holloway road food blog

So… my housemate has created an official Holloway Road Food Blog – that all of us can update.  That means in the future I will be posting my culinary adventures on that site, rather than this one.  Which leaves me to wonder – What will I put here?

Anyway, in the meantime, here are some pictures of my curry and curry paste, and the pumpkin cheesecake pie I made last night (with low-fat cream cheese!).


yummy curry
home made curry paste
ginger-pumpkin cheesecake pie!

and… I bought a sewing machine on trademe.co.nz!  As soon as I go to Island Bay to pick it up I’ll get back to sewing!  I can’t wait!

I also got some furniture at some second hand shops in Karori.  Here in New Zealand resale shops, thrift shops, second hand stores, etc. are called “op shops”, which is short for “opportunity shop”.  There are also a fair number of “vintage shops” on Cuba Street, which my housemate Emma calls “Op Shops”, and a number of overpriced junky “antique shops”, that she also calls “op shops”, though I would disagree.  I tried to buy a small 2nd hand lamp from the guy in one shop – he wanted $15 for it!!!  You can buy a NEW lamp for $15 at the warehouse.  JESUS!!!  The guy’s store was so crammed full of junk you could hardly walk.  I wanted to buy a cute polka-dot tie, thinking it’s be a dollar or two.  No – he asked for $10 !!!!  I won’t be going back there again… except maybe to sell some junk when I move!


The Lao word for “five” is “ha”, so in text messages people write “555!” – “ha ha ha!”

The other day I went to pour some hot water into my tea thermos and a roach jumped out at me.  After I killed it and the panic attack was over, I decided to wash out the thermos as best as I could, but I knew just soap and water would not do the trick.  I had to disinfect that thing.

So I went to the corner shop to try to buy some bleach.

I have no idea how to say “Bleach” in Lao.

The corner store I usually go to is owned by a lady who does not speak any English.  It is about 10 feet x 10 feet and arranged in no particular order.  Some of the items I generally buy from her include: laundry soap, eggs, dish soap, nail polish remover, cooking oil, Beerlao, phone cards, and toilet paper.

I knew that bleach is not such a strange obscure thing and that she would probably have it.  So, I spent a few minutes looking around, and she noticed I hadn’t found what I wanted.  I was looking in the dish soap/bathroom cleaner area, thinking that would be the most obvious place to find bleach.  But there was none.  She picked up a bottle of window cleaner and held it out to me.  “Baw….” (no) I said.  She said “Hongnam?” (Bathroom), and I said “Yeah!  Something to clean the bathroom!” and she held out another bottle of cleaner… that still was not bleach.  Again, I said “No.”

She thought for a minute, and then bent over, and rummaged around in the back of the bottom shelf for a few minutes. Then, finally, after what seemed like ages, produced a huge bottle of fish sauce with a huge flourish.  “This must be what you’re looking for!” was her obvious thought.

There are bottles of fish sauce everywhere you turn your head in this country.  At the Tesco in Nong Khai they actually have an entire aisle dedicated solely to fish sauce.

If I wanted fish sauce I could have easily said “Nam pa”, or even pointed to one of the 50 other bottles in plain sight in the shop.

“No.”  I said again.  Finally I decided to try French.  “Eau de javel?”

It was the “aha!” moment, she finally understood what I was looking for. In the most logical place for a bottle of bleach, somewhere between the mayonnaise and the warm pepsi, she pulled out a blue bottle written entirely in Thai, and said “eau de javel.”

The communication barrier is slowly getting easier to handle.

lady about town

Things have been going pretty well lately here in V-town.  I had quite an interesting weekend.  It began with me cleaning my house and doing laundry because the sun was actually shining for a few hours, meaning my clothes might dry in less than a week.  Then, I stepped out to the Talat Sao Shopping Mall to try and buy a new pair of shoes.

Yes, there is a “mall” here.  But there are no Baby Gaps or Bath and Body Works.  It’s basically exactly the same as the market, just inside and air conditioned.  And there is a food court, where you can get tripe served anyway you like.

My only pair of shoes besides a pair of flip-flops broke on Wednesday, but the market closes at 5 pm so I couldn’t make it there to get a new pair until Saturday.  I tried going to some “boutique” shops around my house but they only kind I could find were all a size too small for me and involved 3-inch heels.  So I planned my weekend around finding a new pair of shoes, which I knew would invove a trip to Talat Sao.

It seemed like everyone in the entire Vientiane Province had shown up at the mall on Saturday.  The place was jam-packed with tourists and locls, and little kids running up and down the escalators (probably the only ones in the country).  I saw one lady who works at the library named Bountie, and then 2 minutes later, another lady from the library.  After making excuses to get out of watching them shop for sarongs, a few minutes later I ran into Mee, a young lady I know from the University.  She is a teacher in the Faculty of Letters in the Department of Lao Language and Litterature, and also in the Faculty of Education in the English for Special Purposes Department.  She is also doing a Master’s in Education right now, and her English is flawless, and she is like 23 years old or something unbelievable.  She invited me to come eat Pho with her and her friend, and then they wanted to go sing Karaoke.  I hadn’t know there was a karaoke place in the shopping centre until then.

They led me to a corner of the mall and after much rapid discussion in Lao with a lady, finally into a little private room, containing a small bench, a computer, two microphones, really big speakers, and a book full of Lao and Thai songs.

singing karaoke at the mall
singing karaoke at the mall

I searched in vain for any song I knew, but alas, there were none even printed in roman script, so I just watched.  After a half hour of karaoke entertainment (pain), the girls went off to do something else, but not before inviting me to join them for Korean food later that evening.

I finally found a pair of shoes, and then stopped at the market to get some food before heading home to collect my laundry as a thunderstorm gathered.

Once the rain abated about 6:00 I left to go meet Mee and her friends at the Korean restaurant.  First I got lost, second my bike light fell off of my bag and the batteries rolled somewhere in the middle of the street.  It was dark and I couldn’t find them, and then some guy on a motorcycle stopped and helped me look.  I put the batteries back in and the light worked fine, but the guy wanted to chat for a while.  I didn’t want to be rude since he had helped me, but I was late already, so I made some excuses and then pedaled off to the “7 Plus Korean Food Health Centre”.

I’m not sure if the food we ate was really “Korean”.  There was no Kim-Chi, and no Soju!  But there was some kind of hot-pot thing that was pretty delicious.

The best part of the evening was getting to hang out with some interesting, smart Lao people who were around my age and I could actually communicate with.  At one point in the evening two of the people present started teasing another guy about how he used to be a “ladyboy” but then changed his mind and started dating girls instead.  I thought this was really interesting because a.) at first I believed them, and b.) they were all pretty open minded about homosexuality and trans-sexuality.

Anyway, after eating a lot of Lao-Korean fusion cuisine, my Lao friends all went home, and I went to meet my friend Laurie-Anne at the English Bar, where we drank a beer and she talked about her trip to Pakse and the 4,000 islands, which sounded amazing.  Meg also wrote an amazing blog post about her trip there, and I have decided this area is next on my travel itinerary, as soon as the Director of the library stops being so paranoid and permits me to travel.

We also made arrangements to meet on Tuesday at my house for a music-exchange soirée.

I spent most of Sunday cooking up Lentil Tacos, including making flour tortillas from scratch and using my thermos as a rolling pin.  Yes I spent like 6 hours cooking them, but in the end it was delicious and well worth the effort.