The Saigon Nails Story

I can count the number of times I have had my nails done on one hand.

That was before moving to Saigon and the lure of the nail salon called my hands in for a visit… not just once this month, but twice! So to paint a picture, I am a beginner at this kind of thing.

So it is Saturday morning and fresh from cleaning my apartment, Jade and I decide to hang a right at the nail salon on the way to groceries. Forgetting I resemble a sweaty sloth, I walk in, only to see about 10 perfectly coiffed and perfectly manicured women waiting to attend to me.

For some women, this is ideal. For me, this is anxiety producing. As they buzzed around and got in closer to inspect said nails, I could feel my stress level rising. I can barely cope with the attention of one beautifier in Canada at a time,  never mind 4 at one time.

As I am ranked a novice, my daughter, who has a higher ranking, chooses my nail colour this time. She did not approve of last month’s choice of hot pink, contrasting with my white skin in my oh so lovely, orthopedic sandals to boot!

So all is going according to plan… Jade has successfully chosen a more suitable colour this time… one that will better blend my over aged toes into the world of Saigon’s well pedicured feet!

UNTIL…

The owner of the salon hones in on me and mistakenly reads my anxious look as one that is keen to try new things in the world of nails! Before I know it, she has pulled out a slew of colours to design my nails… one that involves flowers and the colour gold. All this for the price of free!

Jade looks on as I refuse to watch out of fear. An eternity later, I look down. I am now the proud owner of a multiple of designs now etched onto my finger and toe nails, complete with a bedazzling of gold dust.

As I gaze at these nails, I want to swap my hands with Jade’s!  How come she got the neutral matchy tiny flower and I ended up with the blinding butterfly twinkling in gold?!

Oh well…maybe next time, I will get it right!

 

 

My First Egyptian Hair Cut

So it was time.

I entered with some trepidation and a bit of hope.

My hair was pretty bad. It really couldn’t get worse.

I looked around at the organized chaos and wondered if I should walk away. Another look in the mirror and I knew I couldn’t.

I sit down in a sea of a beautifully made up women, decked to the nines from head to toe. I glance at my flared jeans and red t-shirt and wonder what I had been thinking. Clearly it had not been about my wardrobe.

As I gather my wits, I glance around at the system. I am sure there is one but it is as foreign to me as Arabic is. I notice looks being exchanged as one woman “demands” something, clearly amusing to those who understand her. I wish I understood.

I am signaled and soon the hair wash begins. So far so good. I am directed to my chair and my guy shows up. He looks at me with the towel on my head and says:

Volume! Big Volume! Lots of Layers!

And I wonder how he knows when he can’t see my hair.

Off goes the towel and then the shock or is it horror is revealed.

You need to colour your hair!

I look down sheepishly and meekly say that I want to see how this goes first.

Dismayed, he shakes his head and the scissors come out.

My head is yanked in every direction as he surfaces and resurfaces all around me as he gets the right angle for each and every strand. My hair is screaming for attention and attention it receives. Almost embarrassingly so.

I wonder how much more he can cut. I wonder how much longer he can cut.

I stand up. He jumps in front of me and cuts. I sit down. He crouches down and cuts. All the time, his perfectly coiffed hair never moves and nor does his chest hair, popping out from his half buttoned shirt, perfectly appointed to reveal.

I think I am getting too old for all this.

The manager walks over. Words are exchanged. Not nicely. I think my guy has been told to hurry up.

And there is no hurrying up my guy.

The posturing begins, looks are thrown and I am no longer under the radar. In fact, I am now on center stage and I don’t know my lines!

Now my guy has slowed down even more.  The classic oppositional defiance has set in and each strand gets cut for the zillionth time.

And then I hear. My name is Mar Juana.

Seriously?!

I will colour your hair next time.

Next time?!

It appears he is done. He walks away. I sit there. I don’t know what to do.

Slowly, or so it seems, I slink out of my chair and go to pay.

Oh and the tip? I am motioned to put it into the pocket of his shirt. The final act!

I walk out, sweaty and stressed, thankful it is over.

