On this platform, my “footprints” are postcards to my friends. My home is the country I am in! I am committed to learning its language, and as much as possible about it, while maintaining great curiosity, a sense of humor and increasing acceptance.
  • Apr15

    I Have a New Home!

    April 15 in Mexico ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    Hello Everyone, and welcome back to my Experiment in International Living. After a very long gap in communication, I would like to catch you up.

    As with every single one of us, the pandemic has changed our lives significantly. In
    my case, I have stopped living in different countries for three or more months at a time, and
    have stayed in Oaxaca, Mexico, which is, naturally, still “being abroad.”

    A week ago I returned from a trip to the US—Alexandria, Virginia—to get both of my Pfizer vaccines, see dear friends, take care of my taxes, and initiate a big change in my life. I first arranged with the Mexican Consulate in Washington D.C. to obtain a visa to become a permanent resident in Mexico. To do this, I had to be retired, or over 62 years of age, and prove that I wouldn’t be a financial burden on the country. I was able to receive this visa, and three days after I returned to Oaxaca, on April 9, 2021, I received the crucial card to become a Permanent Resident.


    What does this mean? It means that I can do everything that a Mexican can do except vote. (Never mind, I shall continue to do that in the US.) I can work, move about the country, and come and go as I please, internationally. I am an honorary citizen, which I consider a significant honor. I have loved Mexico all my life—its states, its cultures, and above all, Mexicans themselves. Here, I feel that my sentiments are reciprocated fully and warmly. I have indeed “come home.”

    I am in the process of sorting out my life here—mostly doing what I did before my trip to the States. Since I was the polyglot winner of my latest Fluent in 3 Months language challenge, I decided to keep up with my Thai and Chinese studies, as well as to review Japanese, French, and Japanese in casual ways. We don’t know when international travel can safely begin again, and I don’t anticipate it will be as free as it once was for years. So, here’s to my International Life in Oaxaca!
    Here are links to my Fluent in 3 Months “winning” conversations:
    Thai: https://youtu.be/nNGCAM94qNo
    Chinese: https://youtu.be/LI7WGA6kxk0

    There is so much to learn here in Oaxaca, and in Mexico! I need another couple of lifetimes.

    Anyway, love to you all, and please leave your name if you care to leave a message.
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    Michele Zack

    Congrats on having a new home! My sister Eileen has been happy in Mexico the past 20 years, and we are visiting her next month in La Manzanita— can’t wait. Love Oaxaca, a good choice of landing point (except during annual teacher strike!) Michelr


    Well done for making the move and I'm sure you won't regret it. Wahaca is one of my favourite cities in Mexico! James. [James]


    Congratulations on becoming a permanent resident! Emily and we’re supposed to go to Merida over a year ago and we are still on hold. Clive (my 15-year-old grandson) and I were supposed to go to Panama last summer. That didn’t happen either. Instead the four of us (Emily, Clive, Peter and I) are planning a road trip to Santa Fe this July. That’s it for adventure! Enjoy Oaxaca. Such a wonderful place. Love, carol stern [Carol Stern]

  • Day183

    Second Quarantine—in Oaxaca, Mexico

    September 13, 2020 in Mexico ⋅ 🌧 21 °C

    I chose to come to Oaxaca because the state and city (same name) seemed to be handling the COVID virus better than many states in Mexico, and because I’ve stayed here two times before.

    I even am staying in the same AirBnb apartment. My hosts, Paulina and Julian, picked me up at the airport, and brought me back to my very familiar surroundings for another 14-day self-quarantine—something that is not required by the city or state government. Comfort! Space! Solitude! After six and a half months of living together with others, I am finally alone again.

    The quarantine was not difficult. The apartment is long—24 strides—so I walked a brisk 3-4 miles daily, as well as 250 steps every hour. The “cure” for the “Sitter’s Thick Torso” is to walk quickly for at least 10 minutes at a time, 3 times a day. Oh, and to avoid sugar and excess food! Paulina—totally by her own wishes—brought me some “almuerzo,” lunch, at around 5 pm daily—lunch is late here in Oaxaca—see the photos to see what came. She also did my shopping for me. A lovely person.

