Pandemic perspectives part 4: Views from around the world

By Harry Hodge and Ariel Ian Clarito

The world is under varying degrees of lockdown owing to the threat posed by Covid-19. The pandemic is currently spreading across the planet, with some countries having been given early exposure and others in the early hours of the situation.

My counterpart at the Manila Times, Ariel Ian Clarito, and I have reached out to various connections around the world to understand how they’ve been affected. Clarito first compiled some of these in an online form dubbed Tales of Lockdown (TOLD) and some of those quoted have been added to this multi-part series. This is the fourth installment of replies we received from across the globe.

The articulate, thoughtful replies that have been shared so far have been thoroughly gratifying and uplifting, in spite of the turmoil we’re all dealing with right now.

battlement tower of bangalore palace

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Ola Dabrowska – Bangalore, India

I do believe that my soul and my heart are very much Asian. I lived and worked in Chongqing, China before. Then I came to Bangalore from Poland two years ago. I work here in our Indian branch as a project manager or as our “European extended hand “.

Things in Bangalore are okay. The Covid numbers are growing each day but these are still comparatively low. People avoid going out. There is less crowd in the streets. I moved in to a spacious apartment two and a half weeks before the pandemic blew up. I think compared to many others, I’m still in a very comfortable position.

India for sure isn’t the safest place during the pandemic but I know that you cannot feel very safe in Poland either, or anywhere else in the world. Mentally, the biggest challenge for me is that I know I cannot go back home even if I wanted to or even if I had to.I do not know when it will be allowed again and when the country’s borders will reopen.

It is tough being in a spot where I have no control, I am lacking in essential information, and I know that nobody else in the world knows more than I do. But I do see how people have been caring for each other more and community ties have gotten stronger. That is all we can do now for now- support each other.

We can only stay positive and hope for the best. It is easier for me to say that as in general, I am an optimist and I have a lot of faith in the future. I know somehow we will overcome this.

beach cliff coast daylight

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Juan Carlos Noria – Benicassim, Spain

We are a family of three, with a small dog and two cats. Our biggest adjustment has been living confined in our small home. Fortunately, our patio offers us the opportunity to be outside and to feel like we can “get away.” As of the 26th of April, children under 13 accompanied by a parent are allowed to leave the home within a kilometer radius of their dwelling, for an hour. This breaks the 43-day confinement. We love being home so it’s not a huge sacrifice.

There is an effort to be productive through the pandemic. I work from home {visual artist} so the studio is very active, especially because I’m preparing for a postponed show in Canada. Our daughter is 12 and has been home schooling since the lockdown. Her studies set the rhythm for each day. My partner, Carolina and I take turns helping her with her studies. We both cook and bake so the kitchen is always active. Boardgames also keep us enthused. Not to mention housekeeping.

Our family isn’t approaching the pandemic with fear of infection . We watch a half hour of national news updates, to keep up with the latest government actions. Our efforts to keep the constant feed of fear news out is proving to be important.

The difficulty we face is financial. I’m not selling art and can’t leave the house to work. Carolina is also not working. Money that was owed to us came in just in time to help us pay rent and amenities and, Carolina’s dad is helping us with his savings. Next month, we’ll be receiving a government subsidy not linked to the pandemic. It will cover our rent. As long as we are together, healthy and productive, we feel hope. More than hope, we need a little luck to meet our financial targets.

architecture booth buildings bus

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Casey Collins – London, United Kingdom

(Our challenge is) juggling home schooling with work. This means more family time and being even more creative with the kids; making games and crafts and baking more etc. Schools won’t open back up again until September! What’s giving me hope is that the good times will come again and hoping that our holiday booked for August will still go ahead.

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Pandemic perspectives part 3: Views from around the world

By Harry Hodge and Ariel Ian Clarito

The world is under varying degrees of lockdown owing to the threat posed by Covid-19. The pandemic is currently spreading across the planet, with some countries having been given early exposure and others in the early hours of the situation.