Jade takes a look at me and announces she can fix it.

Need I say more?

 

5 Reasons Why Sri Lanka Is A Favourite

1.The people make this country. Everywhere we turned, there was someone willing to help us find our way or give us a seat on the bus. Sri Lankans are some of the friendliest and kindest people I have met travelling.

2.The food is delicious. Despite being forewarned that the food would be ultra spicy, Jade and I managed, quite easily, to eat our share of curry dishes,  quite happily.

3.The tea hills are spectacularly beautiful. I thought I had seen “green hill beauty” in Colombia, Vietnam and Indonesia but tea hill country in Sri Lanka is breathtaking too. Keeping our eyes focused for the women working in the tea plantations kept us amused for hours. Although we did find a few, we never managed to take a photo that rivaled any of the postcards we saw.

4.The tea was special. Maybe it comes from drinking tea in the place where it was picked or maybe it was just that good but Jade, a non-tea drinker, has now been converted to a tea lover. Cozy is the word that comes to mind as I reflect on our hours drinking tea out of real tea cups as the monsoon poured around us.

5.Taking the train in Sri Lanka is really a one of a kind experience! We took the train from Ella to Colombo and yes, it was a mere 4 hours late by the time we finally arrived but who was really complaining? The views from the deck (the part that was open between the cars) were beyond words. We stood for hours watching Sri Lankan life fly by. I would go back to Sri Lanka for that experience alone.

(As we were only there for a week, we had a limited sampling of all the beauty Sri Lanka has to offer. Highlights for us were Ella and its Little Adam’s Peak, the train trip from Ella to Kandy, visiting a working tea plantation outside Ella, and The Dhambulla caves outside Kandy. Needless to say Jade’s first experience in Asia was very positive and Sri Lanka just reinforced why I love this area of the world so much.)

Yes! Time To Move From Canada To Cairo

The world of travel is unbelievable.

Monday, I am living in the familiar. My world in Canada.

By Friday, I will be living in the unfamiliar. My new world in Cairo.

Hard for me to comprehend beginning the week in one country and ending it in another.

You step on a plane and a mere 12 hours later, you exit to a different life.

So as we get ready to make the move, I want to thank you all for supporting me and my family!

I can’t wait to begin sharing our Egyptian adventures with you as soon as we:

  • finish Canadian check list ( I can always hope, right?)
  • drag our 5 bags and 2 of the heaviest carry-ons the world has ever seen to the Toronto airport
  • find (hopefully) our 5 bags on the Cairo carousel happily waiting for us to retrieve them
  • drag said baggage to our furnished (thank goodness) flat in the heat wave
  • unpack baggage, sleep, and try to find something to eat and drink with their currency
  • begin to make the new Egyptian check list which (from what I have read) will be never ending!
  • and when I accomplish my first task (Internet), you will be certain to hear from me from Egypt!

So until then, have a great rest of the summer and be happy and healthy 🙂

Talk to you later from Cairo,

Cheryl

(PS. A special thanks to my husband for the going away gift. He grew the sunflower for me. It looks like he has successfully replaced me after all!)

My A to Z On Travelling

Age of 1st International Trip

My first international trip was a school trip to West Germany, Switzerland and Austria. I was 15 and stayed awake all night before I flew. I tried to imagine what cobbled stone streets would look like, what people would be wearing, what food I would be eating and these questions kept me wired until I landed. Once I stepped foot outside the airport, I was hooked!

Best Drink

My younger version would say the beer at the Hofbrauhaus in Munich, Germany simply for the fact that I was drinking under age! My older version would say the homemade lemonade in Cuzco that I drank by the gallon last summer.

Cuisine (Favourite and Least Favourite)

My favourite cuisine was in India but even then, at the end of the trip, I was eyeballing the pizzas coming out of Domino’s. Yes, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing! My least favourite was in South Korea. There is only so much red pepper paste and kimchi a person can handle and I had a year of it!

Destination (Favourite and Least Favourite)

This is impossible for favourites. I would go out on the travel limb and say Cambodia, Guatemala, India and Morocco. This will probably change but who knows? My least favourite is South Korea.

