Things without legs

Just a heads up, this post is going to be gross.

I feel like I need to give some background information about myself. I hate things without legs or things that look like they don’t have legs. Snakes, slugs, worms, snails, eels, and sometimes even caterpillars …stay away from me. I get grossed out just thinking about them.

Last week I was in a taxi headed home one night with some friends. It had been pouring down rain and our taxi driver was driving through water that made my mind start screaming “turn around don’t drown.” So, needless to say I was more focused on our car getting stuck on a flooded street then the conservation going on around me. My ears all the sudden tuned in to “worms.” One of my friends, who has lived here for a year, said it’s common for people to get worms and that it’s recommended to take de-worming meds every six months. She said it’s so common that all you have to do is walk into a pharmacy and say the word “worm” and they know what you’re talking about. My mind flashed to a recent episode of Grey’s Anatomy where a girl in the ER had an epic amount of worms in her intestines. It’s was so gross and hard to watch. So, in true Sunshine fashion, I went home and started googling.  Here’s what I learned:

“Việt Nam is among the Asian countries with the highest rate of worm infections, according to the World Health Organization. Seventy-five percent of the Vietnamese population, including children 2 to 12 years old, was infected with worms in 2010.”  You can read more here or google “Vietnam + worms” for more articles.

I’m sorry, what?!?! Seventy five percent! Holy cow! 

This more recent article stated fifty percent and “Called “6116 Deworming,” the program is aimed at encouraging everyone to worm themselves on January 6 and June 1 every year. ”

Fifty percent or seventy-five percent, doesn’t matter to me, both numbers are too high! I’m hoping the more recent article means the numbers are going down!

You can get worms,  hookworms, roundworms, ascaris and pinworms, from water or soil. Several of those worms get into your body through your feet! (I’m really wishing I didn’t love flip flops so much right now.) I’m not completely naive, I know people can get worms, kids get them all the time from eating dirt, it’s just not something I thought about when I moved here. Stomach issues, yes, but that’s about as far as my “health concerns” went.

However, there is a bright side to all this grossness. All you have to do is “deworm” every six months with a Fugacar pill which cost less than $1.00 USD. Even though I don’t have worms (that I know of) I bought some tonight!



Other “fun” facts I learned:

Global Facts:

Worms can divert 1/3 of the food a child consumes

1.5 billion people in the world have roundworms

1 billion people in the world have whipworms

1.3 billion people carry hookworms in their gut

Sources: UNICEF, WSSCC and You can read more here.

And don’t worry, if you’re coming to visit me, I’ll send you home with a pill if this blog totally freaked you out! Ha ha!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉


Gluten-free in a new country

Being gluten-free isn’t always easy and when traveling it can kinda suck. When I travel I usually bring gluten-free oatmeal or some kind of gluten free granola bar so I can have breakfast without any worries. (I also pack some Pepto Bismol just incase I eat something with gluten). When I moved to Vietnam I packed some gluten free items I really wanted to have but wasn’t sure if I’d find. My brother/sister-in-law even gave Imodium in a farewell gift “just incase”. To my surprise I haven’t had any problems finding gluten-free items. Honestly, I feel like I have more options here then in the states.

There are two kinds of grocery stores here; Western grocery stores and Vietnamese grocery stories. My first week here I just googled “grocery store” and was pleasantly surprised when I walked into one called “An Phu Supermarket.” This is what I found.


When I saw the Carmen’s brand I got excited. It’s Australian gluten-free muesli. Gluten-free muesli in the states was hard to come by. It’s all pretty expensive ($USD for a box of granola bars) and I usually don’t buy a lot of boxed food, but it’s nice to know it’s there if I want it.

They also have my guilty pleasure (not the potato chips) …IMG_5449

There’s even almond butter.IMG_6072

The only things I haven’t been able to find are gluten-free flour tortillas and coconut yogurt (not a gluten thing, just a preference).

