My house

My house
The house I’m renting for the next year-ish (hidden behind a tree). I’ll post more details – and more pictures – in a few days!

In the Mekong

I’m in for something a little different this year: I’ll be working long-term in Southern Vietnam. I have, of course, been down here on working trips before, but they were usually only for one or two weeks at a time. Now I’ll be based out of Rạch Giá in Kiên Giang province for one year. I just got here a few days ago.

Kiên Giang is one of the western-most provinces in the Mekong Delta. It’s a nice place in my experience. Rạch Giá is a nice city. Phú Quốc island – a popular tourist destination with nice beaches – is close by, so I imagine I’ll be making a few trips over there.

I’ve only been here a few days but it looks like I’ve already found a house to rent. I’ll be sure to post some pictures once I move in and get things sorted out! It will be nice to get settled down somewhere, and it’s something I need to do soon as I want to have everything sorted out before Hien and Jane join me down here during the summer.


Every so often I’ll read my horoscope in The Globe and Mail. Most of the time I think, “Yeah, that’s bullshit,” and forget about it. Today’s (May 18, 2015) is alright though:


There is no point trying to focus on everyday chores because there are so many great things going on around you that your attention is sure to wander. Save the routine stuff for another day – now is the time to have some fun.

Today happens to be my first day back at the office, as I’m just starting a new contract with Uniterra after having been at home doing not-much-of-anything for almost two months. My first day back at work and the universe is already enabling me to slack off. What could be better!? (Please don’t tell me I should be understanding it differently. :P)

What’s new? (Spring 2015)

I guess it’s just about time for an update. Where to begin..? How long has it been..? Tet, I guess.

In late February we did the Tet (lunar new year) thing here, and rang in the year of the goat (or sheep if you prefer). Winter felt surprisingly mild this year, with more nice, sunny days in January and February than I think there usually are. Aside from visiting friends and family, we didn’t do much during Tet. I was nursing a lower back injury. I had tweaked my lower back muscles playing ball hockey in late January, and I thought it would be better fairly soon.

Going into March, my back did feel like it was getting better — until it got worse, of course. This wasn’t just lower back pain, which I’ve felt with a few times before; this was pain in my lower back with pain radiating down the back of my right leg. (Sciatica?) So I went to see a doctor, he sent me off for an MRI, and it confirmed that I had a herniated disk (L5/S1) which was compressing the S1 nerve on the right side. The doc gave me pain killers, NSAIDs, and set me up with the physiotherapist. All of these things helped, but now it’s late April and I’m still not completely over it yet. Which really sucks because it has derailed my daily exercise routine(s) and makes life difficult in general. Even the simplest things – like putting on a pair of pants or tying shoelaces – can be quite the chore on a bad day!

The timing of my lower back problems was pretty bad, as my mum and aunt came to visit us in Vietnam for three weeks (late March to mid April). It was unfortunate that when they arrived I had to leave the city tours and other sight-seeing and shopping excursions to Hien and Jane, while I rested my back in a hotel room, went to physiotherapy, etc. Anyway, on my good-back-days, I was also able to join in the fun. In the end, we managed to take them to some fun places in Hanoi, Ha Long Bay, Ninh Binh, and Hoi An. Things even worked out that they were able to attend my sister-in-law’s wedding in Ninh Binh and Thai Binh!

Group photo
A rare group photo of us during the three week visit

Since my mum and aunt flew back to Canada (two weeks ago now), I haven’t been doing a heck of a lot. Watching baseball, getting a few things done around the house, and waiting on my next contract.

Speaking of my next contract: It looks like I will (maybe?) be working with Uniterra in Vietnam for one more year. I haven’t signed anything yet, so who knows, but that’s what I’m supposed to be doing. I’m just patiently waiting on everything to be sorted out over in Ottawa.

Sneeze related injuries

Back in late January I tweaked my lower back muscles while playing ball hockey. It took more than a month to get almost back to normal. It was a long and often painful time that involved a lot of “taking it easy” (when possible), and doing lower back exercises and stretches. Late last week, not long after I had just started getting used to being more or less back to normal, my seasonal allergies started flaring up. On Thursday evening I was walking around the house, and I sneezed. While sneezing I felt the most awful pain in my lower back, and my legs almost came out from under me! Great – time for a few more weeks of trying to get over lower back pain.

It was only a couple weeks ago that I had a chuckle at the expense of Kevin Pillar, as he was sidelined during Spring Training by a sneeze. Turns out, sneeze related injuries can happen to you too!

It also turns out that this most recent back problem is different from before. The injury back in January was muscle pain, but this time it’s nerve related (an MRI revealed that today). This is probably going to take a bit longer to completely recover from. I’m not sure if I can blame the sneeze alone for the nerve compression that is causing the pain in my lower back and down through my right leg, but it makes for an interesting story anyway?

