meet my new boyfriend...

Nah, not really. I've been carrying around this book all week, reading it morning, noon, and night. Someone even nicknamed it my boyfriend.

Ah, "The Zen of CSS design", inspired me to design a layout using CSS positioning rules. Not bad for my first go.

Need to practice though. Wanna make it onto the official design list one of these days.

oh so clever

These shorts had me smiling during my lunch break.

Mitchell Rose Films

real mail?

Got a notice a couple of days ago that someone sent me a package. What could it be? Possibly some tea? A request made a while ago....

Went to the post office to pick it up this morning. It was a long process, 20 minutes, but ok because it's so exciting to actually get mail. Anh Bao Phi sent me his latest CD, Refugeography, like he promised. Just listened to a couple of tracks at work and its great :) Thanks Anh Bao! You made my day :)

Check out this other project he is working on: America Listening

a few good men

Last night we had our drag party and were quite surprised to see how much the boys got into it. We had to keep reminding them that women do not constantly grope their own breasts or squeeze other women's. They were having way too much fun with their fake boobies. Although with all inhibitions out the door, their dancing did improve immensely. There is just something about swingy skirts and dresses, huh? The breeze must feel invigorating I bet.

And boy did we get some funny reactions walking through the streets of Saigon together: horror, curiosity, confusion... even some cat-calls and pick-up lines for the ladies in drag. The best though was when we walked out of the house and into the alleyway. Our neighbors had gathered to enjoy the show. They laughed, pointed, and even the old women chased us for a grope to see if the breasts were real. Lol!!! I was so glad I was not a lady that night.

All the girls....

The Ladies... Identities are hidden to protect our ladies from overzealous stalkers and old women looking to cop a feel...ok, ok... also under threats of death...

The Britney Spears look-a-alike in the Catholic schoolgirl outfit was crowned the queen, mainly because he could not stop shaking his ass and giving everyone lap-dances. Dude worked for that crown.

Awh... a cake for me and Bao.

Hmmm... can't decide. Does Bao look more like a 'cat' or a 'mouse'?

Thanks to all those who joined in on the fun and those who couldn't but sent me well-wishes from afar. You are awesome!!!! I also love all my gifts. So thoughtful :)

head in the clouds - the 100th post

Last year at this time, I was staring off into the distance trying to see through the clouds, contemplating what I wanted to do next in life. It was my birthday and I was on a plane heading to Vietnam for a visit, hoping that once I landed, I would arrive at some sense of clarity in terms of which direction to take.

One year later, I'm living here. My feet are firmly planted on the ground. I have the job that I sought to get and yet my mind still wanders when I see the clouds. What else is out there?

Time for reflection.

The pictures are taken at the resort town of Ba Na at the top of this mountain in Da Nang. There is nothing but clouds.

It was fun to finally get out of the city and do some hiking.

An unfinished road....

smells like teen spirit

Lol. A slice of teen life. Just in time for V-Day. This project is a collection of snippets of blog entrys of teenagers in which one has dumped another.

The Dumpster was commisioned by both the Whitney and Tate Modern.

who's gonna be Queen?

Bao and I have birthdays in the same week, so decided to throw a joint birthday bash at La Casa Latina @ 11 Thai Van Lung. It's a DRAG party. If you're in HCMC and striving to win a crown for best Drag queen, come and help us pack the place. That's RuPaul on the flyer. Wonder what he's up to these days?

food baby

Food is essential in every celebration, but boy can it do a number on you. My belly is round. I think I've put on at least 5, if not 10 pounds. The copious amounts of food that both my families made and both my grandmothers managed to guilt-trip me into eating have done a bit of damage to my waistline. Poor belly, when shall you strink back to normal?

Sigh... I really need to learn to say no when I'm full. But at least the food was good, even the vegetarian dishes that I ate for three days straight cause one grammy is a buddhist and has months where she only eats vegetarian food.

Grandma cooking away.

Some of her vegetarian dishes.

Food on one of the altars at the other grandma's place. This is the standard size for a meal.

One of the last meals I had in Da Nang. 'Lau' which is like Shabu which is like seafood fondue. It was for my cousin's birthday.

