Another Long Post (sorry!)
Our rat is back! We have named him Chuck Bass (after Chuck Bass from the TV series Gossip Girl that Emily got and we have been watching) it makes the rat easier to live with if it has a name (?) Georgie and Honor have remedied a similar situation with a cockroach named Steve. These creatures have become part of family here in Vietnam.
We see the most amazing things – everyone drives motorbikes, but some people manage to get the most incredible things onto them; crates of Pepsi (about 20 – so many that the driver could not see where he was going!) a whole pig carcass, and even a family of 5. We have also seen a tiny dog tied to a motorbike running after it in amongst the crazy traffic as well as a woman breast feeding on the back of one. Many women drive the bikes wearing stiletto heels! Lots of men also use them as beds.
I also saw 3 cooked dogs in the market this week. As far as I know I have not tried any yet – apparently it is worth trying (snake too).
It’s very overwhelming when everyone is trying to sell you things in the streets and you are trying to cross a busy road. The most common things you are asked to buy are hats, zippo lighters, lonely planet guides, xe om rides and fruit. It gets very tedious saying no. Vietnamese people are not shy about pushing you around or out of the way as well! You also get lots of beggars – especially in the touristy parts.
It’s really hard seeing kids sleeping on the street. Me and Emily found an amazing restaurant called ‘Koto’ that is run by street kids; the restaurant take them in and train them. It’s lovely because they are like a big family and they are all eager to talk to you to practice their English. We spoke to a couple of them, after they would say “thank you for taking the time to talk to me.” The food was really good too.
I think the women do a lot of hard labour in Vietnam which is not really what I expected. At night you see groups of older women coming out in uniform and hard hats to re-pave the streets, they do all the maintenance jobs like fixing the electrics (which are crazy here – power lines are within touching distance in many places, there are loads of wires everywhere all intertwined and tangled in the trees.)
I have been experiencing first-hand Emily’s clumsiness over the last two weeks. I think she may even be worse than me – although I should not speak too soon. Over the past week she has…
- Fallen over in the street several times (once actually over a bin bag)
- Got chewing gum stuck to her foot and shoe.
- Fallen down (or as the Aussies say ‘stacked it down’) the stairs.
- Broke a chair.
- Broken the bed in our hotel room (and no we were not jumping on the bed!)
Poor Emily. I have found it very hard not to laugh every time. But only because that sort of stuff usually happens to me and you just have to laugh to stop from crying! Emily is very good at laughing it off. My laughing at her has got me the title, ‘worst gapper ever.’ But I am pretty sure it’s a joke.
It’s hard being only one of two Brits amongst the gappers. Most of the time it is just me, and I am very outnumbered when it comes to what words are actually ‘English’. I am glad I am with Aussies though because I am learning about two different cultures and often two different languages it seems. They have to translate loads for me. ‘Lollies’ is their word for all sweets, I am not allowed to say ‘flip-flops’ – I have to say thongs, to ‘stack’ is to fall on the floor, to ‘skull’ is to down a drink, a ‘doona’ is a duvet (?) it’s a ‘face-washer’ not a flannel and I am weird for saying ‘I fancy a drink’ – one never says ‘fancy’ in Australia. I have also been teased about the way I say Melbourne (like The ‘Bourne’ Supremacy) but it’s not a long word it’s a short word. They can have that one but only because it’s a place in Australia! They also say ‘awesome’ and ‘far out’ LOADS. Emily also has lots of funny phrases too such as, ‘your dead to me’ when you do something wrong – which is just funny (if not slightly harsh!) and ‘chillaxing’ – relaxing + chilling = chillaxing.