I did find giant corn tortillas. That’s a normal size plate.


The Vietnamese grocery stores don’t have as many options (and I can’t read the labels) but they have other fun things…



IMG_5714Cheese that’s locked up

IMG_5730Salt in a bag (from what I’ve heard this is pretty common outside the US.)

IMG_6047Juices I’ve never seen it bread of

IMG_6065.JPGWell played, Vietnam! Glad to see mimosas are a universal drink!

I haven’t taken pictures of the meat sections but it’s interesting. A lot of live things.

The only thing I can’t get at a grocery store is medicine. You have to go to a pharmacy for that and then you can pretty much get anything you want… without a perception.🤔

Eating out hasn’t been that hard either. Most things are riced based and if I’m not sure I just don’t eat it.  There is even a bakery in town that has a few “gluten sensitive” items. My sweet friend Katie, who is also gluten-free, gave me a Vietnamese Gluten Free Restaurant card. I keep it in my wallet just incase there is confusion. Like when I went to a BBQ place for a co-workers birthday. I asked, the American owner, what didn’t have gluten in it. His response “stay away from the bread.” His menu had fired chicken and Mac and cheese on it. I’m going to go ahead a bet those have gluten in them. My card wouldn’t have helped in that situation but it just shows that I can’t assume that anyone really understand what a gluten allergy is.

FullSizeRender 3

I hate to say it, but eating out/ordering-in is often cheaper than going to the grocery store. There is this fantastic app called Vietnammm that makes ordering-in so easy! Just pick your favorite place and they deliver!

On a different note, I finished my last around of immunizations until next year. Next year I need to get a booster for Japanese encephalitis but other than that I’m done! This is exciting for me because I’ve had to spend three Saturday mornings at the clinic getting poked. Here is what I got: Hep A (I’ve started this series and never finished it), Tetanus booster, Japanese encephalitis, Meningitis (I’d never gotten it),  and Rabies (the idea of having a shot into a bite wound sounds horrible). The doctor said there was no point in me getting the typhoid immunization as it doesn’t really work.
**Please note if you come visit you don’t need all these. Most of them are recommended if you go to rural places. Ho Chi Minh City is not rural 😉**

This is my “I’m tough” photo, when in reality I flinched so hard today the nurse asked if I was okay. Ha ha! Some of them legibility hurt going in and after first round I was sore for several days. Better than getting any of those diseases though!😉FullSizeRender 4The whole immunization process with interesting. I’m used to nurse just bringing them in all ready to go. Here you talk to a nurse who takes your temperature and blood pressure, then you wait in a waiting room, then you talk to a doctor, then you wait in a waiting room, when you finally go in the nurse shows you the box for you to check and cracks open and mixes little vials in front of you. I had one nurse write on the box where she gave me each shot. They were very thorough!

And for anyone who was wondering, I figured out what was going on with my power bill. I couldn’t pay it because it had already been paid. By who? I’m not sure. Ha ha!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

When you can’t pay your power bill (and other cultural differences)

I have to pay my power bill at the mini-mart across the street and I’ve tried three times now with no luck. The first time I went in and the girl typed in my information and just shook her head at me. I had a friend tell me the date on the bill is not the due date but the first day you can pay it, so I waited and went back. The second guy typed in the information and said ” no, not working.” Ugh, okay…. I texted my landlord with a picture of the bill. No answer. So I texted Linh, the agent I went through. She doubled checked that yes, it is a current bill. I only have to pay a portion of it because I didn’t live in the apartment the whole month. (My portion is the equivalent of USD $2.80. I sleep with my AC on!! Everything here makes me feel like I was getting ripped on in the States). To make things easier, I’m paying the whole bill and the land lord is taking the rest off my rent. She advised me to pay it at the mini-mart. I went back. Third times a charm, right? Nope! This clerk told me the information wasn’t correct. 😳 Back to Linh I went. I am now going to try to pay it via a bank transfer. Hopefully that will work.

