.....I've been very busy this past week, and, when I get shit settled down and I get settled in.......postings will be more frequent!
Few observations and events -
- The Vietnamese smoke like CHIMNEYS!!! I mean, they even smoke in the lobbies of fucking HOSPITALS!!! Not a good thing, as the (RELATIVE TO WESTERNERS) cheap price of a pack of Japanese charcoal-filtered ciggies (25,000 Dong....like $1.75USD) and the fact that NOWHERE is off-limits from smoking really make this nation a tough place to try to cut back on smoking.
- These people personify the old axiom “Early to bed, early to rise”!! There really isn't much to do here after 12 midnight (though, ALLEGEDLY, there are a few actual nightclubs that stay open until 2AM-ish).....and if you're enjoying several pints with friends at around 11:30pm at a cafe, the proprietors (usually run by a family) will stand around you, tapping their feet, gradually putting the furniture back inside, etc. This is in Vietnam's third-largest city, at 3.1 million population in the Hai Phong metro area (which really isn't that large geographically, as the Vietnamese are huge on density and not terribly excited about sprawl). I'm viewed as a bit of a freak here because I go to bed around 2AM and wake up around 10:30am!
- Left the classroom I was residing in and reside now in a huge-ass room with a private bathroom in the house of the family of one of the staff members of the school (whose name is Ngoc......pronounced “nup”). Holy shit! Talk about an experience in cultural anthropology.......this is like the flick “Krippendorf's Tribe”!!
Jerry The Gordie drops off like 95 lbs. worth of my luggage on the back of his skooter at my new home (Jerry is as pasty as any Cracka British Columbian, but he essentially is Vietnamese thru and thru.....as the Vietnamese ROUTINELY carry things like entire trees, 32” television sets, small refrigerators, mattresses, and fuck knows what else on the back of a skooter) and, upon my entrance, I get greeted with much fanfare and a bottle of Johnny Walker Black is cracked open. Errrmmm.......OK......
THEN, I discover that the staff member's (Ngoc's) English is dodgy at best, and I realise that she's NOWHERE AROUND! NOBODY there speaks a syllable of English. THEN I re-discover that the “Grunt-and-Point” works a LOT better in Europe than in Asia. So, the mother (whose name is pronounced “Hahnga”) and I point at shit and say the words in our respective tongues and then we go to my room and she helps me with my Rosetta Stone pronunciation.........
Ngoc on the fone
I reside on a very narrow alley called Ngyuen Duc Canh (you pronounce that "muh-when-duh-kaaang"). Addresses 1-65 of the alley (no, it really is considered a street) are residential, addresses 65 - 100 are retail and a pagoda, and 100 - onwards Ngyuen Duc Canh turns into this big-ass Grande Boulevard parkway thoroughfare with shops, cafes, restaurants and whatnot lining it.
My front door (the pale blue gates)
The residential section of my "street"
The commercial section of my "street"
- Bought a skooter! Thee cool, hipster area, Minh Khai, is, like, three kilometres from my new digs (and is overwhelmed with Hai Phong's fifteen or so Crackas, all of whom seem to hang out there)......and the walk back after several pints was wearing a bit tiresome after a few nights. Plus, if I wanted to just take off to Do Son beach (20 Km) or even Hanoi (98 Km), I can do it at my leisure, and don't hafta borrow a bike from one of Tuan's family members!
- Riding here is an absolute fucking treat! There are dead ZERO traffic laws (well....OK.....I take that back – there ARE one or two on paper.....but everybody ignores them and they are never enforced) and it literally is like anarchy on the roads. During one three-day stretch, I had seen three accidents (skooter-pedestrian, skooter-bicycle and skooter-skooter). The first one I saw was where a bicyclist did a wild-ass U-turn in the middle of a busy street with no regard for anything or anybody. He got taken out broadside by a skooter.
I was riding with Tam as my passenger. I screamed “HOLY SHIT!!!!” and literally shook!
Tam stated “Oh......it's to be expected. That happens all of the time” in the same tone of voice in which one would observe “Oh.....it's cloudy today” in Portland.
It literally makes “Death Race 2000” look as heart-pumping as competitive knitting by comparison......
I mean, last Saturday, two days before school went into session, all staff hopped onto motorbikes and went on a marathon five-minutes-per-stop tour to all staff member's family's houses (DON'T ask). Well, we got to the house where Ngoc and her family and I reside, when Tuan (Our Leader/Director of the school that bears his name) gets a fone call and a pale look on his face.
Apparently, word spread through the group that we are to proceed quickly to the hospital!
"The hospital??!!??" I asked. "What is it??!??"
"It's a large building with sick people in it......but that's not important right now" responded Tuan.
Well, no, he didn't say that.....but still, it wouldn't surprise me if he did....
So we discover that Nguyen was riding on the back of a skooter with Tung, and some douchebag knocked 'em over and sliced Ngyuen's foot open quite nicely.
In the waiting area with many people puffing away on ciggies, I asked for more detail.
"It was not Tung's fault - somebody accidentally bumped into them and they fell over."
I then saw Nguyen's foot, and I got a touch heated -
"Well, shit, where is the guy? Did they get his insurance? Are the police there? Did Tung at least clock the living shit outta this wank?"
"No," responded Tuan. "He left."
"WHAT???!" I screamed. SOMEBODY had to catch a license plate or something! Fuck!! Sue his ass for all the money his family's next seven generations will make in salary!!!"
"Ah-nee.....Ah-nee....it is not like that. We take care of Ngyuen, and that is the way things are....." said Tuan.
I actually started sputtering: "Whaaa.....whaaa.....how.....duh......"
Tuan calmed me down....but still....
My skooter, a 2006 Yamaha Ultimo, I got for 10 million Dong (and can easily dump for 8 million whenever I leave and return home to Portlandia). I routinely get giggles when riding it, as, when I ask why people are laffing, I am told "Such a large man......on such a tiny motorbike." I literally had considered shipping The Helix over here....but bikes of greater than 150cc are not allowed to be driven in Vietnam. Still, though.....I can git the fucker up to 90 Km/h (about 20Km/h above the national speed limit for skooters here).
- Finding my way around Hai Phong fairly quickly.....and I only dragged the GPS out once, on my second day here!
- Went to the Post Office here to fire out a couple of packages to my sister and to HRD. Tam went with me, and thank Christ she did! About five forms strictly in Vietnamese had to be filled out in triplicate for each parcel, and they refused to ship the 375ml bottle of Ha Noi brand rice vodka, made right here in Vietnam (sorry, Sis). One lady who was about 12 months pregnant was helping us, and one of her co-workers and her supervisor were sitting at a desk three feet away from her, chatting about their families and gossiping, as a queue was developing.
Tam assured me (in the same "It's cloudy outside today in Portland" tone of voice) - "Do not panic: They are working as slowly as possible to process your parcel."
I literally dropped to the floor laffing...
"Please do not show happiness....the Postal Staff may mis-interpret this as meaning that you are pleased to be cooperating with them."
I almost pissed myself.....45 minutes later, we were free to leave.
- "Taught" my first few classes this week, and got the hint that one has to be the students friend and almost literally entertain them! This resulted in me looking like I was hosting a game show and acting rather animated and, at one point, standing on top of a desk. The advanced level students stated that I had an "HBO voice" (???!!??) and accused me of being thirty years old.
.....on that note.....