D'oh!Posted by Gala
Sun, October 24, 2010 02:50:16
There is a massive difference between not understanding and not wanting to understand.
I don’t speak Vietnamese or any Asian language, yet I am very willing to make a total and utter fool of myself in order to communicate; posted this before, but I have been known to moo, oink and clucked away doing the chicken dance when trying to express my lack of desire to eat beef, pork or chicken; I have mimicked boat raids, bicycles, trains and buses (often mistaken by truck, but hey!). Not shy when it comes to looking for underwear and have even managed to get a French manicure/pedicure + a waxing job… I’ll grant you that the waxing was way more thorough than I ever anticipated, but I got the job done… to the last detail... to the last, hidden, painful, unexpected for such a prude society, tucked away detail...
It was Hot wax. I will never forget it. As long as I live.
In Vietnam it seems so darned difficult to communicate, though! People are lovely, really nice yet unwilling to put their creative caps on and have a guessing game; when I have tried to get things I come out either being stared at like I just landed from Neptune or with something completely different than was I was hoping to get, I mean not eve REMOTELY close.
For instance, I wanted to light a candle in my room, so I go to the reception of the nicest hotel in Con Dao, where I have been staying for 3 weeks and ask for matches, not understood, I write the word "matches" and it doesn’t ring a bell, fair enough, I should really know the word in Vietnamese, so I start my little act: pretend to hold a small box in my left hand, with the right hand I pretend to be holding a match and in one and graceful, if I may say so myself- motion (away from the body, always light a match away from the body) and accompanied by a WHOOOOSH!!! sound I am holding an imaginary lit match between my fingers, pretend to touch it, get burnt and finally blow it out… it just didn’t work, the 4 little Vietnamese ladies (I think 1 was a guy) were just looking at me, completely dumbfounded… perhaps matches were not in use?
I had seen loads of people smoking and using lighters, so do as if holding a cigarette between my lips and lighting it (clicking thumb motion) took a big puff and all, GREAT!! Big nods and signs of recognition! Oddly they didn’t give the lighter to me right there, but instructed me to go back to my room, ignoring my protests: “5 minute, 5 minute!” they said.
True to their word, 5 minutes later a knock on my door and the technician standing there, big ladder in one hand, hammer on the other ready to fix the wifi in my room.
Seriously, and forgive my crudeness, but...WTF?!?
I was told that recently there was the recent release of the Vietnamese version of the the TV show "Charades"...
Cant wait tho see that... I would think it is the worst show on the planet and nobody wins. Ever.
D'oh!Posted by Gala Sun,
October 24, 2010 02:44:29
I think I have come to a solution for my eating disorder... by this I mean the ability to communicate what I want to have for lunch.
I realized that I could make drawings, the vegetarian diet has been quite an issue as the concept is completely unknown and when explained frowned upon, so I looked up tons of words for food in Vietnamese, jotted them down and made some pretty neat illustrations (added below), so that has been a life saver.
So: no shrimp, no lamb, no fish, no pork, no calamari, no chicken, no beef, no oysters.
This magnificent drawing clearly indicates I want none of that beef broth stuff..
Despite the fact that my poor drawing normally gets me what I need, or close enough, I was in a situation yesterday that was so silly I just had to laugh. I had gone to this shop many times before and I know the family well (on an unrelated note, beware of puddles when you are in the local store of a small Vietnamese town where there are babies around, that big pond you find in the middle of the shop is not to refresh your tired bare feet…I have learned that little kids run around without diapers).
So I come back to get some glasses, ugly as hell but nothing else available; the shop owner had moved things around and I could not find them, so I drew a picture of them, she showed me eeeeeeverything BUT: plastic jugs, tequila shots (??) coffee makers, buckets; he pulled out half of his store but no ugly-glasses; 20 minutes later I remembered I had noted the price down, so I showed him 6,000 VD et voila! He knew EXACTLY what I was talking about…. just with a number.
what? not dramatic?
Please see here my drawing and the print on the box and kindly explain it to me…
Mushy Stuff / Mariconadas
Posted by Gala Sat, October 16, 2010 08:16:11
At first glance, the traffic in Saigon (Ho Chi Min City) is a chaotic illogical maddening mess; we foreigners feel we must run for our lives as scooters do NOT yield for pedestrians, buses, cars or anything really; nobody gives way and it all seems like a carnage of loud honks and bright coloured helmets.
