Local Interactions in Saigon, Vietnam

July 2, 2013

This is my friend Vy Thảo, my friend who lives here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I met her a couple weeks ago through my friend Erik. Yesterday, Vy came to my hostel and picked me up on her motorbike and we headed 45 minutes to her district. Sitting on the back of her bike, we entered the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh. We traveled with hundreds of motorbikes down the road as busses and cars were in arms reach amongst the sea of bikes. Suddenly we felt the rain start so we decided to pull over on the side of the road until it passed. Vy’s district is wonderful. As we entered, it had a distinct feeling when compared to the others. The roads were a bit narrower and there were lines of locals selling their product along the streets. You can get everything you need from the street vendors and a store is not necessary, it’s a unique way of obtaining your household essentials. If you need fish you go to one person, vegetables another. Vy took me to one of her favorite spots and we enjoyed some street food. As we approached, we hopped the curb and parked the motorbike right inside the room. We sat on the foot high plastic stools and over came the food. It was delicious. Vy introduced me to a couple of her friends who were extremely kind and we practiced English together tackling those difficult words and phrases. Afterwards, Vy took me to have some coffee before she openly welcomed me into her home for dinner. Vy lives with her mother, father, brother, sister in law, and soon to be nephew/niece. Arriving at their house I was greeted with open arms by her wonderful family. Her father, a very kind man, full of smiles, took me around showing me his different birds they had as pets. We watched a little of the Karate Kid which was nice as its been a while since I watched TV. Sitting there with him, there was so much said with few little words. The language barrier was in effect but it didn’t change a thing. We were communicating on higher levels without words. Soon Vy’s mom came into the living room and greeted me with a hug. She took out photos of her and her husbands recent trip to Da Lat, where I just left. There was a group shot and I had to pick them out of the group and it took me a while! We enjoyed numerous laughs as I chose the wrong person over an over. Next came the feast. Streamed rice, soup, pork, chicken, and cabbage. I was getting full and I knew I wasn’t getting off the hook easily as her mother insisted I have one more bowl. Upon reaching the point of explosion, I surrendered and sat back to let the meal digest. Vy and I practiced some English words and shared different photo albums we had online. She got to see some of the life in America and in exchange I saw pictures of life in Vietnam. Her brother came home in the midst of dinner. A kind, soft spoken man who had excellent English. We spoke for a while about life in America. He extended to me the fact that Vietnamese are very interested in American news. His family member is moving to Austin, TX and we spoke about Texas as well as the safety due to the explosion in West, TX. I explained it was a horrible accident and assured him his family would be safe in Austin, TX. He is expecting a child with his wife very soon and I wish them the very best. Before I knew it, it was 9:00pm and Vy had to drive me the long distance back to my hostel. So unfortunately we hopped back on the motorbike and headed back to the hostel. Before I left I had Vy translate my gratitude to her parents. Her father gave me multiple hugs and told me that whenever I come back to
Ho Chi Minh I am always welcome in their home. I really hope I get to take him up on his offer. Vy gave me great insight to daily Vietnamese culture. I was in a district where I was the only foreigner and no one spoke English. Individuals stared at me in awe and often became bashful when I returned their interested glare with a smile and nod of the head. Vy reiterated to me the importance of family. Being 25 she is happy living with her family. When I asked her if they all lived together she replied without thought, “Of Course”. She went on to describe her family as “Very Happy”. Sitting in their living room it was clear, this is one happy family. Before I left, Vy and I took a photo. Just like most things here, we found laughter in simplicity. We made funny faces at the camera and had a good laugh for a long, long time. Asia has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. I spend so much time here laughing at simple things that happen everyday. Laughter is a universal language and you can have a good laugh with anyone without any words exchanged. One of my favorite things to do with the street kids who approach you is to give them a high five. When our hands connect I say, “Boop!” and motion for another high five. Upon connecting again I say, “Boop!” The second time usually triggers a laugh. Then comes the third.. the forth.. tenth high five. The child caches on to saying “Boop!” and before you know it I’m laughing right along with them. It’s the simple things. Vy, I want to thank you for opening up your home to me. I appreciate it immensely. I am very thankful for this unique experience. Keep practicing your English, your so good and almost there.. And remember to always keep your dream alive.


Good Morning, Vietnam!