Event (most exciting/interesting)

I can’t narrow it down to one so it is a toss-up between the sandstorm in the Sahara desert, the ride through the jungle in Guatemala in the early morning on the way to Tikal listening to the howler monkeys, the first time I laid eyes on animals in the wild in South Africa, cycling down a mountain in Peru or hiking the Inca trail in Peru.

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Favourite Mode of Transportation

My absolute favourite mode of transportation is the back of a motorcycle. My mom and I hired motos in Cambodia and saw the country side with the wind whipping through our hair (or what I had left of it from my bout with malaria). My second favourite is the train which I loved in Vietnam and hope to love really soon, once again, in Sri Lanka.

Greatest Travel Feeling

My greatest travel feeling is when I shared with my family their first experience to travel overseas. There is nothing that beats seeing people you love have their eyes opened to what awaits them via travel.

Hottest Place I Have Lived

I have lived in some hot countries but Suriname takes the hot cake on this one! I would wake up very early in the morning and go to work ( a day care for children with physical and mental challenges) and then by noon, return home to fall asleep stuck to the couch. By 5pm, I would wake up and begin the day all over again. Usually I would go out very late in the evening and stay up most of the night with my friends dancing and partying and then begin it all over again the next day.

Incredible Service

I do not feel comfortable staying in fancy hotels where service is expected nor can I afford to do so! So given that, I would say service in restaurants both in Morocco and in India stand out from the rest.

Journey I Won’t Easily Forget

The ride on the camel in the Sahara Desert hurt the most physically (my butt says never again) and a bus ride in Morocco when my daughter needed to desperately use the bathroom and couldn’t might have been one of the most stressful!

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Keepsake

When we got married in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia (Canada) one of our daughters, aged 11 at the time, bought us an ornament of a bride and a groom getting married. It will always be very special.

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Let-Down Sight

Fish River Canyon in Namibia was this for me! After hours and hours of driving with little to see, we got there and I said, “This is it?”

Moment I Fell In Love With Travelling

When my parents returned from Central and South America and my dad showed me his blow dart gun from the jungles of Peru and my mom showed me packages of junk food that were written in Spanish. I knew I needed to travel.

Nicest Hotel Stayed In

Oh boy there are many.. the one in Ubud in Bali, the many in Morocco, but the one that has the most memories is in Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala (Posada de Santiago) where we could swim in the pool or soak in the hot tub and look over Lake Atitlan surrounded by volcanoes. Truly gorgeous and breath taking. At night we could step outside our little bungalow and watch it storm over the lake while eating snacks bought in the local town. Perfection.

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Obsession With This

Markets… I just love them. I love to take pics of markets, I love to wander them, and every now and then I even buy something. I enjoy pretending like I live there, imagining my life as a local or at the least, as an expat. I can never have enough markets!

Passport

I have had a lot of them in my life and some have been heavily stamped. I have never lost one or misplaced one… knock on wood!

Quaintest Place

I can’t choose just one. It might be Patzcuaro, Mexico or Bevagna or any town in Umbria in Italy or Ollantaytambo, Peru or Santiago Atitlan, Guatemala or Ubud (a long long time ago) in Bali or Luang Praband (a long long time ago) or Pleasant Bay, Cape Breton

Recommended Country

I highly recommend Guatemala if you live in North America and want an inexpensive shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. I highly recommend Morocco if you live in Europe and want an inexpensive and shorter distance to travel to and a world of experiences to follow. And I highly recommend India to anyone who wants to have an experience each and every moment. You will never forget it and you may just fall in love with it!

Splurge

We splurged when we visited Niagara Falls in Ontario and took a helicopter ride over the falls. Best money spent. We also splurged in Morocco on nicer accommodations as the country is known for its beautiful older residences (riads) and this was money well worth spent. We don’t do it often but when we do, it is meaningful.

Touristy

Touristy places can be ruined if “tacky” prevails but sometimes touristy spots are eye-opening such as Alcatraz in San Francisco, Times Square in NYC, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Machu Picchu in Peru, the Colosseum in Rome… just to name a few of my personal favourites.

