Thanks for visiting Expat Heather! I’m an international teacher, writer, and expat mom currently living in Vietnam. On this site you’ll find things about raising kids abroad, teaching in international schools, travel, writing, and expat life.
Today marks the 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon and the victory of the North Vietnamese army. The holiday is also called Victory Day or Liberty Day, however some Vietnamese refer to it as Black April and consider it a day of mourning.
The 40-year celebration in Ho Chi Minh City was open only to those invited, but I was able to get downtown yesterday to check out the preparations. A large outdoor arena was set up in front of Reunification Palace. All the bleachers were painted baby blue, and large floats replicating tanks, trains, and garish red and yellow flowers were ready for the morning’s parade. More than 100 police offers and army personnel patrolled the area, so sadly I wasn’t able to actually get into the bleacher area which was barricaded from the public. Locals, who usually enjoy the green space between Alexandre de Rhodes and Han Thuyen, sat on the curb against a backdrop of portable chain link barriers.
In the middle of the open-air arena, a large cardboard standup of Ho Chi Minh with bright yellow shards of light behind him emerged from a neon pink flower. Men wheeled a paper mache fortress into place, and an army man on a walkie talkie shot a bored looked at the camera-toting tourists. While I couldn’t get any photos in the arena, here are some of the decorations set up along the parade route.
To learn more about Vietnam 40 years after reunification, see this feature on AlJazeera.
This is our air purifier’s pre-filter after approximately 10 months of use in Ho Chi Minh City. When we installed it, the inside boxes were bright white just like the styrofoam.
The first year we lived in Vietnam, we did not have an air purifier. I had almost constant sinus infections, and Gabriel developed a persistent cough and chest congestion. Considering the amount of dust pollution from construction in District 2 and overall bad air quality in Ho Chi Minh City, I decided that we needed to do something about the air quality in our house. Part of the solution included moving to a house with lower ceilings and less space, and the other part was buying high-quality air purifiers.
One of my favorite things to do during Tet is to visit the Spring Flower Festival at Tao Dan Park in central Ho Chi Minh City. This is the third year we’ve stayed in town during Tet. I actually really like it because the weather is cool, the city is less busy, and the new year decorations make the town festive.
It cost 20,000 VND (US $1) per adult to enter the park for the flower festival; the kids (ages 4 and 1) got in free. Inside there are lots of different displays set up with rock carvings, wood carvings, bonsai tree art, and other floral arrangements. Within each section, a few of the pieces are marked with ribbons, and all pieces are marked with names, so it seems to be a contest. It reminded me a lot of the New England county fairs where people enter different produce and crafts for judging.
We did as the locals do: dressed up and took pictures with the flowers. Enjoy!
We had a lot of fun preparing for and celebrating Arianne’s first birthday! Because Arianne’s birthday falls during the Tet holidays, I decided just to have a small, simple party at the house. Gabriel gave me a long list of HIS friends that he wanted to invite, but I showed him on Facebook that those friends were all on vacation! If anyone is in town who wants to help us finish off that cake, let me know.
Unlike Gabriel, who smashed his cake into my face on his first birthday, Arianne was ALL about the cake. She ate two small pieces; she also tore right into the presents as quickly as she could.
One year ago, I had a long list of things to do on the last day before my scheduled c-section on February 18th. Baby Arianne, however, had other plans. I woke up in the morning on February 17th to stomach pains, which I suspected were contractions. After dropping Gabriel off at school for the day, I met my mom at Riverside Apartments where she was staying. By then, the pains were coming every 3 minutes or so. “Time to go the hospital!” said my mom. We cancelled my hair appointment and our spa date, packed our bags, and off we went to Hanh Phuc Hospital which is about a 30-minute drive from my house in District 2, Ho Chi Minh City.
Today our school celebrated the lunar new year. As this is our third Tet in Vietnam, it’s become a fun tradition for Gabriel to dress up in traditional Vietnamese clothes. He outgrew his bright blue ao dai that he had for his first Tet, so I got him a new one in dark blue silk with gold and a cute little hat for 120,000 VND ($6) at Ben Thanh Market.
When we went to leave for school this morning, Gabriel asked me, “Can you bring my baby too? She can dress up also!” I hadn’t been planning on it, but I did get a red ao dai for Arianne that Gabriel saw in the closet. He wasn’t taking any excuses! I didn’t have classes first thing in the morning, so the nanny helped me bring both of them. It was really fun, and of course the students enjoyed seeing the kiddos dressed up in their Tet clothes. Arianne had never seen so many people in one place and so much action! We couldn’t get her to smile for most of the photos because she was too busy observing everyone and trying to play with her new shoes.
After about 40 minutes, the nanny took Arianne home and I went with Gabriel over to the primary school’s assembly and Tet performance. It was really cute! I loved seeing all the kids wearing traditional clothes, singing in Mandarin, dancing with wooden sandals, and acting out traditional stories. Events like this really make me appreciate being able to send my children to an international school where they can learn about other cultures.
My favorite part of the show was the drum performance for the secondary students. Enjoy this little clip!