It is difficult to be a parent In this era of social media, where everybody is striving to broadcast the best version of themselves. I know that what I’m about to write will expose me to a lot of judging, but I am going to confess anyway. So, here it is:

I don’t put enough effort into teaching my kids how to be tidy, so they often spend time looking for a pencil and eraser to be able to do their homework. In general their room is a mess 80% of the time.

Eating spagetti with hands, messy child

My son eating spagetti with his hands

I sometimes forget when my kids have extra activities at school, such as swimming pool visit, or need to bring extra materials.

I don’t always remind my kids to brush their teeth.

Around 40% of the time I don’t check what clothes my son has put on for school.

My kids’ clothes are often stained, and I have long-lost the war against the dirt on the shoes.

Between the four of us we have exactly 6 pairs of matching socks (I don’t count the black socks that my husband uses, they all seem to match, because they’re all the same).

Around 40% of the time my kids eat bread and butter and milk when they want a snack.

Half of the time my daughter’s beautiful hair is unbrushed.

We don’t play board games much, because most of the sets have either cards or playing tokens missing. The average duration of a complete set is 10 days maximum.

The list goes on, and I must say that I already feel so bad that I can’t continue. It’s not that I don’t want to do all these things. Well, sometimes I don’t, but most of the time it just happens.

What I never fail to do is to try to listen to what my children want to tell me. To hear their fears, joys, desires and dreams. And that is one of the things that is visible on them.

During the New Year’s party my son decided to perform a few “magic tricks”. Everybody enjoyed his spontaneity and openness. He was confident and had a great time, even though most people were strangers to him. My daughter and her friend also had an impromptu performance of rhythmic skills with mugs. After they were finished my husband and I got the best compliment we’ve ever received as parents: that our kids were friendly, open and confident. Nobody noticed the unbrushed hair and not matching socks. We must be doing something right, after all.

My 7 Best Memories of Vietnam

Posted: March 22, 2015 in Travel
Tags: , ,

1. The liveliness

"Aquarium shop" in the middle of the street

Who needs an actual shop? A motorbike aquarium shop in Ho Chi Minh city.

The moment you walk out of the airport you are surrounded with life. Coming from Finland, where it is cold a great part of the year and living outdoors is limited to the few summer months, the amount of life in the streets was a lovely and enchanting surprise. Cooking, eating, even sleeping (and on motorbikes, to make it even more exotic), everything happens in the street. The house doors are wide open, and not just in the villages. In the alley where our hotel was, elderly people spent time at the thresholds of their homes people watching, children played outside, the buzz almost never stopped.

2. The food

Vietnamese Pho

The famous pho – Vietnam signature dish

If you are on a strict diet, and are a picky eater, you will have a lot of trouble in Vietnam. The variety, quality and sheer presence of food literally everywhere will overwhelm you. From fresh produce sold at every corner, to delicious meals cooked and served also at every corner, you will find it difficult to resist. Not for the squeamish, though. Unlike Northern Europe, Vietnam is not a pharmacy when it comes to cleanliness. My favorites are the all different dishes with grilled seafood, the hot pot and of course the rolls. Many restaurants  have you try to roll your own, which is great fun and involves much more skill than it seems.

3. The mix of the rural and urban

I visited two cities during my stay, Saigon and Nha Trang, and, even though Vietnam is a developing country, I never lacked any of the modern amenities. You can find the fanciest cafes and restaurants as well as the latest fashion and gadgets there just like anywhere else. But the charming thing about Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City as it is now called) is that the country life is never far. You will see people hawking their produce just in front of huge skyscrapers with men in suits carrying laptops. Next to Ferraris there are chickens in the streets, and an overall down-to-earth approach to life. On one motorbike a person will be talking on a cell phone, and on the motorbike behind them somebody will be transporting an impossibly large pile of wood. And if you have the chance to travel around, the villages will transport you to a completely different dimension: much slower and more relaxed.

4. The coffee

Vietnamese coffee

Vietnamese coffee

I only learned recently that Vietnam is the second biggest producer of coffee in the world, after Brazil (yes, very ignorant for somebody who loves coffee, but I can always say: live and learn). The richness and variety of coffee makes it a paradise for anybody who likes their day filled with the taste and fragrance of a good cuppa. Vietnamese brew their coffee with small individual filters, and usually have it with condensed milk. This is due to the fact that fresh milk was traditionally difficult to keep in the hot climate. There are many different blends so I would suggest you to emerge your nose and palate to discover your favorite one. I loved the one that had hints of cherry and chocolate.

5. The traffic

Yes, I actually learned to love the traffic. Even though on the first day the taxi driver had to literally take the whole family by the hand to help us cross a street, you soon learn that there is a method to the madness. The incessant river of motorbikes is not as threatening as it seems in the beginning. With a bit of practice, you will realise that, as long as you do not hesitate, and time your crossing well, the bikes will just gently pass you by. A friend who has been living in Saigon for a while now described it well: the traffic there is like water: it flows, and doesn’t stop. If you make yourself a part of it, you will have no issues.

6. The countryside

IMG_7677

Rower on the Mekong delta

On the several excursions that we took (to the Mekong delta, to the jungle, waterfalls, mud baths and different beaches), we had the chance to have a peek of the rural Vietnam. I fell in love with the vast rice fields, fruit plantations and small colorful homes. The place simply oozes fertility and joy. Yes, there is a lot of poverty, but not in the homeless sense that we know in the urban West. A simpler life, uncluttered with too much technology and in sync with the fertile soil was everywhere.

7. The presence of religion

Even though it is a social republic,governed by a communist party, Buddhism is very present in Vietnam. There are many beautiful pagodas to visit, where you can not only experience the art and the past, but also the every day worshipping habits of the local people. Every shop, restaurant and home have their own little Buddhist shrine, with offerings of food, drink and incense. This was a genuine surprise, as I grew up in a communist country and remember that there was no room for religion then.

My short stay in Vietnam was very intense: I collected many impressions, memories and lessons there. I soaked in a lot of beauty and saw a different way of life. I could go on about it forever, but a narrowed down selection of my favorite memories is above. I warmly recommend you to visit Vietnam!

DCIM100GOPROG0520373. DCIM100GOPROG0520399.No words, just pictures.