My counterpart at the Manila Times, Ariel Ian Clarito, and I have reached out to various connections around the world to understand how they’ve been affected. Clarito first compiled some of these in an online form dubbed Tales of Lockdown (TOLD) and some of those quoted have been added to this multi-part series. This is the third installment of replies we received from across the globe.

The articulate, thoughtful replies that have been shared so far have been thoroughly gratifying and uplifting, in spite of the turmoil we’re all dealing with right now.

architecture buildings business city

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Heather Hornor – Dallas, USA

I knew separating work/school time from home was going to be really important for our stress level. My daughter however, has been much more active with riding her bike and taking walks with me and she’s enjoyed being more active.

My job is safe for the next year, but since I am now Central Admin (in the education system), my job would be the first to go after next year. My hope comes from the fact that we are together, we are healthy, and we all have jobs, and we are saving money right now.

landscape sunset twilight park

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Jordan Yap – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

I covered the Kuala Lumpur Dragons’ home games in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) before the pandemic blew up. But I kinda knew it was coming sooner or later. I thought people did not take it seriously and that they underestimated this virus. Our government enforced the Movement Control Order (MCO) on March 18.

Now we are in the middle of the third phase of the MCO, which will end on April 28. Then the government will decide whether to extend the MCO again.

About a week before the enforcement of the MCO, I already started working from home. There are pros and cons about working from home. The pros are I have more time to spend with the family and kids. The cons is that sometimes, the kids would drive me crazy.

Honestly, it is much harder to work from home than in the office because the kids will ask to play with me from time to time. We are not allowed to go outside of the house. If we need to go out to buy stuff, only one person from each household is allowed to go out. My wife who rarely cooked before the lockdown has now become a master chef.

I think when this is all over, my view on life and death would change. I mean, we just cannot take life for granted. During this pandemic, we saw so many families lose their love ones. It shows that life can be so vulnerable. We only live once, so I would try to live in the moment and try to be the best version of myself.

seoul signage

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Shin Sung Eun – Seoul, South Korea

Aside from having to wear masks daily while out, the biggest adjustment would be not being able to go out to the places you are used to going like restaurants, bars, etc. It also requires you to get creative killing time at home. I’m afraid that there may not be an end to this and the economy will be shaky.

brown concrete columns during day

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Vaughan Swart – Amman, Jordan

The biggest adjustment for our family has been the full lockdown orders from the government. In response to COVID-19, the Jordanian government has closed all non-essential businesses, but also forced people to stay in their homes and prohibited driving.

On the weekends, we are not allowed to leave our homes at all and if we do, we face fines or jail. We have struggled to be more productive during this time. Teaching online is more taxing than we had anticipated and has led us to not being overly productive outside of work.

When given time by the government, our best time is taking our dogs for walks on the empty streets of the city. We have taken up urban hiking.

Our biggest fear is not being able to go home. The airports in Jordan have been closed since March 18th to all passenger traffic. The messages from the government have suggested it will be closed until the end of May, but we think it will be longer.

Teaching abroad is a great experience, but going home, especially during this time, would be much needed. The biggest hope I have is that we (humanity) changes our ways, that there will be a new normal. We’ve been so destructive to world and I think it’s sending us a message. Unfortunately, I’m not sure we’re going to listen.



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Pandemic perspectives part 2: Views from around the world

By Harry Hodge and Ariel Ian Clarito

The world is under varying degrees of lockdown owing to the threat posed by Covid-19. The pandemic is currently spreading across the planet, with some countries having been given early exposure and others in the early hours of the situation.

My counterpart at the Manila Times, Ariel Ian Clarito, and I have reached out to various connections around the world to understand how they’ve been affected. Clarito first compiled some of these in an online form dubbed Tales of Lockdown (TOLD) and some of those quoted have been added to this multi-part series. This is the second installment of replies we received from across the globe.

