Thursday, March 26, 2015



Oh yeah, gotta re-start this thing.....

SO, was last talkin' about the trip to The States.

The final night in Vegas at the former Sahara hotel and casino (NOW called "The SLS" or some shit like that)......

Well, after three straight nights of dancin' on top of the bar, drinkin' and gamblin' and such in old Downtown Las Vegas.....I realised that I ain't as young as I used to be!  

Friday around noon, crawled from Downtown (where I had been ensconced for the previous three nights) to the SLS.  Friendly, polite enuff folk at the front desk.  Buncha Millennial Hipsters roaming the hallways, with a smattering of fifty-somethings TRYING to look like neo-hippies....just a weird vibe.

Didn't like it at all....

I jes' don't dig places like this!  If I wanted THIS, I'd be in SouthEast Portland, Oregon or Brooklyn or some shit.....I like my OOOLD-skool, smoky, dingy, granny-playin'-the-slots-with-her-ciggie-in-one-hand-and-her-oxygen-tank-in-the-other types of places!  The Stardust!  The Western!  The El Cortez!!

Thass MY Vegas.....this place sure as hell wasn't....

....but, shit - it was a Friday Night in Las Vegas and I got this place on Hotwire for less than fiddy bucks, sooooo.......

Git my room key and was rudely awakened outta my hungover daze by THEE most bizarre elevators that had the inside walls plastered with photo shoots that look like they were ripped straight outta "Millennial Hipster Weekly" magazine.....
...

......I mean, drinkin' Gin 'n Tonics, smokin' filterless ciggies, rolling dice at the tables at THEE LAST final remaining bastion of old-time Rat-Pack Vegas, The El Cortez....simply enjoyin' life......and then, the next morning, I get assaulted with THIS???

 
video  video

Well, after destroying my liver, lungs, and sanity the past three nights, the IDEA of a cigarette, a beer or even SEEING a slot machine just made me physically ill, so I figgered that hiding in my room under the blankets playing on The Interwebs would not be such a bad idea.......

....'cept the Wi-Fi didn't work!
The Wi-Fi was nearly non-existent! When it DID work, it CRAWLED. Called the Front Desk about this and waited (literally) 90 minutes for somebody to answer the phone!!  Finally, somebody answered, and they said that they'd send somebody up to my room. 45 minutes later, a very pleasant and polite Beatnik-y looking guy with a beret and goatee (I kid you not) does a quik analysis and tells me the system is overloaded as the hotel is at 100% capacity!! Tells me he's going to file a work order for this tonight!

Damm.......what a hoppin' place THIS must be!  Wonderin' HOW the goddamm casino itself makes any ca$h if everybody's up in their rooms streamin' shit online???

Gave up, decided to crawl into bed to sooth the punishment from the sins of the past three nights, and watch "The Interview" on my Netbook.

Now, when I am deathly hungover straight the fuck outta my skull, EVERYTHING is funny!  Schindler's List
would be funny! Shit, one time some years ago, after a particularly harsh night at the Avi Hotel and Casino (located at the point where Nevada meets both, California and Arizona), the next day I went to their cinema inside the casino and watched Harold and Kumar Go To Guantanamo Bay (one of THEE DUMBEST, most idiotic and unfunny films EVER made) and I was so hungover, I pissed myself from laffing so hard [ http://skooter-on-101.blogspot.com/2008/05/day-nine.html ]!!

Sadly, The Interview didn't have that ability!

It was soooo HORRIBLE, I wanted the Goddamm PIRATES THAT I TORRENTED THE MOVIE FROM to PAY ME for my pain and suffering from watching that steaming heap of shit!

Next day, jumped in the car, went to BW-3, ate some shitty, under-cooked wings and caught the flight back to PDX.....

Final thoughts about the trip back to The States in a week or so.....

-E-

Saturday, January 17, 2015

VEGA$!!!!!


Gawddamm, I GOTS ta git back to writing.....

In any respect, looking at a 5+ year backlog of University graduates in my genre (INCLUDING several who are holders of graduate school degrees) who have been unemployed ever since getting out of college due to the economic DEpression, and after having sent (NOT exaggerating here) several hunnred resumes and applications over the past few years to various places advertising position openings for which I was either equally qualified or over-qualified for, and getting a grand total of FOUR FUCKING INTERVIEWS outta that stack of hunnreds of resumes and applications shipped out, I had pretty much come to the realization that I'm pretty much stuck in Viet Nam!

I mean, yeah, hell, SURE the economy is creating hunnreds of thousands of new jobs every month as of January, 2015!!

But, do I REALLY wanna try to support a family of four on eight buxx an hour, since that is what the VAST MAJORITY of these new jobs ARE?

Errrmm.......no!

So, with THAT factual reality in mind, I took the hammer to the piggy bank and decided to bring my wife to The States since A) - She's never been there before and B) - She'll most likely never have a chance to go again!

Well, four weeks into the seven week trip,  we've discovered a few things -
  • Tam does NOT like being trapped in a car on a road trip for more than three hours MAX!!!!
  • Tam cannot eat American food - it is too sugary AND, yet, too salty for her tastes!!  So, it was Asian food on almost every stop on the Western road trip segment of this adventure!
  • A disproportionate number of country-western songs that have been manufactured in the past five years seem to talk about a crazy woman or crazy women.......irregardless of whether a man or a woman is singing the song!!  (Got stuck listening to a lotta Country-Western on the radio on the road trip segment, as this is on Tam's new top three list of the best things about The United States, with thrift stores and the friendliness of the people)
  • Aridity does weird things to my hair....