    And of course, my language studies continued, with the same full schedule as before. Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Italian, French, and now Spanish, of course. The new addition to my schedule is hosting two “Language Parties,” in Italian and Japanese. These are hour-long opportunities to practice speaking, joined by members of my language-learning community.

    On September 10th the quarantine ended, and I was FREE! Free to walk outside the apartment, on to the streets of Oaxaca. But I want to emphasize something important. My being here isn’t a “fun adventure trip” “on the road again” type of circumstance. Oaxaca is hushed with fear, and 80% of the businesses are locked up. Nothing is going on. I am just happy and grateful to be able to be in comfortable surroundings, with kind people, living my life as optimistically as possible.

    Love to you all!
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    James Collenette

    Hi Doree---glad to know it's working out OK. Take care! James.

    john biklen

    Greetings Doree--Must be nice to sway from Trump's USA. Enjoy. John


    Flora Brown — Hi Doree, glad to learn you’re safe and enjoying your time in Oaxaca. How wonderful that you’re staying with friendly former hosts and you’ve found a way to exercise and eat healthy meals. Most of all, congratulations on living as optimistically as possible. [Flora Brown]

    2 more comments
  • Day164

    Score: Homestay 99.99%, USA 10%

    August 25, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    A serene and pleasant home stay here in Laurel, Maryland is coming to an end. The imperfection of the score of this blog post title is due to the one person whose mask fell below her nose at a local supermarket, and an unwilling mask-wearer who made fun of me at a gas station. Nothing to do with my home stay, actually, except that the unpleasant violation of Maryland’s COVID safety rules took place in the neighborhood. Otherwise, we have been safe.

    I have spent the last two months with old friends, in a lovely big home in a quiet and friendly suburban neighborhood. I have been able to keep up my language studies—adding Chinese to the mix—with lessons, conversations, “language parties,” and interactions with other learners every day. I’ve also been able to see my local Maryland friends, either with online calls, or even in person once or twice.

    Despite daily exercise consisting of 60 minutes of walking outside, 30 minutes of yoga alternating with weight training, and 250+ steps per hour, my sedentary life has caused “The Sitter’s Fat Torso.” Damn! I shall have to up my movement game—and perhaps lower my sedentary time and a bit of my food intake—in my next location.

    My wonderful hosts have made me feel comfortable and welcome, and have enabled me to continue with my life in this worldwide emergency. I have a keen awareness of how difficult it is for a family to adjust to an “other” who comes to live with them: all are driven by circumstance, but still must deal with an unbalancing factor to lives already stressed by the ever-changing exigencies of the pandemic. Here, my hosts treated this factor with open communication and grace, for which I shall be ever grateful.

    So, on to the continuation of this “interim of the unknown” in Oaxaca, Mexico. I’ll be back in my apartment from last year, with Paulina and Julian, my hospitable Airbnb hosts. I’ll talk to you soon from there!
    Love to all,

    Here are a few photos, videos, and other “curiosities.” If you leave a comment, please leave your first name as well.
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    I can relate more to this photo than the outdoor ones! I spend all my time indoors now—practicing, cooking, and teaching all my students online. I can relate to your complaints about weight gain, but unlike you, I won't do anything about it. Ha! Your adherence to discipline has served you well during this strange time. Stay well, and I hope we meet again in the post COVID world. —Lorraine [Lorraine]

    Never a Place

    I, too, am suffering from pandemic patootie, COVID culo (for the the Italianisti). In fact, I am definitely a super spreader in that area.

    Speak, World

    A great riposte. VERY funny.

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  • Day95

    Three and a Half Months and Counting

    June 17, 2020 in the United States ⋅ 🌙 16 °C

    I hope that this “postcard” finds all you doing well under these extraordinary circumstances. I think of you, and know that I’m way overdue in sending you a blog. I apologize for the delay.

