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“He is Like Baby”

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As we wandered around Rome we continued a common theme of our trip – lost.  Ross and I had been perpetually adrift for the past 3 months…pleasantly and happily lost but lost none the less.  We often strolled the streets choosing our path at random, curious of what we would find around each corner.  We used this method of chaotic drifting frequently and sometimes we won while other times we lost.  The day prior we won the gamble when we stumbled upon a little nugget of a place that served the best gelato either of us had ever had.  I thought Ross was going to combust from pure joy as the friendly girl behind the counter offered him sample after sample.  Apparently this was a life changing event for him because I found him still discussing the gelato as we went to sleep that night.

Yum!

Yum!

 

We greeted another day in the Eternal City in a similar fashion yet this time I found Ross to be a little more systematic with his wandering.  He was uncharacteristically taking control over the directions as we walked about the town and I was relieved to have him take the reins.  I wasn’t aware of an intended destination but he seemed to be on a mission.  I started to notice some familiar architecture and store fronts.   As I brought it to Ross’ attention an expression crossed his face like that of a child with his hand caught in the cookie jar.  It was at that moment that I noticed the entrance to the gelato place from yesterday just a few steps away.  Ross acted as if it was a coincidence and feigned surprise when he stated, “Look, it’s the same place as yesterday.  Let’s go inside!”

As we entered, the same smiling face greeted us from behind the counter, “Ah, welcome back!”  We laughed and went about stuffing our faces with samples again.  Ross wasted no time choosing his flavors and digging in.  He was grinning like a Cheshire cat while digging into the ice cream.  The girl from behind the counter laughed and pointed towards Ross, whose head was bobbling like a toddler’s, and cried out, “He is like baby. So happy.” I looked at the massive smile on his face and veneer of gelato on his face and couldn’t agree more.

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Chinese Charades

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As we travel through Asia I can’t help but be reminded of and grateful for the many camping trips to Ginnie Springs that I’ve taken with family and friends.  Squatting in the woods and the countless games of charades have proven to be a beneficial training course, in particular for our time in Beijing.  As we ventured out each day to explore something new we undoubtedly found ourselves caught up in a huge and endless game of charades.  Ordering off a menu, asking for the check, requesting chopsticks, getting directions, purchasing soap at the convenient store, negotiating prices, asking for a to go box – all of these simple tasks were accompanied by many smiles, laughter and tons of hand gestures sometimes resulting in what we were hoping for but often times not.

Ghost Street

I love picture menus!

 

 

 

 

 

 

On one of our nights in Beijing we were enjoying a dinner of kung pao chicken, shrimp egg rolls and soup on Ghost Street.  I decided to go out on a limb and request some dipping sauce for the egg rolls.  Ross got the waiter’s attention for me and when he arrived I did my best attempt at forming a little bowl with my fingers and pointing at the egg rolls then back at the side dish.  While motioning I repeated slowly “sauce?”, “sweet and sour?”  He seemed to pick up on something I’d said and excitedly walked away while letting me know to wait one minute by signaling back with his pointer finger.  A minute later he brought back a small dish of sugar.  He looked so proud and triumphantly asked, “Yes, is okay?”  Ross and I maintained poker faces and assured him this was what we wanted.  He walked away with a huge grin.  We gave it a shot while laughing and discussing how stupid he must have thought we were for wanting sugar for our egg rolls.

Fresh Beer and Rotten Restrooms

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Hanoi is littered with local hole in the wall bars offering cheap beer known as “Bia Hoi”.  The draught beer at these establishments cost 4000-5000 dong (20-25 cents).  Most of these places are tiny and packed to the gills with locals and tourists spilling into the streets.  It resembles a high school keg party as a motorbike pulls up with a keg and they start filling up mugs.  There are usually tiny plastic chairs and tables that would be too small for the average 4 year old.  We have held 10 minute conversations with patrons who speak zero English while we speak zero Vietnamese.  The other common denominator of all these places is the grime.

