sinh nhật của tôi

The 18th of January was a significant anniversary. It marked a month since we moved into our house, 2 months since I arrived in Vietnam and 22 years since I graced the universe with my presence.  It was suitably spectacular. I imagine I arrived into this world loudly and messily, which is how I aptly celebrated. Except baby me probably threw up due to the whole being a tiny baby thing, not because of too much rum.

So, I woke up to a knock at the door and one of my housemates burst in with my birthday breakfast in bed; a bahn mi op la pho mai (egg and cheese baguette, my favourite), a fresh coconut to drink, two bars of chocolate and the most incredible birthday card. She had designed it like a superhero comic strip about me and my other housemates. Here it is in all its glory:

As we were admiring her handy work, housemate number two came in with more chocolate and 2 ca phe sua das, which are my favourite Vietnamese style iced coffees. Then housemates 3 and 4 arrived with sweets and another ca phe sua da! Amidst a giant birthday hug housemate 5 appeared and our band of superheroes was complete. They bought me an incredible throw/fabric wall hanging. It’s beautifully embroided with golden elephants.

The best present they got me, however, was only a bloody hammock! It is the most comfortable thing ever. It’s stand alone and packs away so I bring it back to the UK in a year.

After all of this I met up with my Vietnamese friend Linh in a local cafe, she bought me some delicious cheesecake and yet another coffee. Then we met up with 3 other girls plus one of my male housemates and went to a salon. I decided my birthday was worthy of some extravagant pampering and so had a manicure, pedicure, colour and an hour massage. I ‘splashed out’ a whole 140,000 VND (about £4.50) for this! One of the highlights was that my male housemate agreed to have a pedicure to amuse me. We made a compromise and let him put football on the TV so he didn’t feel too emasculated. Picture a 6ft 2 guy having his toe nails painted whilst trying to maintain a shred of dignity. His face throughout was hilarious, he said it was like being at the dentist, but for his feet, and that the emery board on his toenails hurt his brain.

Once the pampering was done we headed home to get ready for the evening. I booked a meal for 25 people at a famous pizza place here called Pizza 4ps.

It’s an Italian restaurant but run by a Japanese man and according to trip advisor it’s the 2nd best restaurant in the city! We had our own function room which looked so unique and interesting. It was shaped almost like an amphitheater and the staff had decorated it for my birthday.  Lots of lovely people bought me some really thoughtful presents and cards, including a beautiful photo frame from the lady whose guest house I stayed at for a month. I was so touched she even came because she didn’t know anyone else and her English is limited. Although I had invited 6 other Vietnamese friends so they helped translate which was kind. I also had a huge cake, complete with those annoying candles that don’t blow out! After the food we headed to a cocktail bar which had a live band and a really cool atmosphere. I was bought far too many cocktails and may or may not have puked.

The day was perfect. Well, until about 03.00am. On the walk home two guys pulled up next to me and my housemate on bikes, they leaned in as if they were going to ask a question then tried to grab my bag. I tried to hold on to it but they both pulled it really hard and then drove off. It was pretty scary and horrible. It was a really rubbish end to such a good day! It had my phone, keys, camera and money in. I don’t care too much about the phone or camera, it’s the photos I miss! I had taken so many nice photos throughout the day that I’ll never get back now. Sadly they then text loads of people from my address book pretending to me be and asking people to send them a phone credit code (Here you top up your mobile by buying a scratch off card and typing it in). They clearly just wanted to try and make even more money out of their theft! The whole thing made me so angry and has shaken me up a bit but I’m trying to stay positive about it. Motorbike thieves are really common here, both of my other female housemates have had their bags stolen and scores of people at my work have. Usually I don’t take a bag out and try not to carry to many valuable things.

Still, I don’t want to let it ruin my birthday. Besides, I am very lucky, I have amazing friends and family, my health, a roof over my head and a great job in an incredible country. If they have to steal people’s bags to get by then they must have a much less content life. In the words of Friedrich Nietzsche (and Kelly Clarkson), what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (Unless it’s a muscle wasting disease……Sorry bad taste!)

To end on a good note, here are some photos that my friend took on her camera.

The message written by the restaurant staff.

Also due to the length of time post takes here I haven’t received any thing from home at all yet. Because it’s Buddhist new year all of next week and everything closes down, I estimate my UK presents will arrive sometime mid February, hurrah for a super long birthday!

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