Soooo, regarding the car-ride part, I took Tam back to Portland and dropped off the rental car and flew to Vegas myself forra few days!  THEE ORIGINAL loop was supposed to go PDX-Rapid City-Denver-Albuquerque-Flagstaff-Route 66-Las Vegas-Reno-PDX, but after the Portland-to-Rapid-City segment, Tam pretty much declared that she'd had enough!!!!  So, after Denver, we headed back to Portland and I bought a flight to Vegas!

Now, I loves me sum drinkin', smokin' and gamblin' (and, today, it is LITERALLY IMPOSSIBLE to find places where you are allowed to do ALL THREE AT THE SAME TIME), so I head to Vegas forra few days whenever I come back to The States! Pissing away a few dollars by strategically MILKING THEE LIVING HELL outta the penny machines ensures that I get several free beers and several free nights in the hotel room!

Well, on this trip, we had ended the road trip segment at THEE worst possible time, as Vegas is doing, like, MULTIPLE conventions next week (which is when I am slated to fly there) and that I could only git ONE free room night at my normal hotel and got a cheapie-cheapie rate on two other nights!

SOOOO, THAT left me with one night (Friday night - ALWAYS an expensive bitch in Vegas!!!!!!) to obtain lodging for!

Well, I had cleared up a LOTTA paperwork in The United States that I hadta deal wiff on this trip, so it doesn't look like I'll be back to The States for AT LEAST two, meebee three or four years!  So, I figgered - fuck it!!  Let's splurge!!

So, I rolled dice on Hotwire and was given the old Sahara Hotel and casino at the top of The Strip!  But it wasn't The Sahara anymore!

You see, Vegas totally and radically re-invents itself and its marketing every five years!  In the mid-nineties, it was "Disneyland-In-The-Desert", proclaiming that Vegas IS INDEED VERY FAMILY-FRIENDLY!

THAT went over like a fart in church.....'specially when the casino Corporate conglomerates discovered that.....errrmm......uhhhh......kids really don't gamble that much!

So, then they changed to the risque - "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" (apparently they haven't seen the film "Very Bad Things").....and NOW????

Today??

They are laying OFFA the gamblin' and now pushing Vegas AS AN EXOTIC NIGHTCLUB LOCALE rivaling South Beach for MILLENNIALS!!!

Yep.....thass correct!  (Palm gets slapped to forehead)!

Soooooo.....back to The Sahara!

Well, thee first time I had ever gone to Vegas was when my parents were invited to my cousin's wedding, and I, well, kinda invited myself along for the ride!  Flew from Denver to Vegas and I booked a room in the Sahara!  This was 1998 and I had known NOTHING AT ALL about Vegas!

I had seen apparently thee final gasp of The Sahara's exotic, Moroccan 1950s Rat Pack splendor, as, shortly thereafter, it would re-invent itself into thee shittiest, gaudiest NASCAR-themed dump complete wiff one dollar hot dogs and one dollar Budweisers and would wrap a chain around her grand exterior with a FUCKING ROLLER-COASTER!!

THAT pretty much was so appalling to me, that I hadn't stayed there since!

Well, The Sahara breathed its final breath in 2010!  The structure remained vacant forra few years and had JUST opened up a few months ago as THEE latest and hottest place for Millennials to see and be seen nightclubbing in Vegas!  Some bullshit now called "SLS" or some shit like that!

Did ANYBODY TELL these Einsteins at Vegas Marketing that the 21-30 year-olds are a hunnred grand in student loan debt and have been living in their parents basements for thee past five years??

I'll get ya a report on it when I arrive at the former Sahara on Friday!

THIS should be interesting.....

-E-


For further reading on this topic, I cannot recommend enough an awesome book by Marc Cooper called The Last Honest Place In America 

Friday, January 24, 2014

So much for that.....



AT the last minute on my way out the door this morning, Tam decided that she would like it if I stayed home during this time off.  Being the good boy that I am, I obeyed!

Soooo.....didn't take the ride up to Mong Cai and China.  Just gonna vege in Hai Phong for the next coupla weeks.  Well, I have a ton of books I gots ta catch up on anyways, naw worries!

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Being at least five years behind electronic trends as I am, a buncha friends and I in different geographic locations, are going to attempt to put together a Podcast!  Never done anything like this before and I get the feeling that it's gonna be four drunk guys ranting about politics and sports.  The trial run show is this coming Sunday!

I haf no clue how it is going to be put on The Interweb or any of the technical shit involved, I was just tole that I need Skype or Google Video/Voice/Hangouts, and a headset and microfone!

Soon as I figger out where the trial run of "Hippy Take A Shower!" (thass the name of the podcast) is going to appear online, I'll post it here!

More blatherings on Tuesday!

-E-

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Mr. Kitchen Day didn't go so well this year.....


Mr. Kitchen Day (Ông Táo chầu trời) is my favourite holiday in Viet Nam!  I had first learned about it quite by accident, and had gradually figgered out what the story behind it really was (a simple, short, yet funny explanation can be found here).  

