Heels & Soul

Sunday

17

August 2014

0

COMMENTS

Travel: Food Tour in Hoi An & DaNang!

Written by , Posted in Home, Soul Food, Travel

I think I will have to go on a seafood fast for some time after our binge yesterday. I arrived in DaNang and was picked up by Mr. Q., who owns one of the factories that I have been doing my research in. Without his help much of my research couldn’t have come into fruition. His nieces have come to my aid over these past few months and they’ve been so instrumental in helping me translate technical questions to factory workers. Not to mention, since they have such a great rapport with the factory workers, it has made conversations so much more easier to begin. Mr. Q., is such a prolific businessman. His outlook on life is uplifting and he never dwells upon things that have come and gone. There’s nothing that we can do for things that have come to pass – time doesn’t rewind back for nostalgic minds or for those who wish to repair mistakes from earlier times. We must simply continue on. In business, you’re subject to volatile markets, globalization, your customer’s demands and whims, and a whole lot of risk. Some golden years will be more profitable than others and other years will be full of losses, but either way – one must keep a calm composure.

After picking us up at the airport, Mr. Q. and his driver took us to Son Tra to enjoy some fresh seafood. The clams and shells in DaNang have the remnants of the saltwater ocean when they linger on your tongue for some time. For a CEO, I am so amazed that he can cook like a five-star chef. His Mother passed away when he was seven, so he’s learned a variety of tricks and useful skills since then and cooking is one of them. Hoi An and DaNang are both well renowned for their mouth-watering food and I cannot deny that I have been eating to my heart’s content. At night, we were taken to Hoi An where we enjoyed cao lau, ban trang dap, hen and che bap.

I literally spent all of yesterday eating. At 9:00 PM, my eyes started to get heavy from the food coma.

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❤ ♬ The Carpenters ❤ ♬

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Saturday

16

August 2014

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COMMENTS

OUTFIT: Floral Ao Dai

Written by , Posted in Home, Outfits, Style & Fashion

I know I was supposed to continue the Ao Dai series last week, but I had some friends drop by from Portugal for a few days. I met C. in Turkey in 2010 and when I moved to London, I discovered that she was also in the UK. I made some plans to drop by Lisbon for a few days with two American friends, and it was over a dinner table conversation that I learned that she was coming to Vietnam this summer with a few friends. The O.C. family was so lovely during our stay in Portugal. I even extended my flight to have Easter dinner in Sintra.  In a common display of Canadian x Vietnamese hospitality, there was no way that we could have a friend visiting our city and stay in a hotel so we invited C. and her friends to come and live with us. As a result, I’ve had such a hectic week. I taught my last class at the University of Social Sciences & Humanities on Thursday and had a farewell gathering with my students on Friday, despite the flooding and heavy rain. I am so appreciative that these students opened upon their minds and their evenings so that I could have the opportunity to teach them English and to mutually learn about their diverse perspectives on a variety of social issues.

I’m leaving Saigon this upcoming Wednesday and I can’t believe that this chapter is coming to a close. By now, I’ve become so familiarized with the pulse of this city. I’ve come to love the beating rhythm of the orchestra of rain pouring down on our tin roof. My bedroom is at the very top floor of the house, so I am the first to know when the clouds have decided to lighten their burden. I heard my first thunderstorm on Friday night and for a second, I thought the world had come to the end because I had never heard such deafening thunder in my life. In London, I remember turning on Netflix to tune out the terrifying gusts of wind and lightning when the rain decided to be more feisty than usual. However, in Saigon, I just laid in my bed, with the thunderstorm lulling me to sleep. As a Vancouver girl, I always know when it’s going to rain. There’s that crisp scent of earth and your skin starts absorbing all the humidity in the air. Stand still and take in the brief, fleeting moments before it rains – it’s one of my favorite experiences of being human.

I can’t help but note that life is moving at such an unprecedented rate. I’ve been feeling this way for a few years now. You can’t slow time down, but you can decide what you do with what little time you have.