We have had a very eventful weekend. On Friday we spent the day with Craig and Glen and then went to Brenton’s to celebrate his birthday. We had dinner and drinks out with chocolate Birthday cake too which was really fun and yummy! We made friends with the Vietnamese people sitting next to us at dinner and ended up joining tables. As is Vietnamese tradition when you make new friends you give (the boys) shots of rice wine (which is apparently deadly.) The Vietnamese love the word ‘beautiful’ and I spent the entire evening being told I was beautiful – which I’m obviously very used to. I gave my number to some girls that befriended me – they have since texted me asking me over to their houses and for coffee which should be lovely. They are so sweet – in one text read, ‘I am very joyful to speak to you.’
We went to ‘Water Puppets’ in the evening and then out for dinner to celebrate Brenton’s birthday (again) but this time with more people. The water puppets were great – quite self explanatory, water + puppets. Everyone went out afterwards but as it was late and we were going to church the next morning; me, Craig and Emily left. We stayed at Craig’s end as it was closer to the church, and the guy that was taking us lives next-door. Phoebe and Bridget – the gappers that live out of the city also came in for the weekend. It’s really good that we still get to see them and others that are out of Hanoi. Phoebe has chronic hiccoughs – she has been hiccoughing for a year (sounds like a joke – but is true). I did not think that actually happened to people! They aren’t frequent though so it doesn’t bother her.
We woke up early to get to the 10:30 service at church. Me and Emily met Walt (not Disney) – the American who lives next door to Craig. We all got the bus and arrived early. Everyone that we met before the meeting seemed friendly – except one guy who told us we should not be teaching in Vietnam because we were not qualified to. The church was international and also ‘multi-faith.’ Most of the people that attended were American. When the service started, we were invited to the front to introduce ourselves and say what we were doing in Vietnam. Craig did it for all of us, which I was very thankful for! The service was not what I am used to, it was very informal and seemed more like a comedy show at times. They also did not pray until the very end. They seemed to not openly believe or say that they got their strength from God. The prayers at the end were scripted and we all chanted the Bible verses and prayers. The service was aimed at Catholics I think There were also several times when we had to get up and ‘follow the cross’. There was a time for prayer (when anyone could pray) but you had to say ‘this we pray to God’ and everyone answered ‘Yes God hear our prayers.’ Everyone got very confused.
I found the message confusing – which I expected because otherwise how could they combine all the faiths? I am sure lots of them were Christians but there were lots of things that did not make sense. They also had communion – which anyone could take. They did not explain its importance or how serious it was to do it. They offered it to all of us. I did not recognise the way they did it – they lined up and took it individually and a prayer was said for each person. Everyone was chatting in the line, and one could not hear the prayer. I decided it was best not to take the communion – Craig and Emily didn’t either.
We got given the flowers from the service afterwards which was very nice and we went for lunch with them afterwards. I found out that a lot of them are Catholic. I also asked about Evangelism the church did. One man got very defensive saying it was ‘impossible’, he said that they did more physical work and that it could not be all spiritual. Another man openly said at the start of the meeting that the church was not there to convert and said (with pride) that not one Vietnamese person had been converted in the time that the church had existed. Even though everyone was lovely, I do not think I will go back. I am glad Emily and Craig came, but it probably wasn’t the best first church experience for them to have. I am glad they are coming to the other international church next week. I keep praying for that church and also that God will help me to settle at the different church I go to next week.
That Sunday evening was the mid Autumn festival for the children. I think it’s to do with the moon as it was full. All the children get a balloon and stars with Ho Chi Minh on them and it’s the only time of the year one can find and eat moon cakes. We got given some as a present from our teacher. They are very strange – some are like sponge cake with boiled egg inside and the ones we got given were like sweet jelly on the outside and mince on the inside (with every kind of meat.) She said we would not like them when she gave them to us but that they were good to try! They were indeed disgusting. The streets were crazy again and everyone was dressed up. I discovered they even have Emos in Vietnam! All the little girls were dressed as fairies – it was so cute seeing them all on the motorbikes. We met our teacher from the school and watched some of their celebrations – they were amazing. They had trained dogs and a snake juggler!