So, last year, I began to celebrate it.  I had my mother-in-law buy a big-ass live fish (I *THINK* it was an Asian Carp, 'cause the sonnabitch kept jumping outta the tub filled with water that we had it in) at the street market that she goes to every day, and Tam, Emily and I walked to the lake behind my house and released the fish, in an attempt to appease Mr. Kitchen!

Soooo, this year, given that I NOW KNOW the story, I requested that my mother-in-law buy THREE mid-sized fish for us to release (you know....kinda goes along with the story linked to above about Ông Táo and how there are three people named Gods over this entire incident).

Well, sadly, whilst they were sitting in the bucket all day, one of 'em bought the farm and the other two weren't looking very healthy!  So, at sunset, Tam, Emily, Minh Tuan and I walked to the lack and tossed 'em in.  Dead fishie just kinda floated....the half-dead fishie kinda dropped down to the bottom of the lake like a rock and the other one was fine!  

Hopefully this isn't ominous of the way this approaching Lunar New Year is going to go for me....


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Gonna take my annual Tet road trip tomorrow! Usually, every year shortly after Tet day (THEE first day of the new lunar year), I am granted clemency by the wife to run away from Hai Phong for a few days to escape the all-shops-closed-nothing-moving-SKULLCRUSHING-BOREDOM that IS Hai Phong one week before and one week after Tet day.  For example, last year, Tam actually joined me as we went to Ho Chi Minh City right after Tet and it was extremely therapeutic!

Well, Tam, being extremely traditional, enjoys hanging around the home and hearth during the Tet days, and this year, she is going to do just that! This trip is just going to be a short seven day skooter ride to Mong Cau in the very far northeast corner of Viet Nam and, if time permits, a bus ride to the Chinese city of Nanning forra day or two.  Figger since I begged, screamed, threatened and cried at the Chinese Embassy staff back in November to give me a long-term (or at LEAST a multi-entry) visa, they finally took pity and gave me a TWO-entry visa for China.  This visa expires on the 10th of February.....soooooo....figger that, for what I paid for the Goddamm over-priced visa, may as well git my use outta it!

First day is gonna end at some little tiny-ass town a bit more than halfway between Hai Phong and Mong Cai called Tiên Yên. THIS should be interesting as to if I actually MAKE it, as, the last time I had attempted (than gave up at the town of Cam Pha) this ride, back in 2009, Goddamm
Highway 18 was a nearly impassable nightmare due to its being in such shitty shape and total lack of road maintainence (basically crater-sized holes in the road that could swallow a Goddamm CAR!!!)!  SUPPOSEDLY, my buddy Dave from Flagstaff said that HE did the ride from Hai Phong to Mong Cai a year ago and it was generally all right.....so we can only hope they improved the road.


More tomorrow from Tiên Yên.....or wherever the hell I end up!

-E-

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Rants, updates, reviews and whatever else.....

HOLY SHIT!  What this poor, devastated crushed young man must have suffered through!  To HELL with the chick - she almost destroyed our proud town's football tradition!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

They released one of the Steubenville, Ohio rapists today......

.....but, I was just floored about what this kid's lawyer was saying regarding the trials and tribulations and hardships this kid has gone through - while NOT ONE TIME mentioning guilt or sorrow or sympathy for the victim and her family!!

Sometimes, it's people (and there ARE A LOT OF 'EM) that HAVE this sort of entitlement mentality that really make me reconsider if The United States is really a place where I want my children growing up.....and, if they MUST grow up in The States, it just makes home-schooling look better and better.....and I SWEAR I thought I would NEVER EVER make a statement like that EVER (because, in the past, I had always been scared of home-schooling, linking it to wacked-out Libertarians and Branch Davidians)!

READ HIS LAWYER'S STATEMENT UPON THIS ASSHOLE KID'S RELEASE!

It's just truly bizarre.......

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Overall, Chengdu was awesome.  Tam and I both really, really enjoyed the city and we both really got into it!  Now, while we both DO realise that going to a place on a four-day vacation is much different than actually RESIDING there, I have been pretty much dead-on about places that I had initially visited for a few days and then proceeded to live there!  Chengdu gave me that feeling. IF the English Language instruction market in Hai Phong continues to be controlled and skewed in the manner that it has been over the last year-and-a-half, there is a very good possibility that we will end up going to Chengdu (or to possibly another city in Southern or Western China) for the short term.....at least until shit clears up here or the jobs scene in The States finally comes back to something resembling normalcy....

The situation really kinda sucks - I DO wish to return home to The States, and while I encounter frequent bouts of homesickness (ESPECIALLY after the Blizzard of '14 in Buffalo and the entire Polar Vortex thing), there are upsides to being stuck in Hai Phong.  One obvious one being that I can (USUALLY) make a decent living here while I constantly read about the major crisis of the long-term unemployed back in The States (and I DO KNOW some who have been without work for more than six months). The fact that I AM able to work for myself in Hai Phong and not be somebody's little bitch and can avoid amazingly half-assed and sheer and utterly useless regulations that overwhelm any poor soul in The States that tries to make a go of working for him or herself does pay dividends in terms of personal sanity.......

.....but.....yeah.....it ain't home!


