15 Seconds of Fame

I know I promised a scintillating post on sewing and tapestry in Ho Chi Minh City, and I know I’m even late in posting that, but something much more exciting and interesting has reared its head. I’m sure you’ll understand when you see that:

I’m ruddy famous!!!!

2014-02-06 18.38.03Yonks and yonks ago, after returning to the UK, I offered to write a brief review of my time in Vietnam for my local newspaper and they’ve only gone and published it! It’s been put both online and in the local newspaper, but as I’m a little delayed in updating my blog, only the online version is available now. But still, look at me go!

http://www.chesterchronicle.co.uk/lifestyle/day-life-english-teacher-vietnam-6681306#.UxoH5j9_sll

OK, it’s a little self indulgent I admit, but you never know, it may just reach out to someone who’s weighing up a move abroad. Here’s to hoping anyway!

Incognito

I’ve been a little incognito on here for the past month or so now and as a result, I feel I’ve let my friends down, my family down, my loyal WordPress fans down and (even worse!) myself down…

Actually, I don’t feel that bad, but man I’ve missed writing.

So, the short version of the 1000 page novel that has been my life over the past 3 months is:

I left Vietnam (boooo!) It wasn’t a decision made lightly and had been in the offing for a while, but the time had come for me to return to my friends and family in England. The beautiful Cheshire countryside just didn’t have that same appeal to it without me there apparently … I left Vietnam at the beginning of December (allowing time for a bit of travel before Christmas) and arrived back into Heathrow at dusk on 22nd December (how romantic…)

The events that have happened since have been somewhat of a whirlwind, catching up with friends and family, celebrating both the calendar and lunar New Years and then embarking on a short internship to keep my CV ticking over nicely. But you don’t really want to hear about all that. And, to be honest, I don’t really want to write about all that.

I originally started this blog as a means of recording memories of my time in Vietnam and I’m going to continue it along these same lines. I still have bundles of stories from my 2 years living in Ho Chi Minh City that I’m dying to share with you all and I only hope that some of them may actually prove as useful to anyone who’s thinking of doing a similar thing and expatriating to Vietnam, or any of the countries in South East Asia.

I also like to think of it as a way of keeping in touch with all those friends I’ve met (both directly and interactively) along the way.

So, I’m going to say a short farewell now, but I’ll be back tomorrow with one hell of a riveting tale about sewing and tapestry in Ho Chi Minh City (I can just feel your bubbling excitement at the prospect…)

Oh how I’ve missed you!!

Chúc Mừng Năm Mới

2014: The Year of the Horse

Happy Tết Holiday to all my Vietnamese friends, students & colleagues and to all my other friends from the Asian continent a very Happy Lunar Year to you all!

I’m gutted not to be in Vietnam to celebrate this year, so to all my friends out there, please send me photos and updates of your celebrations. I miss you!
 
To mark the occasion from here in the UK though, here are a few of the photos I took during the  Sài Gòn celebrations last year, enjoy!
 

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For anyone who is in the UK, more specifically in Cheshire, for the 2014 Lunar New Year – head to the streets of Chester at 9.30am tomorrow (Saturday 1st February) for a Chinese parade full of dragons, cat walks and traditional musical performances – it promises to be a spectacular day out. Organised by Wah Lei, a non-profit Chinese Association: http://wahlei.org/

Happy Teacher’s Day!

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20 November 2013

Feeling very blessed today. They should definitely have a Teacher’s Day in the UK to boost morale! Here are some of the treats my students had in store for me today …

From my wonderful students at HDC Security:

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From some previous students:

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And from CEFALT:

Unfortunately I was knee deep in oral exams when this photo was taken

Unfortunately I was knee deep in oral exams when this photo was taken 

 

 

Communist Posters

One of my Vietnamese friends gave me an early Teacher’s Day gift on Saturday: a 2014 calender of Communist Posters. He’d heard that the posters were popular souvenirs amongst foreigners and I have to say I was touched by his gesture.

Putting all politics aside, I think the posters are really quite beautiful to look at. I’m even more thankful for this gift as it’s jolted me into appreciating my surroundings a little more. After developing the inevitable monotonous routine, I’ve become ignorant to the things that interested and captivated me when I first expatriated to HCMC. Posters, like these from the calender, are littered along the streets of down-town Saigon and they definitely make for a colourful walk to and from work.

All photos belong to CoKerri. Please report if you find these used on any other website.

The Hungry Pig

“JOEY DOESN’T SHARE FOOD!”

This was definitely my mindset earlier today when I chowed down on, quite possibly, the best sandwich IN THE WORLD.

If I’m honest, I’ve never really done sandwiches, I could never understand the fixation; it’s just bread, butter and a filling (usually some kind of cheese or ham). They’ve always been just a tad boring for me. But oh, how naive and, well, just plain uneducated I have been!

