Sunday, July 25, 2010

My Neighbours

Celine and I live down a small alley in a 5 story house which requires a number of sharp turns to reach, weaving around the tall houses towering above. On either side each house is connected to the next. Most houses are 4 to 5 stories high. The alley is quite thin, only a few metres across. Our house is at the end of a small lane that cuts off from the alley. On our lane there are four houses. Two of our neighbours front doors are touching distance from ours. All the families in our alley are Vietnamese.

On one side is a family with two young kids. They have no English with the exception of hello and goodbye which they shout continuously whenever we leave or return home. They are great kids and very funny. Their mother has good English and teaches at a nearby kindergarten. She is really nice and has helped us numerous times getting things done and acting as an all important translator. They live with the husbands mother; a normal occurrence for Vietnamese families. I went to a party at their house last week and drank with her husband and his friends. He is a manager of a restaurant. As it goes with most Vietnamese men; drinking comes first. I went over there for dinner but drinking was the main agenda. There was 8 of us and we finished a bottle of Johnny Walker in about 30 minutes. After that we went onto the local Vietnamese vodka and by the time that was nearly finished we started to think about eating. We were all sitting on the floor with a hot pot brewing in the middle. We were eating a duck hotpot with vegetables and noodles. After the vodka was finished we moved onto the local rice wine. I was given a snake rice wine and later a gecko rice wine. The gecko rice wine was homemade and apparently good for my health. One of them they claim, I can't remember which, was good for my libido so the guys laughed and cheered every time I had a shot.

After we had finished the duck they put live crabs into the boiling water. The kids were excited by the prospect of crab and were waiting eagerly for a taste. They loved it so much I never got to try it. I don't think western kids enjoy seafood at the same level as the Vietnamese.

After dinner, we moved onto the beers as I was getting a bit hazy. The Vietnamese can definitely out drink me so I show the effects of a decent drinking session first. After a few beers I said my goodbyes and went straight to bed. I felt spacey and lethargic the next day; a feeling I usually get after drinking the local rice wine. I don't know what goes in the wine to make it and it is probably best I don't.

On the other side is a young couple with a young baby. They have little to no English. They live with the parents, I think of the husband. The grandparents of the little one who I guess are in their sixties are always around doing chores inside and outside of the house. We have always been friendly with them, practicing our Vietnamese and talking to the baby. They have been friendly back.

Our desire to be friendly to them has gone due to the recent actions of the grandmother. We were leaving our house when we saw a cute little puppy near our entrance. Celine asked me to go upstairs and find something for the dog to eat. After about 30 seconds I heard a pained yelp from the dog. I came downstairs to a furious Celine. The grandmother, after seeing the puppy grabbed a stick and smacked it hard on the head. Celine tried to stop her but determined, she pushed past Celine to hit the poor dog. The puppy ran off and not wanting to be anywhere near her we left. I think it is completely unacceptable behaviour - hurting a defenseless, innocent animal that is doing no harm to anyone. I have seen it before where Vietnamese have kicked dogs or thrown stones at them. It makes me very angry.

I have thought about this in the past few days and I wonder if I am a bit of hypocrite? I have eaten dog meat while being in Hanoi and the honest truth is that I haven't really thought much about the process of getting the meat. Are the dogs treated humanly? Are they suffering? Unfortunately, if the actions I have seen on the street are anything to go by then I have my answer. That thought leaves me with a feeling of guilt. My desire to try and experience new things and immerse myself in a culture may have clouded my judgement and allowed me to take part in, in my opinion deplorable behaviour which I don't condone.

Should I have eaten dog meat?

Hindsight is a wonderful thing but going forward one things for sure; we won't give anymore of our time to the dog hitting family.


  1. Eating the dog meat is ok but stop drinking Dan ><


    Given a chance, they will eat you.

  3. Scary article. It can't be a good way to go - eaten by a pack of feral dogs.