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We're in the dead zone right now between Thanksgiving and Tet (Lunar New Year) where everything drops off as everybody just works to save money (Vietnamese so they can really enjoy the forthcoming holiday of Tet and Tây to save ca$h to git the hell OUTTA here during Tet) - so gigs and clients are nearly impossible to come by!

The way that I HAD previously ran things was where private groups of students arranged by a client and business clients were pretty much my bread-and-butter, and I had one single class that I myself owned and operated!  This class was actually a stress-reliever and was always performed for my personal happiness than for any sort of reasonable financial remuneration (I got awesome students in this class)!!  Well, with the English Language instruction market being contorted like it has been in Hai Phong,
we all know what happened THERE.

On a brighter note, however.  It seems that I'm getting more and more new students joining this one class, and am going to be opening a second class directly after Tet!  A couple more classes like this set up and thoughts of The States or Chengdu could be only a memory!

Did I ever mention to you just HOW stable freelancing is??

Believe me, it's NOT for the faint of heart, and whilst it IS immensely satisfying working for yourself and taking pride in your own efforts, there truly is something to be said about the simple stability of being somebody else's little bitch and KNOWING that that individual (or group of individuals) is going to toss you a regular and consistent paycheque every week......


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Was at the bar this past Saturday talking to a close friend of mine here from India.  He was INFURIATED (as all of India is) about the entire strip-searching episode of the Indian Consulate worker in New York City.  I had to explain to him that I actually CAN totally understand why what was done was done!  The strip-searching part of it all, though, I really dunno about, but the rest - hell yes!

It had been repeatedly suggested that she simply be contacted and be requested to report to The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York.  COME FUCKING ON!  After knowingly falsifying a United States Visa application, do you truly believe that she's actually going to SHOW UP?  Her ass would be on the next flight to Delhi!!  It would be explained as a simple "Foreign Ministry Personnel Transfer"!

My friend passionately argued that U.S Embassies and Consulates are United States soil, so that United States laws apply there!  Therefore, since the same holds true for Indian Embassies - the house servant should not have to be subject to United States minimum wage laws and instead should be subject to Indian wage and salary regulations!

Which is a great thesis, 'cept that the house servant would never be allowed to leave the residence of Ms. Khobragade because THEN, said house servant would be OFF OF Indian soil and therefore subject to United States minimum wage laws (so no picking up the dry-cleaning or running errands).  And the purpose of a Foreign Ministry's or Department of State's embassies and consulates is NOT to run an indentured-servant sweatshop!!  I mean, like this house servant could go and grab a bite at McDonald's or pick up a gallon of milk for herself on THREE-DOLLARS-AND-THIRTY-ONE CENTS PER HOUR???  As IF......

Plus, being an International traveler and an ex-pat, there's one thing I discovered:  DON'T FUCK with the VISA!!  It IS thee holiest of holies!  It IS a sovereign nation's identity, and visa fraud is MUCH MORE a psychological blow than an actual economic one to a nation!  I mean, some grandmother lies on a visa application to get her grandkid into The States or some American does a sham marriage to get somebody in....THAT is bad enough!!

But for an employee of a nation's foreign service to do it???  In THAT position and capacity, you just don't pull that kinda shit......ya just don't!


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Trying out for the
JEOPARDY ONLINE QUIZ tomorrow.  Apparently, they draw contestants from the pool of those who successfully complete this quiz.  This should be great forra laff, and personally, I'm not expecting anything at all out of it except a chance to sharpen my mad pub quiz skillz!!



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Annnnnnnd......finally, a few VietGlish pics taken from my local supermarket - 




This fone was an amazing machine....but I paid a high sexual price for it!  I just feel so.....so....so....so USED!!




....because, we all know how over-rated Route 66 is!  It's high time that we start to boost Camp Road and the entire Village of Hamburg!  And hats off to Big C in Hai Phong for taking the lead in this endeavor!!




Waaaaai......wait!  You want me to WHAT on WHOSE bed while eating WHAT???



Arrrr......go france yourself!!




More next week......

-E-

Monday, December 30, 2013

The Chengdu Pics.....



Sooooo....less start from the beginning -

Noticed that Al Fresco's in Ha Noi had a Messkin discount program this month (where they put out flyers that said - "Buy One Mexican, Get One Free!").  Went for the "Buy-a-pitcher-of-Margies-get-a-pitcher-free" and that made for a nice sleep the night before departure to Chengdu.... 





Tam at The Shamrock, enjoying that traditional Asian favourite dish - "Pie Of The Shepherd".....




Shortly thereafter, "Lisa" at The Shamrock gave us directions to an optical shop just down the street, where Tam was set up by her new best friend from South Viet Nam with a pair of sexy nerd glasses.....she decided to celebrate by provocatively eating a cherry.....






Now, with clear vision restored, I treated Tam to some gamblin' at The China Welfare Lottery (no shit - that's really what it is called).  Sadly, we lost and were not deemed eligible for Welfare  :-(

Naw worries, though - we won fifteen bucks at the scratch-off counter at the airport on the way out!!!