At a second glance one may notice a whole new set of unwritten rules: at peak time it is perfectly acceptable and expected for scooters to take the sidewalk as an extra lane, so pedestrians need to squeeze to the wall or walk right between sidewalk and pavement, jumping over gutters and countless spontaneous eating stations. Cars and buses intuitively convert a 2 lanes into 3 and all drivers -by means of some unspoken agreement- are entitled to invade the opposite side of the road should there be the tiniest space available to maneuver.
If you stay for a while in the city, there comes a point in which you have to decide: either you fear or embrace the beast; you run away or surrender to it, there is no in between. I took the decision to relent and not fight it any longer: no more running into traffic with my eyes closed, madly swinging a plastic bag to intimidate drivers and enough with waiting for hours at the time to cross the street.
I jumped in the back of a scooter-taxi, driven by a tiny, incredibly thin, 102 year old Vietnamese driver who spoke not 1 word of English; we agreed on a price by pointing at the speedometer (20kms = 20,000 Vietnamese dong 40kms = 40 dong, etc).
The traffic was insane, rush hour of a Friday afternoon, people eager to leave work, schools were finished and the weather is pleasant; Tiny guy is negotiating the curves with blood chilling sharpness and avoiding pedestrians by less than an inch; at that moment I decided to become one with the city and let myself go, relaxed the crushing grip my knees had subjected the poor driver to, opened my eyes and started to grasp how it all works.
Saigon is a living breathing organism, I now understand what the concept of pulsing city really means; every single person, car, truck, van, pedestrian, scooter, barking dog, playful kid, cyclist, rickshaw has a very specific behaviour, which seems to come naturally, without the need of any explanation; everybody knows what to do and smoothly (as by a miracle) move out of the way without so much as a glance, as if they had eyes in the back of their heads; ridding on the back of scooter I couldn’t help but to make the comparison of the city with the perfect mechanism of a body, the traffic flow is not unlike a rush of blood going through and animal’s veins, each organ has a purpose and activity, everything happens at the same time in an almost none-sensical synchrony and yet it all works perfectly, like clockwork; the heart beats, brain sends electric pulses all around, the stomach breaks food, lungs deal with breathing, hormones makes us do really stupid things and so it all happens at the same time; should one single organ stop it would all fail… same with traffic: should one pedestrian panic and stop in the middle of the road it would create a commotion, the flow would be interrupted and the system would collapse even if briefly so.
Riding the scooter, the wind on my face, the pissing pot they gave me as a helmet wobbling around, almost feeling the knees and elbows of other scooter drivers… I was a part of the big animal, doing my bit to keep the creature alive.
I loved it.
D'oh!Posted by Gala
Mon, October 11, 2010 07:17:53
“Lost myself in the streets of Burma” might be a very romantic notion, but the reality of it is far less appealing.
There is nothing new about me getting lost, whomever is acquainted with me or has walked by my side for 10 minutes will testify that I have no sense of direction what so ever. I had a lovely map with little pictures in it indicating the most relevant of the whopping 4000 temples in the town (FOUR thousand!) as well as the name of the 2 big roads clearly printed; I needed nothing more so I rented my bicycle, got 2 bottles of water, a card with the Guest House’s address and with a camera and enthusiasm fully charged off I go on my merry way, how hard can it be, right? WRONG.
One would think that with 4,000 temples I would be able to find a few, right? WRONG again, found NONE.
By now it was now 2pm and the scorching sun is at its highest and not a hint of clouds to relieve my sorry journey; finally I get on what I thought was the right road and all I wanted was to get back to my guesthouse and avoid the midday heat, I have been on the road for 3 straight hours and my butt is in sheer agony at this stage for I chose a man’s bike with a tiny seat made of -what appeared to me- concrete and way to low a handle bar, forcing me to hunch over.
My map makes no sense at all, it only has the names of the 2 big roads and none of the small streets, where as the street “signage” (kindly sponsored by a local tea company) indicates only the names of the small streets but not of the main roads, rendering the whole experience a royal mess.