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The bathrooms always seem to offer some unexpected booby trap.  During our 1st night in Hanoi we got stuck in a torrential downpour while exploring the Old Quarter.  As luck would have it we happened upon a beer den just as the kegs were rolling in.  After our tab hit 80 cents I had to use the loo.  There was an inch of “water” in the cramped putrid smelling closet along with a urinal.  Several seconds after relief began I noticed a pattering on the floor.  I looked down to see that the urinal drained directly on to the floor by my feet.  To make it worse the pipe that led to the floor was like a waterslide with an angle that created a perfect splash onto my shins and ankles.  I moonwalked to escape the remaining flow.  Luckily, like most Vietnamese bathrooms this one had a hose so I was able to rinse myself off like a zoo animal.  I came back to the table and of course Nug said she needed to use the ladies room.  “Go upstairs, if you can,” I offered ominously.  “There is no western toilet down here and it’s gnarly.”  What happened next can only be explained from Nug’s POV.

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Taking Ross’ suggestion of finding an alternate bathroom I decided to kindly ask a gentleman, who appeared to work for or very frequently visited this lovely establishment, if he could point me to the toilet.  Having an idea of the condition of the downstairs restroom I pointed enthusiastically up the set of stairs in front of me hoping he would confirm a different route to relief.  To my dismay he shook his head and smiled as he escorted me to the swampy closet which contained a urinal, several large buckets and a tile floor.  He gave me a reassuring shove through the doorway and closed the curtain which was supposed to provide me with privacy.  I caught my balance and spent the next few minutes contemplating my next move.  Unfortunately, my bladder won over my etiquette and after checking the contents of the buckets I found myself squatting over the drain in the corner of the room.  With an overwhelming feeling of shame I made my way back to the table and confirmed to Ross “That wasn’t water on the floor”.

This is for the birds

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Cameo post by Lianne!

My nug and I have been here is Aussie land for just over a week now and we’ve been straight doing work!  Don’t get me wrong, we’ve definitely been enjoying ourselves as well but we have been getting things done…or, attempting to anyway.

In our efforts to get settled into a comfortable life in time to enjoy our first Christmas as a married couple in a new home away from home, we got off to a quick start.  We landed in Brisbane mid- morning and within 6 hours had purchased our very own campervan.  Vehicle, check!  Next on our list was get the hell out of Brisbane, because the traffic was insane, and head south to start looking for a place to live.

Nug has been the navigator and I have been the captain steering the ship.  This is due to the unfortunate fact that the only lender campervan (until ours is ready to pick up) available was a manual transmission.  Nug’s lack of confidence… well ability (his last attempt on a manual led to a meeting with a fence)… sticks me in the driver’s seat.  I have now found myself on the other side of the world, driving on the wrong side of the road, steering from the wrong side of the car and shifting with my left hand.  This is awkward in every way imaginable.  None the less, we are moving.

Our mode of transportation is “Devilish”.  This is her name due to the paint job she bares.  Conspicuous is an understatement.  We are regulars now at several campervan parks.  Our neighbors are 60+ seniors who have all decided retirement heaven is a seedy cement park.  Odd decision if you ask me, but most are lovely and extremely friendly people.

Aside from these retirees, we have also found ourselves among the birds.  There are birds of every shape, size and sound imaginable.  Mainly sound.  In typical Ross fashion he has renamed the birds with much more deserving names such as R2 and Asian Crossing.  R2 sounds like, yes you guessed it, R2D2.  My best attempt at describing Asian Crossing is the sound it makes “Zzzzzzzzzzzrp, dit, dit, dit, dit, dit, dit, dit, dit”.  The sound is similar to the alert some crosswalks make.  Every time we heard the noise in Auckland crowds of people, mostly Asians were enveloping us…hence Ross’ choice of name for the bird.  Yes, this is how we’ve been spending our free time.  That and drinking boxed wine.