We spent spring break in Bali, Indonesia. We'd heard a lot about Bali over the years, but this was our first trip there. It won't be our last.  The beaches aren't nearly as beautifl as Phuket, Thailand or Boracay, Philippines, but Bali has an almost magical feel about it. There's art and spirituality at every turn...unless you never leave Kuta, in which case there are bars and probably hookers at every turn!

Ubud Villa
We spent the first half of the week at an amazing villa outside Ubud. We traveled with another family (The Weiss family: Serge, Sally, Westen & Anika) who also had 2 kids, same ages as Aidan & Brenna. Our kids were friends at Shanghai American School. The villa was huge - 3 bedrooms, 4 bathrooms, kitchen, dining area, living rooms, a couple of balconies, our own pool, etc. Plenty of room for the 8 of us. 
Below: the kids enjoying our pool and that entire house behind them is our villa! 

There were a few other villas in the compound. Here's a picture of Brenna helping Devey (a very friendly worker who totally fell in love with Brenna, aka Baby!) put offerings near around the grounds our first morning in Bali:

Here are more pix from the villa and Bali:

I could go on and on about the villa and Bali, but I'll cut to the highlights of the trip...

White Water Rafting
We went white water rafting on the Telaga Waja River. The 2 hour trip was full of class 3 and 4 rapids,  waterfalls that we boated under and it ended with a 12 foot drop off a water damn! Very fun!
We had a girls raft and a boys raft:

Westen and Aidan chilling under a waterfall during our half-time break!

Anika and Brenna in the waterfall:

The Williams-Weiss gang riverside:

More pix of rafting:

Surfing in Kuta
On Wednesday we moved to Nusa Dua and stayed in a hotel on the beach. The kids took surfing lessons on Kuta Beach on Thursday. Westen and Anika had already taken a surf lesson in Australia, but Aidan and Brenna were total novices. I was amazed at how quickly all 4 kids picked it up. They were hanging 10 in no time! I have so many pix, it's hard to choose. I'll put a few here and then put a surf slide show.

Aidan catching a wave:


More Surfing Pix:

SAS Reunion
Another highlight of the trip was meeting up with friends from Shanghai. We lived across the hall from Amy, Scott and Blake for 4 years. Well, we only lived across from Blake for about a year and a half, but he was with us in spirit for the full 4 years!!! We worked with Cody & Lynsey for 4 years and only lived a couple of buildings away. They have cute little Ben, who's almost 2. We met up with them 3 times while we were in Nusa Dua and had a great time being together.

Here's the gang:

The 9th floor kids, together again:

Surprise SAS Reunion: It's a Small World After All!
The Williams-Weiss gang met up with the Hossack-Howitt gang on our last night in Bali. We met at Uno, a western Italian restaurant in Nusa Dua. We were sitting at a big, long table, when lo and behold, we see former SAS students that moved to Singapore a year ago January! What a crazily small world. Their son, Michael was friends with Aidan and Westen.

Here's a picture of all 3 of them. (L-R Aidan, Westen, Michael) Apparently they all go to the same barber!

Random Bali pix - coffee plantation, pool time, friends, etc.:

Here are pix from a trip to some temples:

Hanging With my Peeps!

Last weekend I went to an excellent tech conference at the International School Bangkok. Even better, my peeps from SAS were there! It was fantastic to spend time with them, but I wish it could have been longer. Here are some pix of me and my peeps.

Is That a WLF in our Backyard??? How did that get there???

If you read my blog a little regularly, you might have read about the humongo snail that Loca found by our front door. Huge snail. Snail on steroids. The snail that ate Saigon. Big.

Well the other morning, Loca was doing a quiet, informative bark. I thought it was her, "I really want to be out in the sunshine" bark, but when I came downstairs, she was at the back door. Hmmm. That's unusual.

I looked out the door and saw...what is that? Could it be? It kind of looks like one, but how did it get in our backyard?