I kept asking people for directions, and they are all very nice and vaguely pointed straight ahead (where else?! It is one single bleeping road!) and asking me where I am from and if I wanted to buy paintings. It has been now 4 hours, I have finished my 2 bottles of water, positively cannot stand to put my (now raw) bum on the seat, feeling angry, frustrated, hating Bagan, Burma, Asia, in fact the world with each and every single person in it, hating myself for thinking I could actually find my way and cursing all those who have a keen sense of direction.
I have been going around in circles so often than everything looks familiar now and the mental notes I had made to get me back are now totally blurred: I recognize everything and know nothing.
The little business card the hotel’s receptionist gave me was useless as it was in English, I was useless at reading the map and the map was useless because it was also in English and it seems people have no clue about it; when shown, the locals would turn it in every possible direction and seemed to be even more lost than I, and I fully understand that! This town dates way back to the 10th century and it is very likely that their ancestors build the place; generation after generation are born and die in the same place, so they instinctively know every square inch of town, it is encoded in their genetic composition for sure, so who the hell needs a map? Who would need to know where the main road is if it has been there for ever and ever? It is absurd to put it in print when its id RIGHT THERE where it always has been.
If I was shown a blue print of my childhood home I would make little sense to me.
Needless to say, this profound reasoning was nowhere to be found as I was entering hour number 5 of my ordeal, almost breaking into tears I asked a police man/soldier for directions, I had seen him just sitting in the same spot all 9 times I went through that road and he arrogantly brushed me off as a convoy with some generals was passing through and he needed to salute them; I instinctively knew that A) he had NO clue and B)was his one and only bleeping chore all day and I was cramping his style when his boss was riding by… like he would notice him.
I was tempted to just book another place to sleep, I grew convinced that the place had just shut down while I was away and moved to another town, in my –delirious- mind I could see my self going to the embassy, having to deal with a new passport, ID, credit cards and explaining how I fell into the “moving Guest House Scam” when it appeared like an oasis: “Nyaung Pya Tieng Guesthouse, All visitors welcome”, the Four Seasons Hotels never looked this good! like the pope, I jumped out of my bike and kissed the ground and walked into the reception like I had just dismounted a massive horse, walking with my legs wide apart, sweating like a Swede in a summer Bombay market.
You see, there are people who are wonderful at finding their way, you could drop them in the middle of Siberia and they could get back to Palm Springs, there are some who have no sense of direction and there are a few chosen ones who were born with an ANTI internal compass; it goes well beyond not knowing exactly were to go –if only- it is about taking absolutely every single possible wrong turn there is to take. Even when we try to “cheat” ourselves: if I would naturally tend to go left I might stop and think that MUST be wrong, I am always wrong! so I should take the opposite of what I think is correct, so I go left, which of course is the opposite direction.
We Compass-less folks can’t trust our instincts and can’t rely on the opposite either, it is futile, we just embrace it: you WILL get lost… always…regardless, so simple plan ahead extra time. When traveling it does get a little worse, specially in countries where the “alphabet” (can we call it that?) is a collection of in-comprehensive symbols, which just adds to the madness.
On a plus side, once we have come to terms with this handicap, it is a wonderful way to explore a town, this is the TRUE and honest meaning of “getting lost in an exotic place”, when you really have no clue where you are or where you are heading.
I have no doubt this compass-less syndrome is a condition not yet recognized by the medical society, but we are fighting for it! Only problem is that we have not managed to find the meeting place to rally our cause… seems everybody keeps getting lost.
Truisms for adullts
Quotes, jokes & Babosadas
Posted by Gala Tue, October 05, 2010 04:51:05
1. I think part of a best friend's job should be to immediately clear your computer history if you die.
2. Nothing sucks more than that moment during an argument when you realize you're wrong.
3. I totally take back all those times I didn't want to nap when I was younger.
4. There is great need for a sarcasm font.
5. How in the world are you supposed to fold a fitted sheet?
6. Was learning cursive really necessary?
7. Map Quest really needs to start their directions on # 5. I'm pretty sure I know how to get out of my neighborhood.
8. Obituaries would be a lot more interesting if they told you how the person died.
9. I can't remember the last time I wasn't at least kind of tired.
10. Bad decisions make good stories.
11. You never know when it will strike, but there comes
a moment at work when you know that you just aren't going to do anything productive
for the rest of the day.