    Although I’m sure that my story of sheltering in place and lockdown is mostly the same as all of you, I have been working hard at being my usual eccentric self. I am still with my sister and brother-in-law in Altadena, California, but in the time of my daily life, I have been living in——

    Thailand, France, Mexico, Japan, Chile, and Italy! My 3-month multi-language challenge, AKA “Fluent in Three Months Polyglot Challenge” is just ending. It has been a remarkably cheerful and exhilarating experience. My original purpose was to resurrect a few of my “better” long-lost languages, i.e., those that I spoke fairly well in the past. As you can imagine, “serial monogamy” doesn’t work well for languages, and continually leaving one language for another over a forty-year period left a string of nine abandoned and forgotten loves.

    Enter POLYGLOTISM! I took Thai, my newest language, and introduced three others: Italian, Japanese, and French for the Challenge. What I had to do was straightforward: prepare a video each week in the language(s) of my choice, and discover how to improve. As an independent learner, I had the moral support of other challengers, but only a few hints regarding what to do.

    I found tutors for Japanese, French, and Italian, kept my group of Thai teachers and language exchange partners, and studied all of these languages every day—50% of my time to Thai, 20% to Japanese and Italian, and 10% to French, which was the “easiest.”

    So , after reading horrific reports about COVID-19 in the newspapers every morning, I went into my study, and for the rest of the day, lived in The World. There’s really too much to tell, but if you’re interested, here are links to what I think are my “most interesting” videos. There are also a few photos below those links which are unrelated to language learning.

    Love to you all! (And if you leave a comment, please be sure to sign your first name.)

    LINKS to Polyglot Videos—which all have SUBTITLES in English!
    1. Day Zero Video: Thai plus Three Abandoned Loves: In Thai, Italian, French and Japanese

    2. Week 8: What I learned from Japan and Thailand —50 years apart: In Japanese and Thai

    3. Week 9:Gardening (in Thai) and a horrible experience in French usage (in French)

    4.Week 10: Speaking 5 languages, switching every 30 seconds, telling my life history in 4 minutes!

    5. Day 90 Videos—15+ minutes conversations with native speakers
    Thai—about our parents’ professions (secrets revealed herein):

    Japanese—did my life and my teacher’s run parallel? (More secrets revealed):

    Italian—what professions did we choose? https://youtu.be/2Gv1OwntKcE

    French—our lives as readers: https://youtu.be/hh5fGtYEA68
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    Susan Scott

    Beautiful!! Bet the scent is magnificent!! All the roses in Mexico don’t have scent 😕

    Susan Scott

    You are so lucky to have such a wonderful garden we only have pots on the balcony which Ella has filled with succulents - no veggies!! I’m still restricted to bed for another 3 weeks with my cracked left hip but Pula is keeping me company now - she got hit by a car last Sunday and broke her 2 front legs with multiple lacerations!! So we are both on my bone healing herbal mix! And she is also not allowed to walk on them for 3 weeks! 😖🥺love from all in Mexico Susan ❤️💜🤗😘♥️🇲🇽


    Thank you for the new installment, Dorée! See you in about 3 years, I hope. Stay well. [Lorraine]

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  • This is not Morocco

    March 5, 2020 in the United States ⋅ ☀️ 23 °C

    The threat of the corona virus, COVID-19, caused Morocco to close its borders to all incoming flights today—including mine—so I was forced to do what is probably the smartest choice of all at this time: stay put. So, where am I? I left Chiang Mai on March 5, changed planes in Taipei, Taiwan, and landed at Los Angeles International Airport on the afternoon of the same day. From there, I went to my sister’s house in Altadena, California, and that’s where “put” is.

