Blatherings about experiences in Vietnam......
I was teaching an advanced level class (like, 16-17 year-olds) last week and the topic I was given to present was “Food”. It's a free-form format (as opposed to teaching with a textbook), so I thought that I'd ask the students some of their favourite Vietnamese dishes and then ask them about some Foreign dishes that they've heard about.
Well, for the first list, I got the usual suspects (Pho Bo, Bangmy Pate, Fish sauce [GOD I love that stuff] and about five different dishes involving rice).
One student then mentioned “Chao”, or Dog! OK, cool, I said, and I put it up on the blackboard. Then another mentioned “Meo” or cat.
Oooooohhh-KAY.....trying to keep a poker-face expression here.....
“Errrmmm......can anybody clear this up for me? I had heard that eating Meo (cat) is now illegal in Vietnam. Is this true??”
The class all nodded yes in unison.
“OK....right, so has anyone here tried Meo before”
“Of course” said one girl.
“Errmmm......OK.....ahhhh......does anyone actually LIKE Meo?” I asked.
“Yes” said several people.
So I asked the girl - “OK....errrmm....ahhhh....what does Meo taste like?
“It is nice. It is more.....more....how you say.....teender and zooschy than Chao (Dog) is”
“Ahh....OK, more tender and juicy than dog, ahhhh, gotcha....I see”
“Ooer....look at the time! Class dismissed”
Don't think I'll eat ANY meat for a while now.....but I'll get over it. I mean, what do the Hindus think when they come to visit America and some guy in the restaurant is eating a big-ass Porterhouse at the table right next to them??
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
I was told by a kind gent who owns a bar/hotel in Cat Ba that "Xin Chow", depending on HOW EXACTLY it's said in terms of pronunciation and accentual stress, can mean A) – Hello or B) – noodles. Much like the word “mua”, depending on where the accentual stress is placed, can either mean “rain” or “to buy something”.
Wonderful!!! At least twice a day, little Vietnamese kids (and sometime little Vietnamese adults) come up to me on the street and say “Hello” in English.....and, with my luck, I answer back in Tieng Viet (The Vietnamese Language) “Noodles!!!” instead of “Hello!”
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
Oh God....now I'm really going to Hell......
Tam had gotten the can from the school, which was partially MY fault – I mean, when a meek, submissive Vietnamese girl starts hanging with an American who takes no shit from anybody [just ask the Human Resources department of a certain municipal government], fun and hi-jinx are sure to follow!
I won't go into the gory details here, because I kinda like my job, and I haf no idea WHO actually reads this, sooooo.........but still, I now realise why people kept calling me a bad influence when I was younger....
I felt very, VERY badly about the entire thing, but Tam told me to put it out of my mind. “I have not felt this happy in a long time – it is almost like relief! I am now no longer intimidated and.....how you say.....bully?”
“Bullied” I corrected her.
So, she somehow got connected into a job as a church secretary, a position she'll be starting in the next few weeks. They gave her a preliminary assignment before she actually takes the reins as church secretary – learn the Bible.
“E, there are things I cannot understand! So much confusion. Can you please help me?? It bring much happiness to me if you can help me understand Bible.......”
Now, THIS is a mistake! Asking me to assist in understanding The Bible is very similar to asking Adolf Hitler to elaborate on the benefits of racial diversity.....or asking Pol Pot to explain WHY dissent by intellectuals actually is a good thing for the nation.
“But, you tell me that this used to be your former religion???” Tam asked.
“Yeah, and it wasn't truly voluntary” I responded.
So, Tam swung by my pad, and I asked: “OK, what do you hafta know and where do we start?”
“I must read the first book of Bible – Genesee – must learn the parts 1 through 12”
“I try to avoid that book....especially the Cream Ale in the pounder bottles”
“No, I am sorry. I mean.....uhhh....'Genesis'...”
“King James Version, Peter Gabriel Version or Phil Collins Version??”
“I do not understand, can you tell me difference?”
“Tam....I'm sorry.....bad joke”
“OK, I start on this page......” as she was about to open the book.
“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth......” I said.
“WOW!!! You remember that from your young days as Christian?”
“No, I remember that from a question in the 'Arts and Literature' category in a Trivial Pursuit
game in my 20s – 'WHAT are the first ten words in The Bible?'”
And so it went, and I know I'm going to hell, where I'll do speedballs with River Phoenix and Sid Vicious.....because, as I explained the story of Adam and Eve, Cain and Able, and Noah and the Great Flood, I added way too many sarcastic editorial comments (“Soooo, now, Tam – How do you suppose that if Adam and Eve were the first humans, and they had two sons, where the fuck did Cain get a wife from?? eHarmony.com?” - “Now, The Great Flood killed every living thing on the planet.....but in the part where the sun finally comes out and shit dried up, it now says here that Noah's three sons each had a wife. Where did the wives come from?? I mean, the flood killed everything, right? And if they were on the ark from the get-go, then, right before the flood, when God ordered Noah to take aboard only TWO of each animal and plant species, were humans given an exemption to that “Two-of-every-species” command by God??”).
I really shoulda tried to be more neutral......but, as she left for home, I told her to keep an eye on her purse.....and not from the pickpockets on the street......