I opened the back door and yes, it was, a weird looking fish! I'm not talking a goldfish from some kid's tank. I'm talking 6 inches long, lots of fins, prehistoric looking thing that is probably served in local restaurants. I immediately looked up to the sky! Why?!? Did I think it was raining fish? Did I think that fish were falling from trees? Not sure, but that was my first reaction. Honest to God.

My second reaction was to see if Weird Little Fish was alive. A little kick and it wiggled its tail. Hmmm. A live fish near my back door and we live far from a water source. There was no water trail, so he didn't squirm his way from the Mekong River. Was it going to be someone's breakfast and it made a run for it? So many questions for 7am on a Sunday.

Our teeny tiny backyard area is walled off on all sides. There's no way Weird Little Fish could have gotten there on his own volition. I think one of our neighbors threw Weird Little Fish by our back door! Ha! Maybe it's a Vietnamese custom for long life and prosperity. I hope it doesn't mean "This fish is rotten! We can't eat it for breakfast. Throw it near the round eye's back door. She'll think it's a symbol of long life and prosperity. Silly round eye!"

So what do you do with a live, orphan fish? I pondered the humane thing to do. I considered a rescue mission, but we don't have a fish tank. Even if I was able to keep it alive, where would I eventually put it? I decided to let nature take its course. Had I came down 15 minutes later, the fish would have been dead. Who am I to mess with his fate?

Sorry, Weird Little Fish.

Herding Ducks!

We came across a duck farmer herding baby ducks while we were on a quad (4 wheeler) ride in Siem Reap, Cambodia. Brenna shot a video and it's sooooo cute!!!! If it's loading slowly, just turn off the volume, let it ride and then watch from the beginning.

Cambodia - Day 2

On the second day we went to the temples. So incredible. They're HUGE and old (built between the 8th and 13th century). How did they build such amazing temples without modern machinery? There were so many intricate carvings and big bas-reliefs. Just an awe inspiring place. Wow.

Below are loads of pix. The wats at Siem Reap are a photographer's dream. I just have a Canon Elph point and shoot. I wish I had a digital SLR with major lenses.

In the afternoon we went Quad riding - very fun! Another fun way to see "real" Siem Reap. We stopped at a rice paddy and learned how to harvest rice. It's harder than it looks! Can't imagine doing that all day in the super hot Cambodian sun. The kid that showed us how to do it was 14 years old. We had 3 kids with us - 11, 13 and barely 15. It makes you think. (Ya know, of using your kids for labor. I could be making some money off these slackers.) There are some Night Market pix at the end, including crispy cricket snacks!

Cambodia - WOW!

I've wanted to go to Angkor Wat since I moved to Asia over 4 years ago. I finally got to go this week and - WOW! - that's all I can say is WOW! Amazing temple ruins and a great town. If you ever get a chance GO to Siem Reap, Cambodia. (I'm going to break this vacation into several posts because it'll be too long and I don't have time to finish it right now.)

On the first day, we went on a long horseback ride. I'm afraid of horses, so I volunteered to ride a horse that barely liked to move. Not a good choice because he kept stopping to eat and generally wouldn't move. I had to keep pulling up his head - not easy! - and kicking him to get him to move - not easy! It would have been easier for me to give the horse a horseback ride! Aidan and I switched horses and I got one that just followed the horse in front of him - easy! I road Rinaldo the rest of the way. My latin lover horse was a good ride, but to be perfectly honest, I don't really enjoy horseback riding. I always think I will, but I don't. I grew up in Jersey, what do you expect? It was a great way to see the back country of Siem Reap. Kids kept running out to the road yelling, "Hello! Hello!"

We celebrated Aidan's 15th birthday in Siem Reap that day (Dec. 27th). We ate at Viva Mexican, which was EXCELLENT, went to the night market and then had birthday ice-cream at The Blue Pumpkin. Hard to believe my cuddly little baby is now a hairy 15 year old! 