The articulate, thoughtful replies that have been shared so far have been thoroughly gratifying and uplifting, in spite of the turmoil we’re all dealing with right now.

low angle photography japan buildings

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Danyk Amyot – Osaka, Japan 

It has been 50 days since I have set foot in a work environment outside my home. As a teacher, I typically have time off in March, so I didn’t feel the crisis as a bad thing when the first cases were being reported. Mostly, it had to do with passengers among the Diamond Princess cruise ship docked in Tokyo. I felt it was the furthest thing from my mind and was keen to “Keep Calm and Carry On” in Osaka. Now, after my fiftieth day without stepping into a classroom, I realize the weight of the crisis and the toll it has had on families who feel locked-in together.

Adjustments are typically dreaded affairs that have to be made until everything returns to normal. But in my case, normal meant working 50 hours a week on a schedule that differed completely with that of my wife and daughter. I hardly ever saw them. So for me the adjustment has been a positive change, in that it has brought me closer to my family and, though it has at times been a bit too crowded in our modest apartment, we have managed to weather this crisis with more smiles than fear.

When my school informed me that all classes would be taught online, many teachers, myself included, were worried about how well we could make the transition. But with so much time on my hands, free Wifi, and the full reach of the Internet, I found websites that addressed most of the concerns I had.

The trick is to work smart. I often write lists at night of things I need to do the next day. When I wake up, I sit down at a table with my notebook and coffee. I write in longhand all the worries that will prevent me from accomplishing my tasks. These fears, once written down, are easily diminished. I’m able to see how to dealt with the issues I can control and consider how I can find help for the things I can’t.

I realize how grateful I am for a lot of things in my life. The supermarkets haven’t been wiped out of necessities like we have seen on the news. My wife and I have been able to work remotely from home. My daughter has also been able to keep up with her own studies online. Each person in my household has been given ¥100,000 and we have been able to find ways of getting by on a budget. I have made it my responsibility to wake everyone up each morning with breakfast and to tidy up the house so that everyone has their own work/play space.

If I’m afraid of anything, it’s that our vigilance will weaken when work and travel restrictions are lightened. Hopefully, these 50 days have made habits of all the things I must remember to do.

Namely, 1. Wash my hands

2. Don’t touch my face

3. Limit all arguments to the length of a TV sitcom

4. If I am going to yawn during a Zoom meeting, I should also mute myself too!


viewing northern lights

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Gry Lovald Stensland – Larvik, Norway

The biggest adjustment has been combining the home schooling of my kids with my home office, while my husband has still gone to work out of the house every day. Also the kids aren’t able to play with friends like they normally do, and having my grandma isolated after all homes for the elderly went on lock-down.

Right now I’m most afraid of being laid off and the economic consequences that might entail. I am also very worried about the general economic and societal impact of Covid-19. I am not worried about the virus, and here in Norway they are opening all schools for grades 1 – 4. What’s giving me hope is the belief that this too shall pass.

people walking

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Adam Wateman and Brittany Elliott – Cairo, Egypt

AW: The biggest adjustment we’ve been going through is learning to live in the same space … and so close to each other for an extremely long period of time. I have definitely read all of my comic books that I needed to catch up on, and insanely reading books.

The thing that I’m most afraid of right now is we’re scheduled to go back to the States and I worry about bringing something back or having something brought into my parents’ house. (At the same time), I’m looking forward to the time we can get out of here, hopefully in the next few months.

BE: I finished my second semester of my Master’s program, so it gave me some extra time to work on it. I’ve bought water colours. I’m going to start working on getting Google teacher certified. I definitely tried to use the time productively… But there are days where I’ve watched Netflix all day.

The uncertainty for me is not knowing what’s going to happen. It’s hard not being able to plan ahead. The news changes so quickly. It’s hard to sift through what’s real and what’s been dramatized. It’s nice spending time with Adam. It’s nice to take a breather (from the normal schedule) I guess.

