Day 3 or
"Rob goes for a walk" or
"Rob barely avoids bringing home a vn wife"
up at the crack of dawn again which seems very natural here. I awake to the sounds of river traffic, motorbikes, and vibrant vn life. It is sunday morning. Everyone wakes up leisurely and Long goes to get Pho for everyone for breakfast which is delicious. He also has ice-coffee delivered and that may be my new favorite drink. so good! Done by 8 am and the street is completely alive w tons of kids in the street playing, people walking around, motorbikes zipping by, street vendors pushing their carts...and this 8 foot tall white guy sitting on his stool in front of the house. I continue to be a source of great amusement for most of the locals...at least pretty much all the women and all the children and many of the men although their are certainly shady looking characters (young men maybe teenagers) strongly resembling small gangs who also appear interested in me, but maybe not as friendly...hard to tell...certainly no problems of any kind yet.
The children (especially) just love looking at me, and if I wave and say "hello" (which I enjoy doing) it nearly always elicits outright laughter from the kids and usu their parents. Many kids yell "ALLO" at me when they fly by on their bikes and I yell hello back. I am a big hit!
it's still only about 9 am but the humidity has been up at 100% for the past day - the air is so heavy and sticky, and the rain keeps holding off or just a few sprinkles to tease us. We are all waiting for big downpour to clear out the air and give a little refreshing break. maybe later. Pretty much quite wet and sticky and already feeling a bit drained but no problem -we had into our ac rooms and take a quick morning break.
Sue had a good friend of hers, Trang, from the Thailand refugee camp days, and her daughter, staying w us last nite. Sue loves her very much and her life is very very sad and tragic, as so many are here. She is a beautiful woman of about 40ish, very intelligent (speaks 5 languages) and one of the sweetest people you could ever meet. She has working incredibly hard for the last 20 years trying to get the hell out of her little tiny dusty vn town where life is bleak and hard, and the chances to educate her daughter for a better life are grim. She is desperate to get out. So...
her english is pretty good not great and we are sitting outside talking together and she starts asking about if I'm involved in a relationship etc. I foolishly am honest and say no and she suggests that maybe if I were to marry her I could get her out of the country...YIKES...I think I mumbled something incoherent but she mentions marriage a couple more times. very crazy and very sad. Anyway, she also mentioned to sue about the proposal, and after Trang leaves to go home in the morning we talk about it. Sue says she expects it won't be my last proposal! We will see.
For lunch Sue has made plans to visit another very good friend (Tran - do not confuse w Trang) from the camps, so we all get in an ac taxi-van and go across town to their home. While driving a motor-scooter myself was terrifying (and exhilirating and a lot of fun!) I think driving in the front seat of a vn taxi is even more terrifying. I keep talking about the crazy traffic so I will only say again that the motor-bikes flying all over the streets by the hundreds and hundreds, swarming around much fewer cars, is just crazy crazy crazy. Long made the same trip w derek on a motorbike and arrived in about half the time that we did, which is typical.
Lunch was OK and Tran took us all out along w his wife and child to a nice vn restaurant and we all had a nice meal and a nice time. I was able to catch a little of the women's final at the bar while sue caught up w her friend. Then back home for the highlight of the day - post-lunch shower and nap.
How is it even possible that after travelling halfway around the world, the highlight of my day is still my nap?!
This is also very typical - do some stuff early morning when the weather is nice (100% humidity and 80 degrees at 7 am) and then stay inside during the really oppressive afternoon hours. I wake up at 4 pm feeling refreshed and great. Smear on some Deet and get up. Everyone else is still napping so I take my little stool and put it outside our gate to watch the street scene. It starts raining just a bit and w the clouds it becomes just a bit cooler and quite nice out, so I decide to go for another walk around the neighborhood. I now like having vn currency on me so I can buy a little something, so I grab a 100,000 dong note and head out. (that's about $5.00).
After walking for a few minutes the sky really opens up and it is pouring! very nice. I take refuge in a local alley-market where I can find some cover. The market is also very neat where there is just so much going on I need to walk very slowly to take it in. They sell everything from home-grown fruits and veggies, to fish, eel, and live frogs. Apparently the frogs were on special, 3 for 1, since the vn lady was tying 3 live frogs together for easier handling. The frogs didn't seem to mind, but they sure looked silly tied together trying to jump every which way. If the frogs only worked together, they could certainly escape their fate. But it was not to be. I did not buy any frogs.
After about 10 minutes the rain lightened up and I made it onto the main local street. I enjoy just wandering around seeing all the stuff for sale and all the activity. I guess I looked very much out of place! A nice young vn boy (17 yo?) came right up to me and asked me where I was going. We spoke for a few minutes and he is a student who lives around the corner from the market and he politely invited me over to his home. I am sure this was a sincere and friendly offer, but I wasn't quite comfortable doing this so I thanked him and moved on. Sue says if this happens again, I could accept and go over for a few minutes and they would probably offer me water or some sort of treat.
As I come around the corner back onto Long's street I see him heading toward me - no doubt worried that I had been gone so long (maybe 30-45 minutes). We have a good laugh and head home to a great home-cooked meal of rice, bbq beef, vn veggies, mystery fish (which was quite good) and a diet coke that long had brought home from the market. very very nice!
It's about 9 pm now, watching the men's final. Tomorrow we take an early morning plane to a beach resort island off cambodia Phu Quoc Island where we will stay in a nice hotel for 2 or 3 nights and hang out and enjoy the scenery and nicer cooler weather. Looking forward to it!
Not sure about internet access there - I will blog if I can - I like summing up my day and reliving it and helping me to remember it.
I'm feeling good physically and emotionally. No stomach problems or really any problems of any kind. Handling the heat OK but it really help to have our ac rooms to come back to. Without the ac the stiffling heat would get very old very fast. Although it appears to me that most of the people here live very (bleak? or too judgemental?) hard lives w little hope of improvement, I have found them to be wonderfully open and friendly and curious. There is an absolute buzz and electricity of being alive here (or is it just actual electricity from the ubiquitious rat's next of electrical wires hanging from pole to pole - my god tracing a bad phone line must be nearly impossible!)
many more thoughts about deep things like how fascinating, sad, tragic, and beautiful life is here. A very poor under-developed communist country trying to come of age but stuck w one foot deeply rooted in centuries-old vn customs, one foot rooted in an oppressive communist regime, and the third foot trying to take hold in modern society, where women are not subjugated, individual rights are more important than the states, and for god's sake where people can come or go as they please. I forget sometimes about the communists...but not for long as communist party field-offices and security people are quite noticeable wandering around (keeping order? taking bribes?) Long says they don't mess w foreigners because it's too big a hassle, and the communist party does not want to scare away tourists or their money.