Saturday, February 21, 2009

OK.....where do I start?

.....lotsa shit goin' on.....

OK, we'll go chronologically, then......

  • Jerry The Gordie had told me that, much like North America, one has to purchase skooter insurance in order to ride on the road here in Viet Nam. OK....the guy's been residing here on and off for more than six years.......no questions.
So, I ask Tam to take me to get skooter insurance.

She leads me to a sporting goods store.....

".......errrmmmm, Tam......I don't want a pair of Nikes.......I'd like skooter insurance."

"You buy motorbike insurance here."

"But it's a sporting goods shop!"

"They do not earn much money selling things for sport here. So they......how you say......diverfee?? Diversee??"

"Diversify?"

"VANG!! Yes! Yes! They do other things and also sell sport goods!"


Now, I despise insurance people with a flaming passion ('cept for Nick Fox, 'cause he's a friend of mine, and I can't tell him what career to get into). I deplore the literal multitude of private questions that they demand answers to ("Are you married?" "Do you OWN a house?" "WHAT is your credit score?") and generally, I feel unplesant around anything even having anything to do with insurance........particularly since I have never actually FILED a claim IN MY LIFE!!!!!!!!!!!

So this sporting goods store gig caught me quite off guard.......

"Uhhh......OK. Here's my passport.....here's my Oregon driver's license with the Classes "M"and "C" on it. If you turn it over like so, it means that I am legally allowed to drive a motorbike and a automobile, and........"

"Ernie......Ernie!!!! They do not care about you!! The motorbike is more important than you!!"

Well.......shit......THANKS, Tam! Deflate my ego a bit, why don't you.....?

So I show them the Bill of Sale and the title (which LITERALLY DOES NOT have one's name on it) and five minutes later and 70,000 Dong lighter, we walk out with a certificate that states that me and my passenger are covered up to 30 million Dong in medical expenses on the policy. And, on the back of it, I SWEAR, there was a 20% off coupon for Guido's pizzaeria and another offering buy one-get one free at Nguyen's Pho Ba restaurant.........

"Do not believe everything on the paper" said Tam.

"What???!!??? I hafta PAY for the second bowl of Pho Ba at Nguyen's.....???!!??"

"No. About the insurance......"

"Errrmm.......Tam?? Trust me: It is the same way in America!"

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  • Caught my first VFF (Viet Nam Football Federation) match at Lach Tray Stadium (pronounced "lack CHAY") where Hai Phong Cement beat The Army 2-1. Was very interesting.....OVER-packed house to the point where people sat in the stairwells, no beer and water is served only in a plastic bag (because of past Hooliganism problems). And, when a Hai Phong player received a rather dodgy yellow card from the ref, I stood up and shouted "BULLSHIT!" and everyone for ten rows in all dircetions around me became silent and looked at me. I guess dissent with the referee is frowned upon here.

Christ.....wish some of the high school matches that I had officiated in America were like that...........


Some pics -





Game ticket























Walking to the stadium, I passed a tasty pre-game snack......but I wasn't that hungry....
























My friends Suzanne and Ed at the stadium, representing their respective nations





Them....


video
Hai Phong Cement walking off after warm-ups



video
About an hour before kickoff....


video
Right before kickoff.





Right AT kickoff.....notice that the stairwell disappeared into a mass of humanity....




The Cong supporters who came in from Ha Noi.......these were thee only empty seats in the entire stadium.




Fun match.....great atmosphere. But I'm really not too sure how much I enjoy getting to the match two hours beforehand because of general admission seating with no beer and having to climb over a literal mass of humanity sitting down on what used to be the stairwell just to go take a piss. Shit, and you thought that going to Rich Stadium was bad......

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  • My cavalier attitude towards speed limits here and my misplaced faith in my Cracka friends here (who repeatedly stated: "Oh, don't worry....they NEVER pull over foreigners here!") would come back to bite me in the ass....
I was headed on the 20 kilometre ride down to Do Son beach to relax and drink a few beers on the beach. The speed limit nationally in Viet Nam for skooters is 60 Kilometres Per Hour MAXIMUM ANYWHERE and 40 Kilometres Per Hour maximum in any built-up/urbanised area.

There are, like three "built-up" (and, if you had seen these tiny shantytowns, you'd agree that's really a stretch of the term "built-up") areas on the way from Hai Phong to Do Son.

It was a mild day with sunshine, not too hot at all, and I was feeling good and ready to pound a few pints on the beach! So, obviously I wasn't thinking about what my speedometer was saying.

Once I get thru to the end of this "built-up" area, I see a bunch of guys in khaki milling about near the side of the road......

".....oooer, speed trap" I had thought to myself. "I'd best slow down and make a good show of it."

Until this bright white skooter with a guy in khaki blares straight out of nowhere and cuts me off. He then signals for me to go to the side of the road.

"Oh SHIT!" I thought to myself. "Wonder if they can even FIT my ass into a Tiger Cage?"

So, I'm standing on the sidewalk, and this army-looking dude in khaki comes right up to me and gives me a military salute.

Now, in the very deeeeeep, daaaaark misty past, during my misspent youth, I had gone out to The Continental one night and engaged in faaaaar too many excesses. The next morning, I was in the United States Army. I really still can't quite piece together what happened during the interim, except that it involved circus midgets using whips on girls clad in leather bikinis and i thought that I saw fireworks as well.....

After a while, the Army and I both mutually decided that this really wasn't gonna really be a good fit for either of us, and we parted ways with no hard feelings on either side.

But there are three things that will stick with me FOREVER -

- I STILL write my dates as 23 FEB 2009

- When spelling things, I STILL use the NATO phonetic alphabet (e.g. - F=Foxtrot/A=Alpha/W=Whiskey, etc.)

- And, when saluted by somebody in uniform, I STILL slam the insides of my feet together, stand rigid, and snap a salute back

Which is what I did here.

The guy looked absolutely stunned......I don't think that the Vietnamese generally do that when getting pulled over.

So, I get led over to this giant Jeep-like thing where some khaki guy is sitting inside, and I was told that I was going 60 K.P.H. in a 40. They requested 200,000 Dong as a fine/suggested donation. I felt now was NOT the right time to attempt to negotiate, so I paid him, shook all the cops hands, and rode off. They all smiled and waved at me and one of them even said "Good luck!"

I laffed so hard at that, that I nearly lost control of my skooter.........

Just a bit pissed off at myself for forgetting to affix the "I support the Vietnam Police Benevolent Association - 2009" sticker to the back of my skooter!!!!


I was instructed by a couple of my Cracka co-workers that, IF pulled over, you are supposed to hand over your title/registration, your insurance, and slip a 100,000 Dong bill in there nice and neatly, and you'll be on your way in no time!

I really was NOT in a mood to experiment that day, plus the thought of the Tiger Cages......well.......

It really didn't bother me. Given that, I found out later, I DID get tagged the "Vietnamese rate" (as opposed to the affluent foreigner rate) for the fine (probably because I saluted back and offered them all cigarettes), that they were quite pleasant about the entire thing (as opposed to, say, New York State StormTrooper pigs), and that I calculated it out after I rode off......

......it came to $11.76USD.

So what if it went into their pockets. Fine by me......I mean, if you look at the BIG picture, there is no profit-mongering insurance conglomerate just drooling at the opportunity to now jack up your premium so they can increase their profit. The entire thing was quite efficient, actually.....






More next week......

-E-

1 comment:

HRD said...

Look, to each their own, but the concept of you handing over your Dong to some coppers ... sheesh ...