Kickin’ It Texas Style

(Family at G’Raj Mahal Cafe)

After eighteen months of living in Hanoi, I finally had an opportunity to return to the states. And I must say, it was delightful!

(Hanging out at the Springs Pool)

(Ben, Maia, Jazzy and Sami Amir at Fountain Park)

Ironically, I had not intended to return to Austin until my home leave at two years, but my brother-in-law, Scott, recently accepted a position as a senior advisor for malaria at The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria in Geneva. As such, Sami and the entire family packed up their house and belongings in Atlanta and prepared for life overseas in Switzerland.

(Maia and Jazzy)

Prior to their move, they spent two glorious weeks in Austin! It was this small window that served as the impetus to fly to Texas, a chance for the entire family to be together again before we scattered across the globe.

(Siham, David and Sami)

(David, Amy, Everett and Tracy)

I also used this trip as an opportunity to introduce my David to the rest of the family. My father drove up from Houston (with his ski boat in tow) for the first week; and my mom and Uncle Steve from Kansas City and Maine respectively, flew to Austin for the second. Needless to say, he was a big hit.

(Amy and David)

(Amy and David)

But the real joy was spending time with all my nieces and nephews, Maia, Jazzy, Sami Amir and Ben! I honestly can’t get over how much they’ve grown…

(Teaching Ben how to ride a bike)

(4th of July Boating)

(Padre on the boat)

(Girl Power)

We spent most of our days doing typical Austin-like things. A jog around Town Lake, breakfast tacos at Mi Madres, BBQ from County Line, shopping along SoCo, coffee at Austin Java, watching the bats under the Congress Street Bridge, happy hour at Hula Hut, fajitas from Gueros, live music at Blues on the Green and Continental Club, and perusing the aisles of Whole Foods.




(Sami Amir)

(Amy and Siham)

Coming from Vietnam, I marveled over the abundance of open space, both literally and figuratively! What a joy it was to drive along streets that adhered to traffic laws; to walk hand in hand down a sidewalk and not have to navigate through a sea of parked motorbikes; and to smell fresh air while admiring the beautiful scenery!

(David and Eric)

(Maia and David walking to Farmer’s Market)

(Maia and Jazzy)

In fact, I couldn’t get enough of Town Lake…with its endless miles of hike and bike trails, picnic areas, dog parks, wildlife (including ducks, turtles and swans), Barton Springs, Zilker Park and the steady stream of people walking/jogging/kayaking in the mid-day sun.

(Blues on the Green – Laurel, Andrew, Eric and David)

(Marcia Ball at Blues on the Green)

I kept thinking how fabulous it would be to walk little Chico around Town Lake. Poor little guy, I couldn’t help but smile when I thought about the juxtaposition between Town Lake and the little lake by my house in Hanoi, Truc Bach. Despite its charm, walking Chico around Truc Bach is fraught with obstacles, i.e., motorbikes, markets, street vendors, barbed wire, dogs and congested sidewalks. Not to mention the constant sounds of beeping horns.

(Padre, Ben and David)

(Chilling at Barton Springs)

Perhaps one day the little guy will run in a field of open pastures! I’d even settle for a back yard!

(Getting ready to go water skiing)

(Maia and Jazzy)

(Sami looks nervous for his first lesson)

(Maia getting ready to ski)



For the 4th of July, we all piled into my dad’s boat and headed towards the County Line for BBQ. I had forgotten just how ENORMOUS portions are in Texas – that rib platter was impressive.

(Kristi, David and Eric)

(Ben and Sami)

Unfortunately, due to the on-going drought in Texas, the City of Austin had cancelled all firework shows in Travis County. Alas, my first 4th of July in the USA in five years was somewhat lackluster. But it didn’t diminish our spirits as we enjoyed each other’s company.

(Karen and Sami)

And David and Siham live in the stunning downtown Spring Condominium – a 42-story building that offers a true urban Austin living experience – with views overlooking Lady Bird Lake and downtown Austin. Plus, the building comes with endless amenities, including a lovely pool!

(Sami, Maia and Ben)

Many days and evenings were spent swimming and cooking out on the deck. David is definitely living large!