    I spent a week with Michelle and Jim, which was tense with increasingly foreboding news about the spread of the virus and the closing down of borders and public life in country after country. It was also a delightful week—with a last splash of public activity: a marmalade-and-bread-making party with Michelle’s writing students from UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), a reading at UCLA of young writers and poets, trips to markets and coffee shops, and visits from friends.

    At 3 AM on the morning of March 15th, Morocco shut down its borders, and there went my plans for the next three months. I had been thinking that waiting out the pandemic in Morocco might be interesting, but reality finally gave me the scare I needed to be sensible. So, flights and lodging were cancelled, and I am very lucky to be safe, in a beautiful place, and with my family. The governor of California told all of us who are over 65 to stay at home and cook. (Hmmm...) So now we’re hunkered down together—dog and cat included. I am extremely grateful to my sister and brother-in-law for their kindness.

    As luck would have it, a few weeks ago I decided to join the Fluent in Three Months Challenge as a polyglot challenger. From March 16th on, I shall be trying to improve my Thai, French, and Italian—with servings of Spanish and Japanese on the side. Moroccan Arabic will unfortunately have to wait.

    I hope all of you are keeping safe. Do stay in touch. If you leave a comment here on this blog, please leave your first name. Love to you all, Dorée
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    I'm glad you posted this! I've been wondering about you lately, and I'm glad you're safe. —Lorraine


    So glad you landed in a place with family- Lynne


    Glad to know yo are safe with family. We are very worried, as we come into the extremely high risk categories on all counts. Not only that, but work for free lance musicians will be extremely bleak for Ian, as things close. On a beautiful sunny day it seems almost impossible that things have come to such a pass. I'm in London at the moment getting ready to go for a check up at Guys. Let's hope that there aren't too many of those and I can retreat to Suffolk. Love to you and your family. Keep safe! Rosemary

    27 more comments
  • Day262

    Ayutthaya Redux

    February 18, 2020 in Thailand ⋅ ☁️ 30 °C

    I decided to return to the ancient capital of Ayutthaya, almost a year after my first visit. (See this site, the trip “Thailand Challenge,” footprint “My Heart Remains in Ayutthaya.”) I wanted to stay at my former Airbnb property, with Nick, the brilliant cook, and Tom, her Russian husband, and Thai language expert—to catch up, get ideas for my studies, and roam around in a relaxed manner.

    I enjoyed biking to the beautiful ruins again, mourning the destruction of what must have been a sumptuous capital. Those awful Burmese—they just wouldn’t stop invading and conquering kingdoms in Thailand—Sukhothai, Lanna, Ayutthaya.

    There are two National Museums in Ayutthaya. This year I went to the smaller of the two, which features a very precious collection of antiquities donated by Mr. Praya Botan Rajatanin, housed in what was formally a residence for royalty traveling to Ayutthaya in the late 19th century. I enjoyed it, as it was a very understated royal residence, as such things go, and the collection of Buddhist statues, religious relics, and other historical items was small and well-chosen.

    I was told by Tom to go visit the Phananchoen Temple, in the southeast corner of the historic area—a Chinese temple with an enormous gold Buddha and an excellent library of ancient Buddhist texts. It took me two days to find it, as I let myself be led astray to walk wherever my curiosity led me, but finally, there I was. Yes, indeed there was a truly giant Buddha, shining in gold, and very impressive. But where was the library? I asked four people, then a fifth and a sixth—but no one knew. Finally a kind monk visiting from Bangkok asked someone for me, and the answer was, “It’s under repair,” and that was the end of that. But not quite. The monk sent me an article and a YouTube clip showing the demise of the library in a terrible fire in April, 2012. The news was barely mentioned at the time, and now seems completely forgotten. An unimaginable tragedy. Here is link to the video of the fire: https://youtu.be/pighMrD9UAg

    Ayutthaya offered me many opportunities to really practice my Thai. I took my breakfasts and dinners at Tom and Nick’s restaurant, and Tom kindly steered some of his regular Thai customers to my table to sit down and have a chat! And of course my street shenanigans never stopped. All in all, it was a very very pleasant stay.