The Hungry Pig is a relatively new breakfast / brunch restaurant on Cong Quynh Street (just off Bui Vien Street, District 1). I’d heard about it through a work colleague who was boasting in the teacher’s room of the best bacon sandwich he’d ever tasted. Like a true Brit, I love my bacon, to the point that I’m very specific in its cooking requirements. As a result, whilst living in the UK, I rarely opted for bacon when eating out to save on any disappointments, instead choosing to buy and cook my own at home. Since moving to Vietnam though, I can’t tell you how much I’ve missed the stuff. Bacon is hard to come by here, and on the rare occasion you do come across it in the supermarket, it tends to be the American style streaky bacon, which is certainly no match for Sainsbury’s meaty Smoked Back Rashers.

So, after 2 years of relentless cravings, I put all my preconceptions aside and dived into The Hungry Pig. Their menu boasts an array of bacon sandwich options, from the classic BLT to spicier Asian style varieties. Not to mention the bacon salads and the (perhaps even more tempting) Full English Breakfasts they offer every Sunday. I opted for the ‘Bacon Bagel’; a cinnamon and raisin bagel topped with Philadelphia cream cheese (the proper stuff!), bacon, rocket and cranberry sauce.

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“What’s not to like?! Bacon. Good! Bagel. Good! Cream Cheese. Goooood!”

My other half chose the ‘Pepper Pig’; a spicy concoction of smoked bacon, jalapeños and cheese on a toasted pita (unfortunately, the ‘toasty’ nature of this one didn’t make for a good photo). I seriously can’t recommend this place more! Even for a fussy eater like myself, their sandwiches are quite honestly heaven on earth.

Safe to say, my cravings have been satisfied, for now. Undoubtedly I’ll be back there again soon though, searching for my next bacon fix. I’m thinking of a lunchtime trip for a BLT this time …

Check them out …

Address: 144 Cong Quynh Street, District 1, HCMC

Facebookhttps://www.facebook.com/Thehungrypigcafe

Open most days from 7am – 10pm

Pride

Today is a very proud day for me and my little blog. It’s been exactly 5 months and 9 days since the birth of CoKerri and in that short time I have gained 10,000 views from 71 countries!

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I imagine this is a small milestone for some, but for little ol’ CoKerri, this is quite the ground-breaker. Thanks to all my loyal followers, family, friends and any of those who have stopped by my blog in the past 5 months – your support is sincerely appreciated.

I’m so glad that you have all enjoyed my stories, trials and tribulations. I only hope my escapades will continue to entertain!

Một, Hai, Ba, Dzô!

Party Time

I could hear the music pumping the moment I stepped out of the lift. Secretly hoping it was my students having the party, I skipped down the hallway.  Sure enough, as I walked into my classroom, I was presented with balloons, food and drink on the tables and a huge bouquet of flowers on my desk. Not to mention the handful of students having a good old Karaoke session. I just manage to take in a breath before all my students noticed my presence and burst into a round of applause. Never a huge fan of being the centre of attention (*cough cough*) I actually felt nervous as I walked down to the front of the room.

I’ve had final lesson celebrations before and I’m no stranger to the odd gift or card from a student (as I talk about here in a previous post) but I’ve never had my students go so out of their way to make a fuss. It was so thoughtful of them. What made this act of kindness particularly special for me was the fact that this was a beginner class. Just 8 weeks ago I was teaching this bunch of teenagers how to say their age and nationality and now, here they are writing notes like this to me:

Lets ignore the mis-spelling of my name for now ...

Lets ignore the spelling error of my name for now …

But really, it shouldn’t be me that takes the credit for their achievements, they have come such along way in the past 2 months and it is solely down to their hard work and determination. As I’m sure teachers all over the world will agree, it’s a rarity to find a dedicated class of teenagers. But these guys were just that; they made my job a breeze. As they shouted “thank you teacher” and offered me some Jollibee fried chicken, fries and ice-cream, I couldn’t help but think, “it should be me that’s thanking you guys”.

**Although, my stomach did beg to differ a short 4 hours later (Vietnamese fast food is the work of the devil)**

Teaching is tough, even at the best of times, especially with a youngster class like this one, but its moments like this that makes the late nights, lesson planning and exam marking totally worth it.

I am one lucky teacher!

I am one lucky teacher!

HCMC Photography

As I’ve been living here for nearly 2 years now, I thought it was probably about time that I shared some scenic photos of the city that I’ve grown to love. Here are a few of my favourite snaps, enjoy!

Disclaimer: I’m renowned for taking blurry/slanted photos due to shaky-hand-itis … Although I do think I’m improving …

All photos belong to CoKerri, please do not use them for other purposes. Please report back if you see these photos used on any other website.

Avoiding the Midday Heat

Last week was one of those rare weeks where I found myself at a bit of a loss of things to do. Consequently, I spent a lot of time enjoying some of Saigon’s millions of cafés, whiling away the hours with coffee and snacks. So I thought I’d take this opportunity to review some of my favourite mid-afternoon hideouts.

