Friday, July 2, 2010

Trip across the pacific and first day in Vietnam

Rob is in Vietnam!! Who would have ever guessed?! I am going to try and blog as often as I can since otherwise I will probably not be able to remember what happened the day before!! The house we are staying in has internet! So at least for the next few days I will be able to update!

Trip from SJ:
Flew Cathay Pacific from SJ to Hong Kong (13 hour flight!!). We left at 1:00 am and the flight was very long and the seats were TERRIBLE so a lot of napping and then getting up and stretch and try to nap some more. And I watched Star Trek, which killed some more time. Got into HK Intl Airport and had a 3 hour lay-over for our flight to Saigon (about 2.5 hours). Got to Saigon at 1:00 pm on Friday - picked up at the airport by Long's brother who rented a very nice taxi-van for all of us.

Pretty quick trip from airport to Long's family house. Amazing traffic - Long told me about all the motorbikes and how crazy traffic is, but I couldn't even imagine how crazy!! More motorbikes than cars and they are everywhere, mixing and merging w traffic with no regard for any personal safety! Families of 4 on a single little motorbike are common and you can't even imagine how nuts it is with hundreds of motorbikes swarming all over the streets going with traffic, against traffic, between traffic, across traffic and always within a few inches of other motorbikes and all the cars. Total insanity - zero eye contact ever with any other driver, no yielding right of way - but everyone somehow manages to get by!

We made it to Long's street, which is an amazing scene unlike anything I've ever experienced - but it's also really neat and wonderful. Narrow very crowded street with a ton of activity as people live and work from their homes and sell stuff on the streets - very noisy and crowded and so ALIVE!

We have a nice house 5 houses down from Long's family home that someone is letting us stay in - I think it's Long's brother, or brother-in-law, or maybe just a family friend, but our 2 bedrooms downstairs have their own AC which is awesome.

Weather hot and humid of course, but generally not too too bad right now. Today was about 90 deg and very humid, but the eve actually cooled down a bit and it's quite nice out. Sounds like we got lucky w the weather, since the last month has been one of the hottest summer's they've had here in 15 years so maybe we'll stay lucky!

Lots of meeting Long's family and a few friends - As far as learning Vietnamese goes, my first job is remembering all of Long's brothers and sisters name and telling them apart!! I've already called one sister by another sister's name - but everyone is so so nice and warm and friendly here it is very very nice. They enjoy teasing me quite a bit and we're having a lot of fun. The couple of VN words I know are a bit hit - even tho who the heck knows what I am really saying!

Long's family put together a big mid-day lunch for us all - a VN chicken salad that was very good. Then we were able to take a quick shower and catch a quick 4 hour nap.

Long woke me up around 6 pm since some other brothers and sisters and friends had come over so time to get up. Big feast again and lots of ice-cold Heineken (VN version but still very good). I had some dried squid with chili sauce, just like home!! It was actually pretty good and tastes a bit like beef jerky - they say this is a classic snack w beer and they go great together!

There is a lot of yammering in VN and Long (and Sue) keep me up on the conversation, or I just kick back and enjoy the company and meeting Long's family. They are all very nice and very funny. I also had my first Leechee fruit which was OK too! Long was very impressed w my adventurous palette, but one of his sister's (Yim? Binh? Mai?) was very funny and teased me and told me that her sister who cooked the food was quite offended that I wasn't MORE adventurous (I didn't really eat that much and didn't try a bunch of stuff). She told me his sister wasn't going to cook anymore - and I wasn't sure if she was kidding, but then they all broke into laughter and it's clear we will all get along very well!

Long also has a brother-in-law and lifetime friend named Thanh, who at first seems very quiet and made me a little nervous but they told me he's just shy. After a few beers and laughing he turns out to be very very nice and funny and keeps telling Long that he has big plans for me to introduce me to VN. (yikes). Here's how the conversations go:

Thanh: na goi chun mai su phqew ROB su somph
(all the vietnamese people laugh laugh laugh)

Anyway, it's very funny since the only VN word I can recognize when they talk is "Rob".

Now we're watching world cup with a few family members and friends and it's very jovial and pleasant. Everyone is taking very good care of me.

As far as how I'm feeling I am generally feeling pretty good - not (too) nervous and really looking forward to exploring Long's neighborhood tomorrow. The houses are adjacent to a very polluted river - I couldn't figure out where the trash can in the house were, until I noticed his sister clearing the table, taking the trash over to her kitchen window, and then just dumping it into the river!! :( So no swimming in the river for me (or anyone else).

Still the river is pretty good size and is quite scenic - very colorful hand-built houses (small) packed in very closely. It is supposed to rain for a few minutes everyday, and I can't wait to sit on the outside porch during the next rainstorm and watching the river, drinking a beer, and enojoying the experience.

I guess we will hang here for a few days and poke around which sounds like fun. Also looking forward to tooling around on a motorbike (a lot mellower wrt traffic here than by the airport (maybe 30 min away).

After that an overnight trip to the Mekong Delta which is supposed to be a bit coolor and incredible scenic.

It is 10:30 pm now friday nite and I'm starting to fade - hopefully a good night sleep tonite (I have my own little room!! How nice is that?!) and ready for a new experience tomorrow.

Back to memorizing Long's brothers and sisters names - there are also lots of kids around for derek and ethan, and they all play together w great enthusiasm and noise - lots of noise but the general noise issue (I think the guy living next door runs a metal shop so very noisy - but I'm starting to be able to just zone it all out (sort of like the vuvuzalea's in the world cup games).

I'll try to blog again tomorrow - should be a very fun and interesting day!