.....interesting how their scratch-off games are identical to the ones that we have in The States - 






Tam standing next to a large Native American statue at Global Centre



Global Centre and the surrounding buildings were just MASSIVE.....just insane!  Here is a Chinese bank office building in front of Global Centre -



Another Chengdu Mega-Mall with a Mega-Lo-Mart inside it.  We went in forra joke.....the Mega-Lo-Mart was absolute crap!  Just imagine all of the low-quality, shit merchandise that United States importers rejected at dock-side, and this Mega-Lo-Mart in Chengdu is what you'd have!!  Absolutely scary part was that a lot of the stuff IN that Mega-Lo-Mart was priced HIGHER than the same exact items in The States were.



Really neat looking faux-retro wooden bus that DOES appear to be part of Chengdu's public transit system.  Reeeaaalllly wanted just to hop on one for the hella it, but, I had NOOOOOO clue WHERE we'd end up, so I had thought better of that idea.....



Really clever attachments to slap onto the handlebars of one's skooter during the winter months -




Tam is all smiles as we sit down to enjoy our first-ever authentic Sichuan HotPot......


....truss me on this - by the end of the meal - all smiles would be a distant memory as, again, real Sichuan food is a special kind of pain! Tam did not dip into the translucent grey mild side of the Hotpot enough and, instead, dared to enter the red, nuclear, forbidden side of the HotPot.  She would pay for this decision later.....



China is thee ultimate Nanny State!  Not only do they have a sign warning you to be very careful whilst walking under escalators, but they actually cushion the area just in case you just don't grasp what a large exclamation point in a bright yellow triangle implies......


.....and finally, a series of pictures taken of a poster listing rules and regulations on the tube in Chengdu.

Please feel free to add your own captions to them!  The funniest captions (as judged by a panel of Me, Myself, and I) will win a prize of five thousand Viet Nam Dong per picture


Picture Number One......




THIS green-haired Chinese lad has already punched his ticket for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio!  His event??  The three-metre turnstyle hurdles! 



Picture Number Two.....



.....I'm jes' gonna leave this one for y'all to caption......


Picture Number Three.....




Believing the advertising that there would be a real live Japanese Ronan appearing in the Chengdu Subway at the bottom of the escalator today, patrons were saddened and cried when all they witnessed was a fake red-haired Chinese knockoff of a Ronan!!  If you look carefully, the young man at the top-left-ish part of this picture already had LASIX surgery on his right eye performed by a knockoff Chinese Ronan, and wanted no part of this entire situation!



Picture Number Four.....



"For only an additional 30RMB, you too can enjoy all the luxury that The Chengdu Subway has to offer by experiencing our new elegant sleeper-class accommodations!  Spaces fill up quickly, so reserve your bench now!"



Picture Number Five.....



"Ralph Wilson and The Buffalo Bills proudly announce the expansion of their 'International Series' by removing a second home game from Western New York and playing it in Chengdu, China (due to, as Wilson puts it - "An attempt to regionalize our franchise").  Due to a shortage there of suitable practice spaces, The Bills will hold their team drills on The Chengdu Subway!"




Picture Number Six.....




Batman, not impressed with the hygiene of Superman's feet, looks away in disgust!



Hope you enjoyed 'em!

More soon.....

-E-













Thursday, December 26, 2013

Of Trans-Oceanic cable cuts, Chengdu, and our first Christmas in Hai Phong....

My desktop computer was suddenly just taking fooooorrrrreeeever to load web pages a week ago!  Ran it through ALL tests, and nothing seemed to be working to fix it!

Checked the Wi-Fi with my cell fone and another computer, and it APPEARED to be a BIT better, so figgered THAT wasn't it!  Gave up and tossed my computer into the local repair shop!

SHORTLY THEREAFTER - I am told that there was a cut in a massive underwater communications cable stretching between Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and California!!!!  This really, really fucked up SouthEast Asia's Internet communications and made things like VoIP fone calls to The States impossible!

So, in addition to not being able to fone my brother and my sister to wish them a Merry Christmas, I now know that, while there's really nothing wrong with my computer now that THIS cable cut has proven too be the issue, when I await my computer's return tomorrow from the repair shop, I'll no doubt be told that there WAS something wrong with it and I'll get bitch-slapped for anywhere between 200,000VND to 800,000VND (ten to forty buxx) to bring it home to The ManCave.......

C'est La Vie......

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So, Tam and I took a brief vacation to Chengdu, China this past week.  Fun began shortly after arriving at Ha Noi ready to take off when Tam mentions that she forgot her glasses!  NO optical shops were anywhere to be found ANYWHERE in the district of Ha Noi where we were staying (at my friend Petey's apartment in WestLake) when we got there in early evening, so we figgered that we'd try our luck in Chengdu!

After much miscommunication at the Chengdu Airport, we finally hook up with the ride from the serviced apartment we'd rented and roll into town around 7:00PM.  We hop their tube and cruise out to a district with several Western restaurants and grab some really awesome curry at an Indian place!  Then head back to the hotel and crash!

The next morning, we have brekker at an Irish pub with an extremely unique name - The Shamrock!  It is there where we meet our first English Language speaker in Chengdu, a sweet Chinese girl called "Lisa" who had been studying English for the past year.  She advised us of an optical shop just 200 metres down the road!  COOL!

Well, Tam had indeed taken Mandarin for a coupla years at University, but, man....uhhhh.....I don't think that in Chengdu they spoke HER kinda Mandarin or some shit like that!  

Now, whenever I attempt to speak tiếng Việt to a Vietnamese person that I DO know fairly well, they will giggle politely and simply cover their ears.  When I attempt to communicate with a Viet person whom I DO NOT not know, usually blood comes pouring out of their ears and they beg me to take what little money they have and please stop hurting them!