As my last “hurrah” in Vietnam, I took my Mom and I to DaNang, a stunning coastal city in the middle of Vietnam where my Mother was born. I’ll post up some pictures and stories soon.

Enjoy this ao dai which was sewn by my Aunt!
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Saturday

9

August 2014

0

COMMENTS

OUTFIT: The Vietnamese Ao Dai Series!

Written by , Posted in Home, Outfits, Style & Fashion

This week, I’ll be photographing a series of ao dai that my Aunt tailored over these past few years. If you walk into my Aunt’s closet, your jaw will drop. I don’t know how she does it, but every day she sews a new dress while also working her day job as a dentist. There must be hundreds of dresses hanging in the closet adjacent to her room. After getting lost in all the satin, silks and watercolor patterns, I noticed a pile of elaborate ao dai embroidered with sequins, flowered designs and hand-painted drawings. I tried one on at my Aunt’s insistence and it happened to surprisingly fit me like a glove.

Ao Dai is the traditional dress for Vietnamese women. During my Mom’s generation, the ao dai was the standard uniform for girls in high school. Today, there are still some traditional schools that enforce this standard, but it is quite rare to see anyone walking in an ao dai down the street. For the most part, everyone is westernized in style of dress. There’s a phenomenal movie that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in Vietnamese film called The White Silk Dress (Ao Lua Ha Dong), where the pristine white ao dai becomes a deeper symbolism of Vietnamese culture and society.

In my opinion, the ao dai is one of the most beautiful traditional dresses. Why? It’s forgiving, it’s flattering and it’s feminine. The dress is cut at all the right places to emphasize a lovely shape, but it’s not revealing. The ao dai is modest, but it gives the beholder much to imagine. I would wear the ao dai every day if it was practical for my lifestyle. It makes me taller and I have never ever seen anyone look unflattering in an ao dai. It elongates your frame and creates a simple but sophisticated look.

I have inherited many ao dai dresses from my family over the years – it’s a bit of a family tradition. Stay in touch this week to see some of the incredible Vietnamese handiwork that I’ll be featuring on the blog!

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Friday

8

August 2014

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COMMENTS

Thursday

7

August 2014

0

COMMENTS

Photographs: The Seaside in Santorini

Written by , Posted in Home, Travel

I’ve always liked the hour after midnight because it’s always such a nostalgic hour. Exhausted from the day, I often lie in bed, letting my thoughts wander until they trickle into a tunnel of reminiscing. I always look through photographs at this hour. My Father loved photography and film when I was growing up, so I caught on at an early age and shortly after, it was my Father who bought me my first real camera, a Nikon D3000, as a birthday gift a few years ago. I was taking a photography class back then with one of my favorite high school teachers and it was thoughtful of my Dad to notice. Since then, I’ve tinkered with other models and other lens and I’m only beginning a long journey of honing the camera to capture what I see with the naked eye.

I can’t really walk right now. My leg is currently swollen from a severe allergic reaction to mosquito bites. Normally, I have intense reactions to the bites, but this time, it’s reached an entirely new level. My ankle no longer exists! At the beginning, my family wanted to take the whole natural healing route, but after they saw the size of my leg today, we called other family members who prescribed medicine. This is a great perk of living in a family that specializes in healthcare, you have a trained healthcare expert in all fields at the touch of a button. In Vietnam, you don’t often need a prescription to buy medication – which makes it much easier to visit the pharmacy and find what you need. So I’ve taken four pills tonight and tried at least 3-4 different ointments today and I’m hoping that by tomorrow, I will be able to walk around normally again instead of the hobble that I’m currently doing to get down the flight of stairs every morning.