12. Can we all just agree to ignore whatever comes after Blue Ray? I don't want to have to restart my collection.. .again.
13. I'm always slightly terrified when I exit out of Word and it asks me if I want to save any changes to my ten-page technical report that I swear I did not make any changes to.
14. "Do not machine wash or tumble dry" means I will never wash this - ever.
15. I hate when I just miss a call by the last ring (Hello? Hello?), but when
I immediately call back, it rings nine times and goes to voice mail. What did you do after I didn't answer? Drop the phone and run away?
16. I hate leaving my house confident and looking good and then not seeing anyone of importance the entire day. What a waste.
17. I keep some people's phone numbers in my phone just so I know not to answer when they call.
18. I think the freezer deserves a light as well.
19. I disagree with Kay Jewelers. I would bet on any given Friday or Saturday night more kisses begin with Miller Lite than Kay.
20. I wish Google Maps had an "Avoid Ghetto" routing option.
21. Sometimes, I'll watch a movie that I watched when I was younger and suddenly realize I had no idea what the heck was going on when I first saw it.
22. I would rather try to carry 10 over-loaded plastic bags in each hand than take 2 trips to bring my groceries in.
23. I have a hard time deciphering the fine line between boredom and hunger.
24. How many times is it appropriate to say "What?" before you just nod and smile because you still didn't hear or understand a word they said?
25. I love the sense of camaraderie when an entire line of cars team up to prevent a jerk from cutting in at the front. Stay strong, brothers and sisters!
26. Shirts get dirty. Underwear gets dirty. Pants? Pants never get dirty, and you can wear them forever.
27. Is it just me or do high school kids get dumber & dumber every year?
28. There's no worse feeling than that millisecond you're sure you are going to die after leaning your chair back a little too far.
29. As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate bicyclists.
30. Sometimes I'll look down at my watch 3 consecutive times and still not know what time it is.
31. Even under ideal conditions people have trouble locating their car keys in a pocket, finding their cell phone, and Pinning the Tail on the Donkey
- but I'd bet you everyone can find and push the snooze button
from 3 feet away, in about 1.7 seconds, eyes closed, first time, every time!
32. As you age, dark hair gets whiter and starts disappearing from where it should be while strange darker hairs start appearing where they never were and grow mightily.
33. It is a cruel injustice that you can still get zits as you wrinkle.
34. Sometimes one can envy the totally oblivious.
35. I miss the days when everything worked with just one ON and OFF switch.
36. I'm listing the federal government as a dependent on my taxes this year.
PhotosPosted by Gala
Mon, September 20, 2010 03:35:25
Again, apologies for the crummy pictures.
To be on the safer and more comfortable side of exploring, I hired an Agency "Savion Travels" NEVER use them! remember that name! sadly their planning was uninspired and they choice of Hotels very poor, to say the least. Not only that, after I complaint i have been getting non-stop stupid emails with excuses and loads of BIG question marks at the end of THEIR complaints. The concept of client, service recovery or plain old good service seems to be complete unheard of and I am now demanded an explanation with increasingly aggressive and idiotic emails. I guess now it is part of the anecdote: the Harassing Shi*ty Travel Agency with the Wounded Ego. (seriously: pass the word, and NEVER EVER use them! Savion Travels).
The trip was to Agra, New Delhi, Jaipur, Amber, Pushkar and loads of lil towns in between, taken around by a driver who did NOT speak English (thanks to the briliiant service of Savion), he pretended to be a silent discreet driver, but I know he just did not understand a word I said; nice fellow, not a comment out of place from him, that's for sure
Very dramatic places... in every sense... richness of colours, poverty, generosity, filth, chaos; gaiety; chamans running around totally stoned and half naked; people sleeping on the sidewalks; an obscene amount of famished dogs and cats with a funky attitude; public bathing in the holy river (where they also wash clothes, dishes and use as public toilet...) flowers everywhere; cows napping on the highway or munching away on the street; sunglasses stealing monkeys; acrobatic children doing back flips for a few coins; WONDERFUL food; cart pulling camels; cutesy squirrels stealing lunches; incredibly dirty holes on the ground posing as toilets although seemingly any place is good to alleviate any physiological need... why hide behind a bush if you need to... err... defecate? the side of the road at plain view is just as good!.