    I was horrified when my plane descended into the black smoke and pollution covering Chiang Mai, but hey! I was home, and glad to get back to my routine.

    I hope you like the pictures, and please remember to sign your first name if you leave a comment.
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    Glad you had an enjoyable break - looking forward to the next exiting episode! Ian is in America with ASMF and I am helping babysit! . Love Rosemary


    How wonderful that you continue to enjoy your "retirement". You inspire me to continue following my idea of "retirement" too. I'm finishing up the last two days of publishing an article each day of February to celebrate a different trailblazer or changemaker for Black History Month. It took longer than I expected for the research and information-gathering since I was set on choosing people who aren't the well-known ones that are rolled out every year as the achievers and notables. It was my form of traveling since I was going through history and many life adventures of some curious, high achieving, and brave folks. After tomorrow, I'll be back to planning my online course. Sending love and hugs, Flora


    Those are some burly turtles! Love the cat. --Michelle

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  • Day254

    Chainat? Why not?

    February 10, 2020 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 30 °C

    Although I’m on a perpetual vacation called “Retirement,” I decided that before leaving Thailand this year, I really needed a vacation from Chiang Mai and my 6-month-long study regimen there. So I looked carefully at the central region of Thailand where the standard Thai dialect is spoken, and found a small city that is really not famous for anything. Why? Because I didn’t want to run into tourists and other foreigners—to be in the “real” THAILAND—and just speak Thai.

    I flew to the huge domestic airport in Bangkok, Dom Mueang, took a bus to the northern bus terminal, Mochit, and from there rode for four hours to Chainat, capital of the province of Chainat. It is an ancient place, having more success in beating off the Burmese invaders in the Ayutthaya Period than Ayutthaya itself (13th and 14th centuries) , but now is unfortunately very low in the United Nations Human Development Program for Thailand: 75th out of 77 provinces—yikes! However, for me it ranks very highly because of sparse population, MUCH cleaner air, very friendly and hospitable people, and much bird life.

    I went on my first day to see the town’s big feature, the “Bird Park,” which has a water park , an aquarium, an “Egg Museum,” and a giant aviary, among other features. With my binoculars, I entered the aviary—the only person there. What a strange place! There were dozens of herons perched on the outside netting, looking to get in, while the “residents” of the aviary seemed quite contented to be there, although there were gaping holes in some places where they could leave if they wished. No matter, the entire area attracts bird life, so there were nests in the nearby trees, as well as in the enclosure. I spotted some small “hiiwa,” the giant water lizards (Asian water monitor) of the area, as well as ancient and very large iguanas—definitely brought in from the Americas. At any rate, I have been bereft of wildlife for seven months, so it was an utterly absorbing and fascinating few hours.

    The following day, I went walking—first in the morning around and down to the Chao Phraya River, and then into town—a total of eleven miles—24 kilometers. I walked, I chatted, I looked, I stopped to study Thai—just a normal day of wandering. Except that the temperature heated up to 100 F, 38 C, so as I walked I “showered myself” as is normal in Thailand. (Did you get the “shower myself?” It means with sweat. But oh, that wonderful REAL shower at the end of the day—such a relief!!)

    My last full day was more of the same, but with more studying Thai and striking up conversations with the residents. I am not as enthusiastic about the “cold conversations” as I used to be, as I’m sensitive to the fact that if people are working, I will be bothering them. Yet it is with the unexpected conversations that the real improvisation of speaking, using my vocabulary, listening to peoples’ stories, and getting used to the spoken language occurs. Regrettably, I feel I have gone backward with my speaking, while forward with my reading and writing.