I found these photographs while looking through my Greece compilation. Truly, Santorini is a ridiculously photogenic island. While there, we kept on seeing couples taking engagement photos and in retrospect, I now understand why. It’s unequivocally beautiful. I have decided to return to Europe in the next one or two years. There’s something about the continent that I can’t shake off and I want to call it home for awhile. In particular, I became quickly smitten with the cosmopolitan pace of London complemented by the tranquil green of Hampstead Heath. After visiting many major cities over these past few years, there’s nowhere where I’ve felt quite nearly at home as I did in London. Driving in Norway reminded me of Canada, but the feel of Oslo was different from the bustle of LDN. I’ll be back, soon enough. The travels will commence again!

My photographs of Cambodia are coming!

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Wednesday

6

August 2014

0

COMMENTS

Photographs: The White Cliffs of Dover

Written by , Posted in Home, Travel

This is where A. and I whipped up all the old film cameras at a charity shop in Dover. They were unbelievably priced. We collected a Holga, a Yashica, a Fujifilm and more. I’m trying to have more tangible copies of my photographs and when I shoot film, in order to see my pictures – it is a requirement that I develop my rolls. There’s something about a candid photograph that you can’t go back to and delete. It’s one shot. If you miss it, you miss it, but its got a specific charm of its own.

These were shot with a Yashica film camera. Vietnam stopped manufacturing film and importing it ages ago, but when I was in Cambodia, I swept up an entire market’s supply of Kodak film. There are no more Kodak film rolls in that market since I was so excited to finally find film in Asia that I enthusiastically bought up the vendors’ supply. It was merely $2 a roll compared to the exorbitant prices overseas!

Enjoy.

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    ❤ ♬  The White Cliffs of Dover – Vera Lynn ❤ ♬

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Monday

4

August 2014

0

COMMENTS

Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom

Written by , Posted in Home, Travel

Places like Angkor Wat make you realize that the human eye for beauty and design came into fruition long before any technology was available to build out visions. The design perception of the architects who designed Angkor Wat was truly avant-garde and spectacular. Built in the 12th Century, it is fascinating to realize that 9 centuries ago, a group of people came together to strategically design a temple that is not only aesthetically pleasing but has been magnificently preserved throughout the trials of time.

Go! Just make sure to go during a more temperately cool season. Cambodia is ridiculously hot and humid!

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Sunday

3

August 2014

0

COMMENTS

A Night Out in Siem Reap

Written by , Posted in Home, Travel

I never planned to go to Cambodia when I returned to Vietnam this summer. Then again, I never planned for a lot of things in my life to go the way that it has. As spontaneity often takes its course, my Uncle invited my Mother and I to join his family on a drive to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh in Cambodia. The goal was to see Angkor Wat, one of the seven wonders of the world. I realize I am quite close to Hanoi by plane and could easily fly over to see Ha Long Bay, one of the 7 wonders of nature, but I have absolutely no time. There are all these places that family and friends keep inviting me to visit, but since I teach Monday-Thursday and have to do research for my fellowship, I can’t seem to squeeze in enough free days to explore Vietnam. There will have to be a next time.

To be frank, Cambodia is not somewhere where I would travel to for pleasure again. One of the reasons being that the country is so poor that there is a strange dichotomy between the bags of ali baba and harem pants us tourists buy and the children covered in dust and dirt begging on the ferries and in the streets. I have actually never seen so many destitute situations in my life and I’ve spent the past few months on a non-stop travel binge. We weren’t allowed to leave our bus when the ferry was in transit so from my window, I saw a young girl who was probably about eight or so standing in front of a tour bus just looking at the people sitting inside with her hands clasped together. After fifteen minutes, one of the women sitting in the front beckoned to the driver to open his window so that she could slip the girl some cash. I actually couldn’t enjoy myself in Cambodia and neither could my Mother because there was so much poverty everywhere. You can’t ignore it yet everyone tells you that if you open up your wallet once, then everyone else will come to you to ask for money. At the same time, it feels so insensitive and wrong to ignore someone who is tapping your shoulder and standing two inches away from you. Most other people on our trip were used to the begging and were able to ignore the incessant flow of people that would come up to us, but I’m not from Vietnam and I’ve spent the majority of my life in an environment where I haven’t had to be confronted with poverty directly in my face with a hungry mouth and gaunt bones. I can’t eat out on the streets here and enjoy it because I can’t eat in peace. I’d actually rather eat at home than to have to turn away 10 people with amputated hands, legs and all sorts of disabilities during the course of a 30 minute meal. Everyone here in Vietnam is able to do it because they’ve grown up with it their entire life, but I can’t sit there and enjoy grilling the seafood in front of me when there is someone standing next to me for five minutes holding his non-existent hand out asking for money to buy food.