Other things that have been different….

Sidewalks. They are hit or miss. Sometimes there is one and sometimes there isn’t and most if the time when there is one it’s bad. Which means I stub my toes often and I wash my feet a lot! I don’t care where you live, muddle puddles can be gross.

Crosswalks. They mean nothing. You have to commit when you cross a street. You just slowly start walking, try to make eye contact with the drivers (I also like to put my arm out), and know that they will stop or swerve around you.


Horns. Just people letting you know they are behind you. No malice intended. (I’m still getting used to this).

Markets. There is a market for everything.

Fabric market- my quilting heart loved this place!


Uniform/hardware/antique market (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Food markets (click on the pictures to enlarge)

Cold showers. Okay, this one is my fault and not so much a cultural thing. There is a switch in my hallway outside my guest bathroom that I have to switch on to get hot water in my shower. Nine times out of ten I forget and by the time I realize it it’s not worth getting my floors all wet to go turn it on.

Taxis. I think I mentioned this before. I don’t have a car (nor do I want one here), so anytime I want to do something outside of D2 (my little area of town) it involves a taxi. But, they are super cheap.

Personal space. This has been hard for me. I have a bubble and it’s quite large (Jessica do you remember our CPI training?) sales clerks here follow you around. I almost elbowed one the other day because I didn’t realize how close she was to me. They don’t think you’re stealing, they are just there to help. Once you buy something they take it to a register, where someone else takes your money, someone else gives you a receipt, and if it’s electric, someone else tests it. I can’t go shopping when I’m tired. I get overwhelmed with all the people.

Bottled water. I miss being able to use tap water. Hardest thing so far.

Plastic bags for drinks.


I get why they do this. There are no cup holders on motorbikes. But, really don’t like plastic.

Chai tea. Yes, I went to Coffee Bean! They are the only place around that has a good chai tea. Everywhere else (even Starbucks), I have tried just taste like watered down chai milk. Not a fan.

AQI. What’s AQI you ask? Air Quality Index. My school monitors the air pollution. IMG_3168

Green is what you want. Yellow is okay. Red mean you can’t be outside. I was told that companies around here can only release things into the air at night. The sun will burn off the bad pollution throughout the day. We’ve only had one red day so far. I wish I would have taken a picture because as I looked out my apartment window it looked like a heavy fog had settled over the city.

Checks. I kinda love this one. Most of the places I’ve eaten at wait to bring the check until you ask. Why do I love this? Restaurants aren’t in a hurry for you to leave. It’s nice to be able to sit at chat with friends and not be rushed out when you’re done eating.

Spellings of my name. So far I’ve gotten Smith (this is typical), Shunshine Smith, and Sunshin. I’m sure this list will grow. Ha ha!

Then there are just your normal language barriers. People here are nice though and try to help you when they can.

Please don’t read this as a list of negatives. It’s not. Just differences.

Positive of the week. The dirt road patch between my work and apartment was fully paved last night! Woop wood! No more muddy puddles or trying to ride my bike through pot holes!

Also, the last couple of nights I’ve been able to watch so amazing thunder and lightening out of my windows! It’s been awesome!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

And so it begins…

Today was the first day of school. I’m back in Kindergarten (or KG as they call it here) and I couldn’t be happier. I have a TA named Linh, who has been wonderful! After my fantastic aides in San Diego (shout outs to Lydia and Anette) I was a little nervous when I found out I’d be getting an aide. Nervous and happy. Having an extra person in the room is always a blessing but can be hard some times.  I’m pretty lucky Linh has a Kindergarten background and is so willing to work together!

Orientation threw a lot of information at me so I’ve been little nervous about going from the Kindergarten I was used to teaching (very structures) to  a play-based approach.  I’ve also been in Special Ed the last three years so going back to being a classroom teacher had me worry. But, I had nothing to worry.

Today went so well! 