Our friends from Shanghai, Jeff and Faye, walked by while we were eating dinner! Such a small world! It was great to see them again.  :o)

100 Book Challenge Update

Last January I joined the 100 Book Challenge at J. Kaye's website. I ended up reading 115 books, but that's counting children's books and I'm an elementary librarian, so I get paid to read them! Here's a breakdown of what I read:

32 Novels for adults or older teens (the large majority were adult books)
10 Novels for children (helps with my job so I can recommend books to kids)
72 Picture books (again, for my job, but I looooooove picture books!)

And that adds up to 114. Hmmm. I probably read 73 picture books.

I'm disappointed that I only read 32 "real" books. I really thought I could read one a week, but I also moved to a new country, got a new job and dealt with the decline and death of my father. Not exactly good reading situations. Thirty two books is a lot more than most Americans. According to an article in the Washington Post (2007), 25% of Americans didn't read a book at all the previous year. (Yikes!) The typical person read 4 books. Well, I have most of America beat!!!

I read a lot of great stuff. If you want to see the full list, go back to my original post. The fun aspect of the challenge is that it forces you to keep track of what you've read during the year and your list is in chronological order. I also subscribe to librarything.com (it's free!) and that let's me see all the books I've read. Well, the ones I can remember anyway. That's where I get that cool widget on the right side of my blog that shows random covers of books I've read. Very visual! Very fun!

I didn't write any book reviews or anything. No interest in that. But my favorite books of 2009 were:

  • The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie. It won the national book award for teen literature and boy did it deserve it. Amazing story. Great writing. Terrific book.
  • The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga. I read a lot of literature set in India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and that region of the world. I'm finding really great literature coming out of there right now. The White Tiger is an amazing novel about a taxi driver in modern India. 
  • The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child by Donalyn Miller. I don't like nonfiction because I'm all about characters, but this is a terrific book for teachers and librarians. I had to talk myself through it because nonfiction just shuts my brain off. I would say, "Read 1 chapter of this and then read as much of your novel as you want." It worked! That makes it sound like a bad book, but it's excellent, I'm just a bad NF reader. Her ideas about turning kids on to reading made me re-think how I run my library and present myself to my students. If you're a teacher or have children, read this.
  • Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout. Won the Pulitzer and rightly so. The writing is amazing. It's a collection of 13 short stories that are somehow connected to the main character, Olive Kitteridge. Olive isn't your typical protaganist that you fall in love with. She has short comings. Many, frustrating short comings. I often confuse my opinions about a book with my opinions about the characters. For example, I used to say that I didn't like The Corrections, but in reality I didn't like the characters. It was so well written that I transferred my dislike for the characters to the book. Same with Olive Kitteridge. I wanted to shake her at times to open her eyes. The author said she wrote it in 13 short stories where Olive is sometimes in the background because she didn't think the reader could take a full novel centered around her. That sums it up for me. That being said, Olive has some very good qualities, as well. She's not all bad. She's human.
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini. I know I'm a little behind the ball on this one. I loved The Kite Runner and this is another amazing novel by Hosseini. 
I read other good ones, too, but those are my stand outs. I'm going to do the 100 Book Challenge for 2010, too. It starts tomorrow. My goal is to read more than 32 adult books and to read more than 10 children's novels. I encourage you to sign up. If you read more than 4 books, you're doing better than most Americans!

I have a pile of books next to my bed for my vacation. I wonder what I'll start with.

Current Time in Saigon, Vietnam

About Me

My name is Colleen and I currently live in Saigon, Vietnam. (aka Ho Chi Minh City) I have a husband, Mike, and 2 children. Our son Aidan is 14 and our daughter Brenna is 11. I am the elementary librarian at Saigon South International School. I love to read, be outside, play any sport that's going on, hang out with friends, and laugh.

What I'm Reading Now:

  • Picture Perfect by Jodie Picoult
  • Buddhism for Beginners by Thubet Chodron