(Corey and Brandy)

(Matt and Irene)

(Siham, Bonnie and baby Max)

In fact, one night we hosted a potluck dinner party and caught up with Molly’s extended family. I loved seeing Molly’s parents, Karen, Tim and Joe, along with her brothers and sisters. And excitingly, Bonnie introduced us to her new member of the family, Max. I know Molly would’ve been thrilled to be an Aunt! Sadly, this 4th of July marks the 10th anniversary of her death. She is still loved and missed.

(Barton Springs)

My Vietnamese/American friends that I had met in HaLong Bay ( also came over. They truly are a remarkable family…and I’m so glad that they were able to meet my family and vice versa. In fact, Uncle Steve wants to arrange a trip to Vietnam with this family! Perhaps December 2012…

(Denise, Michele, Camille)


(Josephine, Shawn and Sami)

In addition to family time, I was also able to catch up with some friends, although I didn’t have nearly as much time as I would’ve liked. This trip was predominantly family- oriented, but I hope to return to Austin over Christmas to spend quality time with friends!

(Teaching Ben how to Ride)

Matt and Brandy…along with their beautiful girl, Lily…met us at the Fountain Park one afternoon. Our goal that day was to teach Ben how to ride a bike.

(Matt, Brandy and Lily)

(Matt, Brandy and Lily)

Another dear friend of mine, Eric, held a party in my honor! Andrew cooked up a storm and served up a mean BBQ. Thanks again, Eric, Andrew and Laurel, for all your hard work in putting this party together!

(Padre, Sami, Maia, Jazzy and Ben)

I loved seeing some of my dear friends – Merland, who always goes out of his way to see me whenever I am in town; Shani – my next door neighbor whom I love, along with her three children who have grown up to be beautiful young adults; the ladies from my ‘intentions group’, Alyson, Kimberly, and Marla; my dear friend Amy Pancake – who I met while doing research in Bolivia over ten years ago; my friends from UT (Carol and Cassandra); and many others who made the effort to say hello!

(Marla, Alessandra, Carey, Alyson and Kimberly)

(Amy and Padre)

(Idrissa, Ajhalei, Shani and Daveon)

(Katie, Merland, Eric and Amy)

(Amy Pancake)

(Amy and Alyson)

(Carol and Cassandra)

David and I took one day for ourselves and went to Hamilton’s Pool, a historic swimming hole located ¾ miles upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River. We had a lovely day driving the Miata through the Hill Country, swimming and hiking around the National Park.

(Amy at Hamilton’s Pool)

(Hamilton’s Pool)

(David at Hamilton’s Pool)

(Uncle Steve and Jazzy)

It was also wonderful catching up with Uncle Steve! I still marvel over his kindness and generosity – he treated ALL of us to cowboy boots!

boot scoot boogie 1024
(Boot Scoot Boogie)

jazzy with new boots 1200
(Jazzy in boots)

new boots
(Birds eye boots)

Now, at one stage I had this preconceived notion of cowboy boots as being the ultimate shit kickers. My how styles have changed. I must admit, these boots are BEAUTIFUL! Thanks again, Uncle Steve!

(Eric and Laurel)

Kym and Todd
(Kym and Todd at Hula Hut Happy Hour)

(Kat, Cassandra and Ana)

(Amy and Matt Giles)

David and Bobby
(David and Bobby at Continental Club)

Mumba is amazing with the all the grandchildren! She had them hunting for fossils, making arts and crafts, and even treated them to the latest Harry Potter Movie. Her energy remains boundless…and she remains my role model!

(Mayday with Maia)

(Mayday with Jazzy)

(Shopping along South Congress)

On a sad note, this trip also brought some devastating news. Our second cousin, Joshua Berry, and his wife Robin were killed in a terrible traffic accident. Two of their three children (Peter, 9, and Aaron, age 8 ) are paralyzed waist down after their seat belts broke their backs upon impact of the crash; and their daughter, Willa, 6, suffered a broken arm and ankle.


A fund has been setup to help raise money to offset the medical costs of the kids’ long road to recovery. Please consider donating to this very worthy cause.


Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family…

Sending much love to all,

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