Siem Reap is home to Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom in addition to a quaint nightmarket and the youthful Pub Street where backpackers and westerners go to enjoy a night out. You don’t really see many Cambodian faces on Pub Street who aren’t staff, store vendors or tuk tuk drivers. We spent two nights roaming the streets in search of gifts for friends and family. Can you believe it? A Draft Beer is only $0.50 USD.

Pub Street

Pub Street

Pub Street

Pub Street

These are everywhere in Cambodia!

These are everywhere in Cambodia!

Angkor Night Market

Angkor Night Market

Can't be beaten.

Can’t be beaten.

Vendors

Vendors

Siem Reap Nightmarket

Siem Reap Nightmarket

How appetizing... snakes!

How appetizing… snakes!

Grasshoppers, anyone?

Grasshoppers, anyone?

Do you care for some spiders as a midnight snack?

Do you care for some spiders as a midnight snack?

Fish massage!

Fish massage!

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Thursday

31

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

Photographs: The Life of a Monk and a Child in the Countryside Monastery

Written by , Posted in Home, Ideas, Soul Food, Travel

What is it like to live without the desire for money or the worry of earning a living in contemporary society? When my family recently visited Chua Sup Lon, a colorful monastery tucked away amidst the rubber trees and fields of green rice paddies in Binh Phuoc, I had a massive epiphany that life itself can be so simple, yet we often choose to complicate simplicity. As I saw the pastoral life of the children living in the temple, I couldn’t help but recognize the stark contrast in our lived experiences. When I brought out my cameras, for all of them, it was their first time ever putting their eye through the viewfinder and hearing the lens shutter click. When I came home and shared this story with my Aunt, a retired midwife, she told me, “There was a time when I went to a temple on a healthcare mission and when we gave the children candy, they had no idea what it was. After they tried eating it, they followed us in swarms to ask for more. Imagine how removed of a life from civilization you must live for a child to have never had a candy before.”

At the same time, I’m also trying to be wary of romanticizing poverty. Yes, the usual day to day routine of these children is much less stressful and more liberating than most of my tightly-scheduled days, but they live in the temple not by choice but because their parents are too destitute to care for them or because they are orphans. It’s not an easy life. Emotionally, I’m sure many of these children crave love as is natural of children. In moments where you realize that people who have so little can still smile, you are reduced to a state of humility and introspection. There was one girl who I became rather attached to, Vai. I am a bit sentimental, but there was something about that child that was different and I still can’t shake the feeling whenever I look back at photographs. She was the first out of the children to smile at me and wave. Since they spoke Khmer, I couldn’t communicate with them outside of sign language. Vai was shy and earnestly sweet – and that smile, I couldn’t forget it when I was sitting in the car on our way home. Later, my Mother inquired if she had parents, to which a monk told us that she was one of the children who was orphaned at the temple. Our mission brought a bag of toys for every child in the village and the temple, and I couldn’t help but take a step back and wonder what her life was been had she been born somewhere else, with a different family and a different passport. We could have easily been each other.

