I like my newish job more than you will ever imagine! When I think about all of the travel opportunities I have been a part of because of working for Vespa Adventures, I could scream with joy! While there is much hard work involved with the writing and making of promotional videos, etc., it’s always thrilling to meet new people, see interesting places and experience exciting things that I never dared to dream about. You know another thing I really like – BEER, COLD BEER!! Since I’ve been rather busy with work lately, I decided to share some of my most recent “work” with you, here’s an article I wrote about the Vespa Adventures Craft Beer tour in Saigon-enjoy! Please be sure to make note of some of the names of the beers-that’s my favorite part!
I’ve quickly realized that the Vietnamese language is very difficult to learn but another ongoing problem for me is “speaking” Vietnamese as many words have a different meaning depending on the inflection of your voice which means that my southern drawl has got to go! When I do attempt to say words or speak in Vietnamese, I’m usually saying profane things that mean body parts spoken of only in private! I will never stop using “y’all” and I still say “thank you” because I’m sure people get my meaning. Thank goodness that I’m dealing with Roman characters, I can’t imagine trying to learn a symbol based language such as Japanese or Chinese. Even the Google translator doesn’t understand half of what I enter!
Honestly, I’m not making much of an effort to learn Vietnamese, I know a few names of foods I enjoy but I can’t handle a new job, new living environment, food I don’t recognize, not having my own transportation and playing catch up with computer skills, programs and technology on top of learning a new language. This old dog cannot do that new trick, don’t judge me! On a positive note, I’m developing a new form of sign language, it’s a Westerner white girl system, a Sister version that is not highly effective because I am the only one that understand it!
I have a quick wit and fast tongue, I try to slow down my speech but I get excited and I can’t help myself! As well, my bubbly personality and enthusiam are often misunderstood, why are the eternal optimists and happy people always accused of having too much to drink? Slowing down seems like I’m treating people like they were elderly, deaf or stupid, and let’s face it-most of these folks are smarter than I will ever be. Names and some faces (I will stop short of saying everyone looks alike but they do, especially in motorcycle helmets!), are particularly tough to remember but I like that different names have meanings that seem to fit people’s personalities, another fact that is universal. My new friends have one easy name to remember-I have about one hundred-so far! The Sister party continues even if I don’t know the names of the invitees!
It’s now time to discuss a topic which must be addressed – going to the bathroom, and before you start saying “gross” and “eeeeeeew,” just listen. “Going” is very different in foreign parts of the world, not that I thought everyone had private, above-ground toilets but I do appreciate a little bit of peace and quiet, as well as privacy when I use a powder room, water closet, lavatory, latrine, john or my personal favorite-the loo. Don’t worry if you are staying in a hotel or eating at a restaurant – you will be fine but here are a few things you should know about using a bathroom here: First: what is up with barely any toilet paper and no paper towels in Vietnam, is this part of some wicked tourist initiation?!
Some toilets in rural, outlying areas do not even have a flush handle or button, there is a hose or spigot that goes to a bucket with a scoop or ladle, then you pour a few scoops of water into the bowl to flush, strangely effective depending on whether you went #1 or #2 and if you had any toilet paper. I’ve read many articles about how going “sqatty” style is much better for you physically but again, if all you find are raised sides to stand on and a drain, you better pray your thighs and knees can take it! My biggest suggestion is that you always carry extra tissues and be prepared to dry your hands on more extra tissues or napkins, your pants or wave them around to shake off excess water and air dry. Two words here ladies………Pure and Ell!
The rest areas in rural areas of Vietnam are actually made for resting and eating, not really going to the bathroom. and what is up with Vietnamese men thinking it’s acceptable not to use a restroom at all – I’ve never seen so many guys peeing on the side of the road in my life! You”re welcome for no pictures of that! You have been warned so be prepared and be thankful that most homes, hotels and hostels are available with a safe, private bathroom for a fairly peaceful bathroom experience! I’ve included a picture of my new bathroom with awesome pink tile and a bathtub – I knew this was where I would live the moment I saw it! Let the Sister bubble bath parties begin…………………….!
Weddings are full of love, hopes and dreams of the future, blah, blah, blah, I’m not down on love, just skeptical because I don’t believe most people are brutally honest with themselves about what they expect out of marriage, their partner or themselves. I tried marriage one time, it was not necessarily for the right reasons and I’m apparently not a very good judge of character but the reception for about 400 people was an awesome party and I’d do that part again in a minute. In Vietnam, wedding receptions are like fashion shows, the bride rents, yes, rents, three or four dresses in different colors and she changes throughout the party and the wedding ceremony and reception are on different days. Another interesting thing is that the parties are not only on the weekend, I suppose when you have over 10 million people living in Saigon, you take what is available. I’ve noticed that not much attention is paid to certain days of the week except for school children, these folks work hard every day, doing whatever is necessary to get ahead and take care of each other. I keep saying that the entrepreneurial spirit here is inspiring and heart warming and family is the key!
