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Published: August 11th 2016
So, how many blogees, still staring at vacant screens....waiting for some more billshit from faraway?.....once more, with feeling, into the breech....Thit Vit Tit Tet - meat, duck, breast, lunar NY.
Yes, I cooked a duck breast for Tet...and it's taken me 3 months to remember to write about it.....maybe 7? Now I'm living in Da Nang, it is so peaceful. It's only at times like this (I'm in Saigon for a couple of days....not) that I realise just how much easier it is to live there. Clean air, great beaches, cheap everything, indescribable array of seafood and such friendly people, no traffic to speak of, bicycle friendly, best business environment in VN, infrastructure, well, what can you say? And, every 2 years, the international fireworks comp.
On the downside....hmmmm......some western tucker is harder to find, no biggie.....the big downside will be if the merde (shit) hits the quat (fan) out in the East Sea, we'll have a front row seat of the conflagration, but hey, it's more likely the increasing sea levels will take out 50% of the coastal plains and the Chinese islands before anything serious happens......debatable and ever increasingly scary....
Back to Tet and tits....one of
my friends had opted out of returning to her family for Tet so we hung out together, two Tet orphans in a sea of familial celebrations. A 9pm ride down to Dragon Bridge to watch it breath fire and smoke, a midnight ride down to the Tran Thi Ly bridge to watch the fireworks, so much excitement.
My young neighbours, Quyen and Duyen, took me out on day 2 for a family dinner with his mother and their clan, it is a wonderful time in VN. Duyen often walks past my house with their baby, like all the neighbours they understand magic....the magic of language transformation.... even a close encounter will engender the child with English.....by osmosis.....any overheard syllable will give an edge, education is everything. And maybe they're right.
One of my neighbours, a little girl of 4 or 5 quietly hangs around my gate in the afternoon, standing back while the noisier kids, and there are about a dozen of them, climb on my gate, calling out and laughing like drains, such great entertainment.....their parents tell them to talk with me of course but they're just out to have fun. Anyway, the quiet little girl waits
until the others have moved on then she stands at the gate or by the fence near the fish pond. I hold up fingers and count 1 to 10, now she mouths the words as I indicate, in a week or so she will be speaking out loud, in a month or two she's going to know basic numbers and letters....then she will have such an edge over the others, I can't wait......and she's very smart, her family are really poor, my neighbours next door however are quite comfortable, their 2 boys, 6 and 8, ride up and down the lane on their new 2 wheelers.....the little girl comes out of her house, looks at the boys, picks up an old bit of wood. She taps it on the ground, drags it along the lane, stops and stares at it intently...of course, one of the boys soon goes over to see what's so interesting....a bit of muffled negotiation.....and she rides off on the bike while the little boy stares at the useless bit of wood....priceless!
There's a bunch of little girls who regularly let themselves in if I've left the gate unlocked....often...........they kick off their shoes and run riot
through my house...they are like ants the way they find anything to eat.......icy poles in the freezer, cookies in the jar, fruit and nuts always on the table...and they always share everything so carefully, no fighting or arguing...then they discover my dive bag and parade around in flippers and masks and snorkels...my collection of bike helmets...jump all over the furniture....then, when someone's mother calls out across the neighbourhood they all scramble off...but they wash any dishes they've used, tidy some of the stuff they've discovered.....one of them was intrigued by my binoculars and indicated she wanted to take them, I said ok......a couple of days later she brought them back, just wanted to show someone...they are so polite and careful and so curious and inventive..amazing to watch although sometimes I have to shoo them out if I have work to do...hahaha....and of course they are all girls......
The fathers absolutely adore their daughters, it's lovely to see dads and daughters out on the street or at the beach, it such a weird dichotomy, because in general they have no respect for women, and even as the daughters get to school age a lot of the attention wears off, especially
if there are brothers to take the attention. And once the girls are married they virtually belong to their husbands, like property, and they are stuck....with mother-in-law, often the source of much agony....and so many men cheat on their wives, cheat on their girlfriends.....domestic violence is unfortunately quite prevalent, women at the market hiding bruises under scarves, nobody says nothing...bad grammar but you get it...
Enough of the bad....and enough of the huge paws...bear with me....it's the summer of our disconnect...they reckon they're fixing the internet undersea cable...hmmm, like sharkproofing it?...and it will be slow for a week or so...it's been a week or so. The internet has been pretty good for several months but lately it's gone slow.
So, now it's about 2 years since I started writing this, well, 7 months...crikey, thinking back to Tet and so much has happened since then. Did I just say 'je vinaigrette rien' for the second time?.....Ms Loan's friend from Dac Lac came last weekend and brought a huge bag of avocados....I'm eating them in all sorts of ways and contemplating freezing some...hmmm....peeled or not? peeled and smashed I'm thinking...w lemon/lime juice?
I was back on Ly Son island(s)
a couple of weeks ago....still a most wonderful place although busier than 3 years ago, lots of small hotels, luckily no big ones, streets a tad better...millions of roadside palapa-style restaurants, half 44gal drum bbqs and fresh seafood......and a great homestay...it was organised by my student Ms Tram, an engineer...and how wonderful it is to have an engineer in charge...talk about clockwork...in such a disorganised culture with total lack of planning ability she was magnificent! The little island was still pristine although discoverable by more punters...clear clean water, mobs of fish, coral and some colourful junk. I'd taken the skindiving stuff and resurrected the 'waterproof' case for the old camera...hmmm...after the first 20 mins I noticed some condensation...insert bawling emoji.....perished seal...hmmm.....anyways, Canon are sending me a new seal, via Mr Mike/Ms Loan postal service and despite my Canonman being unable to fix the screen, the camera seems to still work...hell, it's been down to Cousteauland with no problems...but 10 years on the shelf...well, that has an affect on every seal!
