Saturday, 6 December 2014

Vietnamese Milestones so far


So, it's been nearly six weeks. Here are a few things I have finally succeeded in accomplishing...
Six weeks ago I could've been in that aeroplane...

First driving a motorbike! “Make sure you keep your hand on the brake...” Ph, the owner of the motorbike, reminded me frequently...

Not on roads yet, but I have now tried an automatic motorbike and I can confidently say I can drive, turn and brake. So much fun and well exciting! I believe that since I can drive a car as well as drive a bicycle (and have experience with gears on both!) a motorbike shouldn't be TOO overwhelming...

First bakery experience. With one of my brilliant adult classes. <3 There were six of us and between us we shared seven slices of cake. Tiramisu, cheese cake, chocoholic cake, some other lovely chocolate cake, and the best was, yet another, chocolate cake called Marula I think? Not quite sure what it was, but very scrumptious.

I was actually quite surprised discovering this whole bakery-culture – I was under the impression the Vietnamese aren't the biggest cake-eaters. Well, maybe they're not the biggest dessert-eaters is more like it. Anywise, loved the bakery.

First Westerner-sighting. !!!! In Bien Hoa that is. Were at our 'local' bar but this time on a Monday not the usual Sunday, and some English teachers from another school were there too playing pool! Ok, I complain about the Vietnamese staring at Westerners, but OH MY GOSH how I cannot blame them, I mean, a WESTERNER, such a RARE breed I was in awe! Didn't chat to them then, but bumped one of them later on our ROOFTOP POOL (have I mentioned our ROOFTOP POOL yet? Well, now I have.) which was well cool – my company's teachers are not the only foreigners in Bien Hoa.

(Off topic: One thing I can NOT count as a milestone is managing the Air Con. Dear Air Con, you were on 24 degrees the whole last night and I woke up shivering in my woolly socks and had to get up and turn you off. Now you are on 24 degrees again and the room is steaming. Please sort out your life. Though I do understand now why my room has both air con AND a fan... Dear Fan, at least I understand you. The only problem with you, oh fan, is you are so eager to please that I need to make sure to hide away on odd bits of paper since they WILL fly away thanks to your... vigour. SIGH)

First Karaoke. This happened a while back but I am quite bad at keeping up-to-date, apologies... Covered an adult class, it happened to be their last class so expected to be going through their test and doing some 'grammar games', but ended up on the back of a motorbike of one of the students, arriving at our very own Karaoke Room at a Karaoke Bar, singing My heart will go on and Bad Romance! The class had booked the room for their last lesson. The Vietnamese ADORE their karaoke. And since then I have hung out with some of the people from that class which has been cool both for their English, my Vietnamese and my cultural integration. :)
Me and my 'class' (which aren't really my class, more like friends)

First dress-shopping. It is not the funnest thing in the world getting half-naked in a corner of a random clothes shop with a random curtain pulled across you which keeps massively flapping away due to the fan. In some shops the assistant superkeenly would randomly enter your personal space mid-change and help you with the zip or something.

Quite luckily the dresses I embarrassingly did not manage to get over my bum were in shops where the shop assistant DIDN'T barge in. In one shop I tried two dresses – the first one I managed to get closed with the help of two shop assistants, but it was definitely a size too small. The next dress that I was eyeing up made the shop assistants look at me, the blue whaleish elephant roughly the size of Australia, a bit dubiously. BUT, I was well chuffed when I actually managed to fit in it (granted with a bit of zippy help from them), and they presented me with a pair of miniscule very high-heeled shoes which I guess are the obligatory dress-trying-on-shoes and praised the depness of the dress. (Have definitely used enough of the word 'dep' to last me a short while now, 'beautiful', 'nice', 'pretty' etc) In the end I got it, I have to decide still if it is dep enough to wear to next week's Christmas party...

More and more culinary delights. Number one is at the moment Bun Rieu, which is noodle soup with meat and dumplings/pilmeni/ravioli-type thingies in it. SCRUMPTIOUS. Today I was also introduced to Bun Tit Nuong which is the same noodles with meat and cut up spring rolls, STUNNING. I am bored of rice but all the mirriad different types of noodle soups are gorgeous. <3
Bun Tit Nuong courtesy of google <3
Also, one night had a dinner of street food – little men (or women) behind their little wheely stalls with various balls of funky meat, spring rolly-type things, sausages and general snacky food. Had spring rolls and an exciting green thing which turned out to have some sort of cheese in it, om nom!

First hairdressers. It finally came to the time that I could no longer ignore my roots, plus, next week is the above-mentioned super-glam CHRISTMAS PARTY which one absolutely cannot attend with rooty hair. But, do I trust Vietnamese hairdressers? I decided to.

One of my favourite Vietnamese people H, who works at my school, took me to her local hairdresser. Now, in Vietnam you should know that there are usually at least three people doing a job I am used to one, max. two people doing. Well, here, at the best of times I had four people doing my hair. One holding, one putting the colour, one doing something else. Or, well, drying hair is quicker with two people and two hairdryers eh!
I was a bit worried when they originally started doing everything else BUT my roots - I commented to Han, who translated for me, and apparently they were going to do the roots later. “Don't worry, they are experienced,” she reassured me. Ok. It's just very different...