Unforgettable

I will probably never forget my most miserable experiences (malaria, dengue fever, being robbed, Delhi belly, field hospitals, cockroaches) but it is the most exciting ones that keep me researching where to go next. Travel for me is an addiction…but I choose to see it as a healthy one…I never forget that feeling of a new place and am always looking to replicate it elsewhere.

Visa

Visas are a pain. A royal pain in the backpack! So many countries (particularly in Africa) are requiring visas to be obtained ahead of time. If a visa is needed, those given upon arrival at the airport are my favourites. Unfortunately they are becoming fewer and fewer. 😦

Winning At Travel

I used to think the perfect job was to be a professional travel blogger. Having joined a few FB groups, I have learned that this too has its stresses. Competition can creep into anything… even into travel blogging. I am happy to win at travel by doing what I want to do and not having to research constantly 20 Ways You Too Can Get Off The Beaten Path. Or maybe I am just trying to convince myself….

eXcellent View

I have been blessed to have experienced many views over the years but recently seeing Machu Picchu with my family from Sun Gate stands out as one of the great ones.

Years Of Travel 

Uhhmmm….nope not going to go there but I have had my share of years of travel but more importantly, hopefully, many more to come.

Zillion More Places To See

Well, there is maybe not a zillion more to see but at least a lot! As I get ready to move to Cairo, my travel wish list is becoming more of a reality. Sri Lanka, one destination that has been on the list forever, is soon to be checked off in September! I can’t wait 🙂

Anything you would like to share about my A to Z? I would love to hear from you 🙂

The Perfect Day Trip From Toronto

When I travel, I love big cities.

I also love the smaller towns, a day trip away, where a different world awaits.

If you live in or are visiting the Toronto area, then this is one day trip that should be on your list.

Go one hour east of Toronto and you will find two of the quaintest towns ever – Port Hope and Cobourg, side by side.

Port Hope has a charming name and plenty of adorable scenery to match. A main street filled with flowers, cute stores and delicious restaurants combined with a rolling river with a path along side makes this town perfect for strolling and relaxing.This is the kind of place that you search for high and low when you travel. And when you find it, you don’t want to leave.

Port Hope is filled with great restaurants but if you are coming, be sure to check out Olympus Burger, a favourite destination for locals filled with a wide range of burgers with Greek names and the best sweet potato fries ever. Any burger place that also includes 3 veggie burger options is also top-notch in my books!

If you are in the mood for Thai, our favourite is The Bualai Thai restaurant where friendly service and a beautifully designed interior meets amazing food and equals major satisfaction.

For shopping, you must visit a one of a kind store just outside Port Hope called Primitive Designs. This is not just shopping, it is sight-seeing around the world! With an inventory from Buddha statues to Tiki bars to wood carved furniture to even transformers made from recycled parts, it makes shopping a delight for even a non-shopper such as myself!

If you are in the mood to swim, drive a few minutes more to Cobourg where the loveliest beach and harbour await.

Port Hope and Cobourg are 2 towns that look like they walked off a Hollywood movie screen. So charming and adorable to look at that you can’t believe they are real!

When you travel do you like to find smaller places outside larger cities to explore? 

Abby’s Words

It was one of those days.

You know those days when you feel overwhelmed and want to pull the covers over your head and wait for the next day to arrive?

Until…

Precious sweet words uttered by my stepdaughter, Abby.

You know there is a special clock on my phone that tells me what time it is in Cairo?

I didn’t know that Abby. 

Well, I downloaded it so I will always know what time it is in Cairo when you are away so I can text you. 

And then my heart filled with gratitude.

Words do make a difference.

Three Things Thursday: Egypt, Blogging and Friends

1. The Practice Run

When we went to the Toronto airport to pick up Abby, we happened to see the Egypt Air flight leaving Toronto bound for Cairo. As my husband watched it go down the runway, he decided he would do a practice run to see what this will feel like when we fast forward to August when Jade and I are actually on that flight.