But, Jesus Christ!!  When TAM tried to speak Mandarin to these Chengdewians, it was so Goddamm bad that their heads exploded!!  No shit - it literally was like something straight outta the movie "Scanners" - later, I would discover that there was a hotly-debated count amongst Chinese linguists as to WHOSE Mandarin (dis)ability got the most "what the FUCK????" looks from the Chinese citizens that they encountered over a three-day span:  Renee Saracki in Shanghai in April, 2008 or Nguyen Thi Tam in Chengdu in December, 2013!

So things were looking dodgy as we walked towards the optical shop.  As we walked in, I took command and pulled out the really awesome translation app on my fone and showed the translation of "My wife here is not Chinese [because EVERYBODY in Chengdu would simply ignore me and automatically start speaking to Tam in Mandarin], she is Vietnamese and she left her glasses back in Viet Nam!" to the kind gentleman who greeted us at the door!

The gentleman began to smile as he read this and called (what I presumed was) his assistant over and then the assistant and Tam started to smile as she and the assistant were chatting like they'd known each other for years!!

APPARENTLY, the gentleman who owns the shop had married a Vietnamese lady (whom I had mistaken for his assistant) from South Viet Nam (that Tam could mostly understand despite the strong differences in dialect) and they set Tam up straight away with a pair of sexy nerd glasses that had her seeing clearly for the remainder of the trip (and beyond).  I though about taking the opportunity to make several sets of ears bleed by blurting out something like - "NEE-HOW!  Shey-shey!  Toi Khong Thich Banh My!!"  (CHINESE - "Hello!  Thank you!"  VIETNAMESE - "I don't like bread!!"), but thought better of it as I was in a foreign country, so I sulked outside and grabbed a smoke instead.

After the optical shop success story, we jumped the tube Southbound to thee world's largest building (as measured by area square feet) and went on a shopping trip that seemed to last forever.  The Global Centre is basically a mega-mall to end all mega-malls combined with offices, apartments and a couple hotels and, in total, is supposedly twice as large as The Pentagon!

From the outside, it IS intimidating as all hell.......
video



After that, went BACK to the far North end of town on the tube to yet ANOTHER mega-mall (complete with a Wal-Mart and a Toys-R-Us inside), shopped some more, ate a really bad steak at Chengdu's take on a Bavarian BreuHaus, then called it a night!

Next day, went on a five-hour shopping spree at Chengdu's biggest street market and got some really neat gifts for friends and family.  After that, we FINALLY had a chance to grab REAL, AUTHENTIC SICHUAN FOOD!!  Thee moment I'd been waiting for!

Well....errrmmmm.....it was amazing, but let's just say that a Sichuan hotpot is.....uhhh....a special kind of hurt.....

Final day - ended the trip by grabbing some more toys for Christmas for the brats, Chinese ciggies for me and some Chinese whiskey and Chinese beers as a gift for Petey for letting us crash at his pad whilst he was back home in Ireland for the holidays!



Thoughts on Chengdu?

Well, it IS what it is advertised as - veeerry friendly, with very laid-back folks!  People there bitch about the pollution, but I myself didn't find it any worse than Hai Phong's!  With extreme fog (they say that Chengdu gets the least amount of sunshine in China), the entire thing reminded me a lot of an over-sized Portland!

Not a bad place at all......if shit gets outta hand by the end of next summer with no luck on the job scene in The States and if potential clients are still being locked up by the Public Schools and the Universities here in Hai Phong.......MIGHT just head up there with the fam.......China supposedly has a major demand for English language instructors, sooooooo.......we'll see.......


_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _


Got back to Ha Noi last night.  Today, had a local shopkeeper wrap our gifts, and with my micro Christmas Tree (kindly shipped from Rapid City by my friend Ann), celebrated (a late) Christmas this evening at home in Hai Phong as Emily and Minh Tuan opened their gifts!



















Chengdu pics in the next day or two.....with this cable being severed - it takes an absolute eternity to upload pics to this blog, so please bear with me!


Enjoy your holidays!

-E-

Friday, December 20, 2013

      . . . . . . . . 



Prolly thee worst time of year to be stuck in the situation that I'm stuck in now!

Getting a regular gig in The States and moving back there?  Not wonderful at all right now!  EXCEPT for seasonal retail, hiring (which has been extremely weak to begin with for the past five years) really begins to slow down after Thanksgiving and comes to a dead halt around Christmas, and eventually will pick up after Dr. Martin Luther King's Birthday (mid-January).

Continuing to teach in Hai Phong?  Not that great either, as there are no clients at all during a time span that starts around the beginning of December and doesn't end until the first week in March!  This annual period of extreme austerity occurs because EVERYBODY in Vietnam tries to save EVERY SINGLE LAST PENNY for the Tet Holiday (this year January 31st)!  This basically means almost any and all expenses (including English Language lessons for your kids or for yourself) pretty much get yanked and generally don't resume until the beginning of March!



Ahhhhhhhh...................so much dead time on my hands.  I would say that I can hear the crickets chirping, except that it's so Goddamm cold here that the crickets have prolly died of frostbite.


COLD?  Uhhh, Dude?  You're in Vietnam....