My students were great! I have a small class, 18 kiddos, and three didn’t start today. I’m digging the amount of “Specials” times I have through-out the week. It allows for the Kinder team to plan together and the students really benefit from having so much, Art, PE, Library, Music, and Host Country Studies!

Below are some pictures of the inside of my classroom and our wonderful outdoor space. The outdoor space is not our playground, we also have one of those!



The outside space that kids can use through-out the day. It stretches the length of what would be about four classrooms. There are sand and water tables, big plexiglass easels to paint on, a kitchen, blocks, a full stage with seating, costumes, chalk walls, a huge wall xylophone, plants, and a variety of toys. I feel like these pictures don’t do it justice. It’s awesome!

And this is what will be our library. It’s still under constructions and obviously has no books in it yet, but just imagine what it will look like. It was designed for kids to play in. There is a huge square cubby in the middle that kids can go in to read and lots nooks and crannies that allow for an “adventure playground” type of feel.


I completely forgot to take a picture of the cafeteria. Two words… smoothie bar! my breakfasts are set for the next two years! There is also a sandwhich bar, a variety of hot foods, and a salad bar.

To celebrate a job well done, I finally ordered take-out. Ha ha! I laugh because I feel like I’m the only person who hasn’t. It’s what you do here in Vietnam because it’s so cheap!

So what did this California girl order? Mexican food! Enchiladas with rice and beans. It’s no Roberto’s but it wasn’t too bad. 😉


Side note/ celebration- part of the dirt road between my apartment and school was paved yesterday! This is exciting because when it rains (almost ever day) this road floods and/or has big muddle puddles. Here’s hoping they pave the rest of it!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉
(***because I’ve mentioned the school where I’ll be teaching I should probably mention that everything on this blog will be my thoughts, not those of my employer***)



When I think about the word community it invokes a warm fuzzy feeling inside of me. It’s the comfort of knowing you have people. People to call, people to laugh with, people to cry with, people to sit and watch T.V. with, people you speak to everyday or ones you don’t but you still know their your people. I’ve always been grateful for the community of people in my life. I’m more of a quality over quantities person and my community of people are spread out all over the world. Most days I wish I could move them all to one place because I can be horrible at keeping in touch, but there is nothing better than talking to a friend and pick-up right where you left off.

Community is a word that’s been on my mind a lot since I’ve moved to Vietnam. Let’s be honest, it’s scary moving somewhere new and not knowing anyone. Will I make friends? Will people get me? Will there be other singles people or just couples? What if I don’t make friends? Why am I moving away from all my loved ones again? Oh man, I hope people are nice! These are the types of things that circled my mind in the days before I left California. Making friends once you get past a certain age can be hard. You can’t just go to a bar and walk up to a random person and be like “you look nice, likes be friends!” It’s a conversation my Gals that Brunch ladies and I had often. (Shameless plug…. if you’re a lady in your 20s-30s looking for a community of women, look to see if there is a  Gals that Brunch   chapter in your city. You won’t regret it!) But since I got here I have felt like part of a community. My school is striving for this, and it’s wonderful! I have never had a school or work setting be so welcoming and genuinely nice. For example, just yesterday a member of our senior leadership team checked in with me to make sure I’ve been able to contact home since I got here. It’s the little things that make such a big impact. They have provided us with so many opportunities to get together and just grow our relationships with each other. We’ve had happy hours, shopping trips, scavenger hunts, dinners, and lunches. I’m not sure what I expected my first few weeks to be like but it wasn’t this. I’m so looking forward to getting to grow my relationships with the people here more in the days, months, and years to come. So don’t worry mom, I’m being well looked after and making friends 😉

(I’m going to try to post more about my Vietnam this weekend. I’ve had some funny moments over the last week and a half.)

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉
(***because I’ve mentioned the school where I’ll be teaching I should probably mention that everything on this blog will be my thoughts, not those of my employer***)