Asia | South East Asia | Vietnam | South Central coast | Cam Ranh – Trying to keep you all updated..
I dont know where to start
. I have too many things to write, so many new impressions. And its hard to concentrate with several cousins jumping around fishing for attention..
I keep thinking to myself how my 8 months in Peru was the perfect preparation. I guess I couldnt have been better prepared. Though the two countries are very different (peoples mentality for instance; their way of facing their problems and the general hardship of living), both countries are stunningly beautiful, the inhabitants treat their country as a huge toilet and waste basket, and they fully believe in the American Dream. But it is different going to a poor country, and then going to visit your own family in their poor country..
But before saying anything more let me say that I am happy to be here and that Im doing fine.
I started Vietnamese classes yesterday and now Ive just come from my second lesson. Ill be getting private tutoring four times a week and my first impression is good even though the lady has never taught Vietnamese to a foreigner before and her English is so-so. I cross my fingers and will be sure to do all I can to learn.
So thats what I did 30 min ago.. and the rest of the two weeks thats passed since last I wrote?
They gave me a beautiful bracelet of stone. Its green/white (jade?), and to get it on my aunt had to use soap, water, a thin plastic bag, AND the help of my uncle. So Ill probably still be wearing it next time you see me.
Ive been teaching some of my cousins to play backgammon (thanks Helene for your gift, its a big hit!), and theyve taught me several Vietnamese games.
I watch them cook, and occasionally help. Ive come with my aunts to the market a few times, one of them held my hand as if I were a four year old. That was practical, I could look around without keep turning to see where she was. I help with the dishes, and sometimes do them all by myself.
I watch my grandfather making sculptures. I saw him make a deer, and he made me paint it. Right now hes working on a camel. Its great fun to watch, it looks like hes playing with mud on the beach like a little kid the way he mixes sand, water and cement.
The tailor working in a little part of my uncles house towards the street is sowing me the kind of clothes they wear; long trousers and a top of the same fabric and pattern. I have one suit already, and shes working on three more.
Most of the time I just hang around and dont do much. At least thats how its been so far. One of my uncles has some English books, including a really good collection of classic American short stories, so as those of you who know me fairly well I have been spending hours and hours reading in the hammock.
Almost a week ago I bought a disc man and some CDs so Ive also spent many hours listening to Zappa, the White Album and Van Morrison.
Ive started to use the camera I bought in Peru, the old mechanic one that I dont really know how works. So far Ive developed two films and Im surprised (and proud) to see that so many of the pictures turned out well, and that theyre sharp!
I realize that Im an adult. I no longer feel like playing games that require running in the sun and would rather play quiet sitting-down games.
My six year old cousin keeps saying good morning good afternoon teacher!!! and sit down children whenever Im around (and maybe when Im not around too, who knows?). The other day I was here in the evening and the kids were watching some stupid educational TV-show for children. And then I heard good morning ..*euhm*.. good afternoon children coming from the TV. I turn my head and see some puppets on the screen and hear the small puppets answer the big puppet good morning good afternoon teacher! whereupon the teacher of course answers sit down children.
If Id been a cartoon figure there would have been a light bulb over my head.
And since last time Ive figured out that one of my uncles, an aunt and myself live in my grandparents house besides my grandparents. During the summer vacation the twins also live here. (So Im not completely clueless.)
My nails are back to normal, and I have facial hair again.
Ive been taken along to some places. To a Buddhist place where there were lots of sculptures my grandfather has made, and there was a really long and scary underground tunnel. I stumbled along with a candle in my hand to light the way right behind my uncle. The place sure wasnt made for fat people, some places I only just managed to squeeze through an opening.
Ive also been to see a Buddhist temple in Nha Trang. Since its summer vacation in Vietnam there were lots of Vietnamese people from other parts of the country touristing around.
Last week end I went somewhere (I have no idea where, but its north of Nha Trang, not very far, but far enough for me to be happy to get off the motorbike when we arrived) with two of my uncles, my grandfather and the twins. We went to visit many relatives; brothers and sisters of my grandfather and their families, and to celebrate maybe remember is a better word the death of my great grandfather (I think.. if not, its my grandfathers grandfather. Im not trying to hide it; Im very confused about most things). We stayed two nights, they all seemed very excited to see me. And I saw pictures of my dad and myself as a baby everywhere we went. Everybody were nice (and some a bit intense..) and some wondered if I would like to come and live with them. Most of the time we were in the house where the ceremony was to take place. There were many preparations for the ceremony, many foods and sweets were prepared, and I helped with many things. Packing filling into leaves and such. There was little vegetarian food though and one of my uncles took me out to eat every day. It felt great to come home to grandma and my aunt. Sometimes its nice to be fussed over and to have food you really like prepared especially for you.
Otherwise Ive been seeing many things around where I live. Like where my uncle has his shrimp pool or whatever youd call it. And Ive been taken to see relatives living close by.
The other day we went to the beach and it was packed. I was surprised because there are usually few people there. But I was told that Vietnamese people usually go to the beach on the 15th of the month (on their calendar of course).
Communication is mostly limited to smiling and hand gestures a lot of smiling They dont have a culture of showing ones emotions, so I have to practice those Im-really-annoyed-but-still-smiling-smiles. I must say that it doesnt come naturally to me. If someone asks you a question you dont want to answer, or offers you something you dont want, the rule is to tilt your head and smile. I hope to get the hang of it soon.. In the meantime they seem to accept me the way I am. With my frustrated outbursts once in a while.
Sometimes I think they believe me to be retarded. But I think its only their natural reaction to a person who doesnt speak their language. Just like they think Ill understand more easily if they just speak a bit (or very much..) louder.
If theres one thing Im really frustrated about its how much they want to do things for me, and they keep moving my things! (there is no such thing as privacy..). So maybe thats why they have locks on all drawers and cupboards, even where they keep their clothes. I cant even imagine locking up all my things, it would feel like saying I dont trust you, I think you might steal from me.
They make such a big fuss about everything. Like eating for instance. Constantly offering me this and that, and always telling me to eat more. If Im not at the table instantly when they say its time to eat they will repeat it over and over again even though they see that Im washing my hands, or putting away my book obviously on my way to the table. They dont seem to understand that Im a vegetarian every day. I am still offered meat regularly (to my frustration), and am therefore skeptical to all dishes. In this country they have vegetarian dishes that resemble meat and fish, and you can get pork that looks like onion rings.. Most people eat vegetarian food once of twice a month, and they say that theyre vegetarian on that day (1st and/or 15th of each month).
To those of you who worry about diet: dont. I get more then enough to eat and will not lose any weight (my grandmother will make sure of that). And I eat plenty of spinach just like Popeye. And eating with chopsticks is a piece of cake.