True, and, if ya know ANYTHING about meteorology, you know that humidity amplifies physical air temperatures!  So you get the "RealFeel" temperature after factoring that in.  So, for example, 30°F in, say, Buffalo is going to be a hella lot more painful than 10°F in Denver!

So, no, it's not ARCTIC here, but it's also been thee coldest in the five-plus years that I've been marooned here in Hai Phong. Right now, it's averaging a physical air temperature daily high of 55°F and an overnight low of 44°F......

....and THIS is in mid-December!  Can't wait to see what sorta suckage JANUARY'S temperatures are gonna bring to us as Tet gifts!!

OH!! OH!! OH!!  Forgot!!  Did I mention that houses here have ABSOLUTELY NO HEATING IN THEM WHATSOEVER!!   NO electric baseboard heating, no space heaters, no radiators, no central heat from a furnace.....NOTHING - NADA - ZIP - ZILTCH!!!

Believe me, after the initial charm and quaintness of wearing winter clothes around the house wears off, it really begins to suck after a while....




Sooooo........with the dead time, time to catch up on some reading and meebee try to piece some writings together after Christmas and see what I come up with.....

Tam and I are off to Chengdu on The Solstice tomorrow forra few days....this was a trip we had planned in July (well BEFORE everything went to hell) and it appears that the timing couldn't have been better!  Rather psyched for it - if there is ANY sort of luck bringing me back to The States, this will prolly be the last I'll see of Asia forra long-ass time and I'd like to see as much of it as I can!

Who knows????  There is a hyper demand for English instructors in China and, IF the market for freelance English Language instruction continues to absolutely suck in Hai Phong like it has for the past six months......well.....we shall see........

COMING UP NEXT WEEK - Wacky zany madcap cultural misunderstandings abound as Ernie and Tam visit The Middle Kingdom!  


(I SAY - "Coming up next week" simply because the last time I was in China [2008], they blocked every single Goddamm thing under the sun [The Facebook, YouTube, etc. etc.], so I doubt I'll be able to post direct from there)



Stay tuned.....

A wonderful Winter Solstice to you and yours......

-E-


Sunday, December 15, 2013

As I wait for this week's embarrassment.....

......also known as the Bills game that'll be popping up on my computer screen in an hour-and-a-half, a few random thoughts -


In football, TALK ABOUT SHIT DRAWS for the World's former colonial power and its current colonial power!   


The Limeys get Italy AND Uruguay in the 150°F RealFeel temperatures of Manaus (some tiny-ass town in the Amazon somewheres) and Costa Rica to round out the group?  MAN?? WHOSE Wheaties did THEY shit in to get a draw like that??

I mean, this 2014 World Cup was supposed to have NO cakewalk teams....and it's pretty much stayed true to that billing.  But come-fucking-ON!!!  LOOK at what The Frogs got! The SWISS??  HONDURAS???  And, thee only POTENTIAL threat in that group, Ecuador!!

Somebody felt bad for 'em after all those wars they lost.....

Group "H" is also a cakewalk, with Russia and Belgium easily advancing....fuck, why do they even need to bother showing up during the first three weeks??



Still, my pick to take it all??

URUGUAY!  They've been knocking on the door waaaaaaaaaaaaay too many times now - it's their turn next summer to take their third crown..... 




In handegg, The Bills suck!  

Still, though - doing a hell of a job getting set up for next year!  E.J. Manual will have a year of experience under his belt and will avoid making rookie mistakes in 2014!  We have two of the better running backs in the league in C.J. Spiller and Fast Freddie Jackson and an inconsistent, yet sometimes absolutely DOMINATING front four on the defensive line!!

The to-do list is simple:  Trade off Stevie Johnson!  The constant drops during absolutely CLUTCH DO-OR-DIE situations is really wearing thin!  STILL - he DOES hold good value on the market, and we can prolly get a DECENT offensive guard to replace Andy LeVitre (a HUGE gap in our O-Line this season) or maybe an outside linebacker!

DRAFT??  Get a coupla defensive backs (ONE corner and one safety).  Stefan Gilmore is fucking useless....and Jarius Byrd is pretty good but it's painfully obvious that he does NOT want to be in Buffalo after the way The Bills embarrassed him this past summer by not signing him to a proper long-term contract and then slapping the "Franchise Player" tag on him forra year.  Let Byrd walk or slap ANOTHER Franchise Player tag on him during training camp and trade him before the first game for a Goddamm STUD of an offensive lineman! Grab an outside linebacker or two in the second or third rounds and it could just be 8 and 8 next season!

-E-







Thursday, December 5, 2013

Well, as shit stands right now, there is a fair amount of time on my hands.....

....prolly thee most free time I've had since I arrived upon these fine shores more than five years ago.  And, with Tet just around the corner, there will prolly be more free time....

Which, trust me, isn't necessarily a bad thing.

So, to kill off whatever time isn't filled by doing short-term/quik-hit spot gigs, my advanced level class, and firing out resumes to The States, I have been able to do some reading, I've watched at least five movies in the past coupla weeks, and I have also found time to return to this page.

