Sunday, September 25, 2011

Art Project: Faces

A recent assignment in my class of bubbly three-year-olds was to draw their own personal interpretation of their faces.  Paper and crayons were handed out and creativity ensued.  In my younger classes we have been working on basic hand-eye-coordination exercises - pencil skills, drawing within boundaries, communicative gestures, etc.  Little hands can make a profound impact when put to the test!

Once they had finished, my star pupils were more than happy to pose for a picture with their works of art.  Many of the kids seemed to be directly influenced by early 20th century surrealism while others stuck to a bare-bones minimalist aesthetic.


Friday, September 9, 2011

A Tale of Neighborhood Sushi: The Demise of Viet-Nhat ... A Strange, Colorful Phoenix Rises from the Ashes

One of our favorite neighborhood spots was a hole-in-the-wall sushi joint called Viet-Nhat nestled into Phan Xich Long, a tree-lined avenue on the north side of town .  Admittedly, the decor was tired, the walls smudged, hygiene a virtual non-issue in the soap-less bathroom, and the sushi stock was limited primarily to five cuts of seafood (salmon, octopus, eel, tuna, and shrimp). That said, it was so convenient and the limited amount of fish generally ensured the freshness of the product; thus, we enjoyed a number of post-work, sake-drenched fish feeds that left our thirst slaked and hunger momentarily quelled.

The fish was always swimmingly presented and kind to the palette.  The waitresses endlessly attentive and the wasabi of a scathingly spicy variety.  Did I mention that rolls were only about a dollar each?

Then came the moment of reckoning.  On a fittingly wet and morose evening, we were told that they would soon be closing their doors.  Yet before our hearts could split in half and tears had the opportunity to breach the optical dam, we were discreetly slipped a piece of paper containing a new address!  They would migrate only five minutes further down the road (a stones' throw from a den of iniquities/lodging house where many of our friends reside) to 147 Nguyen Van Dau in Binh Thanh District. 

With the arrival of our ex-pat Istanbullu pal this week, we thought it was time to gorge ourselves once again and check out Viet-Nhat's new location.

Change is lukewarmly welcomed in the case of Viet-Nhat, now renamed simply to "Sushi/Smoothies". Gone are the grease-lined walls, but the modern Vietnamese cafe vibe is slightly disconcerting.  As teens modestly sip on fruit drinks and pop videos blare from looming televisions, we entered with trepidation.  The large open dining area is bright green with hand-painted flower patterns covering the walls.  Plastic potted plants sprout everywhere; including various flowers, ferns, and trees.  Rather than typical restaurant furniture, they had squat, ebony tables and cushions to sit on. 

We found ourselves a table and subsequently were brought over menus by familiar smiling faces.  Much to our chagrin, the menu had been updated to a strictly Vietnamese version (ordering sushi in the language of this land is more difficult than one would think).  However, the gals were kind enough to dig out one of the old relics that contained the proper Japanese names.

All our favorites were ordered: sake maki (salmon roll), maguro maki (tuna roll), sake furai maki (tempura salmon roll with vegetables), tako sushi (octopus), and unagi sushi (eel), along with vegetable tempura and three miso soups.

Alas, if only I had a better camera - I could properly depict the amount of fish we consumed that evening.  We gorged ourselves.  Although it is no longer just around the corner and the new decor borders on the obnoxious, "Sushi/Smoothies" will be revisited.  Next time, we just need to ask them kindly to turn down the tunes.