What the What is Going on in Vietnam?
Turns out eating ice and crossing the road are about the same thing here in Da Nang, Vietnam. All travel blogs say Don’t Drink the Water. Just like that: bold, italicized and underlined to let you know they Really Mean It. And no ice, they remind you. After all ice is water. But the thing is, it’s hot here. Like crazy mo’fo’ f-ing hot. And I’m here for two years. How can I possibly survive without ice? So when faced with my first Vietnamese coffee – iced coffee – I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and slurped like a maniac, hoping to make it to the bottom of the cup before too much ice had seeped its way into my body to twist and mutate my intestines.
It’s the same strategy I’m using to cross the road. In America we call them traffic lights. In South Africa we call them robots. Here we call them…nothing. Why bother naming something you don’t believe in? I say “believe”because driving here is a religion. You believe you have the right of way. Always. You believe those annoying red and green lights above the road are for decoration. And, in order to cross the road, you must blindly, stupidly believe that somehow you will make it to the other side.
Why did the Vietnamese chicken cross the road?
It didn’t, Stupid.
I made the mistake my first time of waiting for a gap in traffic to cross. There is never a gap in traffic. So I waited for a fellow pedestrian. When he went, I went; eyes closed, hyperventilating and even praying a little. I told you, this is all about religion. I would add that I started to sweat, but I have been sweating since the moment I arrived. I am officially disgusting (sorry, JD).
Anyway, the problem with waiting for other pedestrians is that they’re not always around. Being as I am American and want everything done NOW (that’s now now to you South Africans), this won’t work. So I have begun stepping out into oncoming traffic (and certain death) all on my own. Not bad for my second day here. Again it’s all about faith. I believe I can make it across. Will make it. I’ll italicize the whole thing to show you my passion: I will make it across. So far I have. As for tomorrow, we’ll just have to see if the scooters get me.
Fortunately, while you should worry about me crossing streets, you need not worry about me being jumped or mugged. That’s because I am the biggest human in this city. I am like Godzilla, or Paul Bunyan or that bad guy from the Smurfs. Sidewalks shake and buildings tremble as my enormous hulk rumbles past. Bruhahahaha (evil monster laugh). At five foot four (almost) I am a giant among the tiny. Just to prove that I am huge I ordered two noodle delicousnesses last night. And just now the waiter at the coffee shop looked astonished when I ordered another coffee! That’s how Her Hugeness rolls, Vietnam.
At this point in time everything here is new. Everything is confusing. It’s hard to separate the Unknown from the Truly Crazy. But what I have learned is that people are very friendly. Despite not speaking the same language I have already met friends who helped me find a cell phone, ID photos and an apartment. They have struggled to interpret my floundering gestures and pointed the way the first time I got lost. And second. And third.
The city itself seems chaotic, but I believe it has its own strategy that I’ll learn with time. Even the back alleys which are covered in dogs, altars to ancestors and old men with no teeth, are clutterly clean.
Well what do you know! The manager of the coffee bar I’m sitting at just noticed Whitey Pie here in the corner and has rewarded my foreignness by playing Hotel California. Thumbs up all around.
In conclusion there is no conclusion. After all this is only the beginning, and right now I have no idea what the what is going on in Vietnam.