vietnam, north to south



dream big

This week in class we talked about homes. At the end of the lesson I had my students write about their dream homes. Here are some of the best responses (and the English names they’ve chosen for themselves):

“In my dream I want to live in a house like a ball with a lot of windows… My house can round on the beach because it is a ball. There is no fence no sidewalk no driveway no yard no porch, so that we could round and round.” –Lazy Cat

“My dream home would be a splendent motorhouse, with 2-3 stories, with brand new equipments, variety of rooms. It can speed fast, even with burden weight… My family can accompany with me, including wife, child. I believe their life can be more colorful because of my existance!” –Greenson (more “formally” known as “Green Johnson”)

“I always dream about my home could build up in a village which is surrounding by bamboo. Next to my home have several field. I can grown any vegetables I like. Of course flowers and chicken are essential. When chicken lay eggs or flowers are beautiful both can make me happy. Away from town a breath of fresh air taste kind of vegetable.” –Sherry

“I like to have a house which is next to the ocean. The apparent of it is a blue globules… When I get up everyday, when I open the door, I can breath the ocean air and hug the ocean and I can forget all of the troubles.” –Coco

“I don’t care about how many rooms it have, or what color it would be. I only want to my wife will live in the room. And we will have a clear baby. Also we can make a dilicious dinner together. Our love in the house is all.” –Money

(Note: bathtubs are not very common in China) “I really want to have a huge bathtub then I can shower like a fish! Amazing! I guess it’s more relaxing than a shower. However, it’s maybe just a dream in CHINA. (crying…)” [This one included a drawing of crying face at the bottom] –Jasmine

“My dream house don’t need luxury. Six rooms is enough. Bedrooms for my family to sleep. One dining room, one chicken, and one bathroom.” –July


During a lesson about St. Patrick’s Day, I had my students make up dialogues using the vocabulary words they had just learned. 

One boy transposed the “L” and the “I” in “kilts.” 

As in, “What are those men wearing? I think men look so humorous with _______.” 


Before ever touching foot in Thailand I was most excited about visiting for two reasons: 1. To gluttonize myself on delicious Thai food and 2. To take a cooking class and learn how to make some of the tasty dishes myself. After looking around a little on TripAdvisor, I signed up with Silom Cooking School. It set me back 1000 Baht (about $34, which was more than an entire day’s budget for most of the trip), but I decided it would be worth it.


The class started with a short tour of a nearby open-air market where Chef Jay explained the difference between basils and showed us a variety of eggplants.

“This one pea eggplant. This one wata-melon eggplant. This one junior eggplant,” he recited in his sassy Thai accent, handing each one to me until I cradled 8 different varieties. It wasn’t long before an old desire to be teacher’s pet rose up within me and I was shouting out the names of the different vegetables and herbs as Chef Jay held them up to quiz us. I couldn’t help it. I wanted his chef-ial praise.

We moved on to chili peppers. Chef Jay held up a basket of red and green jalapeno-sized peppers. “These ones not so spicy. But these?” he asked, indicating another basket that was brimming with miniature peps. “Yes,” we answered. “Hell yes,” he corrected. “Spicy. Spicy!” pointing at his mouth and rear respectively.

We then followed Chef Jay’s distinct sashay across the streets and around the corner like a line of ducklings following our momma. The class itself was easy peasy (aimed at beginners). We made our own coconut milk and chopped some vegetables. Then took turns working with the mortar and pestle to make curry paste.

(Side note: Jay told us back in the day men used to sneak over to home of a potential spouse and spy on her while she used the mortar and pestle. If she was good at grinding things down to pulp and powder, it was a sign she would make a good wife. Take note ladies.)


For each dish we would walk out to the porch where a line of woks stood prepared, with most of the ingredients already in the pan and waiting for us to just turn on the fire. We tossed them around for no longer than 7 minutes, then dumped them onto a dish and ate our creations. They were all delicious, but I didn’t feel any real sense of ownership or pride in them as I sometimes do when cooking on my own.

What I took from this class was more what I learned about the culture through cooking. Thai people love aromatics, so they use a lot of ingredients you aren’t actually supposed to eat, but that add a lovely fragrance, such as lemongrass and ginger and kefir lime leaves. They use fish and oyster sauce in abundance because they enjoy the fishy smell. They don’t really use salt because it has no scent. They love colorful dishes, so sometimes scarlet chilies or verdant lime leaves make their appearance as a garnish, just for fun. All these things support the general impression I got of the Thai people during our short stay there. They are colorful and genuine, spicy and fun.


Also, in Thailand Taylor got a sunburn in the shape of the batman sign.


Some other highlights from Thailand…



whip it good

Yesterday I made mayonnaise from scratch.

“Why would you ever want to make mayonnaise?” some might ask. (In fact, some did ask.)

Because when you are out of America for a certain period of time you start to like and crave things that you didn’t like or crave before, but only do now because they are unavailable. (When we were overseas, my friends and I called this phenomenon “ABD”– Attraction By Depravation. But it usually referred to being attracted to unsuitable members of the opposite sex).

For me this has been pop music, tabloid magazines, and more recently, mayonnaise.

Don’t ask why. I couldn’t tell you. Mayo has always really grossed me out. I used to gag when my elementary school friends would devour slices of white bread smothered in a glob of the stuff for a snack. One friend used to even eat it plain. By the spoonful. Terrible life choice. Why would you ever??

So, there probably isn’t a real reason to my deciding to make mayonnaise from scratch yesterday. Except that I’ve missed cooking and I like making things from scratch and I came across an easy looking recipe on one of my favorite blogs (

So I began with this recipe and tweaked it a bit. I don’t have an electric hand mixer, so I did all the whipping myself, with an undersized whisk, and using only my right arm. While watching the second-to-last episode of  Downton season 3(finally some happiness and redemption!). It was my WOD, if you will.

I followed the recipe, whipping and whisking and beating those eggs yolks and oil into emulsified submission. Then instead of pesto (China has no pesto), I added 1 clove of minced garlic and 2 very thinly sliced green onions.

More whipping ensued.

And voila! Homemade mayo! However, due to my gluten-free diet, I can’t just go put it on a sandwich (China has no gluten-free sandwich bread). So now it’s just sitting in my fridge. Waiting for one of the other foreign teachers in my building to come along and slather it onto some wanting bread slice. Or perhaps a potato salad is in my near future..

Give and Take

Take: The weather is warming up! Fragrant cherry and magnolia blossoms grace our sidewalks. And sometimes we get to see the sun.

Give: Pretty sure Hangzhou is warm because it’s being insulated by a blanket of smog.