Saturday, January 24, 2009

Toto, I don't think we're in Oregon anymore.....

....right. So, I die around 4am Thursday Night/Friday Morning, and then, at like, 7:30am, Tuan wakes me up - "Teacher, must wake up!

"Where's the fire?" I grunt.

No fire, no fire. Office staff come in today! Yesterday final day of school. But all staff come in today for special visit just to meet you!"

The fuck????

"Errmmm......they, uhhh, normally have off today?"

Yes, but they all make special effort to come to greet and meet you!"

You're kidding, right?

"Errmmm.......uhhhh.....OK. Uhhhh, let me shower and I will meet them in the office."

The E is NOT at his best before noon......and he can be particularly pissy around 7:30am., after a shower and a still-shitty disposition, I manage to walk downstairs to the office and was greeted by a gaggle of young Vietnamese girls who compose a few of the teaching staff and the bulk of the office administrative staff. After brief introductions, we all went upstairs to Tuan's living quarters and sat around a table, where, over tea, I was peppered with questions about The United States, general questions about myself, and then some personal questions about myself by said gaggle of girls:

“Where you live in America?”

"A city called Portland, in a state called Ora-gaaan" (hey – gotta teach 'em to talk like Easterners).

“Where is that?”

"It's on the West Coast of America, not too far from California" (fuckin' EVERYONE'S heard of California, I figured).

“You near the beach?”

"110 kilometres away!"

“Where were you born?”

"A town called a state called New York, but NOT New York CITY!!"

“What your job before you come here?”

I really couldn't explain the occupation of “unemployed drifter and writer” to them, so I went back to my last (semi-)legitimate position, and tried to explain Urban Planning to them.

“Are you single?”


“Can I have your phone number?”



.......errrrmmm..........sure........OK, it's 125-65-......."

Five cell fones popped out with fingers at the ready........

After that, Tuan and I and two of his guys on staff rode skooters out into the countryside to pick out (what I THINK was) a kumquat tree. The Vietnamese use them for Tet (I guess kinda like how we use a small evergreen tree for Christmas), and this was thee most surreal skooter ride I haf EVER taken in my life. I did not realise that it was possible to drive a skooter whilst balancing a passenger who is carrying a four-foot kumquat tree and dodge cars, other skooters, bicyclists, pedestrians, water buffaloes, and fuck knows what else all at the same time......but I did it.....and I'll post pics to prove it later.

Beyond that, I am having several people go look for a house for me. No, it's not a house as we know it in the Western sense, because all structures within five miles of an urbanised area are attached.....the only DEtached houses are out in the sticks. Rather, the Vietnamese refer to all living quarters as a “house”......

Whilst it's quite amusing to reside in an empty classroom as I am doing now (HEY!!!!! I can hit the Internet, smoke and drink bia there!!!!), the Vietnamese, because of the ratio of population vs. land base, have no concept of the North American idea of privacy, and whilst I was asked if I would like to reside in an empty classroom during my tenure there, I politely declined. A fellow teacher from Vancouver, B.C. named Jerry (this Gordie who's about 55 years old) and I are trying to explain to Tuan the idea that North Americans, after reaching the age of 35 or so, generally prefer their own space with no roommates......

The Vietnamese culture is a hell of a thing for me to get a handle on. Seriously! I mean, to go cruise around as a tourist (as I did in April 2008) is one thing, but to live amongst an actual Vietnamese family and work there and RESIDE there is a whole different ball of wax!

Let's take food, for instance.......I should easily be able to shed a few lbs. here, as I was introduced to delicacies at the Dang family dinner table such as pig's lung, goat's feet, and shrimp that does NOT haf the shell at all and still has the head on it......bit disconcerting to maul this fresh out-of-the-water shrimp with it's little black buggy eyes peering at you......

....rice, noodles, Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) and fried spring rolls are pretty much my diet here.

Christ!! HOW will my body deal with the lack of chemicals and artificial preservatives??

The household lifestyle is a bit weird here, too. The women and children are to do ALL, and I do mean ALL, of the house work (I was thanked profusely when I was gathering the dishes after a meal to bring to the sink). And people (in an URBAN area) keep live chickens in a cage in the fucking bafroom!!!! Errrmmm.......uhhh......they weren't exactly pets, either.

And what they define as generational just blew me away!! For example, I had coffee with a friend (well, she had coffee.....I had bia). We were discussing the upcoming New Year's Eve festivities this evening and my friend had asked me what I am doing. I had explained that I was going to Red Square (the centre square in downtown Hai's NOT called “Red Square”, but thass what I call it) to watch the fireworks with Tuan's daughter, Thinm (which translates in English to “virgin” - seriously), and some of her friends.

“Oh. That is nice.”

"Why don't you come join us?"

“I was not invited to join.”

" just were!!!!"

“No, by Thinm and her friends, I was not invited.”

"But you KNOW these people what???"

“E, it is different. I am not of, how you say, those people generation. They are younger....we do not do things together...........”

(insert Jerry Brown look here)

"'re 24 years old, they're all 18 or so......and your point????!!??"

“You do not understand – they are younger than I am, and.....”

"Yeah, by all of six fucking years!! I mean,, I haf friends in Portlandia that run from 18 to 55 years old! And if the 18 year old will host a party, they will invite the 55 year old and everyone in between.....and vice-versa!!!!!!"

“Really?” (insert Jerry Brown look here on my friend's face)

Bizarre.....more later – I'm off to the fireworks now.....


P.S.- I haf all new contact information, including cell fone (if ya feel like dropping a hundred bucks per minute for hot, steamy English as a Second Language talk wiff me), a fone number to leave me messages at (it's a U.S. number – no International calling charge) and a SKYPE ID name. It's all on my Facebook page. If ya don't wanna join Facebook, leave me a comment and I'll get that info to you!

P.P.S. - Bought a case of Bia Ha Noi pounders (16 oz. bottles of Hanoi brand beer) today for 160,000 Vietnamese Dong......and where else can you have a night out where five pints cost you about a half-hour's salary (125,000 Vietnamese Dong)??

Go to and do the maths.....


HRD said...

Dude! Uh .... errrr .... on the table, next to your Export A's ... is that a bo ... errr ... water pipe?

I stand by my assertion that when you return to the states one day, you'll not be returning alone.

I started your scooter a few days ago, it took a few tries but got going eventually; it's been bitterly cold so I don't think that anything is wrong.


-E- said...'s a rather bizarre-looking ashtray, actually......

I dunno, is happy being single......but I can't tell the future, so who knows?

'ppreciate you keeping the skooter up. When you and K visit me here, we'll rent you guys some skooters and take a ride to Hanoi (two hours from Hai Phong)....


Doctor B said...

Gee, I think I like pig lungs.
Can you get them with donuts ???

U da man

CN250 said...

No, Doktor....they are a substitute for dip the pig's lung into your coffee......

....The Dragon is giving me power.....