Friday, August 26, 2011

Can you help Chinh in Auckland?

Since I have been living in Vietnam, I have become involved with Blue Dragon - a children's foundation that reaches out to kids in crisis throughout Vietnam - especially streetkids and children who have been trafficked. Last year Close Up did a story about Chinh and two other streetkids from Vietnam who got scholarships through Blue Dragon to come and study in Auckland.

Chinh, who is studying business, did so well that he has got a scholarship for another year. He will be in Auckland working on his business course until the middle of next year, and after that he hopes to have good enough grades to earn a scholarship to attend a New Zealand university.

But there is one problem - Chinh desperately needs to find homestay accommodation.  Blue Dragon staff and volunteers have been searching for months to find a suitable homestay for Chinh, but there have been no offers.  At one point, he was living in backpacker accommodation in central Auckland!

Currently, Chinh is living in an apartment in the central city, shared with two other international students. He works part time as a cleaner in a supermarket to help pay costs.  With the income from his job, Chinh would be able to make some contribution towards bills and other costs, but he would not be able to pay as much as most paid international homestay students do.

We are not just looking for a homestay to save costs: By living with a New Zealand family, Chinh will have the support and protection that a safe family environment can provide. He will have an opportunity to learn more about New Zealand and our culture, and living with native English speakers will help him to improve his English well enough to hopefully achieve his goal of attending university.

Please help us - Chinh is a good kid and has overcome unimaginable obstacles to achieve as much as he has already. I feel sure that if people knew about his situation, there would be somebody who would be proud to welcome him into their home - even if only for a short time. If you have space, or you know somebody who does, please get in touch with me at this email address: katrina.lawson AT 

Even if you can't offer Chinh accommodation, you can still help: Forward this message to your friends and family and spread the word.

You can find out more about Blue Dragon by visiting their website here:

Or, "Like" their Facebook page to receive news and updates about their incredible work in Vietnam:

Thank you everyone for taking the time to read this.  If you have any questions, or think you can help - please contact me!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Dear Phil - we had your parents for dinner...

And they were delicious! 

Let the wild zombie rumpus begin! 

I'm just kidding -  of course I didn't eat your dear Mum and Dad.  If I did that, then who would send you parsnips next spring, and keep Winnie in swede and potato soups?  Hm?

No - we didn't have them for dinner - they had us for dinner instead.  After a hard day of shopping in Saigon your Mum and Dad took us out for a meal at a restaurant called Indochine somewhere in District 3. They were here as part of a food tour, and had eaten their way from Hanoi, then Hue, then Hoi An to Ho Chi Minh City - just like the very hungry caterpillar eats its way through the pages of that book.

Undoubtedly by the time they got here they had already eaten several Foods Served Inside Other Foods as seems to be the standard in Vietnamese restaurants that want to impress tourists. But if they'd had enough of that they didn't let on and reacted only with joy and admiration when served this spectacular dish of prawns wrapped in potatoes and jabbed into the side of a lighted-from-within pineapple.

Try making that at home - I dare you!

It was a very delightful visit, and I hope they DO come again and do that car drive around the mountains in the central highlands they were talking about. 

Now THAT would be a holiday full of butterflies.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Care instructions vis a vis apocalypse (snow)

Dear Foster Mother

It has come to my attention that Everything is about to End.
The very clouds themselves are falling from the sky and have been scattered across the earth.
There can only be one possible explanation for this.

The Great Dog in the Sky has been tearing apart the Furniture of the World.  

Obviously, we are all going to die.
Soon, I mean.
Like, not right away.
Well - at least - I'm not dead yet.

So I think you ought to realise that I don't intend for my last few days on this mortal coil to have to be uncomfortable.

For me.

It pains me to say it, but, you know that thing that happened that time? 
On your bed?
It wasn't me:

I was set up!  Seriously?  She thinks she's people.

But look - dogs like it in the snow. 

 Just chuck her outside. I would. 

Sometimes, back when I lived with my real parents (before they callously abandoned me here - bitches) water would fall inexplicably from the sky.

And when that happened, we used to sit inside together by the fire and watch nature documentaries about birds while they fed me strips of bacon by hand.

 Let's do that!  It'll be fun.

Oh, and you know that time with the rat? 
I don't know why you got so upset.
My real parents used to love it when I brought bits of dead things into their bed for them.
Next time I'll make sure it's still alive.
I understand - you probably just wanted to kill it yourself.

Oh - and we'll have a better chance of surviving the apocalypse - or at least enjoying the last few days of existence together if you'll just get rid of the other cats.

