31 Aug

Remember That Time…I Colored My Hair In Vietnam?

Now that we’ve returned home and have settled back into our routine lives again we find it funny how our travel stories keep coming up. Invariably one of us will look at the other and say ‘Remember That Time…’ I thought it would make a good series; a way to tell these small stories that take us back in the blink of an eye.

Call me cheap, but I color my own hair. I always have and luckily, knock on wood, it has never turned out disastrous. It maybe hasn’t always looked exactly how I wanted it to but, then again, I’m only investing $14.95 in the process rather than $70 – a classic case of ‘you get what you pay for’.

I had even done this previously on the trip…at least 5 times previously…and had had fairly decent results even though I often couldn’t read the instructions or didn’t have all the usual equipment.

It all came tumbling down in Vietnam.

There are no drugstores in Vietnam – it seems that anyone that has any space, and something to sell, just does. I found a place selling a few boxes of hair color, chose a box labeled ‘light brown’ and headed back to the hotel.

There were no gloves in the box and I can’t even remember if there were instructions but, having done this a million times before, I just set to mixing the various bottles and applying it to my head.

I thought it strange that my fingernails stained black almost immediately but put it down to applying color without gloves and thought no more of it.

The last time I had colored my hair (in Thailand) I had not left the color in long enough as I was afraid it would be too dark and it ended up fading out sooner than it should have, so this time I was determined to leave it in for the prescribed amount of time. I busied myself while I waited for the 45 minutes to pass (yes it takes that long….I have, ahem, some grey that needs extra attention).

I rinsed the color out of my hair, toweled it dry, and took the first look in the mirror to see how it turned out.


Uh oh...a little too dark!

It was black. Black, black, black! As black as any raven haired Vietnamese beauty I could see on the street. Really, really black. I cannot emphasize enough how black it was.

I was mortified but there was nothing I could do about it. I couldn’t risk coloring over it, and besides, what color would I use? I have a sneaking suspicion that every box of hair color in Vietnam, whether labeled black or light brown or blond or red, all has the same formulation in it. Black.

At home they say you shouldn’t wash your hair right after coloring it because it will fade…so I washed it, and washed it, and washed it. It didn’t look any duller at all. Still black.

I slowly realized that I was going to have to live with it. I was going to have to go outside.

Keep in mind – this in no way, shape or form looked natural. Some black lipstick and dark clothing and I could have passed for ‘goth’.

Eventually we made our way outside – I held my head up and faked confidence I didn’t have. I felt like everyone was looking at me and laughing. Luckily the sun sets early in Vietnam and, soon enough, I was comforted by a drape of darkness. But it would have to get light again at some point.

That mistake took forever to grow out. Normally hair color fades over time and grows out eventually. Vietnamese hair color is tenacious and sticky and, even after returning home, and coloring my hair a few more times I could still see traces of the black in there.

My father-in-law referred to me as his ‘Vietnamese blond’ – funny.

21 Aug

Can’t A Girl Just Have A Drink?

I want to throw a little party, show some slides, have a beer with my friends.

My house isn’t big enough (I’m blessed with enough friends to say this) so I need to rent a hall.

In order to have beer available I need a liquor license.

In order to get a liquor license I need to have a special certificate showing that I know how to serve liquor.

In order to get the certificate I need to take a course, pass a test, and pay $25.

The liquor license also must be approved by the police station…who also charge me $25 to sign it. Sheesh!

Good job I didn’t want to serve my favorite Gin and Tonic with Victoria Spirits Bitters because that is a whole other kettle of fish…separate license…separate approval…separate craziness!

I could have put up a sheet on the side of my house to show the slide show, thrown a couple of coolers of beer in the corner of the yard, cranked the music and invited all of my friends over and no one would give a sh*t but because I want to rent a small room to be inside I have to go through all of this palaver.

I find Canadian liquor laws to be archaic. I have thought this for a long time but since returning from travel the rules have really irked me and now, with this, I am just left wondering…why?

In Germany we embarked on an all day hike up The Brocken. As we enjoyed the hike and thought back to the time when Russian soldiers would protect this border between east and west Germany, we worked up a thirst. Lo and behold, a ranger station came into view. A cute, little wooden shack with a few picnic tables and a couple of shady trees…a perfect place to enjoy a packed lunch. Inside, a friendly man served wurst and beer…German beer to boot which, as you may or may not know, is my favorite beer. That’s what I call civilized.

Lunch At The Ranger Station

When marchers had finished their part in the Inti Raymi Festival Parade in Cusco, Peru they pulled up a section of the public square and got their drink on. Thousands and thousands and thousands of Peruvians enjoying food and drink and music and friends – partying the night away with nary a bad attitude or fight to be seen. It was an amazing display of cultural pride and community and a rockin’ good party besides!