So how did it turn out? STUNNING. Dep lam, very beautiful. I have rarely been that pleased after a hairdressers. Even my fringe has never looked so glam before, and as exactly sidey and as exactly fringey as I wanted!!!
The amazingly awkward yet lovely photo <3
They were lovely. I had Mr Sleek and Silent, Miss Lovely and Mr Cheery who, for the whole two hours looked as if he had just gotten out of bed – still in what I am pretty sure were boxers, and his hair constantly floppy and bed-haired. (Try and see if you can identify them from the pic...) But that didn't lessen the charm, I loved them and I would like to think they had fun doing my hair – I doubt dying hair red is on their everyday agenda, this out-of-the-way hairdresser in an already out-of-the-way Vietnamese town.


More Vietnamese words. Especially at the hairdressers H taught me a lot of Vietnamese, she is a brilliant teacher. For example, 'side fringe' is 'mái xéo' (literally 'fringe sloped'), with the intonation going up. (Though, easily to be confused with 'mai xèo' which would translate as 'tomorrow pancake'.) “So 'xèo xéo' would mean 'sloped pancake'?” I asked H over lunch. “You are intelligent,” she said, but then told me that it doesn't actually exist.

Oh, and also. So, the word dưa. It means melon. Like watermelon. (Not waterlemon as one of my teen classes adorably wrote...) But note, dừa means coconut. Confusing? Wait. And dứa means pineapple. It's all about intonation. I could get that printed on a T-shirt. Well, mixing those three up probably isn't the end of the world, I like melon, coconut and pineapple, so that's a safe word to practise on. Other words may be a bit worrying – I still don't completely understand the difference between the translations for 'beef' and 'avocado'. Well, maybe that isn't too serious either – I'm sure even if I mistakenly ask for a beef smoothie they may figure out it's not what I had in mind...
So I googled melon pineapple coconut

Being courageous enough to address people appropriately without feeling that I should be laughed out of the city, the country as well as the planet. Coz in Vietnamese you address the person you're talking to, AS WELL AS YOURSELF, differently depending on who it is you're talking to. So, I am now capable of saying 'chi' to females my age or slightly older, 'anh' to males my age or slightly older, and 'em' to kids... I still keep to silly-ignorant-foreigner-mode when addressing older people (though, technically, respect-wise it should probably be the opposite...) since my vocabulary confidence does not extend to the levels of successfully deducting whether the person you are talking to is classified under the 'aunt/uncle', the 'age of your parents', or 'age of your grandparents'-category...

First notebook. Because how can you NOT buy something with SUCH a powerful message. 

Climatal adaptation. Hahahaha no just kidding. You don't ADAPT to this climate. You just learn to avoid it at its most scorching heat. 

First funky watermelon. And when I say funky I mean funky. 

Ok, there are a few milestones for the time being.

(6.12 Editorial addition: First flick on the nose. This evening we were trying out chicken kebabs and after handing me my Coke the lady flicked me on the nose, laughed, said “dep” and walked away. I guess it's good I have learnt that bit of vocabulary since I understand it was a compliment (well, probably the first compliment I've got on my nose...), an odd one at that...)





  1. Haha, nauroin hevosvihkolle! Hienot hiukset :)

    1. Kiva että tykkäsit, en oo vaan vielä keksiny tarpeeks syvällistä täytettävää sille :( Kiitos!

  2. So a motorbike/moped/scooter is a cross between a car and a normal bike...

    If Westerners are such a rare breed, how rare is a red-haired Westerner?!? Speaking of which, I guess we shouldn’t tell Marita downstairs that she’s been outclassed by a Vietnamese man in boxers and unkempt hair and his three colleagues… I guess he dressed up for the photo and donned an apron.

    Your waterlemon/pineapple/coconut word: what is that symbol between the “d” and the “a”? It makes the whole word look even more unpronounceable…

    I trust by the time you leave Vietnam you will have cultivated the craft of waterlemon carving…

    Love Zapz

    1. Exactly. Haha I'm not sure if Marita ever dyed my hair? The symbol between the d a is a funny u, pronounced like the Russian bI is the closest I can think of (mix between Finnish 'ö' and 'y'). We'll see about the waterlemon carving...

  3. Dear Emma,

    Don’t be so ungrateful. You have woolly socks – enjoy using them. I slave away, overworked and underpaid, doing the best I can. I’m not simplistic like Fan. I’m a complicated and complex being. Take time to understand me. I should warn you, though: I do like to be unpredictable, and if I want to blow hot when you want cold and blow cold when you want hot, then you just need to get used to living with me. I’ve been in this hotel room longer than you, and I expect I’ll stay here long after you’ve gone.

    Yours sincerely,

    Air Con.

    1. You've actually behaved better recently...ish.

  4. I also took special notice of the woolly socks, like Air Con did. I'm glad a pair fitted in your suitcase! And like Hanna I loved the horse notebook with its philosophical message. Did the hairdressing young man put the apron on specially for the photo? You will soon speak Vietnamese fluently, I gather. :) How are the tones coming on?


    1. Naah he had the apron for most of the time I think! Tones are coming on, haha, not really, but trying :D