No matter what you wear, you can be sure that there will be yummy Vietnamese food and cold drinks. Someone sitting at my table always offers to “take up” my bowl or plate, I can’t imagine they think I’m starving so I’m sure it’s to be friendly or hospitable-Vietnamese people will always serve a guest first. Either way, it’s all fun, delicious and I don’t have to fend for myself or take a chance with food that is unrecognizable. I only wish they had good cake! Most wedding cakes are only for show and made out of styrofoam because dessert is not high on the list of must-have reception food, another reason why most here remain healthy and thin. I won’t say “never” but the likelihood of me getting married is quickly fading away, especially living in a country with an average age of about 27 to 30!
I’ve learned an exciting way to get around Saigon and other cities in Vietnam that is cheap and in my opinion, daring and exhilarating-it’s a ride service called Grab Bike. It’s almost what it sounds like, a motorcycle “cab” business that is run through an app from your mobile phone, you enter a pickup and drop off point, it tells you what the charge will be and you can even link it to a credit card for payment but I stick with cash. You are sent a picture of your driver and his license plate number because the service is used by literally hundreds of people at any hour of the day or night and they provide you with a helmet, it’s definitely illegal and stupid to ride a motorcycle without one on these very busy streets.
Of course, cars or limousines are available for more money but you would be surprised how much these drivers can carry on their bikes, don’t be alarmed when someone rides by with a refrigerator on the back. The driver will call you for better directions if he can’t find you, I say “he” because I have only ridden with male drivers, but minor issues arise if you don’t speak the language. I’m pleased that these men don’t mind stopping to ask for directions and keep checking the maps on their phone to make sure they are going in the right direction, American men could learn something here!
I say it’s daring because there are literally thousands of motorbikes on the streets at one time, weaving between each other, honking their horns, dodging around cars, mysteriously reading each other’s body language and I have seen only 2 accidents! One way or another, you need to get comfortable with riding on the back of a Vespa, scooter or motorcycle, it’s the Vietnamese way and I like it! I’ve been here for about 2 months and my mother just figured out that I was on a bike AT NIGHT-oh the horror! Another suggestion I have is not to get drunk using this service, yes, it’s easier to have one more since you don’t have to drive but you don’t want to take the chance of falling off! Look Mom, I’m wearing a helmet!
Do you remember the song from the movie Mary Poppins “I Love to Laugh?” It’s one of my favorites because I definitely love to laugh, and I’ve discovered that laughing is the same all over the world in any language! As the song says, there are many different kinds of laughs from fast to slow and loud to through your nose but no matter where, when or why, what better medicine for a homesick traveler? While I may not understand the joke or know exactly what someone said to make people laugh, I still laugh myself because it’s contagious but I do hope they are not laughing AT me!
Here’s something else about me-I usually snort when I laugh, maybe not my finest trait but my fellow snorters know that sometimes it’s simply unavoidable if something is really funny. I hear much laughter and even some snorting everywhere I go in Vietnam, this country is full of happy people, and when I communicate better, I hope they think I’m funny, too!
I always find common ground with most people and can talk to almost anyone and I have not met many “strangers” in my life, I enjoy a certain level of comfort that comes with being friendly. Besides my friend’s wife KimPhuong, I have found several girls at Vespa Adventures that have adopted me, they share my enthusiasm for life and I’m not sure how I’d get by without their kindness! I also know that girls that drive motorcycles, especially in Saigon, are total badasses!
My desire to make new, fun friends will never go away but how can I make friends with even 20 people when I am struggling to communicate with most of them? Don’t confuse this with caring about what people think of me as a person, I’m old enough to understand that I’m not everyone’s “cup of tea,” I know I’m hard-headed and fiercely independent and this turns some off, especially men. I continue to meet more women that travel alone and I admire their chutzpah, spirit and love of adventure, they, too, are total badasses!
I’m thrilled to be making friend from all over this planet and this is why I love the Vespa Adventure tours so much, it doesn’t matter if you sign up alone because you will always meet other world travelers -what an opportunity to find out about where you will go next and get tips about where to stay and what to do or not do! The Sister Party continues……………