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Pandemic perspectives: Views from around the world

By Harry Hodge and Ariel Ian Clarito

The world is under varying degrees of lockdown owing to the threat posed by Covid-19. The pandemic is currently spreading across the planet, with some countries having been given early exposure and others in the early hours of the situation.

My counterpart at the Manila Times, Ariel Ian Clarito, and I have reached out to various connections around the world to understand how they’ve been affected. Clarito first compiled some of these in an online form dubbed Tales of Lockdown (TOLD) and some of those quoted have been added to this multi-part series. Here are some of the replies we received from across the globe.

The articulate, thoughtful replies that have been shared so far have been thoroughly gratifying and uplifting, in spite of the turmoil we’re all dealing with right now.

building architecture historical tower

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Joel Mader – Ottawa, Canada 🇨🇦

We have planned for the assumption that we could be home-schooling (our teenage son) for the next year. Enforcing the idea that your home is now also your school and a workplace requires a lot of adjustment and a conscious effort to be respectful to each other’s space while enforcing time management regarding classes.

There is a conscious effort to be more active, we are very lucky to have a backyard. There is a conscious effort to conserve more which has had me cutting firewood, growing vegetables, investing more for the the future and pivoting our life goals for a what-if scenario.

I don’t have any fears, I think if we are smart and adapt for the future we have very little to worry about. If I lose my job, then I’ll move to self -mployment. I am an at-risk individual who is overweight with high blood pressure, so I stay safe and plan around my family’s exposure while striving to be in the best shape of my life so that I am no longer an at-risk individual. I don’t rely on hope, I rely on action and accountability.

australia traveling travelling travel

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Andy Marr – Cairns, Australia 🇦🇺

As a family we have definitely been more productive in the garden. We are lucky to be living in a house that is surrounded by grass, trees and all manner of tropical shrubs. Before lockdown we had a whole bunch of stones and rocks delivered, we have been landscaping ever since. A cactus rock garden. A new area for a future garden. We have even managed to grow grass from store bought seed. That would definitely not have happened if we had the usual things to occupy us.

Hope comes in the form of how, as humans, we have overcome many perils before (some of our own doing). As a species, this time will be no different. It’s just that there may not be members of our friendship group or family near or far that will be there to celebrate with us.

photo of a white muslim mosque

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Wira Pori – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates 🇦🇪

I am online pretty much from the moment I wake up until I go to sleep, unless I go out for grocery runs.

I’m sure all sports junkies like me are going through some sort of withdrawal symptoms. I happen to miss seeing new clips, reading up on features and dramas, and taking a social media pitchfork to debate with some random keyboard warrior. I can withstand not being able to play (basketball). I just dribble the basketball with my left hand as I type away on my notebook. Got to have that dribbling sound echoing to sate my innate desire to run free.

Thanks to YouTube, I have learned to cook more advanced, sophisticated recipes. My wife has taken a backseat from kitchen chores now that I am the one wearing the apron.

When all this is over, I hope to see a world changed for the better. We have learned how essential personal hygiene is. I have also realized that I do not need junk food nor incessant retail splurges to survive. With that said, I cannot wait to see how world governments will move forward from this pandemic unless there is a global amnesia that will also afflict everyone after.

abstract architecture art artistic

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Josh Lee, Singapore 🇸🇬

My wife and I have been working from home for a month now, so it’s been pretty interesting times. I guess on a positive note, it’s nice to spend so much family time together. Singapore is on restrictions until June 1 – so no open restaurants, gyms or parks. Cabin fever is a worry. But at least the government is getting on top of new cases.

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Being emotionally honest about Covid-19

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By Harry Hodge

This is the moment where I pull back the curtain. And admit: I don’t know what the future holds.

I’m a generally positive person. I have dealt with various obstacles, personally and professionally, for decades. I’m not easily beaten down. 

