Asia | South East Asia | Vietnam | South Central coast | Nha Trang – i’ve moved to the city
To all of you I havent gotten around to say it to yet: HAPPY NEW YEAR!! I hope youre all doing fine.
To all of you who got the automatic mail to my travel diary for the first time: I added you to my buddy list because I think of you every now and then and I wonder how you are and what youre up to – so I thought maybe you wondered about me sometimes too, and.. well.. now you can read about it when you find the time.
Ive had some problems with a floppy disk, and then the laptop (where I also had the text saved) that was in the treasure suitcase my dad sent me is being repaired. It was supposed to take just a few days, but its been at the repairmans for almost three weeks now. If the stuff I wrote is still there Ill put in the pages before this one. Blah blah.. just thought Id explain why you havent heard from me sooner.
And one more thing before I start telling what’s happened since last: I thought Id written this already, but I guess not because several of you have asked me. My dad didnt come in November after all. He couldnt come because of health problems.
And before I forget: Christmas isn’t celebrated here. Not even among the Catholics, not really anyway. There’s no special Christmas food and they don’t give Christmas gifts. They go to church in jeans and a shirt (like to any other mass) and the wealthier put up a huge tasteless hm.. what’s the English word.. in Norwegian it’s ‘julekrybbe’ – you know figures of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the three wise men, some shepeards and sheep arranged for the scene of Jesus’ birth. The Vietnamese uses cardbord boxes and paper to make a sort of cave in a mountain where they put in the figures and then they add multi colored lights and plants.
It’s all put so that everybody passing the house sees it.
And while I’m talking about the Catholics in Cam Duc (they are quite a few) let me tell you about the neon halos put above the saints at the church down the road and about the heart uncle 6 cut out of isopor, rimmed with multicolored small lightbulbs that flash on and off, and hung up behind a figure of Mary and Jesus he has on a shelf.
One of the English guys I travelled a bit with, we said good-bye in Hue when he went to Nha Trang and I to Hoi An, sent me an sms from Nha Trang with: ‘Nha Trangs shit. Ive seen more life in a dead dog’.
But I think Nha Trang is okay. It’s a city. There are books I can (and want) to read to be found. There are vegetarian places to eat. There are tourists to talk to and bars with a dancefloor. And from today on I have a door to close and my own private bath (with a western style toilet and a hot shower that hangs on the wall by itself).
I’ve been spending a lot of time in Nha Trang this year. And it’s been nice.
And this morning I brought my bike, books and some clothes when I took the mini bus to Nha Trang. That trip sure was a hassle.. A French man has an empty room in his house where I can stay for three weeks until I either find another place in Nha Trang or decide to go south.
No more Vietnamese lessons, no more guitar lessons, no more sowing. (And to those who asked: I was learning to make clothes. I can make pyjama-like outfits (thats the easiest) but its not really only eatern style things, because I was learning to draw and cut and things like shirts and pants are the same here and at home.)
I would have kept on with the sowing if it hadn’t been for the new baby – my aunt doesn’t have time to teach anymore, she doesn’t really have time to sow herself but she somehow manages. And being a Vietnamese she isn’t able to make me useful, like putting aside things that I can do or let me carry the baby – I would have liked to help. One day I biked over and sat for 3 hoURs without doing anything..
I stopped the Vietnamese lessons when uncle 6 made it clear that there isn’t anything left of the money my dad sent him to pay my teacher and even though I certainly could keep on going and pay myself I really want to leave the village now. No guitar playing without the Vietnamese lesson – they sort of went together, I never went just to play the guitar. I only played when my teacher’s husband (who teaches music to 7 and 8th graders) happened to be home and happened to be in the mood to get the guitar out. It was really very unorganized with him.
Now I’m teaching English to street kids in a bar in Nha Trang an hour every morning and I sort of have a boyfriend. Only sort of because were not boyfriend girlfriend. It just looks like we are (we’re sort of behaving as if we were). I met him New Years’ Eve.
But let me start at the beginning or I’ll just confuse you.
It was December 31st and cool enough to be comfortable in sneakers.
I sent an sms to my uncle’s girlfriend (Hang) to ask if she had the night off, but she didn’t. She’s a year younger then I and works in Crazy Kim Bar in Nha Trang. She’s worked there for 6 years.. I wanted to party (I haven’t been out since Peru..), but I wasn’t too sure how to get there and back. Well, getting there would be easy, it was the getting back part that wasn’t too obvious. The last buses back to Cam Duc leave at about 4-5 pm and the first at 9 am. And I didn’t really want to go out alone.. I’ve never done that before.
She wrote back: ‘Don’t worry to sit alone. You are so beauty many boy will follow and talk to you ok.’
A friend of mine called from Norway. After a few days of silence talking gave me a kick. He was (of course) going out. And that (combined with the ‘ok’ at the end of Hang’s sms) decided it. I took a shower and went to squat by the side of the road waiting for a mini bus to Nha Trang with enough money on me to crash at a cheap hotel in case the party didn’t last until there was a bus home. Hang definitely hadn’t invited me to stay at her place (I don’t think there’s room; they’re four generations crammed into a tiny.. mm.. I wouldn’t even call it house).
The Vietnamese don’t celebrate what they call the Western Tet. Their New Year (Tet) falls on February 9th (naar du blir 23 Trine!) this year – that’s the first day of the first month on the lunar calendar.
Im so happy I went. I had great fun dancing and talking until my voice got scratchy.
I hadn’t been to the bar before. It was nice. Easy to find. David Bowie was singing ‘China Girl’ when I walked in so that was a good start. Strange the way the Vietnamese and foreigners don’t go to the same cafes and bars – how their taste in music, drinks and atmosphere is completely different. The only Vietnamese at Crazy Kim’s were prostitutes.
