The wifi here at this hotel has been so bad, that I have had to on occasion stand in a corner of the bathroom to get reception, combined with the dying off of internet café, makes blogging kind of challenging. Oh, well, at least sometimes I can multitask.
The vacation has been going great, and I’m trying not to stress out at all the inefficiencies that come with vacationing. People taking forever to get ready, the family unable to decide what to do, people forgetting to pack stuff, someone getting food poisoning and slowing the rest of us down. Really! If you’re going to get food poisoining, at least time it so that it’s easy on the rest of us. How inconsiderate.
Yesterday, the whole family was supposed to go on a tour of three islands here. My little brother, Tao, had booked it, and a van was supposed to come by to pick up Jameelah and me at around 9:30. We went to see Thuy, the banh mi seller. Her vegan banh mis still kick ass, and she is quite a delightful person to converse with. “In theUS, I hear people are workaholics, and they often don’t know their neighbors. They could live for years and not know their next-door-neighbors. When they go home, they lock themselves into their houses, like prisoners. Is that true?”
“Well,” I said, “some of it.” Certainly people are more social here. The men seem to spend two to six hours a day at a café chatting it up, and everyone seems to know one another’s personal business. “But there are good things, too,” I said.
“Yes!” she said, “I hear Americans respect women more. My friend wrote back and told me the men…go shopping…and…clean house and cook and stuff.” She had a sparkle in her eyes, as if she was talking about a magical land filled with bunnies and unicorns. The women definitely work harder here. Most of them have work outside the home, but they are solely responsible for household chores. The men often engage in the Vietnamese social activity called “nhau” which is basically a group of people drinking and eating for hours until they pass out. Usually the men do this on the weekends, and the women have to serve food and clean up after them.
“It’s horrible,” said Thuy as she cut into a banh mi and stuffed it with vegan meats, cucumbers, tomatoes, Vietnamese cilantro, and her secret sauce that she told me contained BBQ sauce from the US, “they nhau for hours, inviting their friends over, and the bathroom would be so gross afterward, and we women would have to clean.”
“The women here must start a revolution!” I declared.
“What? Don’t be ridiculous. How could we possibly win?”
“You must have self-confidence! Revolt! Strike!”
She thought I was insane. But the seed has been planted. If all the women would go on strike and refuse to do any more chores, maybe the men might shape up.Vietnamcan only advance so much when the household gender inequity is so wide.
9:30am, we got back to the hotel. The van was not there. 10am. Nothing. I was getting annoyed and frustrated at the inefficiencies of these no-good tour companies. Do they not realize I have important things to do? 10:30 Tao called me, pissed. “What the hell, Huy,” he said, “where are you guys? We are all here at the dock!”
“No one came to pick us up!” I said, “y’alls go and have fun. Jameelah and I will cope.”
And hells yeah we did. First we got a shampoo, then a massage, then we went to Nha Trang center to look at the ridiculously overpriced stuff that I like to measure using the unit of “Average Weekly Wage” (AWW) of the poor people here. The poor here make about $25USD a week, if they’re lucky, so a shirt costing $50 would be 2AWW’s. It’s pretty ridiculous. Look, a pair of shoes for 6AWW’s! A dress for 10AWW’s!
We got hungry, so got a taxi to our favorite vegan restaurant here, called Co Tam, arguably the best vegan food in Nha Trang. When we got there at 3pm, the place looked closed. I opened the door, and the owner was asleep on a mat on the floor. We could have woken her up from her siesta, but she looked so peaceful. I didn’t want her to spit in our food. Disappointed, we told the taxi driver to take us to another vegan place near by.
He took us to a temple, the one that has the giant statue of the Buddha on a hill. The food there was great (not as good as Co Tam’s), but we got to explore the temple, which was awesome. There were so many chubby children there. Jameelah and I have been counting these obese children, the prevalence of whom is a sign ofVietnam’s economic growth.
“Chubby kid on your right,” we would say. These rotund tykes are often pretty adorable, waddling about with their bags of MSG-laden snacks. We walked up the 150 steps to the statue of the Buddha, panting along the way. It was tiring. Inside the 100-foot statue, there were reliefs depicting the Buddha’s journey to enlightenment. I think. They could use a few caption. On the way down, we saw a chubby little six year old trying to climb up to the statue. “Good luck, chub,” I whispered.
Halfway down, we saw a monk ringing a giant bell. There was a bench under the bell. “Can we sit inside?” I asked. “Yes,” he said, “it’s very peaceful.” We got inside the bell and put our hands into prayer position. Along the inside wall of the bell were pasted with hundreds of notes with hopes and wishes on them. “I am praying to pass my next exam,” said one; “please let me graduate from college,” said another. The monk rang the bell, and the whole ring reverberated. We could feel the vibrations all around. The monk started chanting. For two minutes we sat there inside the giant bronze bell. When I left, I felt bad for whispering “Good luck, chub” to that one kid. Really, it’s not the kids’ fault. Their parents need to stop feeding them junk food.
Several lessoned learned yesterday. One, I’m on vacation, need to stop stressing out about perceived inefficiencies and learn to go with the flow. Two, the Great Buddha once said, counting chubby children should only be done with good intentions. Or something like that. Three, starting a cultural revolution may be harder than I thought.
Anyway, all this thinking is stressing me out, so I think I’ll go get a massage and a drink or two for about 1AWW.