But like the rest of you, I wake up, turn on my phone, and check the Covid-19 numbers. China. Italy. The US. My homeland, Canada.

After that, I go through Facebook feeds. Which buildings have been locked down? What are parents around the world doing to keep their children occupied? I have two little ones myself.

I check the account for my school. I check who has booked me to teach online.

I’ll be frank: I’ve never dealt with a situation like this before.
I’ve been in Vietnam since 2010, and I feel like I’m a fairly resourceful individual. I can make something out of nothing. I can make lemonade out of lemons. But in order to do these things, I need there to be some sort of activity, or commerce, or movement. I’ve never seen Ho Chi Minh City slow to the point that it has.

birds flying over body of water during golden hour

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Not all is lost

And then, I reflect. I still hear motorbikes. I have friends still going in to work, or at least doing it from home. No one is unaware of what’s happening in the world at this point. Except, maybe, my kids. Today, they saw me running on the treadmill (lucky we have that!) and decided to throw me a surprise birthday party. Four months early!

For any of you self-quarantining, or in a government-sanctioned isolation unit, I feel for you. I have a wife and two kids with me 24/7. Before this outbreak, it would have been beyond my view of reality that we’d be together for this long, mostly uninterrupted, with no obvious end in sight. I know, for their well-being, I can’t get down. I need to be smart about it, of course. Do we leave the building to go for a bicycle ride? The streets have never been emptier. Where do we get food from? Do we cook every meal? Is it safe to get broken rice and pork chops up the street?

selective focus photo of magnifying glass

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Foreigners under scrutiny

I’m going to be brutally honest here; it hasn’t been a good month for foreigners in Vietnam. When bars were closing, a party was held and someone who attended it has had a positive Covid-19 test. The ensuing search for people who went there has rippled through Saigon’s expat community, and a lot of negativity has come from it. The fact that the official case count in Vietnam has been low before the last couple of weeks has prompted intensified scrutiny of cases and returnees from abroad, whether they’re locals or expats.

Now is not the time to crack under pressure. Pointing fingers and laying blame aren’t going to improve the state of things.

I’m not sentimental, or overemotional. I attack situations with a measured, practical line of thinking. This may surprise friends who read this, who may find my normally jovial nature out-of-sync with this statement. But I care for my family and friends, my homeland and my adopted country.

I rarely wear my heart on my sleeve. I have no idea how this will all pan out. I am a husband, and a father, and a son, and all of these roles impose different degrees of stress or pressure. I’m not alone in this scenario.

When I see someone hasn’t worked for two months, I feel for them. Or see their visa expires and they worry they are forced to leave, it saddens me. Or a bar owner has to shutter their windows. All of these things are moments in a historic time that will define what we do now and in the future. 

I refuse to wallow in despair, or take what trolls post online at face value, or allow myself to give into anger or fear. Because my son Payton and my daughter Cherry and my wife My give me light and hope. Today I was given a surprise party for my birthday, four months early no less, because my children are so young that this whole situation has felt like an extended summer holiday. We’ve been through everything together for two months, and they may take a while to get going in the morning, but they paint and laugh and ride their bicycles. For them I have to maintain a brave face and prepare for every day like this whole thing will be over with.

I am unsure how many of you can draw something from this, whether you are self-isolating in your apartment or going about your daily business or in a government lockdown. Reach out to those who care about you, even if it can only be over the phone or the Internet for now. We’ll get through this thing, if we believe we can.

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A teacher’s life during Corona time in Saigon

two corona extra and san mig light beers on top of brown wooden plank near beach

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By Harry Hodge

For some, Corona signifies a beachside holiday, with a slice of lime wedged into the mouth of a frosty beer bottle. In Saigon, the current meaning is quite different.

Now, it’s a virus that’s shutting down schools, cancelling holidays, forcing parents to find child care, a major disruption all around. Nothing to say of the health implications, which have drawn debate from various groups as to the actual seriousness of the outbreak.

