Thursday, May 15, 2008


The rain just started pouring, for the 4th time today. It is rainy season in Southeast Asia. I write from Hoh Chi min city, Vietnam, or Saigon, if you prefer.
What is going on in the world? Cyclones in Burma, and earthquakes in China? I feel kinda surrounded by craziness, which is nothing new.
I left Tuesday morning from Phnom Penh with Polly and our friend Megan who also teaches at Logos. We took the bus, which was air-conditioned so we were happy. It was a 6 hour bus ride, but crossing the border and such it took more like 8-9. So we got in and by that time, I was sick, sick. I don't travel well. So a Vietnamese man came up and offered a hotel, "Cheap, cheap" he said. But he didn't mention, "Scary and dirty" when he was telling us about it. So feeling a bit overwhelmed we sat down and gathered our thoughts. We had no idea where we were and we stick out as tourists everywhere, so everyone wanted to help. We eventually found a nice, clean place for $25 a night. It had two beds, air-con, and a t.v, we were happy. Later we braved the streets in search of any food, not-Asian. We found it. There is quite an impressive smattering of Western eateries, including vegetarian, we were happy. We just relaxed and then went out just walkin around and absorbing the differences between Vietnam and Cambodia.
So, we've noticed a few things. Vietnamese speak better English, are lighter skinned, are friendlier, and have a better preserved culture. The streets are cleaner, there are trash cans, there is public transit, and everything is more organized. The biggest thing I have noticed is that tourists aren't such a spectacle and I am ignored more here then in Phnom Penh. The men don't look as long and I don't fear I am always about to get jumped. There are parks here and plants and statues and pretty things. I have a picture of me hugging a tree I was that excited. Beautiful. Still a dirty country in SE Asia, but not Cambodia and I am happy to get away.
Yesterday we went on a tour of the Cu Chu tunnels where the Vietnamese constructed this incredible tunnel system where they lived for months at a time. It was pretty cool. But I must admit after I listened for 2 hours to a very bitter Vietnamese man blab on and on about the war, women only being good as baby makers, and how much he hates American food, I had had my fill. I felt like he was trying to brain wash me into thinking that I actually spread Agent Orange and murdered his girlfriend. The pain is obviously still there. We were pretty tired after the long tour and being bogged down in the rain, but we found a place called The Cantina with Mexican, Italian, Vietnamese, and all kinds of food. Nice to have options. Then we went to an authentic Vietnamese water puppet show, I've never seen anything like it. I can not figure out how they did it. But all the puppets were in the water, moving around like they were alive. There was a band and music and more languages we can't understand, but still fun.
Today, we walked really far all over the city. We saw the Opera house, the Cathedral, this huge post office, the War remnants museum (pretty gruesome), and the Fine arts museum. We were tired and made our way back to the hotel to lay around. We just met a girl traveling all alone through SE Asia and invited her to hang with us. She is from Pennsylvania where Polly is from, crazy!
Tomorrow, Polly and I are going to go go-carting, to relax and drink coffee, and to the market to get cheap stuff you just can't find anywhere else in the world. I mean, who doesn't want a hot pink, lacquer coaster set that says, "Good morning, Vietnam!"? Sign me up.
We'll probably take the bus back on Saturday morning in time to get school work done before the holiday is over. Can I mention just one more time how cultured out I am? The money here is duong and is 16,000 for every dollar. My brain hurts from all the math. Their English is kinda difficult to understand too. All of their "g" sounds are "sh" and they kinda slur words together to get 'em out quicker I guess. There are a lot of old, white men just sitting around at outdoor cafes, we haven't quite figured that one out yet.
Polly asked me today as we walked down the street, "Are you just ready to go home?" She knows. She leaves in 3 weeks, I leave in 6. The newness and excitement of experiencing new cultures and countries really dims when the one I hunger for seems so far away. Six weeks is not forever.
Thanks for the concern about the bike accident too. I have a cut on my chest that is healing and the bruises on my leg are turning green. I'll be okay. No recent hits and I'm not planning any either.
More later, thanks for the prayers.