The Tale of the most loyal Dog – Hachiko

Finally built up the courage to watch the original Japanese cinematic depiction of Hachi (Hachikō)- the loyal Akita Inu and one of Japan’s most beloved canine.

A beautifully shot film from 1987.

There is nothing beyond tears to describe into words how profound this is. Here is the link , but be tissue-prepared to meet with the “onion ninja”:

Hachiko Monogatari (The Tale of Hachiko): Vietnamese Sub
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JnlJuRjHId4Read Prof. Ueno and Hachiko’s real-life story:
http://www.jpn-miyabi.com/Vol.43/hachiko-1.htmlI only hoped that he had been buried next to his owner instead of being stuffed and mounted in a museum. I haven’t seen the American version, but I doubt it can live up to this, and honestly, see no relevance of Hollywood or Richard Gere to this touching story.
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[Hanoi] The Great Return

It’s been 4 months and 3 days since my last post, a whopping 1/3 of a year gone in a blink of an eye.

My dear Benji graced the skies with his presence just a month after his first birthday, leaving our family, Sparky included, distraught. We miss you everyday precious, keep that free-spirited soul of yours roaming across the clouds up there 🙂 Perhaps no single dog would ever have the effect Benji had on Sparky. It was like chocolate, sweet and savoring while it lasted and bitter when we * flashback* think of times the furry giant bombarded his lesser-giant “grandfather” with his massive body. He was our oversized baby and I’ve decided to, instead of digging my head in the rubbles, celebrate the short yet carefree and joy-filled life of Benji – our 6th family member.  As the fam is looking to welcome home yet another rambunctious pup like yourself soon, Benji, our fam is growing once again with you and Nick and of course, much older canine relatives on a cloud just above us. Don’t forget to howl your heart out the way you do when you get excited, I’d like to hear you in the whooshing of the wind 🙂

Hanoi is still Hanoi minus or should I say, adding the outrageous percentages of increase in petrol and electricity prices. If I could, I’d drop everything now and just travel before the energy crisis falls upon us all and it becomes financially or resource-wise impossible to take the plane, hop on a bus or even drive a car. The truth is, unless they get solar, wind, nuclear to work quickly and widely, travel in the fossil fuel-based economy we thrive on today, is only going to get more and more exclusive to the ultra-rich or well, just become non-existent. Such a selfish and cynical advice coming from an environmental advocate, considering the size of the carbon footprint you’ll be stomping on the world each time you take a plane for example, but travel when you can, before it’s too late.

The hype in the past weeks has nevertheless been more outer-space than your everyday energy problems, it has been about the AG5 – that’s an asteroid that has been making as many headline titles here in Vietnam as some of the scandal-breeding celebs. “A 140-m asteroid to hit earth” reads some online news-flash. With little to nil scientific credibility, some headlines have even confirmed that this ‘bombshell’ would explode onto earth’s surface by 2040. Not stabbing my own career in the back or anything, but I think false information for the sake of views to this extent is just sheer BS. According to NASA, while the observations made so far imply that the asteroid would meet earth in 2040, the chances of this happening are 1 in 625. Each observation will yield new information as to how and if the course has changed. The earliest date for the next observations of the asteroid will be Sept.2013 and then better ones will come in 2015. Let’s continue our lives, make the observations and logical estimates, rather than fool people with crash-and-burn threats. To those checking off bucket lists in time for the end of the Mayan calendar this year, it’s never too early to start, end of civilization or not, bless ur hearts 🙂

Courage out to the Japanese people today ❤

[Hanoi] Tuesday Rant

—- Doggone way to start a day

I am convinced that there is something up with my neighbor. Most mornings for the past months, it has been of habit that I scramble out into my yard at approximately 8h20, crossing my fingers that I’d make it on time to work at 8h30 (that’s what you call a race against the clock right there). Anyway, this neighbor of mine is a retired man and just happens to have a fascination for using the appearances of my dogs, Benji and Sparky as a “muse” to get his granddaughter to chug down some breakfast milk. See, I have no problem with that. It’s just I’m in this chaotic state, right? and then I swing my gate open and his first reaction would always be “Look honey!!! the dog!!!”. That I do not appreciate *blank face* What should I do now? Train Sparky to open the gate?