    So, at a café, as I studied my new Thai speaking exercise about anonymous benevolence, I noticed some young college students next to me, so I started a conversation with one of them. She was eighteen, very pretty, very articulate, and encouragingly friendly. When I showed her my current exercise, she said, “If you stop reading that, and only speak with people like me, you will really know Thai.” I fell into an instant depression at hearing that: how could it be that 68-year-old me could speak with 18-year-olds like her? Or with anyone? I’m just a retired person, and everyone is busy. What’s the use? May as well give it all up. Besides, it’s hellishly HOT!

    I continued feeling low, as I walked around the town at high noon, finally finding a secluded place behind a hotel, sitting down in breezy shade to have a nap before my next bout of studying. Before walking home, I went to a large outdoor market, and chatted with vendors, taking pictures. At one stall, a woman started asking me lots of questions—rather like an interrogation: where are you from, why do you speak Thai, how long have you been studying, why did you come here to Chainat, what do you like about it, where are you going next, etc. People gathered around to hear my answers, until I felt like a country preacher. When she finally stopped with the questions, everyone smiled, laughed, and praised me, and I moved on, feeling much better about it all. Another chapter in my Experiment in International Living.

    I hope you enjoy the pictures, and please don’t forget to leave your first name if you write a comment.
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    Fascinating, Dorée! How much longer will you be in Thailand? And what will you do after you leave? —Lorraine


    More great pictures, Dorée. Hope you have fully bounced back after yyyou


    Sorry, mistake - after your depression! Rosemary

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  • Day232

    My Two Chiang Mai Neighborhoods

    January 19, 2020 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 29 °C

    On December 27 I moved from my seventh-story two-room apartment in Jade Tower in the Chang Klan District to a fourth-story large one-room apartment in the Night Bazaar Condotel—still in Chang Klan, but one and a half kilometers to the north. I moved because Jade Tower’s absent Chinese owner (a man? a woman?) decided to raise the rent by $300 a month to squeeze the high season’s potential earnings. I had other things to do with that $300.

    Jade Tower was probably the first moderately tall building to ruin the pleasant suburb-in-the-fields atmosphere of Chang Klan. As explained to me by my friend “Aw” (Thais do have interesting nicknames) the clutch of generous three-story upper middle class houses to which she moved as a child were considered out in the country. But not for long. A half a century later, all hell broke loose, enormous twelve-to-twenty story hotels were built in the district, tourists poured in, as did fat street-food-fed brown rats, and there went the neighborhood.

    Still, any neighborhood in Chiang Mai is OK by me, because all I want to do is practice Thai with my street friends and study Thai in my apartment and in coffee shops. In Jade Tower, at 5:30 each morning, I climbed the ten flights of stairs four times—taking the elevator down to protect my knees—and then walked fast, and eventually jogged, three big loops in the traffic-free lane in back of the building. I usually studied Thai until after lunch in the apartment, and then headed out in an eleven to fifteen kilometer perambulation to my favorite coffee shops. I am a restless student, and can’t bear coupling intense concentration with the monotonous sameness of my dwelling. As I walked, I made chains of street friends along the way. “Where is the cat? How’s business? You look so pretty today! Where are the kittens? Why didn’t anyone take that dead rat away? A bag of boiled peanuts, please. That smells good!” Some of my conversation starters.

    I chose the Airbnb property in Night Bazaar Condotel mainly because it was newly-renovated and cheap—$544 per month. It is set on a narrow soi parallel to Chang Klan Road, and the famous Night Bazaar, which is a huge and busy market of sleazy-to-acceptable goods in small stalls, street food-type eateries, a few cabarets and a small Thai kick-boxing arena. The bazaar effectively blocks the smooth flow of traffic from 4 pm to midnight, so motorists in a hurry use my little soi as their detour. Hence its new moniker, “the filthy little soi,” I have bestowed upon it.

    Instead of taking lungfuls of polluted air, traversing a surprising variety of uneven pavements begging for a fall, and facing the ever-present danger of alpha street dogs, I decided to exercise healthfully by joining a gym. Across from the filthy little soi is a branch of the famous Dusit Hotel chain, and on the tenth floor is a beautiful gym. Anti-gym Huneven joined with a New Year promotion, and I have been going at 6 am every morning since.