Just send them to the market.


If you run up to the supermarket now you can probably get us enough bacon to last us through until the end of days.
I'll stay here and keep the fire going with the awesome power of my laser beam eyes.

Just make sure the boy stays away from the bacon - otherwise he'll have to go too. 

There's not going to be enough for both of us, kid.

I suppose he can stay if he brings in the firewood. 

Okay bye!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Birthday wishes for my mother in law

Winnie is Mr Martin's mother, and today is her birthday.  Winnie is this blog's BIGGEST FAN! In the beginning, she printed out every post so she could share our adventures with all her visitors. I'm not sure if she printed out the one with all swears in it though!

When we were in New Zealand, we used to do all our vegetable shopping at Avondale Market, and we'd usually do some shopping for Winnie while we were there too.  Winnie's shopping list usually went like this: Some carrots a pumpkin kumara some potatoes bananas if they have any and some nice apples.  All the heavy stuff!

I wish we could go market shopping together now, Winnie!

First we'd get all the heavy stuff...

Then maybe some beautiful fresh froggie birthday treats!

And let's not forget to pick up a nice bit of meat for tea!

After the market we'd probably go and get a spot of coffee somewhere:

Either hot...

Or deliciously refreshing icy-cold!

We'll definitely have to go for a ride in a cyclo...

We'll try not to get ripped off this time!

...and hopefully the traffic won't be too hectic!

A nice quiet day like this would be perfect!

And maybe we can go and feed the penguins at the zoo.

With any luck, the day will go smoothly, and we won't get a powercut...

...or a storm!
But don't worry - even when the weather is bad outside - the food is still really good!

I hope you have a happy birthday, Winnie! And many more to come, too!

Everything's more fun in a silly hat!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Dear Phil - easy pomelo and chicken salad

Mr Martin works long hours, and gets home late at night.  Even though it's pretty cheap (and delicious!) to eat out, after a long day at work trying to find a restaurant and choosing from a menu and summoning waitresses is just not relaxing. It's much better to mooch around in your underwear at home on nights like that.

So a lot of the time, I cook.  Even though I enjoy cooking in my kitchen (it's certainly the nicest kitchen I've ever had - ants 'n' all) it is very limited.  I have one gas ring. And a microwave. And a rice cooker. And of course a kettle and a toaster. And that means that I'm always looking for things I can make with one pot only.

We talk a lot about buying more appliances.  The conversations go like this:

Ooh! Sorbet! If I had a blender I could make sorbet.

OK Petal.

You just get your fruit - wonderful tropical fruit like mangos - and mush it up in a blender with some sugar syrup then BAM! Sorbet.

OK Petal. Get a blender then.

But then you'll just want me to make you smoothies all the time.
I'm not your smoothie-blending slave you know.

Quiet despair

Look! They're making little tarts on  MasterChef.  I could make those if I had an oven. 
I could get one of those little bench-top ovens from the Metro.  You would like those tarts.

No. YOU would like them. I don't like tarts.

We both know that's not true.

But actually the real reason I don't just go and buy a blender is that we both still remember the horror that was getting rid of 99% of our personal and household possessions last October so that we could come here.  The more stuff I buy now is just more stuff I'm going to have to jettison at a later date.  It feels like a waste of money - but worse than that - a blender symbolises burden to the unevolved areas of my brain that control my kitchen-appliance-related emotions.  It's just too hard.

The point of this post being that last night I made a delicious one-pot no-blender-required meal of pomelo salad with tender chicken pieces served with steamed white rice.

Mix together: 
  • One pomelo - peeled and broken into bits (substitute with grapefruit if you can't get a pomelo. Just be sure to remove all the pith. Grapefruit might not be as sweet, so you may want to add some honey to the dressing.)
  • A few cherry tomatoes  halved lengthways.
  • Fresh basil, and two kinds of mint - shredded with a knife. Any sweet herbs would do for this though.
  • Spring onions. A few. Chopped.
  • Garlic - mashed in a mortar and pestle and then stirred with a few tablespoons of olive oil. I used 3-4 cloves, but you might want less.
  • Fish sauce - a couple of teaspoonsful.
  • Lime juice - one lime's worth.
  • About a quarter of a cup of crushed peanuts.
  • Lightly fried pieces of chicken breast or tenderloin. If I was fancy I would call it pan-seared.  But really.  You just fry it. Until it's cooked.  You could use prawns as well or instead.

Toss the chicken through the salad and serve while it's still warm.