We do not get to choose what fates we have at birth. I think about this daily here in Asia because poverty is rampant. We get the lot that we have and we make do the best we can. If you were born a little earlier or a little later, who knows what would have happened? What if you had been born in Syria instead of Canada? What if your family were laborers in the slums? I had no say over the situations that I have been blessed with. I have a passport that allows me to travel easily. My nationality offers me a lot of diplomatic protection and my hometown is always ranked as one of the top livable cities in the world. So, don’t wallow in the fact that you have so many blessings. You don’t get to decide what your luck in life is. You can, however, work hard. If you know that you are more fortunate than others, it is nothing to be ashamed of or to hide. Take what you have been given and make something of it so that you can contribute back to society and give to people. Don’t squander it away because everyday there is someone fighting for a chance at what you most often take for granted. Clean water. Access to education. Safety. Love. I’ve always known that I wanted to make money in life and in this pseudo non-materialistic front that we have in society, vocalizing that you want to make money can often be frowned upon. But, I have no shame in saying that I do want to make money – an endless reserve of it – not because I want to hoard it or to buy 10 Birkin bags. I want money because it offers you freedom and there are so many projects and people I want to support, but I have limited resources as a student. For children like Vai, I would be more than happy to invest in their futures. Here’s to hoping that with some meaningful work and dedication, I’ll be there soon.

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Unloading our goods for the mission trip

Unloading our goods for the mission trip

Childhood is one of the best times we have in life.

Childhood is one of the best times we have in life.

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Temple

Temple

Orange robes hang dry.

Orange robes hang dry.

All the children line up for a routine medical care checkup.

All the children line up for a routine medical care checkup.

This is a candid shot taken by one of the children during their first attempt at using a camera!

This is a candid shot taken by one of the children during their first attempt at using a camera!

Prayer.

Prayer.

♬ ✩ September – Earth, Wind & Fire ♬ ✩

Vai (far left) is incredibly sweet. She is orphaned, hence why she is living at the temple. Most of the children here either are from extremely destitute families who cannot care for them or they have no parents at all.

Vai (far left) is incredibly sweet. She is orphaned, hence why she is living at the temple. Most of the children here either are from extremely destitute families who cannot care for them or they have no parents at all.

Everyone at the temple eats vegetarian meals.

Everyone at the temple eats vegetarian meals.

Binh Phuoc

Binh Phuoc

To be honest, I am not quite sure what this little fellow was doing, but I think he was trying to create his own game of make-believe fishing in the lotus pond.

To be honest, I am not quite sure what this little fellow was doing, but I think he was trying to create his own game of make-believe fishing in the lotus pond.

A child living at the temple plays amongst the lotus flowers.

A child living at the temple plays amongst the lotus flowers.

A schoolgirl runs past the temple gates.

A schoolgirl runs past the temple gates.

Peace.

Peace.

Having some fun reviewing some footage that Vai (standing up on the right) shot with my camera.

Having some fun reviewing some footage that Vai (standing up on the right) shot with my camera.

Prayer before lunch

Prayer before lunch

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Monday

28

July 2014

0

COMMENTS

OUTFIT: Colorblocking Pastels in the Saigon Summer

Written by , Posted in Home, Outfits, Style & Fashion

 

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❤ ♬ Baby I’m Yours – Artic Monkeys ❤ ♬

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WEAR FROM: Dress – Found in Vuon Chuoi Market | Sandals – Nine West | Sunglasses – Marc Jacobs | Blue Bracelet – Oxford University | Watch – RADO

Bright and early at 8:00 AM, the telephone in my room rang as I was marking some of my students’ essays. I ignored it the first time because the call is usually from one of my Aunt’s dental patients and she is always the point person to pick up the phone. However, when a second call came, I picked up and received a command to come to the Vuon Chuoi market near my house immediately. My Aunt and Mother had picked out some dresses from a woman who sold clothing in the market and the dress in this post is the first one that I saw in the pile that was a definite yes. Linens are so easy to wear in this hot and humid climate. The colors are light, summery and playful so I matched the dress up with another pastel pink-toned pair of sandals to create a casual afternoon look.

It’s summer so I’m trying to enjoy the dresses and sandals for as long as I can before I settle back into the cold climates of Maine. Summer is too short.

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