviced apartments so I can cook, wash my clothes and as it’s right next to a supermarket and mall; buy stuff for my house and walk it across.

When you have just been dropped into an entirely different world things like this can make or break the situation. I gracefully accept, see off the welcoming party, set an alarm to nap on my sofa and wait for gas……