Partying Into The Night

Bia hoi may not be the best beer in the world…but it might just be the cheapest. At 25 cents a glass the bia hoi joints on the corners of Hanoi’s Old Quarter get pretty busy at the end of the work day. We pulled up a low plastic stool, indicated our order to the attendant, and watched as all around us the city changed from day into night. No food was served but a steady parade of vendors stopped by making sure we were well and full before the evening was out. I miss Hanoi.

Fresh Beer Shop, Hanoi

Here in Canada I cannot have a drink in public. It is against the law to have a beer at the beach or to enjoy a glass of wine at a picnic. Want to kick back and enjoy a beer at the campground? Nope, not on certain long weekends…no beer allowed. Not even responsible, of-age, grown up people. No-one. Want to slake that thirst and celebrate an epic mountain bike ride? Better bring along the Coca Cola Coozie to disguise it or risk being taken downtown. Makes me feel like I’m 15 again…which wouldn’t be so bad except that I didn’t particularly like being 15 the first time around.

Why all the rules? For fear that we might enjoy ourselves, get out of control, set a bad example for impressionable young minds? I assure you that me enjoying a cold one on the beach is no more a bad example than the acrid whiffs of marijuana smoke that waft over almost every public place in BC.

I not a raging alcoholic (and really, so what if I was?), I just want to enjoy a drink with my friends and show a couple of slides from my trip.

On the up-side, I revisited the liquor license folk and asked some better, more refined questions. We will now be celebrating a birthday party as I don’t need the special serving certificate in this case. Happy (very early) birthday to me!

12 Aug

One Giant Happy BlogDay!

It’s two years today since I took the first tentative steps into the blogging world. I had been reading other peoples blogs for a while; watching them be brave as they put their voice out there, listening to them grow, hearing their stories while waiting for mine to begin. I had researched how to do it, elicited advice from those already doing it and felt ready to step out and get started.

I was nervous. Not only had I really never written anything un-technical, but I had certainly never written anything public and we were coming out with a pretty big secret. I didn’t know my voice, my story-telling cadence or how much of ‘myself’ I wanted to show. We were sure of our plans but were anxious to hear what our family and friends would think and say. I published the first post and, with heart beating loudly in my chest, sent the emails sharing the web address to all who I cared about…and waited.

puppet-show2-300x199 It soon became clear that the anxiety I was feeling was for naught – my family and friends were more supportive than I could have imagined and this became the first step for me to get my puppets under control.

Since then I have published 119 posts. Like mothers with their children, I love them all but some I love just a little bit more than others. While I enjoy the posts that tell where we went or what we did, I am really proud of those that tell a story or show a little bit more of me.

I loved the post that announced that we were leaving India…The Old One, Two Knock Out Punch. It told the story of our decision to leave but also, I think, displayed the respect that we still hold for a country that challenged us in ways that we are still trying to decipher. For me, the metaphorical writing style brings the story to life and graphically illustrates exactly what I remember feeling – like an amateur boxer who had bitten off more than she could chew but is happy that the medics are nearby.

Sold Magic Carpet Ride is another favorite. I love its rambling nature that weaves back and forth throughout the day it describes. That’s how the day, and the process of buying the carpet, felt…it was a flowy, warm and relaxing process that culminated in the dance of the bargaining process. It’s still a great story.

Some posts make me do my homework or examine my feelings on an issue a little closer. Memory Studies is one of those posts. The idea of thinking about how a country or culture manages its past was a topic of discussion between Jason and I and we were interested to learn from our Berlin walking tour guide that a branch of academic history dealt with just that subject. We saw, throughout our travels, how different countries manage their past – from the March of the Mothers of the Disappeared in Buenos Aires that protests the ‘disappearance’ of their children in the ‘Dirty War’ to the seemingly open door policy that Vietnam has in regards to American tourists despite the heavy toll of the ‘American War’ – there are so many factors that weigh on how history will be viewed.

Gauchos at La Cinacina Some posts I just love for their titles and, although they probably don’t do anything for SEO Optimization or bring in any readers using keywords, I love the creativity. My favorites are probably the song titled posts…Like A Rhinestone Cowboy, We Had One…One Night In Rio, and Cigarettes and Chocolate Milk. They were fun to come up with and write stories around and they just make me feel so witty and hip (do people even say that anymore?).

One of my favorite perks of having the blog is the opportunity to connect with other people – both figuratively and literally. I have communicated with plenty of folk through blog comments and email and have received lots of well needed advice from those that took the time to answer my questions. We’ve met people that we previously only knew ‘online’ and have followed people that we first met ‘in real life’…a great melding of technology and community.

What about the future of OneGiantStep?

I find, since coming home, that my attention is pulled in a thousand different directions and I don’t just mean by life’s normal distractions of work and other obligations. My interest has been piqued in so many ways and I seem to be struggling with finding time to investigate all the options and fun things that dominate my thoughts.

And so OneGiantStep, that started out as a travel blog, will probably evolve over the next while in the same way that I have evolved, and you’ll start to see some of those interests and ideas peeking out. It’ll be interesting to see how it all works out…but I hope you’ll stick around for the ride!