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Happy Valentine’s Day

Dear friends and readers,

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all. You are one and all loved by at least one very Astonished Tamale! Here’s hoping every one of you also is loved deeply and intensely by someone you love just as much.

Speaking of astonishment:

We’re pleased to note that for the second year in a row, Knoxville Tennessee — home of The Astonished Tamale! — is America’s Most Romantic City. We know this because Amazon.com, the universally acknowledged authority on such things, says so in this press release.

Amazon figures this out by tracking “sales data of romance novels [...]

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Seoul Pancake

Seoul004

Apologies to Rainn Wilson for the pun on his wacky, wonderful website. But facing a 13-hour layover in Seoul, Korea, I was ready to disclaim any further responsibility for anything.

Then Zabine and I got a clue: We remembered our Vietnamese home-stay host telling us of a terrific five-hour tour of Seoul we could take from the airport. Even if this tour hadn’t been a once-in-a-lifetime prize (and it was), we’d have seized it just to pass the time. (Do the math: Our 13-hour wait was sandwiched between a five-hour Hanoi-to-Seoul flight and a 10-hour Seoul-to-Seattle flight. Sleep, sorta-kinda included, [...]

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Vietnam Villages, Hanoi Hospitality

April 30, 2012 (Monday) — Today we traveled to two neighboring villages in the Vietnamese countryside, conducting home visits with the believers who live there. Lunch, served at the home of a Baha’i friend, consisted of delicacies I didn’t even try to identify. All I know is that it was lavish and delicious.

As we were leaving the village, our driver, Binh (Hanoi’s Auxiliary Board member), had to dismount his car to move a motorcycle someone had left in the middle of the street. Speculation was that it had run out of gas — but why leave it there? Anyone [...]

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Blending in in Vietnam

One faithful reader complains of difficulty in picking out my friend Zabine from the group photos posted here. The reason is that Zabine and I, as seasoned world travelers, have learned to blend into a crowd of Vietnamese.

Here’s a picture of the two of us blending in. Zabine, you’ll notice, does it better than I do. It takes special skill to fly under the radar when you tower over the folks with whom you’re blending. Still, don’t you agree I could do worse?

Be that as it may, Zabine blends very well, height-wise. So long as she’s surrounded [...]

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Second Day Vietnam Photos

Some representative photos from our second day in Vietnam.

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Eat, Pray, Love, Shop (Vietnam Style)

April 27, 2012 (Friday) – Having enjoyed our motorcycle ride, we were set for a busy day.

First, we sat in on a committee meeting at the home of a Baha’i friend, met many members of the Baha’i community, along with a visiting Counselor, George Saroya, from Indonesia. Lunch at an outdoor noodle cafe. Delicious food. Did I mention that I am not normally adventurous with unfamiliar cuisine? So far, however, I’ve enjoyed all kinds of new dishes I don’t recognize, can’t pronounce, and that taste unlike anything I recall. It’s turning out to be a treat, not a [...]

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Hanoi from the Handlebars

April 27, 2012 (Friday) – Our busy day started with an unexpected treat – motorcycle rides for Zabine and me. We knew that Baha’i friends were coming by to pick us up, and I suppose we expected a van or car or something. But the most normal mode of transport in Hanoi seems to be the motorcycle, so it was our time to be initiated.

Major streets in Hanoi are narrower than those in Ho Chi Minh City. There are good lane markings when there’s no construction going on – but there is a lot of construction.

Nevertheless, motorcycle [...]

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Hanoi Street Market

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Making Workouts Feel Shorter

Did you know? You can greatly shorten the perceived duration of an aerobic workout by slightly increasing the length of songs you play while exercising.

Your Astonished Tamale! editor is pretty buzzed about this new Jedi mind trick. New to me, anyway — and it works like magic: Exercise time flies by so fast that a long, hard workout is over when it still feels as if it’s just getting started.

Here’s the scoop:

Being a long-time health-and-fitness buff doesn’t keep me from

[...]

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Knoxville: Lover’s Lane for the Prematurely Old?

Can America’s most geriatric city top our nation’s “hot to trot” list? Yes, we can!

Let’s contrast two hot-off-the-press news flashes:

ITEM ONE: It’s official: During the run-up to Valentine’s Day 2012, we learn that America’s most romantic city is Knoxville, Tennessee, home of the famous Astonished Tamale! (Also the University of Tennessee Lady Vols, manytime national champions under basketball’s amazing Coach Pat Summitt. Plus we used to play a little football.)

Our “most romantic” ranking is bestowed by Amazon.com, presumably the last word on such questions. Amazon’s Feb. 9 press release cites Knoxville’s purchases of romance novels, relationship books, [...]

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