Category Archives: crazy people

First Impressions: Vietnam

Well, Vietnam and I got off on the wrong foot.

Someone robbed me on my very first day here, but I am working really hard not to let that affect my perception of Vietnam the place.

First let me just say… Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is NOT Phnom Penh! And so it follows that Vietnam and Cambodia are in general quite different. On the surface, many things may appear similar, or even the same– but other aspects are worlds apart.

The overall “personalities” of Vietnam and Cambodia are noticeably different: Cambodians seem to be far more laid back, whereas the Vietnamese, while also very friendly, seem slightly more guarded. However, I’m staying in a place full of tourists; in these parts, I wouldn’t be surprised if any and all peoples were guarded. They are also more openly attentive to the expressions on your face– if you look confused or dissatisfied with something, they’ll ask you what’s wrong. I’m so not used to that anymore. In Cambodia, you could be crying on the street and most people will probably not ask you what’s wrong– not because they don’t care, but because they think it’s none of their business, that’s it’s rude to pry, even if you’re laying it all out there.

Holy smokes, there are a LOT of churches in this town! I mean, after being in Cambodia where it’s wat after wat after wat, I just wasn’t expecting it. Christianity has yet to catch on in any form in Cambodia, despite centuries of missions by various brands. There are Catholic churches, Baptists, JW, 7th Day, Mormons, etc. But none of them have much of a following.

There is some fantastic artwork, including wearable art like these really unique graphic tees (yeah I said it), paintings, weavings, jewelry, etc. which I so wish I could afford to buy, but of which I may just take pictures instead…

Speaking of pictures, there will be some forthcoming. I started uploading them last night, had a freak-out about my teaching session (which was today), and decided to quit and go to bed.

Teaching– ah, that’s why I’m here after all, isn’t it? The course is IMMENSELY challenging and EXTREMELY helpful thus far, and it’s only week one. I’ve had two teaching practices, both of which were okay, but lots to improve on. Our teacher-trainers are experienced, supportive, and full of useful, pertinent advice and feedback. And Vietnamese students are fun to teach!

We also have homework. Lots of it. In fact, I’m going to go do some now.

Peace!

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Filed under art, changes, crazy people, culture shock, HCMC (Saigon), learning, travel, Vietnam

Can’t you read?

The Indian embassy is interesting.

Never been before.

No one warned me about the crazy visa man.

I went to pick up the passport/visa of a friend of mine who will be visiting India soon. The two Khmer security guards were friendly, showed me in– or showed me the door, rather. They pointed straight. “Go that way,” they said, but they didn’t come in. Actually they slammed the door on me. Huh, that was strange, I thought as I meandered down an exterior corridor of a large, fancy house. Strange-looking embassy, if you ask me.

I was beginning to think I got it wrong when I noticed an open window and a counter under it. It said “visa services”, or something to that effect. I approached and saw a man on the other side, sitting facing away from me, staring intently at a computer.

“Excuse me,” I said. The pale, spectacled man turned and glared at me.

“What?”

I experienced a moment of doubt. Why was I here?  “Uh, I need to pick up a passport.”

The man’s frowned deepened. “No, that’s not right.” It wasn’t? Was this a Jedi mind trick?

“Well, I’m picking it up for a friend, actually.” I started fishing for the receipt. He moved to a desk drawer and started pawing through a stack of passports. He seemed to hesitate on one, but the put them away and looked at me sharply. I gave him the receipt. After glancing at it but a moment, he said,

“Can’t you read?” He told me in the Queen’s English (or that’s what they say) with a pronounced Indian accent. “It says the 23rd.”

“It does?” I was amazed. I hadn’t realized the cryptic scribbles were actually writing,  let alone in a language I could recognize.  I looked it over. “No, actually, I can’t read that.”

“Come back then.” He started to go back to his desk.

“So, it isn’t ready yet…?” I ventured.

“Of course it isn’t ready yet!” The pale man spat, “How can it be ready? It isn’t the twenty-third!” He eyeballed me like I was wearing a big fat dunce cap.

“Uh, hm. Okay. I’ll… be back then. Goodbye.”

“Yes.” He dismissed me.

I was completely steamed when I signed out with the guards. “That guy is really rude!” I exclaimed in Khmer.  They seemed to give me a look that said newb. I thanked them and left. I was still pissed until I called a friend, but as I told her what had happened, the crazy visa man sounded to start funnier and funnier.

Still,  I wish I didn’t have to go back in two days…

 

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Filed under crazy people, embassies, one of those days, phnom penh