07 September, 2006

Settling in...

With the addition of other nannies to my social life and a steady yoga schedule, I have been feeling much more at home in HCMC. I have my own transportation, which is incredibly freeing (and the route from home to work is the perfect length with LOTS of visual stimulation on the sides of the roads-- buddhist temples, clothing shops, fruit stalls, soup stalls, fresh flowers, bakeries aplenty), some flegling friends, and a general idea of how to manage my time.

Some observations about Saigon:

1. Remember those belts that were popular last year (or maybe a few years ago, who knows, I was living in Canton) that are really wide and have a few buckles stacked vertically, and you wear them at your natural waist? Well, for some reason, the Vietnamese police (whose uniforms are a baggy tan color) have taken to wearing them slung low across their hips. It's really fascinating to see the combo of a cream-colored fashion leather belt and Communistic traffic control.

2. There is actually a formula to driving on these crazy roads. And it's actually the closest thing to my middle-school understanding of communism that I've seen yet: the power of the people en masse. When wanting to turn left into oncoming traffic and it's not at all your turn (or there's no traffic light to signal whose "turn" it is) just edge forward on your motorbike, which encourages the others around you to do the same, and inch by smoggy inch you will stem off the flow of traffic coming towards you and you can, as a group, proceed safely. Then when the other group of people, who are now tired of watching your gaggle of bikes pass them by, feel like it's their turn, they all --without speaking or signaling to each other-- begin to inch forward until they have ebbed off the flow of traffic in their way. Amazing.

3. If you are riding a bicycle, you are a peasant and you do not have to pay to park like all the motorbikes and cars do. The parking lots attendants (well, sidewalk attendants) just take pity on you and point to a corner near the back. Yesterday the bakery guy gave my new bike seat an appraising squeeze and deemed it worth to stay at the front. Go, little green apple bike!

4. My favorite thing that I've learned lately: the Vietnamese word for tourist is du lich, which is pronounced "you lick." I am not kidding. SO much nicer than saying "you suck" but it equals about the same sentiment. You lick, tourists.

5. There is a shop (there's probably dozens) that sells vintage propaganda posters, and they are beautiful works of art and at the end of the year, look out, cause I'm bringing home a foot-high stack. They're block printed on handmade paper/fabric and feature slogans for the commies that are quite beautiful and look like they're from the homesteading movement from the 1970s: farming, family, bread is power, all strong women, flowing hair, smiling babies, swirling colors, lots of waving wheat and of course the sliver moon sickle. So cool.

Now I'm off to the market to buy more shrimp and fruit. I'm planning on doing a big stir fry to get my plate-full-o-veggies fix.

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