The weather is of course the most obvious sign of change. The cooler days, warmer clothing and shorter days mean winter is again on it's way. (Though the weather did bounce back to hot and sticky again for a while, and Christmas is going to be warmer than last year). It's a reminder we've just passed our first anniversary in Tuyen Quang. Two thirds of our time gone!
Staff are changing too. Promotion, maternity leave and study leave have seen several disappear from the scene. And their children have grown - as they do. Those of neighbour's too - some who were babes-in-arms when we arrived are now tottering around and calling out and waving as we pass.
The row of small shops down the road which was a noisy construction site hidden from view by a plastic screen when we first arrived is now complete. The occupancy rate is not high though, and the footpath sellers have simply moved to the other side of the lane or round the corner. In town there are a number of stylish modern little shops (mainly clothes and shoes) opening up. We are also getting our own Vincom shop-house development - three stories of shops and apartments with a small artificial lake. A recently cleared empty block when we arrived, the building is now up to the third floor, but won't be completed before we leave. The Tuyen Quang development is small compared to the Vincom developments in the major cities where they have massive shopping malls and apartment towers. Self-contained villages which include cinemas, gyms, pools, amusement parks and schools. The Vincom company is owned, I believe, by Vietnam's first billionaire.
Owen the keen gardener decided to try and grow a few veggies. We scrounged some pots, dug up some soil from the roadside (while doing this a neighbour saw us and gave us some proper potting soil) and planted some seeds. Cherry tomatoes and beetroot doing okay but spring onions didn't survive. Meanwhile on our return from a recent extended visit to Hanoi for meetings, functions and conferences we arrived to find the front yard transformed. Stored timber, pipes, truck tyres etc. had vanished and been replaced by the landlord's lovely veggie garden!
There are other reminders of time passing. The shops selling "housework pjs" have gone from long to short and back to long again. Pop-up shops have appeared selling blankets. People can be seen riding about in their parkas, gloves and raincoats. The tennis is being advertised on TV.
Just managed to squeeze this post in in time to include Christmas greetings. It will be our second year in Tuyen Quang - away from family and friends which is hard. Last year we'd only been here a couple of weeks and didn't know anyone much, so apart from a surprise visit with a lovely cake from a colleague it was a pretty quiet affair. This year people have been interested to know what we do at Christmas so we're having a get together tonight to sing some carols courtesy of the wifi connected TV - sort of karaoke Christmas. We found some decorations in a few shops in town and a colleague dropped off a small tree, so it's definitely feeling a bit more like Christmas.
Anyway, Merry Christmas to everyone celebrating and may your 2017 be happy and healthy.