Weddings All Week

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!

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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!

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Grab Bike

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.

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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!

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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!

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Laughing

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!

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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!

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Making New Friends

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!

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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……………

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Why So Scared?

I like meeting new people of all colors, shapes and sizes, I’m not against any one group of people or culture but nervous around people different than me, guess I was afraid of non-English speakers. The thought of coming to this part of the world, not to mention quitting a job that I created and loved, leaving my family and friends and moving my entire life, never crossed my mind. How did I ignore this region for as long as I have, the beauty of landscape and people are unmatched by any other place, culture or people I have encountered.

 

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I’m grateful to my friend that invited me to check it out and experience this awesome country, I was lacking the bravery or confidence to do it totally on my own so I’m forever in his debt for prodding me. How will I repay him? With dedicated, hard work and creative business ideas, it is exhilarating to open my eyes, my heart and my soul to all that is new, different and unique-let the Sister Party begin, hope these folks will soon fall in love with this big, southern white girl!

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Landed in Ho Chi Minh City

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     I landed in Ho Chi Minh City on March 1st, it was hot just like Charleston. I like the fact that it was the 1st because it’s now easy to remember how many days I’ve been here! Thank goodness Steve had arranged for someone to assist me with my tourist visa application, this was a true lifesaver and saved me much anguish and time. After obtaining my visa I proceeded to get my passport officially stamped and start my adventure. My celebration was delayed as there were about 300 people doing the same but I waited patiently knowing that what was to come would be greatest experiences of my life. My favorite number is 15 and I was overjoyed when the officer stamped my passport book on page 15, I’m unsure why he didn’t start at the beginning, but this was a good sign in my head. I knew I needed a cart to help with my luggage as I brought 2 very large suitcases along with 2 other “smaller” bags, I’m not sure but I think Steve may have had a heart attack when he saw all my stuff. I was excited to see his smiling face, again, knowing that great adventure awaits. We hopped in a cab and I was immediately shocked by the amount of motorbike traffic, bikes were weaving in and out amongst the cars in a rush to their various destinations. When we arrived at Steve’s house, Phuong greeted me with a hug, again, I knew all would be okay and I was welcome in their family. We went for a late lunch at a restaurant close by their house, I was worried about what to eat as I have not had any exposure with Vietnamese food and had no idea what to order. At this point, I’m unsure of the name of what I ate but it was delicious and I was grateful to be in Steve and Phuong’s company, very comforting after about 26 hours of travel time.

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