Hoi An, Vietnam 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

The word from Hanoi...

Hello from Hanoi! This city has amazing character and I’m sad we only have about five days to explore it. It’s got that dyed-in-the-wool feel to it, like New York does, where every person and street and shop is imbued with the unique essence of the city. The first place we stayed was in the market section of the Old Quarter, where the twisty, confusing streets are packed with people selling all manner of groceries such as vegetables, live chickens and fish, fresh bread, etc. On our first morning we ate breakfast at a corner cafĂ© and watched a guy slit a chicken’s throat, bleed it out, and defeather it by dunking it in hot water which he poured into a basin from big thermoses. The first place we stayed was where the tout from our incoming bus brought us (sometimes it’s easier just to submit to these things—less stress and a free taxi ride into town), and we decided to move since it was quite crusty and incredibly noisy early in the morning. So this morning we put our packs on and hiked to another section of the Old Quarter, to a recommended hotel.

In the alley where our hotel is, several cooks are frying up something that looks like crinkle-cut french fries and sausages. Oh you know we jumped for joy when we saw this. When we sat down to eat at one, we learned two things: A. the french fries are not made of potatoes, but yams (OMG OMG) and B. the sausage things are unidentifiable, but delicious. They made me think of a spongy fried tofu, until I started picking out bits of gristle. So, who knows what it is, but it did come with a delicious spicy sauce for dipping.

We have a couple of missions here in Hanoi, besides walking around and drinking Vietnamese iced coffee (ca phe sua da, with a bunch of accent marks I don’t know how to produce yet), stopping for bowls of soup, and playing rummy at Bia Hoi (a fresh, local beer that costs about 25 cents/glass) outlets. Our certification class in Ho Chi Minh City starts up a week from today. Teachers in Vietnam are expected to be very well-dressed (shirt and tie for men, nice skirts/dresses/suits for women), and we are expected to dress the part during our class. So, my point is, we have to go buy some nice clothes. Said clothes must cover my tattoos, and preferably not cause me to die of heat exhaustion. And they also must not be expensive, and they must not be the flowy, vaguely “ethnic-looking” clothes that I’d describe as Tourist Garb. I’m going to ask the hotel receptionist where the locals shop and go there tomorrow.

Mission #2 is visa extensions, which I’m hoping won’t be a nightmare. Our visas expire on Sunday, we fly to Saigon on Saturday, and the lady at the hotel desk has assured me she’ll have them ready by the time we leave. The visas are expensive; we already paid dearly to get them quickly before we left Bangkok, and now we are paying another $20 each to extend them for only a month. Once we have jobs we will get work visas, thankfully.

On our minds now is the proximity of the school starting date. We have some extensive pre-course work to finish before we get there, and we are trying to get ready for the intensity of a 4-week, 120-hour course of study that needs to prepare us for a brand new career. According to the school, the course is so rigorous that many people find it the most demanding part of their entire education. You’re at school from about 8:30-6:30, with about 3-4 nightly hours’ worth of at-home lesson preparation. So needless to say, we’re not planning on doing much other than eat, sleep and study for the month of March.

We’ve got some new pics in the photostream now, and I’m working on getting the Flickr stuff organized so you don’t have to go through all the old pictures to see the new ones, and also tagged so you’ll know what you’re looking at. It’s a lot of work! As of right now, the pics in the photostream are of our vacation in Thailand, including Ko Jum, Ko Lanta, and Bangkok, and Tet in Hoi An. I have lots more to put up, and I’ve already exceeded my Flickr account monthly allotment!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Catfish Mania Part I...Chao Phraya River, Downtown Bangkok

Hello and Welcome to Catfish Mania Volume 1. This video was taken at a public dock in downtown Bangkok. The swarms of catfish were like this all over every dock and house riddled piece of shoreline on the river (we took the water taxi and saw many a dock and shoreline). People in Thailand feed the catfish like us patriotic Americans feed ducks. Its so gross! Its grosser than pigeons. Its grosser than hand feeding hunks of pigeons to plague rats. Well enjoy and be sure to check out Catfish Mania Number II that should be out later today. It shows what looks like Chao the Phraya river getting rained upon but its just thousands upon thousands of catfish slapping the water as far as the eye can see.


PS. The seafood market in Bangkok is like a minefield of catfish...literally. They have small kids swimming pools and buckets full of hundreds of catfish and they love to jump out of their containers all over the ground. Some are stomped like frogs that didn't make it across the road in summertime others thrown back in the pen. Its crowded. Its slippery. Its smelly. Its heaven. Gotta love the fish market.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Stay Tuned

Hi everyone! Thanks for checking out our blog. It is very much under construction, and I've only been allowed to unveil it under the strict provision that we will have Luke's disgusting footage of thousands of catfish in the river in Bangkok up as soon as we can get the dang videos to upload.

Please take a sec to view the slideshow above, if you're interested in the much-requested photos. So far we just have photos from the past few days but more will be forthcoming.

From Hoi An with Love

What a day.  Its Tet.  Its Valentine's Day.  And its the birthday of everyone in the world (in Vietnam everyone turns a year older on the new year).  I just won 30 bucks playing online poker while Kat worked for about an hour to put this video up.  What a gal.  Love luke. 

Thursday, February 11, 2010

For Starters

I'm having a lot of trouble putting Vietnam into words. No matter how I try to describe the dizzying traffic, the innumerable smells, the incessant honking of motorbike horns, so on, so on...I keep falling short. It has something to do with the fact that everything is so different here from what I'm used to that I don't even know where to begin; but it's also the stunning realness of it all, how up-close it is. How it's shocking, but somehow not all that surprising.So I'm going to start small. Let's see: There is such a thing as "Soft-shell Crab" flavored Pringles. How they differ in flavor from "Hard-shell Crab" Pringles, I'm not sure.What else? Everywhere, people ride slowly by on bicycles outfitted with speakers that broadcast a monotone voice repeating a sentence. What the sentence means, only Vietnamese lessons will tell.I can't not talk about the traffic. A Vietnamese roadway is a layered with all manner of vehicles: trucks, cars, tour buses, Hummers, motorbikes (so many motorbikes), one-speed bicycles, cyclos (bicycle taxis), food carts, dogs, motorbikes with absurdly huge cargo and/or up to 5 full-grown passengers, people with these long sticks with a basket of fruit on each end across their shoulders, and pedestrians who are walking in the road because the sidewalks are too stuffed full of shopfronts and more motorbikes. The last category will be you, if you come to Vietnam. There are two traffic laws, so far as I've observed. The first is, yield to the bigger vehicle. He who is more likely to be crushed in a potential collision has the responsibility to prevent the accident. The second law is Honking. The more danger those around you are in, the more you honk. There's a kind of magic to the road system, though. Nobody--nobody--seems to be paying attention to what's going on in the road (riding a bike earlier, I was narrowly cut off by a guy on a motorbike in the midst of answering a cell phone call), but so far I've only seen one accident--from my hotel window I saw a drunk guy spill his motorbike with absolutely no one around him. How this subtly organized chaos works without even the benefit of attentive participants, I have yet to discover. I am getting used to it, though.That's enough for today. We'll go over crossing the street next time. scheduled