—- The brotherhood of the traveling Great Grandfather Tortoise and Uncle Ho

An alum from MHC came to Hanoi and during our conversation, she asked about the mysterious tortoise residing in Hoan Kiem lake which everyone was talking about in the beginning of year. I told her, of course, about the legend, about how Vietnamese people regard him as the Great Grandfather Tortoise and how his health had been declining, and how honestly I thought nothing really effective was being done about it. It’d make sense to the take the tortoise to an oceanography institute rather than give him treatment in the already-ghastly condition of the water. But no one was going to take Great Grandfather Tortoise out, for superstitious reasons. My friend scrunched her eyebrows and said “Well that’s oddly contradictory, I tried to visit the HCM Mausoleum today and they said it was closed. I looked it up and found that every year for two months, Uncle Ho gets sent to Russia for ‘maintenance’ “. Now this was information I’d never heard before, and I have no real way of confirming its truth, so don’t take my word. She ended everything by saying “If Uncle Ho can travel to Russia every year, then Great Grandfather Tortoise sure heck can take a vacation to a treatment facility”

—- Halong Bay – hooray?

Today, I was coerced into sitting in on and talking at a rally for votes for Ha Long Bay to become one of the next 7 natural wonders of the world. I felt a little hesitant because I can’t help but feel, we were using national television to just push and push people to vote and vote, without really carrying through the message. Don’t misjudge my patriotism here, the whole thing about the country having a natural wonder – dandy and I did call for people’s support publicly :|. But let’s take a few steps back shall we, what exactly is this going to mean? There is no doubt about Ha Long Bay being a natural beauty queen, but honestly you can’t rely on looks in this race. If you were thinking on that alone, then every one of those final 28 deserves to be recognized, because you simply can’t put uniquely geographical, historical and cultural beauties and stack them on a ladder, one on top of the other. The world is not a pyramid, be it social paradigms have led us to think so.

If you are voting, think about your own experience in Ha Long, think about what further could be done to make that experience the next time you do have it better. Because as far as my experience goes, there are as many hurdles in environmental, tourism and public space management in Halong as there are hills of riveting beauty across this precious bay. Yes I voted once and today my co-worker says, “you know you can text as many votes as you want and you can also create new emails to vote more”. What is the point of voting, if you’re going to manually multiply your own support? It’s becoming a race of who’s got a bigger population and who’s going to spare more time.

If you are voting just because simply you’re Vietnamese and you must vote for Ha Long Bay – If you are voting just because a world natural wonder title is a must-have – If you are voting now and are going to forget about what’s going to happen to the bay the day it does get to that top 7-list – then with all due respect, your votes, be it 150 text-messages are empty.

If a vote and the title mean that somehow, finally more attention would be given to rid the waters of floating cans and plastic bags, ensure that overnight boats are truly safe, that the tourist spots won’t be riddled with okay to mediocre service, and that a plethora of other issues, which I won’t go into, are resolved – then by all means, vote and text your hearts out.

No hard feelings, and the best be it, not for the title, not for the country’s pride, but for the bay 🙂

[Paws on the News] Mr. Dirtbag greets September

In the spirit of awaiting autumn

With autumn spiritually and with much anticipation, here (the weather begs to differ with its fits of humidity and extreme lashes of heat-waves), we decided to do some work in the back yard, re-green the grass-bed. So the whole yard is now dug up, awaiting my father’s gardening moment later this weekend.

Harassing his grandpappy brother

Sparky, of course, being the over 70-year-old that he is , couldn’t care less and have yet to venture out into the mess, reserving his potty time to much more discrete and leveled ground. Little Benji (yes, we still call him that, because despite the massive fluff of ball that he resembles, he’s only 10 months old), on the contrary, is fascinated with this new terrain and has been scrummaging about, chasing unearthed beetles and closely nosing worms, and of course, triggering waves of outburst from my mom with his mud-ridden paws and dirt-drenched mouth. She literally would immediately grab the nearest possible towel and start scrubbing him down only to see Mr. Dirtbag reappear again, paw-printing on her kitchen’s window pane.