Eating in style, nothing better than just chilling on the floor and taking a food-coma nap afterwards. Also the #1 reason why my jeans feel tight. Thank goodness I only visit once in a while. Otherwise I would be huge!

life, death, and in-between

Tet is a time of celebration and rememberance. Offerings of food are made to the ancestors. Paper money and paper clothes are burnt to reappear for their use in the afterlife. Family graves are visited, incense is lighted, prayers are whispered, asking the ancestors to watch over the family.

The family is growing, changing. I watch in wonder as some cousins become teenagers, displaying a bit of awkwardness and secrecy around adults. Hmmm... was I like that when I was their age? While other cousins have begun having babies and families of their own. So soon, so young! But is it really.... or just my impression because I'm not ready for the responsibility? One day...

Marked by birthdays we are reminded of the passing of time and their growing maturity. There were two birthdays in the short period I was there. But as we welcome new life, we also lose some along the way. I attended my first Vietnamese family funeral, my grandmother's older brother passed away. And well... I have a huge family.

Family altars. I find it kinda curious that they make paper clothes with the NIKE swish. How label-conscious has society become that these are even made available? Only the best will do for the afterlife. Not even the spiritual world can escape commercialism.

A few of my many cousins. Is it just me or do teenagers always look like they're up to something?

My cousins' children. They are way ahead of me.

Grandma at her brother's funeral.

The funeral procession.

Final steps to the gravesite.

Lighting incense for all the family graves. Its a nice idea that family members can rest together.

the importance of flowers

'Cho Hoa', the Flower market

To usher in the new year, one of the most important things to have in the Vietnamese home is a branch of apricot blossoms, 'hoa mai'. It is a symbol of spring and new life. It also wards off evil spirits. When going to select a branch, people look for ones that they think will bloom in time for the first day of Tet and will last through the week of celebrations. If it blooms during this time, then it will be a year of good fortune for the family. My grandmother not only has a branch, but an entire two story tree!

A single apricot blossom.

The blossoms began showing up just in time for Tet! Yay!

What the tree looked like when I left. Absolutely gorgeous!

Flowers are also used to decorate the altars of our ancestors and the deceased. Grandma got very excited when the flowers that she set on one of the altars bloomed not only one tier, but two tiers. You see, when she had selected them, the stems only had one bud each so she only expected one bloom per stem, but during the course of the week, more buds sprouted, so she had two tiers. She thinks its a double dose of good luck.

Flowers on one of the altars. One tier...

Two tiers! Woo-hoo!!!

As you can probably guess, my grandmother is an avid gardener. There are many other plants in her little garden.

Grandma during her early morning ritual of watering the plants.

The view from inside.

A little oasis. It was great to wake up and enjoy this every morning.

To see what role flowers play in people's lives, check out the Human Flower Project.

X marks the spot

I have a ton of cousins, but not many of them are close to my age without already having kids. Only one really, so I hung out with him and his friends often. On New Year's Eve, the boys took me out to a club to catch some pop singers and do what boys do, drink till they're blue.

So I joined them and yes, my cousin did manage to get me drunk, more than six shots under an hour on an empty stomach will do that. After the show, we headed out to catch some fireworks and then finally crept into bed a little after 1 a.m. My aunt grabbed my feet and wiped something on them before I nodded off to sleep. I awoke to find two white 'X's on the bottoms of my feet. "Umm, what is it?"

My aunt tells me it is the white paste that is used when wrapping a betel nut to be chewed. Old women here often do this to make their teeth strong. Not only is betel nut chewing addictive, the nut being a stimulant and all, it has the weird side effect of turning your pearly whites black. For the story behind this tradition, check out The Story of the Betel and Areca Tree.

Apparently, the white paste itself, which I found out is lime or calcium oxide, made from ground seashells, has the added property of preventing you from getting a hangover. She says that whenever my uncles were drunk, grandma did the same thing to them. Lime is also use as a primer for painting walls. Huh, who would have thought... Well, I definitely did not have a hangover, so I guessed it worked. Wonder how long people have been using it as a hangover preventer?

Me and my cousin, Thuan.

Grabbing some grub with some of Thuan's buddies.


Been marked....

back in saigon

Just got back into the city and settling in again. Will be updating with Lunar New Year highlights soon :)