Sunday, June 12, 2005

Like Sands Through the Hourglass, so are the Days of My Life (cue high-pitched flute-like music)

6:00 a.m. Wake up from sunlight that is screaming into the room…curse myself for not remembering to close the drapes the night before. Head immediately to do e-mail, as the later it gets in the day, the slower the internet is, if that is possible. What’s that you say? We pay a sizable monthly fee for “broadband”? Why yes, yes, we do. Never mind, I actually like having to click everything twice to get it loaded onto the page, which then takes twice the normal time in the States.

6:10 a.m. Restart the computer and log in as a different user each time to try to connect to the internet. Often spend the next 30-40 minutes doing this and wondering what’s more sad—the fact that it takes this long or the fact that I allow myself to do this for such a ridiculous amount of time? Hear roosters crowing. Remember that when I was in the Peace Corps, I did not set my alarm clock on the first morning, assuming that the roosters would wake me up at sunrise, like in the Kellogg’s cornflakes commercials. Start laughing, then stop when I remember that these roosters may have the chicken flu and perhaps that’s why they are crowing so damn insistently. Remember friend’s host family’s creepy one-legged rooster in Uzbekistan and hope that they don’t have those here.

8:45 a.m. Greet our cook, Apple, who comes three times a week. We spend a few minutes in a hilarious mix of Vietnamese and English trying to communicate about food. Apple has been bringing various local fruit for us to try. I have yet to like the more complicated fruits, like durians, rambutan or lychee, and my reactions range from mild dislike to offensive disgust, such as when I tried durian, a fruit so pungent that it has been banned from passenger planes. Apple shakes her head, thinking not only is this a stupid American who speaks like a slow child, but this is a stupid, wasteful, ungrateful American who speaks like a slow child.

9:00 a.m. Run down to Tae Bo and observe our little U.N. of a class, while pretending to exercise. There is a variation of Japanese, Australian, French, American, South African and Vietnamese women who participate. I must say we're damn good. Think to myself what a funny-looking group we'd make for a Billy Blanks video, though.

10:00 a.m. Run back up the apartment, change into poolside attire, argue with Apple over why I think it is okay for me to eat M&Ms and cookies for lunch, so she need only make dinner. After all, M&Ms and cookies would be just plain silly for dinner, I tell her. She shakes her head and says that it’s a good thing I exercise a lot. Threaten to fire her.

10:15-12:30 p.m. Lounge around pool area, swimming laps, reading and practicing my bad Vietnamese with some of the pool staff. Given that our language training in the States focused on either very simplistic or complicated exchanges and nothing in the intermediate range, I usually talk about the weather, the devaluation of the Dollar to the Euro, subsidies for farmers or American Idol.

1:00 p.m. Eat M&Ms, cookies, Lay’s chips, peanut butter sandwich, and/or Ramen noodles. Contemplate making brownies, but then laugh as I realize that would require getting out a recipe and actually baking them. Become sad when I realize I’m watching Oprah, since BBC and CNN have a nasty habit of repeating the same stories. What's an unemployed girl to do, though?

1:30 p.m. Wander around town, shopping or doing errands. Think about running around in a Batwoman costume, since I already attract so much attention. Wave with a backwards Miss America wave, which is the signal for no here, to the fifty motorbike and cyclo drivers all waiting in a row who say “You go mo to?” and put their hands in handlebar vroom-vroom positions in case I don’t understand (this is an everyday ritual, by the way). Try to avoid the motorbikes that careen onto the sidewalk because driving in the street is too safe.

3:00 p.m. Return home, sweating like a priest at a, well, I won’t use that metaphor, okay, am sweating like crazy. Hop online just in time for the amazing enormous thunder, rain and lightning that are the rainy season to start. Image of my dad pops up on my right shoulder, telling me that I will be electrocuted if I continue to operate an electrical object, particularly the computer. Image of the Nike swoosh pops up on my left shoulder, telling me to just do it. Shake my head and open a second bottle of wine, but continue to type. Sometimes hear birds thump against the window and fall to their death.

5:00 p.m. Head off to Vietnamese class and meet Duke there. Today, Teacher decides to talk about “The Minority Peoples of Viet Nam”. Spend the next hour and a half listening to her talk about how stupid, lazy and fat they all are. Hear about how they cannot read or write, and all they want to do is lay around, do smack, ride motorbikes, then get into accidents because they don’t know how to drive when they are high. Also hear about how scared they are of telephones, and how THEY DON’T EVEN KNOW HOW TO SAY “ALLO” when answering said telephone which they don't possess. Silly people, I am supposed to think. By the end of class, find myself wondering if they grow their own smack or import it. Wonder what climate smack grows best in. Wonder how it got the name smack. Worry that if there is a channel in the U.S. devoted to golf, 24 hours a day/7 days a week, then what is to stop someone from creating the billiards channel. Also wonder how Teacher knows this stuff, since the people about whom she is speaking live in the highlands, pretty far from Saigon. Think about giving her a copy of Rudyard Kipling's poem "The White Man's Burden." Decide against, since she might think that I, too, am of this 19th-century mindset.

7:30 p.m. Ravenously eat Apple's carefully prepared dinner with Duke and watch the rejected shows from the U.S. like Miss Match with Alicia Silverstone. Pray that Alien 3 will not be shown yet again. Become even more disappointed when I realize Jeepers Creepers is that evening's movie. Become really depressed when I remember that Duke and I already watched it a few evenings prior.

10:30 p.m. Head to bed and forget to close the drapes so that the sun doesn’t wake me up at 6:00 a.m.


At 1:31 PM, Blogger Chin-hitter said...

I'm sorry you have to rub your computer on the carpet to make it work.

Hey, I was recently in the Eden Center (you know, the mini-Ho Chi Minh City in Falls Church), and I was fascinated by the culture I observed. Does everyone in Vietnam drink bubble tea (with the tapioca pearls), squat on the ground when they eat, and eat shrimp-flavored crackers? And do all the grocery stores shun proper refrigeration and just leave spoilable products, like, say, raw fish, out on shelves? I will say, however, that I found a killer little cafe that sells a variety of flavored tofu, and dinner at Huong Que was pretty darn good (though not orgasmic, as I expected it would be based on multiple Washingtonian and Post reviews).

I've got to say that I was one of the few people who actually liked Alien 3. Charles Dutton's speech by the molten steel cauldron brings a tear to my eye.

At 12:04 PM, Blogger tandemadventure said...

love the blog.
having left vietnam about 2 months ago i think i can finally eat vietnamese food again. :) we will have to search out the good vietnamese shops in the san francisco area... :)
jess and i and got married last weekend and got back to the sf area last night. i suppose the party is now over... we will now join you (in spirit) in the most fun activity ever...job searching. ick.
anywho. keep up the blog…it brings back many memories of our time there :).

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