1) For the Working Lunch

ID Café, 61B Tu Xuong Street, District 3, HCMC (http://www.idcafe.net/)

This café is hidden away down a small alleyway off Tu Xuong Street. When you enter the main gates, you are greeted by a gorgeous rainforest-style patio. Heading up to the second floor, it is clear that this place is popular with the locals, more specifically, young professionals; I imagine the free Wifi keeps them coming back for more. The reason I keep returning to this wonderful café though is for their ‘bún chả giò’ (deep fried spring rolls on a bed of Vermicelli noodles, covered in a blend of fish sauce and peanuts). It sounds strange to the untrained eye, I know, but it’s actually considered one of the more ‘boring’ Vietnamese lunch dishes. For me though, it hits all the right spots; carbs, tick! Greasy goodness, tick! Nuts, tick! What’s not to like? Similarly, their fruit smoothies are to die for. I usually opt for either the coconut or passionfruit but the menu is well and truly endless.

Not the best representation of ID, but I'm a little obsessed with the Oile Pastel setting on my phone!

Not the best representation of ID, I agree, but I’m a little obsessed with the Oil Pastel setting on my phone!

2) The Guilty Pleasure

Kesera Café Bar, 26/1 Le Thanh Ton, District 1, HCMC (http://www.keserakesera.com/)

This is another ‘back-alley delight’ and is my (not-so-secret) guilty pleasure. Cheesecake is the culprit here. I have never, in my entire 25 years of living, ever tasted such divine cheesecake as I have in this café; a New York style baked cheesecake with lightly whipped cream cheese and a perfectly crunchy biscuit base. I usually order this along with a hot Italian coffee (very rare in Saigon!) because it is served in the cutest ceramic cup and saucer with a tiny wooden stirring spoon and a minute piece of shortbread on the side; the perfect size for my Hobbit stomach. This is the place I go to when I need to escape Asia for a moment and indulge in some home comforts. All that’s missing is the cosy fire and the slippers!

3) For Value for Money:

Cuc Gach Café, 79 Phan Kế Bính, Đa kao, District 1, HCMC (http://www.cucgachcafe.com.vn/)

This is actually part of a chain of ‘countryside’ restaurants; there are 3 dotted around the city. I regularly go to the restaurant on Dang Tat Street (District 1) for dinner, but have only recently been introduced to the lunchtime hang out in the same District. The set up is the same as the restaurant; an old converted Vietnamese house, with antique furniture and a homely vibe. I come here mainly for their set lunches which they have every Friday. For just 80,000vnd (£2.50) you receive a 5 course lunch consisting, usually, of 2 types of fish, 1 type of meat and 2 vegetable dishes. Accompanying all this, you also get a huge bowl of rice, a light soup/broth and unlimited green tea, what a bargain! Also, on the first day of each lunar month, they offer a vegetarian version for the same price, with equally as delicious food; the garlic mushrooms and the fried tofu are my particular highlights.

Amazing drinks presentation at Cuc Gach!

Amazing drinks presentation at Cuc Gach!

A small sample of the (non-vegetarian) set menu

A small sample of the (non-vegetarian) set menu

Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns have added some colour to the place recently

Mid-Autumn Festival lanterns have added some colour to the place recently

4) For a Taste of Europe

Une Journee a Paris, 234 Le Thanh Ton Street, District 1, HCMC

I think I spoke too soon when labelling Kesera as my ‘Guilty Pleasure’. This small French patisserie offers some of the most delightful pastries, baguettes and cakes in Saigon. We’re talking buttered croissants, lemon meringues, macaroons, croque monsieurs, melted brie and camembert on a variety of freshly baked loaves and some wonderful fresh salmon; my mouth waters just at the thought of it. I imagine this café offers the perfect setting for a continental breakfast, however I only ever really venture there for a late afternoon snack. The decor is light and airy, plenty of bright colours and simplistic furniture; it’s an extremely peaceful atmosphere which is very necessary, as just outside, you are thrown back into the chaos of Ben Thanh Market. It’s definitely worth battling the hyperactivity for though, if not for the food, then for the very attractive French owners!

5) For Something Unique

Bazaar, 175 Vo Thi Sau, Ward 7, District 3, HCMC (https://www.facebook.com/BazaarCoffeeShop)

This has fast become my favourite afternoon hideout. I actually only stumbled across this cafe about a month ago, which is surprising as it is directly next door to CEFALT. Embedded into a crumbling wall and battling with a huge tree directly outside its main windows, it’s not hard to see how I’ve missed it previously. It is the quaintest little place though; split across 2 floors, there’s a small shop on the ground floor and a coffee lounge area on the second. However, by Western standards, the entire building is the total height of just one floor. Even as a 5ft1 woman, I struggled to negotiate my way up the minute winding staircase to the lounge. But this just adds to the charm of the place. The decor just screams vintage, the moment you enter you just know you are about to overload Instagram with snaps. There are brightly coloured shutters, along with a curtain made purely of coffee mugs, a painted brick wall where people can leave notes and the smallest wooden chairs and benches. It’s a pure Hobbit heaven; I’d say a maximum of 5 Western-sized individuals could squeeze into this place. Caution:  Any visitors over 5ft should probably be wary of low hanging lights, door frames, shelves and bird cages!

Me on the 2nd floor!

Me on the 2nd floor!

Cute birdcage decorations

Cute birdcage decorations

Curtain of Mugs

Curtain of Mugs

Cool stools

Cool stools

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