June 18, 2013

Now that #hashtags work on Facebook.. I dont think I am going to use them…#whoamikidding #ilovehashtags!!! haha OH and by the way I made it to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam after a semi difficult day of traveling. I had a flight from Cebu to Manila then Manila to Vietnam. The weather in Manila was horrible and after an hour delay we had to circle in the air for another hour before cleared to land in Manila. Delays are fine, because there really isnt anywhere I HAVE to be, however, I was worried I would miss my connecting flight. I landed later and luckily my connecting flight was also delayed so it all worked out in the end, as it always does. I was proud of myself for not even worrying, I just accepted I missed my flight and then I ended up making it. I thought of a story my Israeli friend told me about when he was in Nepal. He was on a bus trying to get somewhere time sensitive. The bus for some reason broke down, maybe there was a mudslide, but the bus was at a dead holt in the road. He began to so what we all do.. get nervous, aggitated and frusterated about the unforseen obstacle. He then looked up and noticed the faces of the locals on the bus. The were laughing, smiling, and taking the extra time to play games. He suddenly realized.. why the hell am I so angry and frusterated.. there is nothing I can do, nothing. Therefore, sitting there and bitching and moaning will get you no where but add additional stress to the current sitution. He worded it much more delicately but thats the main idea. Ho Chi Minh was intimidating upon arrival as I landed at 2:30am. Arriving in a new country in the middle of the night is not the best idea for many apparent reasons. I was able to book a shuttle to pick me up from the airport, but having arrived 2 1/2 hours late, I was certain they werent going to be there. Upon arriving I exited into the damp heat to find a Vietmanese man sitting there with a sign which read, “Justin Morales”. A huge weight was lifted off my back as there surprisingly werent any taxis that I saw and the airport was empty. He took me safely to the hostel and I got my room for a rate of $6.00 per night. Fan and AC at night with Wifi during the day. The place was secure with a secutiry guard and a locked gate. I was paying roughly $13.00 per night in the Philippines so it was nice to see the prices I had origionally had in my budget.. OH and the food. I have been missing vegatables as they were scare with my encounters in the Phipippines. Here, I ordered a bowl of noodles topped with arparagus, brochelli, spinach, califlower, and other greens. I was in heaven.. and I havent even had the #Pho yet!. The meal.. .a price tag of $1.25 and I barely finished. This too is about $3.00 cheaper than I was paying before. Ho Chi Minh is a whole different animal that what I have yet experienced. The city is full with motorbikes at an overwhelming rate. This morning I went for breakfast and I practiced what I was told to do before my arrival… to get across the street successfully, walk at a consistent pace, do not stop and do not speed up.. the motorbikes will go around you.. but if you stop or change your pace you chance getting hit. At first I thought there was no way I would make it across, It is a two lane street and it averaged 6 motorbikes side by side on each lane. I waited for a red light and then realized the lights were there for show as noone recognized them. So out into the street I went, in the 20 foot crossing at least 150 motorbikes precisely swirved around me. I am excited to take photos of the chaos, it sure is a sight to see. Unfortunately, Ho Chi Minh has some of the best pick pocketers in the world and I already felt hands pulling on my shorts. One was a child. its just something everyoine here deals with. I have my money in a pouch around my waist and tucked into my shorts. I keep my passpport and ATM card securely in my room. You just have to be careful, thats all. . The hostel told me to be careful upon arrival. I befriended someone from Oslo, Norway and got the typical talk about how crazy Americans are lol. I have been realizing what a bad reputation we have.. and everyone has a different reason. I still am wondering how locals will react when they find out I am from America (Vietnam War pushback). Today I am getting used to the new sights, sounds, noises, and terrain and I think tomorrow I will adventure onward and see more of the city. I am kind of overwhelmed at the moment.. this place is busy, busy, busy. I also need to see where I want to go to next here.. I think I am staying a week in Ho Chi Minh and then a week or so in aouther southern city/town. I think I am flying to Singapore for the 4th to see Catherine!!! I have to connect with her to verify though. Then I will fly back to Ho Chi Minh (south Vietnam) and start my journey along the coast to Hanoi in the north. There is a train that goes along the coast and I am going to take intermittent stops along the way. I have a 3 month multiple entry Visa here so time contraints will not be an issue. Oh a side note I went to the ATM and I got the highest amount offered … $1,500,000 Dong. That should last me a long time when comparing to the lower options you could withdrawl. I did the conversion and it came out to $74.00. Therefore I may spend some time here and save some money but what I have been told the rest of the coutnries I go to are just as cheap and the Philippines was the most expensive. Still not expensive by american standards.. and well worth it as the Philippines was the most beautiful places I have ever seen.. .I am sure there will be comparacble places but nothing can top my initial part of the trip. I was going to start a blog, I still may, a post like this just makes more sense in a blog or a facebook page. BUT I want to try out these Hashtags so I will create a unique tag and test this hashtag situation… I apologize for the spelling errors and gramaticallyincorrect sentences. The lag after each sentence is about 30 seconds.. no time to correct. Today what I am most thankful for is that ride from the airport last night.. it was a day saver. Y’all take it easy now, ya hear?