Friday, July 9, 2010

Culture shocks

There’s a couple of culture shock events from my day a couple of days ago I’d like to share with you.

First of all, in my birthday present for Dan quest I had to go to a whole new area of Hanoi, on the other side of the Bridge, which I don’t know well at all. I realised pretty soon that I taken the wrong bridge and that the main street I wanted to be on was parallel to the avenue I was on right now, so I turn into a small lane on my right, hoping it would eventually reach the parallel road I was interested in. The small lane turned out to be very long, like… 3 kms longs, curling around small houses and street cafes, and getting narrower and narrower, until it was a dirt path. At the end of it, there was a bit of road going up, very steep. I changed to first gear and took it on with a concentrated look on my face. It was long, too. When I finally reached the top, I sighed in relief and stayed there for a second. That flat plane at the top was only very narrow, across it was the way down, pretty much as steep as the way up had been. I wondered why this segment was so absurdly mountainy when it could have been flat all the way. Why go up then down?
That’s at that point in my reflexions that I noticed what was under my motorbike right now.
I wasstanding” in the middle of a railway. I raised an eyebrow, and seased by a horrible doubt I looked to my right.
A train was coming.
Mum, don’t panick. The train was a good 30 seconds away. But still. I accelarated quicker than ever and got the hell out of there, through the path down, without a thought for how to negociate such a steep climb down. I mean, who cares right now? If I slip and fall in my rush it’s still much better than the alternative, right?
I was laughing nervously to myself after that. There had been no sign on that hill road, no fence, no warning, nothing. Everyone would have done what I did, focus on going up without stalling, and only quickly glance at the top bit to check no other motorbike was coming fast to cut my way and that’s itpeople don’t randomly check for TRAINS coming, do they? Anyway, that was the first culture shock of the day.

The second thing I saw yesterday which made me very aware of being in another coutry/continent/world, was this: I witnessed an accident. It wasn’t the first one, and it wasn’t bad. But two motorbikes collided, the first one dragging the second one on several meters, while the driver who had had time to jump off followed behind, running. Nobody was hurt but it was still impressive, and the motorbike was in a bad state. By the time I reached the men and stopped to see if I could help, I saw something amazing. They were laughing, shaking hands, and patting each other on the back. In fact, the man who had jumped / been ejected from his bike, and whose said bike was now all messed up and pouring oil on the pavement, THIS man, was patting the other guy on the back.
Unbelievable. The whole thing made me cheery for the rest of the ride home.

And the third thing, my personal favourite, was when I stopped on the side of the road to buy eggs and tomatoes from a street vendor. I manage enough Vietnamese now to be able to talk to locals about just about anything, in simple words of course but sill, it really broadens my Vietnam experience to be able to exchange pleasantries with anyone I want. So I chatted with this 50 something years old woman while waiting for her to put things in bags and give me my change. During these few minutes, she told me how hot she was, how the heat was bad for her and how she had two grown kids. All normal stuff.

Then she congratuled me on being pregnant.

Then she said eggs and tomatoes would be very good for my baby.


I’m not pregnant.

Honestly, I’m paranoid and conscious enough about my weight to be worth believing when I tell you that I don’t look pregnant either, in fact, I have lost weight in Vietnam, and the healthy foods I’ve have here have helped by belly become somewhat quite flat, even if I still have healthy pading around the thighs and love handles areas. I was a bit puzzled but mainly, amused. I thanked her and didn’t bother denying, it would have been too complicated.

You gotta love Vietnam, hey?

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