    It is now mid-January, and the “cold season” is becoming the “pollution season.” A town once placed in a bucolic valley, the city of Chiang Mai is now strangling on the exhaust of thousands of unregulated vehicles, coagulating in an inversion layer of tamped-down poisonous air. I am crazy to stay here. But I had to send off for a new passport—having used up all of my old passport’s pages in only three years—so I can’t go anywhere without my new document.

    Well, never mind. The thing about Thai people is that their charm, easy-going politeness, sense of humor and eagerness to engage in conversation blinds me to the fault of a seemingly conscience-less approach to civic duty. However, having an attendant ram an emissions detector up the exhaust pipe of any thúk-thúk in Chiang Mai at a Department of Motor Vehicles Inspection Station—and then promptly removing the stinker from the road—is my most elaborately-developed fantasy.

    No wonder I start longing for beautiful countryside! I’m off on March 6th.

    Please enjoy the photos, and sign your first name if you leave a comment.
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    You're looking great, Doreé! I love the video with the fried grasshopper. Happy New Year! Lorraine

    Never a Place

    Nice haircut.

    Speak, World

    Thank you! It does help to wash and style it!

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  • Day188

    Meeting up with Family in Hanoi Vietnam

    December 6, 2019 in Vietnam ⋅ ☀️ 21 °C

    A completely unexpected event in my Experiment in International Living has now happened again: my family came across the world so we could meet. First, my sister Michelle joined me in Oaxaca last July; then she and her husband Jim planned a trip to Vietnam, and invited me to join them in Hanoi this December. A scant forty-five minutes’ strong tail wind flight from Chiang Mai, and there I was in Hanoi airport! (It is worth noting that one can get a visa-on-arrival in Vietnam, but it takes a good hour at the airport AND takes up an entire page on one’s passport.) Never mind the red tape—it was a delight to be together. Michelle and Jim shared a sumptuous room with me in the five-star Hotel L’Opera in Hanoi.

    I realized that nearly half a century has passed since the terrible strife of the VietnamWar, and I know many people who have happily visited Vietnam since its end. Yet I still dreaded a confrontation with my past—remembering Vietnamese students studying at the University of Southern California when I was there in 1970-72, and how they wept in the shrouded darkness of their rooms as they learned of the destruction of their country; how we protested the war every day; how the Americans were finally defeated, and the South Vietnamese as well. Michelle and Jim had a guide in Saigon who told them it took him many years of research on his own to realize that the American War (as it’s called in Vietnam) was also a Vietnamese civil war.

    Well, capitalism is alive and well in this communist capital. I did no reading in preparation for my five days’ stay, so I have no idea of the real story, but it LOOKS as though entrepreneurship is big. And so is a feeling of hospitality and friendliness extended by the Vietnamese to their American visitors. I loved it, and was writhing in frustration at not being able to say more in Vietnamese than “hello, my name is Dorée, thank you, I love you”—the last being for a joke.

    We did a great deal of walking in the French Quarter of Hanoi the evening of my arrival, and then spent the next two days on our own private boat in lovely Halong Bay. Our crew of three waited on us with courtesy and attention, and the three of us were able to chat and catch up in relaxation and good cheer.

    I offer you only these details from my point of view, because my sister Michelle wrote a blog about their two-week stay in Vietnam, which I will share with you. The link below is to Hanoi and Ha Long Bay, but the rest of the trip can be accessed as well. I hope you enjoy her writerly descriptions, as well as Jim’s photos.


    And oh! Here are some photos of mine as well.

    And oh! Here are some photos of mine as well.
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    Happy New year Doree!Another fabulous adventure, and so nice to spend time with the family. We spent New Year's Eve on our own in Suffolk, but Ian is coming up tomorrow with the children. Helena is braving it out in Sydney. they live too near the harbour for the fire to do any damage, but the smoke has been horrendous. Much love to you for your next adventure. Love, Rosemary

    James Collenette

    Happy New Year Doree and may you continue your adventures well in 2020! James.