As a teacher with my children attending the school that I work at, I’m in a unique situation. However, the constantly changing timeline for when schools will reopen makes this whole process virtually impossible to plan around. Other families are in different scenarios, where grandparents must be recruited to watch the children, time must be taken off from work when those relatives are unable, and other headaches adding to the stress of the situation.

Compounding all this is the fact that… You’re unsure where to take the children. The pool? Some are closed. The mall? Crowds – virus breeding ground! School? Closed. More and more limitations seem to spring up the longer this all continues. Is there any way to cope?

photo of train track subway

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Light at the end of the tunnel

Hey, no one likes to read a column that’s all negativity with nothing to suggest as a possible alternative to the present situation. An obvious option is teaching online, with many companies likely on a hiring blitz since many of their students are in lockdown in China, with parents looking to make up the shortfall somewhere.

While the above is something I’m actively looking into, I am also obviously using my time to write (in this case, columns for Saigon Times) and reconnect with some of my contacts doing voicework. My wife will soon have more free time available to watch our children and I can use that time to my benefit while I continue to work remotely for my current employer.

For many others? Travel. My Facebook feed is scenes from Hoi An, Laos, the United Kingdom, Australia… You name it. It can be a time to take advantage of reduced airfares and vacancies, in the wake of travellers cancelling holidays and making it an unexpected boon for those on a budget. We expect to visit family in the north of Vietnam…. But had already booked our flights before the current situation had become an issue.

To take it one step further: Nothing lasts forever. You. Me. Your job. Our companies. This life. Corona virus. All things, good or bad, eventually come to an end. This too shall pass, although when that will be is the ultimate question.

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Dolphin show takes on new meaning as VBA expands to Nha Trang

Nha Trang Dolphins - Logo
By Harry Hodge
There’s something fishy going on with Nha Trang basketball. Actually, it involves mammals.
With the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) set to kick off its fifth season, it was only a matter of time before they announced the arrival of a new franchise to bring the nationwide complement to seven teams. The Nha Trang Dolphins will now bring professional basketball to Khanh Hoa Province, with tip-off set for this June. While scant details were available beyond the name, bringing on new blood is often an easy way to generate excitement before a new campaign.
“Please follow VBA and Nha Trang Dolphins pages for more details,” said VBA spokesperson Trinh Ngo Kim Trinh, who was tight-lipped about anything other than the multi-functional sports hall of Nha Trang University being the home venue.
While jumping dolphins and hoops are nothing new to the home of Vinpearl Land, but this time it will involve professional basketball and is sure to be a slam dunk.
VBA is the first professional basketball league in Vietnam and was launched in 2016. The Nha Trang Dolphins will join six other teams: The Hanoi Buffaloes, Thang Long Warriors, Danang Dragons, Saigon Heat, Ho Chi Minh City Wings, and Cantho Catfish. For more information, visit
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Why I Dislike Tet and Grinding It Out with 2 Kids

By Harry Hodge

In the past, I used to enjoy holidays. Not anymore.

When you are married to someone working in the hotel industry, holidays are generally (in my experience) a period when one parent can expect to be left watching the kids… alone. Coming from Canada, long weekends and stuff like Christmas never seemed that long, so when I moved to Vietnam in 2010 I was floored by the sheer length of Tet, as well as its ability to cripple a nation.

Even then, it was the sort of thing I could weather as a single person and even when My and I were first married. But last year and this year, the Lunar New Year have taken their toll and eroded my love of holidays. Worries about Corona virus; the feast or famine of supermarket crowds and empty streets, businesses shuttered and restaurants closed; my children getting little illnesses precluding a lot of the activities which were my normal go-tos. And having three-quarters of Tet to ourselves. As such, I’ve employed a variety of tactics to get myself through this seemingly endless “holiday.”

flowers garden playing pot

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Pretend You’re Enjoying Yourself

