Wednesday, February 24, 2010

No, Facebook DID NOT kill this blog.....

....rather, excessive laziness just disabled it.

OK, back at, shit - WHERE was me again?

Right.....allright - let's go back to the random blatherings format and return to....oooooh.....October 2009?

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In lieu of nothing else to do amidst the skull-crushing boredom that is Hai Phong, I decided to go and do something reserved for the very stupid or the very foolhardy (or reporters from The Weather Channel).........
I attempted to chase a hurricane.

Between June and November, I would keep a close eye on the
website created by the domestic terrorist group that Barack Obama's
buddy used to be associated with (The Weather Underground).
Apparently, they've now reformed and gone mainstream and they
produce a website devoted to fans of meteorological studies.

Anyways, they got a really comprehensive hurricane tracking page,
and, in mid-October, it appeared that one such storm was headed
directly towards Hai Phong. So, Tam and I took a bus down to Do Son
beach (about 20 KM South of Hai Phong and the only spot essentially
surrounded by water on three sides).

Well, THAT was a waste. It diminished into a tropical storm and made
landfall about 80 KM south of were I was. No REAL wind, no storm
surges.....nothing. Christ - it's so boring here that even the hurricanes
tell each other to stay away from Hai Phong due to lack of anything
interesting to do whilst there!

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Was introduced to my next-door neighbour (finally, after, like, six months of residing on Pho Chua Hang) who runs what appears to be a bookstore out of his house (literally, thee vast majority of businesses in Vietnam are run outta people's houses). Well, it kinda is a bookstore....

I'd see throngs of kids there in the early evening, riding their bicycles or their parents would drive them there on the family scooter. I thought to myself, "This guy must really be raking in the coin!" Well, kinda-sorta.....

As Tam would explain to me, apparently, the way his store (and many others like it) work is that these kids actually RENT books to read (at, like, 10,000 Dong/fiddy cent for three days to take it home or 5,000 Dong/a quarter to read it there for the most recent paperback comic books). Apparently because they crank out two or three new paperback comic books per week and it saves a ton of money to rent them instead of buying them (as the average Viet kid can rip through it in a day or less) and, since many parents here actively discourage kids from reading comic books, the kid can afford to drop 5,000 Dong to read the latest comic book at my neighbour's bookstore.

So, my neighbour told me that his name was Do (pronounced "Zshu" - if his name had the little stroke through the "D" [ Đ ] it'd be pronounced "do" like, to do something). Tam told me later this was very sad.....

"Why, Hon? He seems like a rather happy fellow!"

"Because his parents gave him a very ugly name. This is done so
that evil spirits will stay away from and not curse their child."

"Ahhhhh.....errr.....OK. Sounds perfectly normal sounding to me..."
(*NOTE* - A lotta shit now sounds "perfectly normal" to me after
residing here for over a year)

"Yes, but honey, every name in Viet Nam has a meaning. My name,
Tam, for example, means 'heart', Minh means 'intelligent one', and
so forth"

" what does Do's name mean, then?"

"It means either 'spare parts' or 'disaster preparation'"

"Fuck me!!! I want HIS name!!"

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Saw a pretty interesting sight on To Hieu street the other day. It was a brand new Toyota SUV. Nothing special about that, but upon closer inspection, it still had the sticker on it. Read the sticker......

"Final assembly point - Georgetown, Kentucky manufactured with 80% parts and components of US origin"

THAT was heartening......seeing a Made In USA label on something sold in Vietnam...too cool.....

But then again - the Vietnamese crave stuff manufactured in The States and take a very dim view of stuff made in China....

Maybe thass why Vietnam receives the vast majority of their apples from Washington State instead of from China.....hmmm....can't figger out WHY: I mean, stuff from China's all right and good an' safe....right.....?

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Visas for being in Vietnam have become a severe bitch suddenly. It USED to be (up 'till, like, October 2009) where you'd fill out this little one page form, give them two fotograffs of yourself and tossed them anywhere between $25USD and $250USD and they'd give you a multiple-entry B-3 Business class visa lasting one, three, six or twelve months and a pat on the back telling you to go have fun and enjoy their country.

Not anymore....

.....they have locked it down now to a maximum of a three-month visa.

NOBODY seems to know EXACTLY what the fuck's goin' on....and, from all sources, going to the Vietnamese Immigration Bureau GUARANTEES you a different answer every day as to WHAT SPECIFICALLY one hasta do to obtain longer-term stays in Vietnam (surprise, surprise). Rumours are flying rampantly on ESL teacher bulletin boards online.

The most plausible story that I myself have heard is that, because of the economic depression that grips many parts of the world and China's hard-core export-driven economy that is taking a bit of a beating now, that there are large numbers of Chinese illegal....errrmmmm.....I mean, "undocumented" labourers flooding over the Northern Border (to Vietnam....where things ain't so bad, comparatively speaking).

"Emmmm.....OK - so what does that hafta do with ESL teachers in Vietnam??"

Well, the thing being, is that these new regulations are for ALL foreigners in Vietnam.

" why don't they just issue special visa regulations ONLY for Chinese nationals??"

No can see, let's face facts here: THEE only (or at least, the primary reason) that Vietnam established friendly diplomatic relations with the United States is simply because they felt that the U.S. would be a bulwark against China. The Vietnamese are (and with very good reason, given the past history of China constantly invading Vietnam) scared shitless of the Chinese, so, no - they're not gonna risk antagonising the Chinese by placing visa restrictions ONLY applicable to Chinese citizens. I mean, hell - this country used some very vague accusations about "mistreatment of our nationals residing inside Vietnam" to invade in 1979 (the Chinese said they withdrew....the Vietnamese said that they were repelled...neither the twine shall meet), so they had to apply the new immigration restrictions to citizens of ALL nations because of this history with China.

Well....I's not like the U.S. Calvary would come rushing to Vietnam's aid should China ever decide to (again) invade....I mean, just ask our close friends in Georgia (the nation, not the state) about how the U.S. came charging in when the Russkies decided to pay them a little visit last year.......

More soon....I'm off to bed....



HRD said...

Interesting stuff. Does being married to a Vietnamese citizen make the whole visa situation any easier, or put one on the path to permanent residency?

E said...

Yeah, SUPPOSEDLY....but it's like everything here - a different answer and a different set of mind-numbing procedures to follow every day. We is gonna go see about the official papers tomorrow, but I'm expecting a severe headache about all of this.....still, though - gotta do it. In and of itself, it presents a good oppertunity, since, according to a few reports, teachers are panicking and fleeing in droves.....