    Happy New Year. Enjoy with family. Enjoying your posts. Usha

    6 more comments
  • Day172

    Quiet Adventures in Learning Thai-Landia

    November 20, 2019 in Thailand ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    OK, where were we? Way back at the beginning of October in Vientiane Laos. Here’s a catch-up. Back in Chiang Mai and all during the month of October, I was buried in eight weekly Thai lessons and tons of conversation and reading practice. Toward the end of the month I woke up and realized that there was an enormous amount of material to digest, so in November I decided to stop all lessons and review.

    Well, that stage lasted exactly two weeks, though I filled out over 150 flash cards with new vocabulary, and listened to and took notes from recorded lessons given by my most colorful teacher Andy. I went over my readings. By mid-November I was listless and sinking into the first trough of my two-year experiment in international living. A pernicious thought parked itself in my consciousness: “Why aren’t Thai people rushing in to embrace me and take care of me and show me everything about Thailand after I have studied Thai SO MUCH?” No one was paying attention to me at all.

    It took falling even lower, until a phone call to a wise friend finally jolted me to realize that I was suffering from “Cultural Entitlement.” So I stopped that, and became pro-active. I enlisted a new face-to-face teacher to speak with twice a week. I went on the excellent internet teacher source, italki, where I found a wryly eccentric young woman in Bangkok to converse with me twice a week. And I kept my lovely teacher in northeast Thailand for our twice-weekly chats. All this was just for talking. In regard to reading, I hooked up with my very first teacher from last year to guide me to high-level reading ability via original material. A brilliant teacher and an inspired decision on my part.

    My new approach is to digest each reading lesson before I schedule another one. But for conversation, my policy is to keep talking as much as possible. This is to start to create fluency and ease. Well, maybe too much ease. I encountered a man from my neighborhood in a far-off supermarket. He introduced me to his estranged wife. She took me to a deserted aisle and described how he had left her, BUT her evangelical Christianity put her in a euphoria that took her to Jerusalem, even though her house had just burned down, and she felt just FINE. At one of my coffee shops, I saw another man, whose wife wasn’t with him that day. He came over to talk to me. After I told him that my passion was learning foreign languages, he told me his passion was everything about air conditioners. Yes! Installing them perfectly, designing new inner mechanisms, teaching students to do the same, and loving every minute. Such a new perspective everyone should receive.

    When I was eighteen and studying the Suzuki violin method in Japan, families of violin students I observed, or English students, would take me places and show me things. I have had a small taste of that in Thailand, but not much. So, to get things started, I asked the manager of the nearby drag cabaret company if he would let me watch a rehearsal of his troupe. They practice a rare rehearsal scheme, if I’m not mistaken. After the show ends each night at around 11:30 PM, the audience leaves, and the girls and guys prepare a completely new show for the next night. They start rehearsing in the middle of the night! Although I shall risk contracting a serious illness by staging an all-nighter, I am going to watch the entire show AND rehearsal tomorrow night. I’m determined to discover their secrets. You’ll have to wait for the next blog post to read my report.

    Enjoy the pictures, which have nothing to do with language learning. And please don’t forget to sign your first name if you leave a comment.
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    Such a striking entry into your blog, Dorée! Not surprising that you had a low point. I think everyone who has a special project in their lives experiences that. What amazes me is that you have the energy and ability to think of ways to get back on your desired track. Your perception of being taken for granted by people in Thailand is actually a good sign! You obviously fit in now, and everyone simply includes your presence in their lives—no need for them to make a big deal about it. I agree with you about the critters. I too would prefer them cooked before eating them! Although I would have to be pretty hungry before putting one in my mouth…


    Oops, I didn't sign that. Lorraine

    James Collenette

    Your dedication is second to none! Glad to know you've emerged from a low point and are now flying again. James.

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