When you get lemons, make lemonade. Preferring not to feed the children a diet of videos means that you’re doing a lot of reading, artwork, and walks. Some setbacks have included Cherry and Speedy getting itchy feet (literally) from playing in the sandbox downstairs, possibly from ants. Trying to avoid them getting sick has also meant avoiding swimming pool outings, which was something we’d looked forward to. Some tricks have been outings to friend’s house to alleviate cabin fever and stop everyone from trashing the house. Going to other buildings that have sandboxes that actually have… No sand.

pasta dish

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Eat Like Nothing’s Open

You can see tumbleweeds rolling through the streets in our end of District 7, tumbling past the restaurants I’d normally make use of. You discover how much you rely on such places when your own menu is minimal. An attempt to make a meal last night of honey-garlic drumstick, zucchini sauteed in olive oil, and kimchi failed since I blackened the drumsticks and overestimated the popularity of the other dishes for two children aged three and five. Some leftovers in the fridge salvaged the meal, but creativity is being stretched. Stocking up ahead of time is the main way to deal with this issue, but the pickiness of little people is a variable to be considered.


Know Your Children’s Likes and Dislikes

All things considered, my children are pretty good. Speedy is 3.5 and understandably still grasping how to control his emotions. His sister Cherry is very empathetic and nurturing, but occasionally goes rogue and grabs a toy from him that didn’t interest her 30 seconds earlier. Everything requires consideration when they are taken places; time spent in the heat of day means avoiding certain periods of time and being aware of shade. Are there any smokers nearby? Are there any sharp corners or other perils in the area? How much whining can this particular activity or location generate?

They, in turn, have gotten a good sense of what sets Daddy off. Disputes over toys are likely to end in disappointments for all parties, since the item is likely to be removed. Resolutions must be agreed to or substitutes provided. They generally enjoy each other’s company, so keeping them both within my line of sight (for example, at the mall) is usually doable, with the odd jailbreak from time to time resulting in a loud instruction to cease and desist.

Stories can be read repeatedly, without them finding it dull or uneventful. My daughter can be trusted to paint or draw or read alone, whereas my son requires a bit more guidance. There is no shortage of toys in the house, so that’s good. The children are aware that messing with Daddy’s bigger toys (treadmill, stereo) are no-nos and behave accordingly.

Some Canadian friends will arrive tomorrow, and luckily the children have met them and (for a day at least) can expect to be spending time with these weary travellers coming from so far away. The weekend with them will be the last chance for fun before reality (and heading back to work) returns. Keep your eyes on the prize. The end of Tet isn’t far off.


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Reflecting back on the 2010s

accuracy afternoon alarm clock analogue

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By Harry Hodge

The last decade had it all. Jobs lost, jobs secured. Crossing the ocean (multiple times). Marriage. Buying homes. Children. The works.

When I moved to Vietnam after being cut from Metro Edmonton in late 2010 (which, incidentally, printed its last edition earlier this month) there was no indication to me that the move would prove to be so formative. Meeting my wife and starting a family, buying property, and doing so many incredible things here simply weren’t on my radar. My main motivation at the time was bailing on another Canadian winter (and I haven’t experienced one since)!


Honestly, a lot of these life events seemed out of reach for me in Canada, for whatever reason. Toronto and Edmonton are North American cities of decent size, coming with attached expenses. In Vietnam, friends seem to think fairly big, since the cost of failure is correspondingly more affordable… In Canada, a bad land deal or business letdown could be financially crippling. The ease to secure work also can be a boost confidence-wise, knowing a bad work situation can be a temporary one.

Money and the window we have in our lives to accumulate wealth can impart a feeling of being trapped. Now just upping and moving to Southeast Asia may make for a quick change in lifestyle, but having the wherewithal to make your money work for you isn’t generally what brings expats to Saigon. My wife My has pushed us to invest in property and we’ve seen some success. We also dodged a bullet here and there, you need to have the stomach for it and not get overly high or low. You still rely (to a certain degree) on government officials and property owners in a developing nation, who have their own motivations that may or may not align with yours and your happiness.

