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Travel

So grateful:

For two things. One, that this work uniform exists in the world. Thanks, Korea. And two, that I don’t have to wear this work uniform. Thanks, fate!

Freelance diplomatting

Chinese tourists in Vietnam generally speak neither English nor Vietnamese. Which is fine, until they go off script.

I’m traveling today for business, and I’m staying in a pretty nice hotel in Da Nang. During breakfast, a middle-aged Chinese couple just wandered into my hotel’s restaurant. The greeter asked them for their room number, which is how they keep track of who has eaten breakfast from which room. Unfortunately, she was asking in English, and the Chinese couple clearly did not understand her.

It was a complete communication breakdown. I happened to be getting a glass of orange juice at the time, and saw the whole interaction. It was getting increasingly uncomfortable, so I decided I should help out.

I jumped in and helped translate between the two. Turns out, they weren’t staying here, but they wanted just to look around and see the food. (That’s a typically cute Chinese thing to do, my lovely wife loves a good buffet).

The tourism and hospitality industry in Vietnam is facing a new challenge. They invested a lot of effort in aiming their training programs to an international clientele that speaks English. Unfortunately, they are now dealing with a kind of tourist that they didn’t prepare for. As China gets richer, international travel has become more accessible to more people in China, including a large segment that does not speak English at all. Most Chinese tourists travel in groups for that very reason. If they follow the tacit rules, to stick with the group, no problem. But if they try to do something that wasn’t part of the plan, they hit a wall.

The food display was like artwork. I liked to look at it, too!

It was the first time I translated between two foreign languages, which was a challenge for my old and withering brain cells After just a short interaction, my brain was like scrambled eggs. But I managed to pull it off, barely.

And the funniest part was a few minutes later. I returned to my seat and resumed breakfast. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the couple finishing their tour and prepare to leave. Before they walked out of the restaurant, one of them turned around and surreptitiously took a photo of me. I suppose that our interaction was as interesting for them as it was for me, and now I will be one of their funny vacation stories for their friends back home: the weird white guy who spoke Chinese and Vietnamese.

Is it just me?

Or does it look like that tree is about to poop on that poor tourist’s head?

Can’t un-see it now, right?

Sunrise Over Cai Be

That’s the Saigon River.

 

Am I overreacting?

The video monitor in the lobby of the hotel broadcasts the names of their guests. Including the fact that some people are traveling alone.

Thanks for the grandly welcome, Indochine Palace Hotel, but if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather you not display my name in public like that.

As a physically fit white male, I don’t feel particularly vulnerable when staying in a hotel in a strange town. So I don’t feel that this violation of my privacy puts me at risk. But I wonder how I would feel if I were a woman? Would I want it public knowledge that I was alone in a hotel room? Would I feel like the hotel was advertising an opportunity to predators and criminals?

Maybe I’m overreacting, maybe my reaction is influenced by the current dialogue about sexual assault, and disregard for the rights of women not to feel like they could be victimized at any time. But maybe my eyes are being opened to the reality that women deal with every day. That they are vulnerable. That they have to be more cautious. That they don’t enjoy the freedom from fear that I do.

Am I overreacting? I hope so. But I fear that I am not.

Well, that sucks

Nothing like a house fire to ruin your day.

I took these from my hotel window this evening in Hanoi. I happened to have my camera, so I could zoom in and see the source of the smoke.

A nice musical perk

I went to Hanoi last week for a work trip.  As I’ve said many times, business travel is not vacation travel.  After I returned to Ho Chi Minh City, several people asked me “How was Hanoi?”  “I don’t know,” I replied.  “All I can tell you is how the airport, hotel, and embassy were.  I didn’t get to do anything in Hanoi.”

Although that isn’t totally true.  I had a nice dinner with a co-worker.  And I got a wonderful unexpected benefit.  On Friday evening, in the hotel that I was staying at, a young lady performed on a traditional Vietnamese instrument, and that instrument happens to be almost identical to one of my favorite traditional Chinese instruments.

So I got a little treat.  After several stressful days, it was relaxing to sit and listen to the beautiful music.  It almost felt like a vacation.

Almost.

Yes, that’s exactly what you think it is.

On my way to the airport the other day, I passed this pair of travelers. On the highway.

“Jesus is my seatbelt.”

Remnants or junk?

Last weekend I traveled to a coastal town, and we stumbled on a museum in the making.  A real estate developer has been collecting old vehicles that the U.S. military left in Vietnam after the war.  I think the idea is that they will make a museum as an attraction to lure people to stay in the resort that the company is building.

The process is in the early stages.  They have collected some equipment, but they haven’t done much work on it yet.  So, in all honesty, the site looks less like a museum and more like a junkyard.  Still, there is some interesting stuff.

Sure-fire diet plan

If you’d like to lose 5-10 pounds in only one week, then pay attention, because I have stumbled on a method to drop weight fast.  For the cost of one low-priced meal, you can watch the weight melt away.  It’s as effortless as sitting down.  And sometimes, kneeling.

Here’s how it works: you eat lunch at a restaurant that looks clean, but really isn’t.  Within hours, you will feel the process begin.  An unmistakable feeling of impending loss of matter from your body will start to percolate in your gut.  Before you know it, your body will begin to relieve itself of parts of you that you no longer need.  You will lose 2-3 pounds instantly. And that’s just the start!

As the days go by, you will not be hungry.  Think of the money you’re saving on food, as you lose that weight!  And when you force yourself to eat or drink something, your body will auto-correct for you, reversing your actions as fast as you can say: “Get out of my way! She’s about to blow!”

I’ve gone through this process three times since I’ve been at post, and each time, I’ve been super impressed by the results.  Sure, some people call me “sick,” or “pasty,” or “at death’s door,” but I think they’re just jealous of my slimness. Even the nice nurse at our med unit was so envious that she wanted me to take drugs to counteract my diet plan.  Just to humor her, I took the medicine, but we both knew that it wasn’t really necessary.

Added benefit: drugs!

In short, if you need to take a few days off work, and catch up on your sitting around not wanting to move, then I can recommend this method. I promise that in one short week, you will be thinner.  You will also have a new appreciation for the simple things in life, like not spending half your day in the bathroom.  The benefits of this plan are almost endless.

One word of caution: while you’re on this diet plan, you can’t trust your own farts. ‘Nuff said.