Again, it's not a horrible thing because this free time DOES provide me with something to do, because, if you know ANYTHING about Hai Phong, you understand that there is ABSOLUTELY NOTHING to do here at all.  I mean, if you're into drugs, then I'd imagine that, being a major port city, heroin is easily available here.  And, if you like your girls, well, there are hooker huts all over the city ("hooker huts" are places that pretend to masquerade as cafes, but have some rooms in the back if your looking for more than simply coffee), but if you're not into those kinda things, then you're S.O.L.!

If you're a foodie, well, there are around 50,000 little carts on the sidewalks that will serve you a bowl of Pho or Bun, and we just got our first (SEVERELY over-priced) Indian restaurant, and we have the Colonel and that's about it!   A coupla Japanese restaurants (THANK CHRIST!) and not much else!

Got yo' Gamblin' jones on??  Not here.  Gambling is illegal in Viet Nam, and while they DO have "casinos" at five-star hotels where you must show a foreign passport to enter, these basically consist of cramming, like, ten slot machines into an area about the size of your bedroom closet!  And even then, the nearest ones are in Hanoi, a sixty-mile/two-and-a-half hour bus ride from Hai Phong.

Fan of the finer arts?  Well, they have an Opera House here....but no actual opera.....and one multiplex cinema that is actually worth a damm.

Bars??  Well, this is Hai Phong......and, like most places in Asia, they don't really have the normal corner bar that we are used to having on every street corner in The West.  In fact, there are only two (this in a city of 2 Million-plus people), and they were built to cater towards Westerners (as there are more and more and more Tay sllloooowly creeping into Hai phong) and neither bar really is anything to write (or E-Mail) home about.

So, again - there really ISN'T much to do here....and if it were the countryside, overlooking a small lake with butterflies fluttering about, I'd be all for there being nothing to do!

But it's not - It's a dirty, over-crowded, polluted industrial port-city shitbox........so, until I get the green light ta git the hell outta here and back to The States, I'm thinking that staying inside, reading, hanging with my wife and brats, watching films and writing sounds like a wonderful way to kill the time.  Besides - it's free!!




So, a few observations - 



  • The leaning tower of bad test scores....



APPARENTLY, 2012 was the first year that Vietnam students had taken the Program for International Student Assessment, or P.I.S.A., tests!  They just released the results of the 2012 testing last week.

Now, truthfully, there are serious questions about REPRESENTATIVE SAMPLING of the students who took these tests in several nations.  In The States, I'm pretty sure that they just tossed around the test randomly to whichever public schools to take and that was that!


Don't quite get the Chinese one, however. SHANGHAI??  Why not try a school in the middle of Bum Fuck Egypt somewhere in China....like SERIOUS countryside and then lesssee how well they do!


STILL, though, either way, I was impressed with Viet Nam taking out the U.S. in BOTH:  Reading and math.


  
This really does NOT bode well for us Yanks.....


  • Commie Gamblin'....




Now, if you remember from earlier in this page, 
I had stated how Gamblin' is illegal in Viet Nam.  NOT to say that it doesn't go on, but not legally!  THEE only legal wagering that the Vietnamese public can engage in is betting on the Vietnamese National Lottery Draw.  I mean, people do card games and such around their local neighbourhoods, yeah, but the National Lottery Draw is thee big one for most Vietnamese!

I had seen this all over the place and have YET to have a fucking CLUE HOW exactly it works.  I mean, come on now!!!!!!!!!  LOOK AT OURS!!  THAT shit makes SENSE - Ya got a simple grid of fiddy-fo' numbers and ya gotta select five of 'em and then one additional number from a different grid of one through fifty-four!

The Vietnamese draw involves multiple groupings, different combinations, all sorts of mathematical sideshows that would have Pythagoras pulling his Goddamm hair out!!

Must be why they kick our asses in P.I.S.A. math test scores.....

Now, the wagering in these draws is initiated by simply walking down any street in any city or town or village around 5:00PM on any afternoon and seeing somebody sitting on the sidewalk in a plastic chair and a wooden TV tray.  If they got a light-blue colored tablecloth (pic immediately below) and glossy-ass lookin' tickets, they ARE (usually) authorised by The Government to sell tickets for the draw.



If they got last night's numbers on a Goddamm chalkboard and no light-blue tablecloth (which are most of 'em), then they are NOT authorised by The Government to sell tickets for the draw!



I GUESS that this is similar to the "numbers racket" that gangs run in places like Harlem where THEY are the cashier AND the bank who take in and pay out wagers based on the numbers that The Government draws!

But the thing that I really dig is THE PRESENTATION!!

Now, our big-ass draws (Mega Millions, Powerball, etc.) are on this flashy stage and hosted by some guy who's taken way too many amphetamines and there are trombones blaring and hot chicks in bikinis being chased around the set by circus midgets dressed in clown costumes and wielding leather whips with huge fireworks explosions going off in the background!!!

HERE in Viet Nam, the lottery draws have all of the excitement of a Soviet Union State funeral, except there is this weird music that is being played from a 1979 Casio keyboard that was stolen from the inventory of the National Communist Party History Museum, ripped off from an exhibition the museum held about 32 years ago called "The 
debaucherous artifacts of Capitalism"
video

(Billiard balls provided by Brunswick)

I had asked my wife to explain why the Vietnamese hold their lottery draws in this bizarre, militaristic manner.  She said something along the lines of "....preserving the dignity and integrity of the contest."


.....my jaw went directly through the floor.....

 

-E-