Forgive me, Tux

MacBook Air
I bought a Mac!?

I’ve done a bad thing. Well, not that bad – I didn’t buy and install Windows! But I’ve been in the market for a new laptop for a while, and after a lot of shopping around and some careful thought, I decided to get a MacBook Air. I’m going to give OS X an honest try and see how I like it. If I eventually decide I can’t stand it, Linux ought to work well enough on this thing. Ideally, though, everything will “just work” and I’ll be happy with it.

These days I do most of my work in a browser (Gmail, Drive) so the only truly must-have things for me are functional wireless and an up-to-date browser. Wireless drivers are often the problem in Linux. At least I know with a MacBook that has OS X installed on it, these things will work out-of-the-box.

My old laptop (netbook actually) was a Lenovo Ideapad S10. I bought it in December 2008, and used it as my main computer for most of the last 6+ years. It held up impressively, though I did have to change the HDD once. It still works, but as browsers and web apps get more sophisticated, the poor little netbook gets more and more sluggish. We’ll keep it around until it finally dies; Hien wants me to install Windows XP on it and give it to her to play around with. I’m going to miss the Ideapad… but I won’t miss all of the trouble wireless drivers (Broadcom wl mainly, but others before it came around) gave me in Linux. Ugh.

Time to spend a few days learning how to use a Mac. This might actually be kinda fun! I need to learn how to live with this multi-touch touchpad, figure out the Mac version of all of the keyboard shortcuts I’m used to using, etc. Wish me luck.

How to not do NYE

I don’t even care much about New Year’s Eve. In recent years I haven’t even bothered to stay up until midnight. This year, though, I was thinking I’d stay up, have a few drinks, and maybe watch some year-in-review show on TV if anything interesting was airing. I took a train home from Hanoi to Ninh Binh on New Year’s Eve and got there by 10pm – just enough time for a few drinks while waiting for midnight! – but…

The house was a mess, in the middle of a paint job. The painters started on December 30th, and didn’t finish until January 3rd. On New Year’s Eve, the living room still hadn’t been done yet, so all the furniture was gone and it was a dusty mess. I spent my New Years long weekend moving furniture and cleaning the house, along with everybody else. Boo! Even if I had stayed up late on New Year’s Eve, there would have been nothing to do – so straight to bed I went.

Happy New Year! Bah humbug…

Looking back on 2014

Well, that’s pretty much it for 2014? Christmas is over and done with. Just under a week until 2015 starts.

The first two weeks of 2014 were the tail-end of our winter (Christmas) holiday in Canada last year. What fun that was! Hien, Jane, and I were all missing Canada during Christmas this year. Christmas in Vietnam just ain’t the same without all of the little family traditions back home, not to mention the family. (At least I was able to find tasty meat pies in Hanoi this year, though!)

When we flew back to Vietnam halfway through January, it was just in time to get ready for Tet (the lunar new year) which in 2014 was around the beginning of February. So… we left our Christmas holiday in Canada to come back to Vietnam for another holiday! Not a bad deal. I ate a whole lot of bánh chưng (traditional Vietnamese sticky rice cake) and other Tet specialties, and drank a whole lot of rice wine. :)

After Tet I got started on my job search, as 2014 was supposed to be a year of change and growth… But at the beginning of April I wound up taking another volunteer posting with Uniterra. So much for change! But it was very convenient to do one more year with Uniterra, as I enjoy the work and like all of the people I work with – and there was a little bit of a change, as my mandate was less focused on IT skills and more focused on soft skills and career development.

Work has been part frustrating and part satisfying this year. I’ve been working with teachers to develop lesson plans for them to help their students further develop their soft skills (communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, stress management, etc.) and get ahead in career development (CV and cover letter writing, job interview skills, etc.). It’s been more of a challenge than things I have done previously, which is nice. I really haven’t a clue what I’ll do once my contract is up in March 2015 though. Try to get back into IT? Teach English? (Both things in enjoy!) Something completely different? I don’t really feel like thinking about that right now, though…

Jane has continued to grow up fast. She’s changing all the time, and always surprising us with the things she says. What a difference a year makes! She was much more interested in her birthday this year, not to mention Christmas. She’s totally bought in to the whole Santa thing, which is fun. I wonder how many years that will last for…?

I can’t think of much else to add to this little look back on 2014, so… a belated Merry Christmas! And best wishes for the new year!


After lots of time considering my options, I finally pulled the trigger on a digital subscription to The Globe and Mail. I subscribed to Globe2Go, which is a digital replica of the paper, rather than getting a digital subscription to TGAM’s website. So far it’s great. I can download the digital replica on my tablet and read it on my commute – no Internet connection required. Subscriptions to The Toronto Star or National Post would both have been cheaper, but I still prefer the look and feel of the Globe. The digital replica on my tablet is the next best thing to actually having the paper in my hand (which, of course, is impossible living in Asia!).