interval training.

Yesterday I discovered the best interval workout ever.

It is ideally run in 100+ degree heat when the athlete has not run more than 8 miles a week for the past 6 months.

Preparation: Don bathing suit and a liberal coat of sunscreen.

Fuel: Start with a large pancake breakfast at one of the best bakeries in Viet Nam. If the bakery also happens to be a charity for deaf young people, you can feel great about the expensive nature of the breakfast.

Venue: South China Beach--one of the best in the world.

Warm-up: Jog into the water, screaming. Splash around with friends for as long as desired.

Workout: Run as fast as you can/want along the waterline until you can't or don't want to any more. Dive into the crystal clear ocean. Splash around until you catch your breath or want to start running again. (You will find that this rest will be shorter than you anticipate because you won't be able to wait to start running again!) Repeat as many times as desired. Watches and splits forbidden.

Competition: Friends lounging on beach chairs. In other words, you are guaranteed to win.

Cool-down: Float around in the ocean. Sprint across the blistering sand and collapse into your shaded beach chair.

Re-fuel: Coke and sesame rice cakes. Read and nap.

Possible aftereffects: Sunburn and body ache.

Pure joy.


things i'm getting used to.

After 9 months in Viet Nam, there are some things I am getting used to. Things that, when I dig way back in my memory to my first month here, I thought were craaazy...and that I now take for granted and forget about most of the time. Here are a few:

1. Stairs. Most buildings in Hanoi have at least 4 storys. I live on the 4th floor of my house. The canteen that I eat in at work is about 6 flights of stairs up. While my general fitness level has decreased drastically since coming to Viet Nam/quitting running, I am pretty sure I'm developing amazing calves.

2. Vietnamese coffee. Very strong, small quantity, usually iced, made of robusta (rather than arabica) beans, served in a glass with a dinky little spoon, which is essential for stirring in the sweetened condensed milk. Most delicious when drunk while sitting on a small plastic chair. Going rate: somewhere around 60 cents a glass.

3. Chopsticks. I didn't know how to use them before I came here--now I completely take them for granted. As far as table manners go, I am also getting quite used to reaching way across the table to grab what ever I want, or shamelessly picking the morsels I prefer from a mixed dish or soup. Just a little heads up for those of you who may be hosting me when I return to the States!

4. Funny English. This is particularly amusing on t-shirts. My personal favorite: Lets Make Out! (complete with a small, cartoon cat pictured inside the "O").

5. Compliments and Insults. This could probably be a whole post in itself. I am so used to hearing that I am beautiful, that it doesn't mean anything to me anymore. I automatically think--both cynically and realistically--"You mean I'm tall and white, right?" Conversely, people don't hesitate to inform me that my new haircut is ugly, or that I am fatter than the last time they saw me.

6. Traffic. The other evening traffic was simply terrible on the way home from work. I mean, it was a new level. But I wasn't really that annoyed by it--I rarely find myself in a hurry these days--just curious. I am really interested to know what makes traffic worse on some days than on others. Things like time of day and holidays make sense, but sometimes I try to take all those factors into consideration and still come up with...nothing.

7. Rice. At least twice a day.

8. Random men peeing by the side of the road. Or in the park. Usually 2 feet from the nearest WC.

9. Not knowing what's going on most of the time.

10. The gecko that lives in my room and makes very loud clacking noises around 5 a.m. Closest comparison I can think of is the sound of a high-pitched woodpecker.

11. Public announcements/music at 6:30 a.m.

12. Pale=Beautiful. No matter how hot and muggy it is, women wear long sleeves and/or gloves when riding xe may to protect themselves from the sun's uglifying rays.

13. More than 2 people on one xe may.