Did I mention dirty? yeah, well: dirty.
Saw many men standing around buck naked... what can I say? India may be cursed with natural disasters -and bad politics- but Mother Nature sure compensated Indian fellows with a whole chunk a... well... you know where this is going.
Finally: Taj Mahal... the most beautiful place I have ever seen in my life. The ultimate monument to love and despair.
Now I can die.
(don't mean now, NOW die... I am being melodramatic, of course, after all I am Latina)
PhotosPosted by Gala
Thu, September 16, 2010 10:16:18
Here are some pictures of Bhutan, as I have said before, I am a crappy photographer and they don't even come close to the beauty of the place.
(and yes, that is a massive d*ck painted on a house... apparently it brings protection and good luck.. who knew?!)
Quotes, jokes & BabosadasPosted by Gala Mon, September 13, 2010 11:13:40
A man and a woman were having dinner in a fine restaurant. Their waitress, taking another order at a table a few paces away noticed that the man was slowly sliding down his chair and under the table, with the woman acting unconcerned.
The waitress watched as the man slid all the way down his chair and out of sight under the table. Still, the woman dining across from him appeared calm and unruffled, apparently unaware that her dining companion had disappeared.
After the waitress finished taking the order, she came over to the table and said to the woman, 'Pardon me, ma'am, but I think your husband just slid under the table.'
The woman calmly looked up at her and replied firmly, 'No he didn't. He just walked in the door.'
A linguistics professor was lecturing his class one day.
'In English', he said, 'A double negative forms a positive. In some languages, though, such as Russian, a double negative is still a negative. However, there is no language wherein a double positive can form a negative.'
A loud voice from the back of the room piped up, 'Yeah, right.'
Two blondes went to the pound where each adopted a puppy. The joy of their new best friend was quickly overshadowed when they got home and the first blonde said, "I think we're in trouble, how are we going to tell them apart?"
This lead to several hours of concentration until finally, the second blonde said, "I've got an idea. We'll tie a red bow around my puppy and a blue bow around yours."
The next day the first blonde comes running up to the second when she got home, "Oh no, I can't tell whose puppy is whose. They've pulled the ribbons off while they were playing."
"OK, we need to find a better way to tell them apart," says the second blonde. After several more hours of concentration, they came up with the bright idea of getting different colored collars.
Again, the next day, the first blonde comes running up to the second as soon as she gets home, "Oh no, I can't tell whose puppy is whose. They've pulled their collars off while they were playing."
"There's got to be some way to tell them apart," says the second blonde.
After several more hours of concentration, the first blonde finally comes up with another idea, "I know! Why don't you take the black one and I'll take the white one!"
Back to Vietnam
D'oh!Posted by Gala Sun, September 12, 2010 05:17:57
SO happy to be in Vietnam!
I will be part of a super cool project in a gorgeous island and it could not have come at a better time as I have 13 buck left for traveling, close call!
After that is Abu Dhabi and after back to the West, yey!!!
I have been traveling for 8 months and have not had a home cooked meal in over 2 years (I did cook once in Germany).
Delighted with my trips yet happy to be on the very last stage of the Asian adventure.
D'oh!Posted by Gala Fri, September 10, 2010 08:57:07
Western Boys... so sorely missed!
Loving Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar, Nepal; love the traveling, spirituality, culture, learning, growing, seeing, investigating, experiencing, self-educating and culturing.
Missing the know how, the respect for vital space, the handshakes and Latin kisses on the cheek; miss the non-spitting or urinating in public policy; miss blond hair, blue eyes, men wearing pants (as opposed to sarongs & skirts); miss holding hands.
Miss kissing and hugging; being kissed and being held.
Miss understanding what people are saying; miss veggies and cheese (Asians do not generally consume it as they lack a specific enzyme so they do not digest it well). I miss knowing what goes on, high heels and clubbing. Miss the opera, ballet and theater. Miss not being laught, pointed or stared at.
Miss my children.
Miss my children SO much.
I believe I am reaching the end of my travels.