There's a new lookout on the big island for watching the sunrise from the old volcano....out over the East Sea...I see it here in DN every morning, but it
was still speccy from up on the mountain. A few people were up early to watch, there was a little kid, about 5, playing with a toy gun....I was so surprised....you almost never see kids playing with toy guns in VN....but then I noticed his parents were pretty affluent...big car, big sunglasses, big hair... etc etc and they were obviously preparing their son for going to school in the US.
And there was the big wedding down in the Mekong...Chef Peter and Tuyet, with their son David, Peter's Mum and Dad, a bunch of friends........a fantastic trip...a few daze in Saigon, down to Cao Lanh for the wedding... ..then lured further on into the Brando end of the Mekong, way down by the Cambodian border...I was tempted to slip across and say Hi to Australia's only resettled refugee and see what $500 million has achieved...
Then back to Saigon for a few days with Peter and the Saigon sports bar scene.......then off to Penang for a visa run and to try and find my old mate Lee Tan.....45 years since I was here at Batu Ferringhi........successful after some old fashioned, pre-technology detective work...what a hoot to see him
again. Malaysia in general and Penang specifically were overrun with security people, cops, military, spooks, terrorists?...there had been a security alert upgrade and everyone was on edge...multiple baggage handling searches, suspicious glances, I was a feeling a bit uncomfortable....and mobs of Arab tourists, bulky men in expensive suits and designer sunglasses, herds of sheepish women totally enshrouded...I think I vented on this somewhere else.....religion, don't get me started...how come all religions have the same basic tenets for a happy society?....but in reality all riddled with corruption, advocating hatred and fear, all about power and control...even Buddhism...all the same...and funnily enough all designed and managed by men....and all based on mens' fundamental fear of everything feminine....it is wonderful to live in a country like VN where religion is solely personal....very important part of the culture but never utilised for power or control...a few monks getting around, and like everywhere in the world, you rarely see a skinny monk.....and so many I've seen around various countries......well fed, on motorbikes, cell phones tucked into the robes, putting the hard word on impoverished suckers to support their lifestyles in prized palatial real estate properties....I'm sure there are some sincere or sincerely deluded, hidden away
Lee Tan, the tallest man in Penang...and "god's gift to Batu Ferringhi"...the tree!
on some selfless/selfish solitary search for some psychologically explicable mental dilemma...but.....back to Penang....
Out at the once beautiful, pristine, peaceful Batu Ferringhi fishing village it was a total clusterfuck, enormous, sprawling resorts, hotels, condom-inions, housing estates...huge walls and gates with industrial strength serious security guards......it took me 10 mins to find access to the beach!....and then discovered it was totally fcuked, blackish water, scarily unswimmable...I walked a mile down the beach...different coloured shit, same result...I searched for the old tree that stood near Lee's family house. It used to have a sign hanging from it "God's gift to Batu Ferringhi" being a small bit of shade on a hot beach. Later, when I caught up with Lee he took me to see the tree. It had survived when the family had been booted off their land to make way for a ginormous apartment block development. The family got a bag of peanuts by way of compensation...the apartments now sell for squillions....c'est la vie.....if your Chinese in Malaysia!!....which is why so many moved to Singapore.
But...the food was fabulously fantastic...I was going the pig three or 4 times a day...Malay, Indian, Chinese and hybrid...and with no running/swimming on the
beach I was gaining excess at a great rate of knots....the only bummer is that many of the restaurants are kosher/halal/mumbojumbo...whatever doesn't allow alcohol...man's not a camel and such good food deserves an accompaniment or 3....but, I was staying at a palatial although constipated same-same house in one of a billion identikit houses in identikit estates on the slopes leading up to the mountains, Irene and her sons were wonderful hosts and I had the run of the house and the kitchen so getting takeaway and having a beer with meal at home was even better.....Above the housing estates line however it was beautiful verdant impenetrable jungle, absolutely unchanged, stretching up to the mountains....some things never change....down lower though, the little freshwater streams that used to run down to the beach are all disgustingly fetid cesspools...all kept carefully hidden from the views of the rich cnuts in the resorts of course....
At night, all along the main road little stalls pop up, now that's something truly authentic and unchanged....for several kms the footpaths are an endless string of junk sellers with that familiar patter, radiant cheerfulness as you approach, scornful disdain cutoff as you pass by....
through the check points and metal detectors and searches...I was very happy to be back in VN...I was really aware of how safe it is here...despite the current stand-off with our northern neighbours and the East Sea tensions...
And after 7 weeks or so the bloody jelly fish have gone, nice to be able to swim the beach without getting stung. It's an annual occurence but getting extended as the sea temperature rises....hmmm. One of my friends this morning told me the Government is taking credit....they say they have scooped up several tons of jellies and that's why it's now clear....opportunism of Australian standards!
So, what else is there ??
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