Having two children almost one after the other has been eye-opening, as well. Teaching made me worry whether I had the patience to have kids around me 24/7, often on my own while my wife works all the big holidays owing to her career in the hotels industry. I’ll be the first to admit that patience isn’t one of my greatest virtues, and that I could probably handle certain situations more gracefully. As well, I harbour a certain amount of guilt for having my children be so far from their Canadian grandparents. Which leads me to thought of…

woman draped in a flag of canada

Photo by Andre Furtado on

Where the future will lead?

I’ve spent almost all of the 2010s living in Vietnam, which still blows my mind.

With a possible move or two in the workplace happening, I’m inclined to see where my current job can take me. The children are taken care of in terms of study fees and seem to like the school; they also are learning Vietnamese language skills which pleases my wife’s side of the family considerably. But I have days where Canada calls to me from afar, and I find myself watching videos of my home country or revisiting old pictures and reminiscing. My folks have fairly simple needs nowadays, and seeing their grandchildren is one of those things that I need to consider strongly.

Money isn’t everything.

That said, the pros of moving abroad have outweighed the cons. At the time, a change was needed. Would more change bring more positive results? Something to consider as the 2020s approach.

Happy New Year (and decade) everyone!

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SAIGON TIMES PREVIEW: New faces in new places as Saigon Heat embark on new ABL season



By Harry Hodge

A little taste of playoff success has Saigon Heat fans craving more. And new head coach Kevin Yurkus has his sights set on delivering.

At a glitzy press conference for the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL) squad held Wednesday in holiday mode Crescent Mall in District 7, there were old and new faces in attendance. Last season’s incarnation of the squad achieved the team’s best-ever regular season result with a 14-12 record, as well as winning the first postseason game in franchise history against the BTN CLS Knights Indonesia club, with fans flooding the home court following the historic win. But the euphoria was short-lived as the Knights took the deciding game to seize the series, leaving Saigon yet again unable to advance in the playoff format. 

Some key offseason signings include former Toronto Raptor and NBA veteran Gary Forbes and ABL mainstay Christien Charles, a former league MVP. The towering 38-year-old Charles drew plenty of stares from onlookers speaking on the sidelines of the event, returning to the Heat after a previous stint with the team and time spent working with Saigon-based trainer Justin Parkes over the years. He acknowledged being the primary threat at this stage of his career is unlikely, and that he may undertake a different role with Saigon this season.

“I’d been talking to Coach Kev, he’s been in the region for a while,” said Charles. “(He) asked if I wanted an opportunity here.

“We’ve got high-level imports and some great national team players… But any (ABL) team can win on any given night.”

American Yurkus echoed Charles’ view of the parity that stretches through the league. Yurkus is new to the team himself after replacing Canadian bench boss Kyle Julius, who has moved on to ABL rivals Chinese Taipei Formosa Dreamers, ensuring some interesting clashes for the Heat on the 10-team circuit. Yurkus spent last season with the Heat’s broadcast team and is familiar to many Vietnamese fans from his time with the Can Tho Catfish of the Vietnam Basketball Association (VBA) and coaching with the bronze medal-winning national team at the SEA Games last month in Manila. He called the experience with the national team “extraordinary.”

“Any time you can support your country, what an honour,” he said, speaking about the excitement surrounding the team winning the first-ever medal for Vietnam in basketball at that competition. “We’re trying to get (those national team players) ready to turn the page for the ABL season.”

Names like Tam Dinh, Justin Young and Chris Dierker all were members of that team and represent the squad’s domestic contingent as the Heat must now play a condensed schedule because of the SEA Games time constraints. Time is of the essence for the team to gel ahead of a Jan. 3 home opener against Thailand’s Mono Vampire squad, with the Heat once again playing out of CIS Stadium in District 7.

For more information about the team, visit their Facebook page or go to

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