Friday, July 9, 2010

Day 8 (apparently) or "More motorbike adventures in saigon"

As i lay in my bed this morning I am softly awoken by the not-too-distant putt-puttering of old gas engines as the chinese junks slowly motor up and down the river, sometimes towing enormous barges filled w raw materials. As dawn approaches the also not-too-distant sounds of motorbikes join the symphony, and in no time at all I can feel the street slowly come alive. Now I hear the beautiful sing-song of a street vendor walking by, pushing her cart and selling her fruit, vegetables, or some other items. Suddenly the street bursts to life thru sound and the chorus is completed w saws cutting concrete, hammers hammering, children yelling and playing. It is amazing.

Sleep in til about 7 am and hang around the house for a little while w sue and long. The boys spent the nite at long's sister Mai's house, who has a couple of kids the boys love playing with (cousins). We have plans to meet another of long's sisters at the main market in town around 10:30, but first we scooter over to Mai's house which is quite close and not at all terrifying on the bike. (long has sue on his and I ride alone).

Mai's house is spectacular. She has a fair amount of money (she has worked extremely hard her entire life and made some money in real estate) and also has a western sense of style, so the house (while still in the same generally slummy neighborhood) is much more familiar to me. The kitchen looks pretty much like a kitchen complete w microwave, sink w hot/cold running water, nice fridge, nice cabinets, nice marble counter-top. The narrow and very steep marble staircase leads up to several more very small floors w a not-too-small room or two for herself and her several kids. Oh yeah - she also has FIVE cute little dogs as pets, which all do tricks for treats.
Her kitchen and living room also have one of my favorite luxuries...padded seats and sofa. Most of the other places we've been/stayed are pretty much exclusively wood, metal, or plastic, which stand up very nicely under the extremes in weather and all the rain and humidity. My bottom was very happy for the few minutes we spent at Mai's.

Boys are fine and want nothing to do with us, so we scooter over to the major market downtown. I am starting to feel more comfortable on the scooter and with the insanely overcrowded streets and with the traffic lights which, as sue says, are really more like suggestions than orders. Anyway, still a bit terrifying but exciting and exhilirating as well.

We spend WAY TOO LONG at the mall while Sue shops for jewelry and other things. I am unquenchably thirsty, and the heat has really worn me down. I spend most of the time sitting in a chair watching saigon pass by trying not to melt away into a puddle of sweat. Finally we are ready for another great lunch in the "food court" and I have a fairly std fare of bbq pork meatballs, vn egg rolls, cucumber on rice noodles w fish sauce. very very yummy. top it off w an ice-cold coke and I am very happy - despite sue making fun of me for not ordering ice-cold coconut milk or sugar cane juice.

We finish lunch, hop on the scooters and head home. We hit our usual traffic circle where we need to make a left turn (you don't even realize what this means!). Long is in front signalling to turn left and I see an opening and sucessfully execute a perfect left turn, floating thru oncoming traffic just like my old college days (just kidding). Unfortunately, Long and sue do not see me make the turn and I do not notice they have not turned so all off a sudden I am alone. Just pulling over to the side of the road is an adventure but I manage and wait for a few minutes. No Long and Sue. Hmmm. Let's assess. Alone on a scooter in saigon. no idea of where I am. no idea of where I am going. no idea of where I live. not so good! the only vietnamese I can speak is to say "hello" with the wrong intonation so all the locals think I am smiling and saying "rice soup" to them - which explains some of the reactions I've been getting. I finally manage a uturn, where I see Sue standing on the corner by herself. Long had gone BACK to look for me. He shows up in a few minutes and we laugh at my expertise, make it back home, wonderful quick shower and a nap. What could be better?!

The rains come again, a bit earlier than yesterday and the skies and wind open up and pour pour pour for about 30 minutes. very refreshing, but probably not for the families stuck on their scooters. The heaviest part of the monsoonal rains momentarily close and quiet the streets, but while still pouring, the kids also pour out onto the street for their barefoot soccer-in-the-rain on the asphalt road that long says is tradition. They are playing right outside our house and I enjoy stepping outside and watching them, almost as much as they enjoy watching me. Some of them speak just a tiny english that they study in school and they ask me "what your name" and I am able to say "Doy Rob" which maybe means "I am rob" - I am never quite sure what I am saying. They also ask "How old are you" and I try to say the vn word for old man, which makes them all laugh a lot. God only knows what I said. Then they ask me "Where is the library"...just kidding.

Rain has stopped and it's about 6:30 pm now. We will eat a nice dinner at home and get to bed early again. not a bad lifestyle! I think that tomorrow we pick up sue's friends at the airport and head to mekong delta for a day or two. WOW!

OK! Rice Soup to you all!