things i'm getting used to.

After 9 months in Viet Nam, there are some things I am getting used to. Things that, when I dig way back in my memory to my first month here, I thought were craaazy...and that I now take for granted and forget about most of the time. Here are a few:

1. Stairs. Most buildings in Hanoi have at least 4 storys. I live on the 4th floor of my house. The canteen that I eat in at work is about 6 flights of stairs up. While my general fitness level has decreased drastically since coming to Viet Nam/quitting running, I am pretty sure I'm developing amazing calves.

2. Vietnamese coffee. Very strong, small quantity, usually iced, made of robusta (rather than arabica) beans, served in a glass with a dinky little spoon, which is essential for stirring in the sweetened condensed milk. Most delicious when drunk while sitting on a small plastic chair. Going rate: somewhere around 60 cents a glass.

3. Chopsticks. I didn't know how to use them before I came here--now I completely take them for granted. As far as table manners go, I am also getting quite used to reaching way across the table to grab what ever I want, or shamelessly picking the morsels I prefer from a mixed dish or soup. Just a little heads up for those of you who may be hosting me when I return to the States!

4. Funny English. This is particularly amusing on t-shirts. My personal favorite: Lets Make Out! (complete with a small, cartoon cat pictured inside the "O").

5. Compliments and Insults. This could probably be a whole post in itself. I am so used to hearing that I am beautiful, that it doesn't mean anything to me anymore. I automatically think--both cynically and realistically--"You mean I'm tall and white, right?" Conversely, people don't hesitate to inform me that my new haircut is ugly, or that I am fatter than the last time they saw me.

6. Traffic. The other evening traffic was simply terrible on the way home from work. I mean, it was a new level. But I wasn't really that annoyed by it--I rarely find myself in a hurry these days--just curious. I am really interested to know what makes traffic worse on some days than on others. Things like time of day and holidays make sense, but sometimes I try to take all those factors into consideration and still come up with...nothing.

7. Rice. At least twice a day.

8. Random men peeing by the side of the road. Or in the park. Usually 2 feet from the nearest WC.

9. Not knowing what's going on most of the time.

10. The gecko that lives in my room and makes very loud clacking noises around 5 a.m. Closest comparison I can think of is the sound of a high-pitched woodpecker.

11. Public announcements/music at 6:30 a.m.

12. Pale=Beautiful. No matter how hot and muggy it is, women wear long sleeves and/or gloves when riding xe may to protect themselves from the sun's uglifying rays.

13. More than 2 people on one xe may.


  1. Yesterday I was on my way somewhere and there were THREE men, within 5 feet of each other, peeing. And not even into a tree or anything, just a large dirt lot. I know the peeing in normal, but something about that picture still seemed odd to me...

  2. re: #9 OHMANYES
    re: #13 Look at those beautiful (read: pale) women! How old are they? Are they married yet? The one in the middle is wearing an awesome helmet; how much did she pay for that?