Thursday, October 31, 2013

New shit every day!

While I'm busy being punctuated, I thought I should take advantage having an extra few weeks in Vietnam, but making an extended goodbye through the blog.

As any expat here will tell you, there's a lot of the 'same shit, different day' about living in Vietnam. For example, the intercom to our apartment doesn't work. It has never worked. And I presume that it never will work.

As we do far too regularly, last night we ordered online takeaways. And when our food was delivered the security guard decided, to ring the intercom. What happens then, is that intercom phone rings, and Mr Martin picks it up and yells come up! come up! come up! into it.  And presses the buzzer few times.  None of this seems to work, because a little while later it rings again, and repeat, and repeat and repeat until either the security guard just lets the guy up anyway, or the guy rings us on the phone and we tell him to come up.

Every time.

But when you tell the security people that the intercom doesn't work, then you get a great procession of security guards coming through the apartment, and ringing the phone and pushing the buzzer, until eventually one of them concludes that the intercom in fact doesn't work.  Problem solved! not at all.

Every time.

However, one of the great things about being here is that every day you get to experience something new. And yesterday I learned that arrowroot is not just a kind of boring biscuit.

 It is also a kind of boring vegetable that gets boiled and then eaten by the Vietnamese as a healthy snack.

It looks a bit like a parsnip, or maybe like ginger.  It tastes of pure starch, with the added bonus of stringy bits that get stuck between your teeth.   I asked my friend if it supposed to be dipped in something, and she said, no - you just eat it as it is. For health.

But, according to Wikipedia, arrowroot flour will prevent crystals from forming in homemade ice-cream.  So it's probably really the best thing ever. Actually.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013


We're getting ready to leave Vietnam; we're going to Saudi Arabia in few weeks time.

And that, my friends, is how to use a semi-colon.  Last year I ordered printouts of the Oatmeal grammar posters and stuck them on the inside door of the ladies' loos at work. Now, a whole generation of female Vietnamese scientists are really really good at punctuating.

That's about where I feel I am right now, too - at the semi-colon.  We haven't quite put a full-stop at the end of Vietnam, and we haven't put a capital letter at the front of Saudi Arabia either.  We are stuck somewhere in between, waiting for the visa.

Or rather, waiting for the documents we need the Vietnamese government to provide us so that we can submit the visa application.  It's an extremely arduous process. Right now, we have been waiting for 4 weeks for the justice department to provide us with a police-check document for Mr Martin.  Ever sexist, the Saudi Arabian government only requires the police check for the man - even though the main applicant for the visa in this case is a woman.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia - did we all see this video this week?

Update: Mr Martin just reminded me a Dan Baird's brilliant lovesong - I Love You Period.
The chorus:
I love you period
Do you love me question mark
Please please exclamation point
I wanna hold you in parentheses