Vietnam Christmas – the first week

I haven’t written since I got here. It’s been really hot, and I haven’t felt like sitting in front of the computer. It hasn’t been because I’ve been running around the country doing a lot of amazing things. I’ve been sick. Not “bad food” sick but a bad cold I’ve been fighting since my first day. The cold won. Aside from the typical bad cold stuff that sucks, I’ve been dealing with a really bad sore neck and shoulders. I’d love to take a hot shower, but the water only comes out in one temperature here: whatever it is in the cistern on the roof top.

But I have gotten out and seen some things. I’m also not too disappointed in my lack of activity since the main reason I came was to see my son, and we’ve had a lot of time together. I needed to see where he’s been living and what his life is like so I’ll worry less about him in the future. He’s had to work a few days too, so it’s been a good time for us to take it easy.

Dan’s birthday was December 3rd. We  got massages that day. A 90 minute massage translates to about $10 and includes the steam room and sauna. I started face down on the table, and when she began working on me, I realized she’d actually climbed up on the table. Soon I got the feeling that she was walking on me – mythbuster! They actually walk on your back. When I flipped over, I noticed the railing attached to the ceiling that she held on to for balance.

That night we met some friends for dinner at a restaurant in a different neighborhood. We sat outside at a table that was no taller than my knees. The chairs were plastic kids chairs. This is pretty standard, although often the seating is a small plastic or metal stool. Dan ordered one dish as soon as we got there, because it takes a long time to cook. A group of people showed up, some Vietnamese friends, his long-time friend Tom (the guy he came over here with), and a British guy Dan teaches with. We had eight adults and a small child packed around the kiddie table. We purchased some mangos and peanuts from a passing street vendor and ordered more food for dinner. Clams were on the menu as well as fried chicken wings. Eventually the main meal came out, which was a huge grilled fish totally intact. The bones of this particular fish are very thick, so it was easy to pull the meat off with chopsticks. Everyone just digs in and grabs some.

Dan told me before I came that Asian people age a lot better than Westerners, that a guy in Vietnam who looks 50 is probably 65. That being said, it’s been a great ego boost that everyone thinks I’m Dan’s wife or girlfriend rather than his mother. There are many conversations that I don’t understand, although I get the gist that someone is surprised about something. Several times Dan has told me that people can’t believe I’m his mother. Yay!

We’ve been to the zoo, which was OK. There was a huge white tiger. The crocodile garden was a little creepy. I had to keep checking to make sure there was adequate separation between us and them. This was one of my first lengthy rides on the scooter, and it was rush hour on the way back. I took a video of the crazy traffic and the alley way maze back to Dan’s house.

Scooters and small motorbikes are the typical transportation for everyone. You see entire families on a scooter. Women riding with women, guys riding with guys, women driving men and vice versa. Anything goes. Whatever needs to be done to get you there. And you just go. No right turn on red after stop; just a right turn without stopping regardless of the situation. If  you need to ride on the wrong side of the road to get to your destination, then you do it. If I can’t get the videos uploaded from Vietnam (poor connection speeds), then I’ll do it when I get home.

When Dan was first coming to Vietnam, I was very unsettled about it. I was alive in the sixties. I have close friends who were here back then and for whom Vietnam is a place where they lost friends and family and were forever scarred. This isn’t something I take lightly, and it’s been difficult for me to accept. Now that I’ve been here, I’ve found the people in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City to be very friendly to Americans. At the coffee shop we visit every morning, another regular has an eagle blended with an American flag sticker on his scooter. The Vietnamese word for the United States means “beautiful country”. They aren’t so kind to the Chinese. I know that nothing can make up for the losses and horrors our country and soldiers suffered here, but the people of this city appreciate what the Americans tried to do for them. I will leave far more comfortable about my son being here.

Dan’s dragging me out for some crazy breakfast (they don’t have specific breakfast food here; it’s the same as lunch or dinner), so time to get moving. I’ll post more pictures and videos soon.


One Response to Vietnam Christmas – the first week

  1. Patty says:

    Abby – I graduated high school in 1968. As you can imagine, the mention of Vietnam brings up all those visions of young men my age fighting in the jungles of that country. Some of my friends did not come home. I too would be greatly concerned for anyone living there but am glad that perception has changed for you.

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