I was there early, and there was practically no one there. I sat talking to Hang in the bar, she looked so different from when she comes to visit in Cam Duc. A real bar girl. (Or not really, she’s not a bar-girl-prostitute like most of the other girls who work in bars, she’s one of the few who has a Vietnamese boyfriend.) It was nice seeing her, I’m starting to like her, getting used to the brusqueness that so put me off when we first met.
I wasn’t the girl sitting alone in the bar for long. This American guy who was teaching English in Japan came to order a drink and we started talking. He thought I was Canadian, Americans usually do here. There seems to be a lot of young people who go to Japan to teach English. And from what he, and the New Castle guy I met in Ha Noi, has told me I’m fascinated by the Japanese and their lifestyle.
Slowly the bar filled up with backpackers and expats. The music was good until people started dancing. There was even some salsa music on a while – like Ruben Blades. la vida te da surpresa, surpresa te da la vida (I never remember the title of that song..) I was prepared for crap music though – hey what can you expect when the DJ is Vietnamese and there really aren’t any places to buy music anyway? I danced a good deal with the American guy and after a while we went to look for a party with better music, but after some clubs, bars and restaurants with dance floors, and a stop at the beach to look at the bonfire and Vietnamese who were doing a dragon dance, we went back to Crazy Kim to be there at midnight. There were lots of people and the music wasn’t all bad. I danced and danced and danced.
And then I started talking to this French guy. Theres not so much to say about him. His name is David, he has blue eyes and dark short hair. Except that were the same age I dont think we have anything in common. To start with he hasnt read a single book all his life (never finished one anyway). He’s visiting his dad who lives in Nha Trang with his Vietnamese girlfriend. And that girlfriend is Crazy Kim.
Kim, a woman only a little younger then my mom, found her way to Canada with her parents after the war. She came back to Vietnam to discover that pedophilia is a serious problem in Nha Trang. And she wanted to do something about it. She made thousands of t-shirts bearing the slogan ‘Hands off the Kids’ that she gives away to the kids working on the street (selling postcards to tourists and such) while she tries to educate them about the problem of pedophilia and at the same time bust the pedophiles out of town. Tourist can also buy the shirts and support the work by donations or otherwise. Some 8 years ago I think she opened the Crazy Kim Bar. Shes known in Nha Trang as Kim Dien (Dien is crazy in Vietnamese). In the back of the bar (to the left of the pool tables – they seem to be everywhere in Vietnam) there’s a classroom and showers for the street kids. Once a month Kim takes them out for a day trip and every morning there are free Vietnamese and English lessons and a free nutritious lunch.
They have a Vietnamese man who comes to teach English and volunteers help with pronounciation and whatever else they can think of. Ive been volunteering a couple of mornings even though I’m not so sure of the value of teaching English. I don’t feel like it’s something that really helps. But then again, the contact is important – giving them some attention. Its strange to see how similar they are in behaviour to the street kids I worked with in Lima. The kids are all facsinated that I speak broken but understandable Vietnamese. All kinds of tourists travelling through town come by to volunteer. There is an older man who lives here that seems to comes by most days. He doesn’t speak Vietnamese though. Few people who live here do. Or they do, but poorly. They’ve been here for years and years but are still at the same level as I am now (capable of every day conversation). I’ve met lots of French who live here through David. It was he who introduced me to Claude who’s letting me stay at his place.
David takes me around on Kim’s motorbike (she has two). He’ll take me along to get a hairwash and a face- and head massage. He takes me out to dinner. He taught me to play domino. I am better informed about whats going on in the rest of the world as I watch the news on TV5 Asie when I’m at his place and my French is almost as good as before I went to Peru.
Hes the typical Good Looking Guy. Uninteresting to talk to. But a Nice Guy. And he dances a bit 🙂 They’re living in a small apartment over the bar. It’s really modern, with air-con and stuff. And they have a femme de menage (housemaid). It was like going on a little holiday when I came and spent a couple of days with him. I did three days in Nha Trang, then three days in Cam Duc, then four days in Nha Trang, then two days in Cam Duc..
And now I’ve left Cam Duc. This will be my first night in my own room.
Im still glad I came. Just as Im glad I’m not there now. I haven’t left for good. I haven’t taken all my stuff, not said the final good-bye. In less then a month it’s Tet – that’s a three day holiday, I’m not sure if something really haPpeNS.. but I’ll go to Cam Duc and bring the kids lucky money in small red envelopes. (That’s real money, it’s lucky because of the envelope.)
Ive completely distanced myself from my relatives. Maybe I already told you, it happened a while ago. I don’t know what they think of me, or about my going to Nha Trang now. The kids are growing and aunt 3 is sick, she was in bed the whole day yesterday and it looks a bit serious. Uncle 7 moved out last week, he’s renting a room in Nha Trang and working in a hotel. Otherwise I don’t know what to say about my relatives.
So this is the plan: If I don’t find work or something interesting to fill my days with in Sai Gon I’ll just stay on in Nha Trang. I’ll teach English to the street kids, or who knows? maybe someting else will show up. I was talking to a French guy who needed someone on his boat (boat that takes tourists out to the islands off Nha Trang for a 1, 2 or 3-day trip), but I found out he’s a talker – his boat isn’t going too well, and more then anything it would be about fiNding people to go out on the boat. Anyway.. it’s not really the season yet, maybe (if the boat really is going out) I’ll be working some for him later.
There are many things my heart does not yet understand even though my head now does.