Mr.Dirtbag smiles Dirt

It’s entertainment to the purest, the dynamics between him and my mom. A vignette of mom’s market trip home:

” Mom pulls into the front gate, a defeathered chicken fresh from the butcher sulking in a nylon bag clutched to the side of her motorbike. The indomitable giant Benji races towards her from nowhere, lunges dauntlessly in, and rescues Princess Dead Chicken from the choking villain that is Sir Nylon Bag. And away goes our hero Benji, off into the sunset of my backyard, locking nozzle to beak with Princess Dead Chicken … Mom’s voice shouting ‘Nooooooo’ faintly fading out….” (July 26th)

With licks of love and wags of tail,

Sparky and Benji

[Paws on the News] Benji – the 6th family member

Benji at 2 months old

Introducing our little fella, 6th member of the family, Benji.

Our 13-year-old dear mutt, Nick had passed back in November of last year leaving our German shepherd Sparky boy quite distraught and the house quite void of doggie action. Ever since 5-month-old Sparky had come home nearly 11 years ago, he had always had Nick around, taking care of him, if you will, so he was really moping around. We decided  then that we’d take home a new member so that he wouldn’t sulk around the yard alone during the day when everyone’s away.

Benji at 4 months

8-month old Benji is an Alaskan Malamute and he’s named after my favorite dog movie series starting back in the 1970s. My all-time memorable one, released in 1987 called “Benji: The Hunted” was on the lost Benji in the wild taking care of 3 cougar cubs who had lost their mother to a poacher. A very touching story that inspired our new fella’s name, even though he’s now probably 5 times the size of the original mixed-breed little Benji.

10-yr-old Sparky

Benji boy is a very active little guy, who refuses to keep his paws and wagging tail still. You could see how much he’s changed in the merely 6 months we’ve had him. He eats practically everything…and I mean every…thing…kibbles, veggies, rau muong (Vietnamese morning glory), shoes, grass, soil..you name it. Malamutes are known for taking at least 2 years to fully mature so we’re still expecting him to grow a bit more. He loves to wrestle with poor old Sparky, who, despite his interest in having Benji around, can only take the ear-biting hassle for so long before he quickly retreats to his doggie house. Technically a dog year is 7 human years, so Sparky to Benji is much akin to a 70-year-old trying to take care of a 5-year-old.

Benji at 8 months

In the past month or two, Benji boy has learned to be a bit more ‘modest’ in his manners and what not, sitting, shaking paws, lying down and rolling on cue, and has been very ‘polite’ in asking Sparky to play with him, by slowly crouching up nearby, butt to the sky, nose to the ground, and giving out only one or two barks, instead of bombarding on the sausage boy’s stomach. On a side note, we are no longer worried about Benji being gender-confused, as my father comedically puts it. Up until two weeks ago, Benji was still going to the bathroom ‘lady-style’…..but in the past few days, he has been getting one leg slightly up there…so no, our Benji boy is not gay ^^. The poor fellah though is not really liking the heat of the summer, hitting tops of 36 C yesterday, he’s bred from the likes of Alaska so you could see why. We’ve been keeping him hydrated along with Sparky, tucked well under good shade. Love from Benji and Sparky, more pics in lomo-style!

Background info: Many have asked whether Benji is a Siberian Husky, and what the differences are. This is what I know, apart from deriving from 2 different geographical regions noted through their names, Pure-bred Alaskan Malamutes only have brown eyes, whereas Siberian Huskies can have brown, blue, grey or even alternating eye colors. Malamutes are a bit more built as they’re bred for long-distance sleds pulling heavy loads whereas Huskies are normally more slim-fit as they’re bred for speed, sled-racing and pulling smaller loads quickly ^^

[Hanoi] The Good, The Bad, The Fav, The 1000th

*** Good buy of the month: L’Occitane’s Pure Vegetable Lavender and Shea Butter Extra-Gentle Soap

Yes it may be a mouthful but it’s delightful. See, I’ve never been a big soap or skincare product maniac to begin with. But, I was just strolling around waiting for a movie, and the L’Occitane shop drew me with its fragrance like a moth to a flame. After quite some sniffing and label-reading, I picked this up and I’m liking it a lot so far. Very soft, moisturizing and aromatic to the skin. Oh and yes, extra-gentle too, as the title implies.