After the flight took off and was out of sight, Chris reported that the practice run didn’t go too well. 😦 On the positive side, we know that we will be dearly missed and loved while we are away. 🙂

2. Abby’s New Blog

My stepdaughter, Abby loves photography and has just started her own blog Just A Quick Snap. This means sunsets, sunrises and a whole new view on looking at the world. Special moments like eating sub sandwiches by the waterfront as we look for photo opportunities make life extra meaningful. Doesn’t the small and simple stuff always stand out in the end? Even if it has to take place at 5 AM in the morning?

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3. A New Friend

When did making friends become like dating? I am sure when I was in school, there was zero thought about how to make friends. As you get older, this becomes more complicated. Will we have anything in common? What should I wear? What if I get something caught in my teeth while I am eating? What if we have that awkward silent moment? Anyway as I was going to meet a new friend yesterday for lunch, I realized that my students have it so much easier. Oh to be back in grade 3!

(A special thanks to the wonderful blog, Nerd in the Brain who is the mastermind of Three Things Thursday.)

A Travel Interview With My 2 Teens

School is out! Let the travel games begin.

I have my first 2 travel victims, daughters Abby and Jade.

They have so “willingly” accepted my request for an interview.

Where do you want to travel to next?

A – India

J- Bali

What was your favourite Canadian travel experience?

A- Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia because that is where our family started.

J- Pleasant Bay, Nova Scotia because of our emotional ties to it. Our whole family was there.

What was your favourite American travel experience?

A – Disney World because Splash Mountain cooled me off.

J- New York City because of its’ friggin massive buildings.

What was your favourite travel experience outside North America?

A – Sandboarding in Peru! It was so hard to keep my balance and when I fell sand flew everywhere.

J- Tikal in Guatemala when it was so dark and we were standing in the back of the pick up truck hearing the howler monkeys in the jungle.

What is the funniest family travel moment?

A – When Cheryl had a fit at midnight in the hotel with the man who gave our room away.

J- The Sahara desert fiasco when we were stuck in the sandstorm… the whole thing was a disaster!

Why do you love to travel?

A- Because I learn a lot.  I see different ways of living and it is fun.

J- Travel opens your eyes and mind to so many more things than a book or school education ever could. You see it all right there in front of you.

What is one item you never leave home without?

A- My camera

J- My phone

When you travel, what do you miss about home?

A- My friends

J- Homey food that I can find in my clean kitchen and eat at anytime like popcorn.

Anything you want to add to my travel interview?

A- Nope! (yelling in relief)

J- This was so much fun (dripping in sarcasm).

(I am now off to research travel destinations for next summer! Possibly somewhere in southern Africa that doesn’t cost a fortune (that is probably a travel oxymoron). I want to self-drive a safari as it is so much cheaper, but the South African school holidays are at the wrong time and Kruger will be packed! Maybe Namibia, but that is more expensive…. or India… but Abby doesn’t do well in the heat…. or…)

When Saturday Becomes The New Sunday

When Thursday is the new Friday and Sunday is the new Monday, then hump day becomes Tuesday.. – Cheryl

Confused? Me too.

In Egypt, the school week ends on Thursday and begins on Sunday.

You know how many times I have taught the calendar in Canada? Colouring it, labelling it, playing with it in Grade 3 land? I have this calendar thing totally memorized.

And now… at the ripe old age of (be kind), I have to relearn it?

Chris and I have been practicing. When it is Sunday, I remind him that I will be working. When it is early Saturday afternoon and his weekend is just underway, mine will be ending. The more we practice, the worse I get.

I simply can’t imagine beginning my work week on a Sunday.

I guess Mondays are going to be a whole lot better!

And Tuesdays which are no big deal in Canada have now been upgraded to a much higher status.

And no more TGIF.

It is all about TGIT.

That has a good ring to it.

Yikes! It is Saturday already. My weekend is almost over 😦

(Thanks to My Spanglish Familia who sent me a ticket to quote land. I have had fun travelling there. I may not come back.)

What is your favourite day of the week and why?