Now it might just be advertising for the gullible few like me,  but I like the fact that the soap is fairtrade, made by and sold to support women in Burkina Faso. The women’s group that works with these products has grown from merely 100 to now 12,000, l’Occitane claims. Apparently, according to tradition, only women are allowed to touch the fruits of the shea or karite tree, which are considered “sacred”. They crush the nuts of the fruits and grind them into the shea butter that we know. As you can imagine, I overwhelmed myself with L’Occitane’s traceability videos to all of the ingredients they use. But it’s great because despite learning so much about knowing where your products come from in college, it’s really hard to actually sit down and find out in real life.

*** Bad buy of the month: The squishy yellow chicken toy

Courtesy of SpoilUrPets

The lack of a proper name for the bad buy of the month expresses how disappointed I am with it. The story needs to start with my dog. I have 2 dogs, one of whom is a “slightly” chubby…okay, no, I’ll be honest, overweight sausage-looking german shepherd named Sparky. In an attempt to get Sparky “fit”…

1. Plan A; I tried walking him. See, we have a yard so Sparky has never been outside of the house for a walk, ever, throughout his entire nearly 10-year doggie life. His initial response: “Oh cool, yay, I get to go outside”..and then “Shitt..what is that string you’re putting on me, I wanna go homeee”…Result, no I didn’t walk the dog, the dog walked me ..back home.

2. Plan B: I tried cutting down on his food. Maybe I overdid it, but Sparky was moping around life-less after just the first day of diet, giving me “I’m whining and dying” glimpses..my mom got anxious and interfered with two bowls of doggie treats…mission fails but Sparky was relieved 😐

3. Plan C: I tried buying a toy. Google tells me ” You should play with your dog, buy him a toy, he’ll be so excited and will be active whenever you play it with him”. Yes I’m gullible, and it’s google, don’t we all at some point put google on a pedestal? Anyway, this is where I spend an hour, trying to find the perfect toy in Hanoi for good old Sparky. By the 3rd petshop I went to, I found the “one”…an elastic, defeathered (not a word, but you get me), yellow chicken…and it makes a squeaky sound everytime you press on it. With much excitement and anticipation, I bring the toy home, and take it out of the bag. Sparky already took a step back…I squeaked the toy thinking it’d get him into the playing mood…Squeakkk…His tail just dropped like a rock, his face pure “WTF” mode……Squeakkk (shouldn’t have done it the 2nd time), he turns 180, and runs like the wind into his little doggie house…Yes, the squishy yellow elastic chicken scared the living day-lights out of my 50-pound german shepherd. The chicken is now decoration in my room…I couldn’t leave it out in the yard either, because Sparky freaks out each time he sees it….Horrible buy. Btw, the picture is purely descriptive, the chicken doesn’t look like that but that’s how a normal dog should react to the chicken toy, no offense Sparky.

4. Plan D: None yet…

*** Favorite things as of now

– My Nikon 35 mm 1.8 lens: Twas on the wishlist last month. C got it for me and it’s abso-stunning!

– Hue imperial food : I’ve never been to Hue, but I got to taste some at a shop in HCMC and the dishes are definitely wow-ers, very intricately made, decorated beautifully. Note to self: find a place in HN to eat and take photos / save money for Hue trip 😀

– GRE flashcards: got these from a friend, little bit heavy to carry around, but it’s interesting having that feeling of studying again

– MAC Studio Sculpt Concealer: If you said this to me a year ago, I would have had absolutely no idea what it was. Work has taught me a thing or two about having to do your own make-up and this has been a life-saver. Great and easy for covering up on face.

*** The number 1000

If you happen to be in Vietnam, there is no way you haven’t heard the phrase: “on the occasion of the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long -Hanoi”. The day will be this Oct.10th, so the hype is present on every corner of the streets, every shop, every show on TV, every single project, every person…and no, not just in Hanoi, but across the whole country. Working in the news, I get really frustrated. As much as this is such a grand day for Hanoi, my hometown, I don’t understand how saying everything is related to the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long – Hanoi makes things better. For example, Construction of a bridge in Can Tho —> this is in honor of the 1000th  blah blah. Man writes book in Ho Chi Minh City —> this is in honor of the 1000th blah blah, Temple opens in Central province —> this is ..1000 blah blah.

Better yet, the number 1000 has been taken way too literally. This past Mid-Autumn Festival for example, a newsline read : ‘1000 poor children given Mid-Autumn Festival in honor of the 1000th anniversary of Thang Long -Hanoi’ . Remember, no more no less, that 1001th kid can kiss this celebration goodbye, and if you’re not poor, goodbye to you too! Next headline: ‘1000 gold-plated dragons make Vietnam Guiness Records’ …welll, duh, it’s not like some other guy will be siting around, trying to make more than that number of gold-plated dragons. Next headline: ‘1000 turtles on display and for sale at Botanical Gardens’, ‘1000 eggs with written calligraphy shown to public’, ‘1000 dragons on Bronze drums’, 1000 this, 1000 that, millenial celebration, grand ceremony, Hanoi’s big day, dragons, turtles, and then more dragons.Oh goodness, please make it stop… Don’t take it so literally!!!

As for the vibe here in Hanoi, it’s getting more crowded everyday, and there have already been warnings to hotels not to take any more reservations. I’m getting scared, crossing my fingers that I won’t have to go outside on Oct. 10th./.

[Inspiration] Dogmania

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Blue-eyed merle Aussie

Courtesy of Flicker member: eskimo_jo

If you’ve ever talked to me, been to my house or to my room, the detail of me being a doglover couldn’t be more apparent. Let’s just say this fanatism of mine has been growing disproportionately with the other aspects of my life, to the point of it being embarrassing…yet what’s a blog for if you can’t babble about things normally undiscussed in real-life conversation?

With which aspects of your life is this dog matter interfering, you may ask? Well, there is the minor detail of me being a senior and stuck in the interrogation office where basically everyone I know is awaiting the answer to “What are your future plans?” For 2 months into the semester and presently still going, I’ve been engaged in a job search, I’m happy to announce. The downside though is that most of the job offers for the field which I do intend on slaving away in isn’t until after another few months…and then considering my lack of motivation to munch on the gigantesse of work that is my life, my attention wanders off and is caught by none other than puppy pictures. The idea of graduating and the prospect of being able to have a dog then never seem so exciting. The 3 years of living as a diplomat’s kid, and then the 3.5 years of being in a residential school that accepts only pets that can still be alive 15′ after you submerged them in water (basically a fish, yeah interesting rule right?) have deducted my time spent with my dogs to merely on average 3 weeks a year over a span of nearly 7 years. Okay, so I’m bringing in logistics to support this dogmania of mine, but it’s for a good causeeee! Initially, I had an open mind about where I wanted to work, I really wouldn’t mind travelling, going to a country I’ve never been to before…life in a hut, or a cave for a year. I still don’t, yet while my options to what I want to do are wide-range, my desire to settle down has been lobbied by most of these doggie info I’ve been reading and seeing..Blame it on my TOSHIBA and its ability to access the den of all procrastination aka Google!

And so again how does this dog mania interfere with my life? it is threatening to take over my future, that’s all.  I’m dispensing money I would normally use for food on books about dogs…I’m working my schedule next semester around this one course called Fitness with Fido, which will allow me to walk with abandoned dogs at a shelter 2 hours each week….I’m researching adopting facilities, reading up whenever I procrastinate (which is a lot) about my favorite breeds…I’ve decided I want either a beagle or an Australian Shepherd (pictured)…C. and I have been talking about dogs for the past 3 days everytime we’re online….I went to the mall spending most of my time in the pet shop….This is getting out of hands. Perhaps it’s only a thing of this week, much like how DSLRs were a thing of that one week long before I got my Nikon. More than likely, 2 weeks from now, I won’t be compromising my reality of finding a future with my wanting to own a dog. Another fact of the matter is that I have much too much going on to be preoccupying myself this way..lol…but it’s fun :D. The way everything is going, I’ll be lucky to have a roof over my head, let alone for a dog too…but yes, it will very much still be open 😀 I trust on adopting services, and economizing my life for the sake of a puppy ! It’s also because I’m sick and home-sick that this dog frenzy has come about. Thanksgiving needs to come soon, so that finals could be over after that, so that I can go home after that, see my family, friends, C, and of course, Sparky and Nick!