Sunday, February 17, 2013

Visiting the (not) Can Tho Family (Feb 13)

What do I mean by the (not) Can Tho family?  This is Ba's family, and they used to live in Can Tho (which is around two hours from here via Vinh Long City, to the Northwest).  It takes this long, because with no speed limits, everyone drives at a blistering 30MPH.

Well, some buses drive faster, achieving close to 38MPH.  We stuck with 30.

Anyway, the family used to live in Can Tho, but some government thing happened and something else happened, and they had to move back to their original land.  Or something like that.  Anyway, they have the distinction of being one of the few places in the middle of nowhere, with paved roads all the way to the house.  Due to some government involvement or other.

Anh Duy showed up late the night before, I guess, in order to go with us to see the family.  I missed his arrival.  Let me back up.

I have complained about the chickens screeching at 4am, and every hour thereafter, every night.  I'm not sure I've complained yet about sharing a bed with Alex (who moves around constantly), but consider the complaint made.  The night before this particular trip, a cricket decided to ruin my sleep as well.

I woke up around 4, with the stupid cheep cheep cheep sound, repeating endlessly.  I tried to ignore it, but I couldn't.  Finally i got up to investigate, and the cheeping stopped.  I laid back down.  Cheep, cheep cheep.  I got my iPhone and turned on the flashlight to find the stupid thing.  That shut it up again, but I couldn't find it.  I gave up and laid back down.

Cheep, cheep, cheep....  Tu started laughing.  Who knew she was awake?  Then Alex started laughing. "That's crazy," he said.  Gaaaaaaahhhhh.  I got up one more time and moved the cereal box, my laptop case, and Alex's megablock container from the floor next to the bed, to the living room out front.

I laid back down.  Eventually, I heard the cricket again, but this time, coming from the living room.  Apparently the stupid bug was in one of those things I moved.  Of course, none of us could go back to sleep, and we had to leave at 6am anyway (I swear Tu said 7am).  So we just got up.

I didn't realize Anh Duy was sleeping on the floor in the living room, and I just moved the noisy cricket next to his bed.


Anyway, back to the trip.  The van/SUV/whatever taxi showed up, and we got ourselves loaded on board.  I took some pics along the way, most of them not particularly interesting.  They're also mostly out of focus, due the the incredible speed at which we were traveling.  Here's a pic of me and Tu in the back of the van.

And Alex, asleep in Ba Ngoai's arms.

Can Tho bridge leads directly into Can Tho.  It has some history... including a collapse during construction.  It is loooooong.  Because we're in a delta, rivers come in several parallel waterways.  The main one reminds me of crossing the Missouri, but it's not the only waterway the bridge crosses.  I have video of the crossing... which means I don't have any still pics.  But here's a pic through the front window, as we approach the up-ramp (It's really tall, ships go underneath).

So, more mundane stuff...  Once through Can Tho and the Tay Do areas, about twenty minutes further, we stopped for... you guess it!  Pho.  More Pho.  Look, I know Pho is the quintessential Vietnamese dish.  If you can't get it done right here in the motherland, where can it be done?

Well, apparently in the States.  I've had Pho twice now in Vietnam, and that is two times too many.  Wait - Tu made it here at the house, and it was actually good.  So, 1 out of 3 times it was good.  Bad odds, bad.  Anyway, here is the restaurant, named Pho Duy.

The Pho Duy in Broomfield CO is pretty good; so I guess all Pho Duy's are not created equal (as I stated elsewhere on FB).  I have other pics; a closeup of my bowl (boring), Tu looking disgusted with hers, a. Duy looking disgusted with his, and Alex looking disgusted with the whole idea of riding 3 hours in a car.  I won't bore you (or me) with them.

Instead, enjoy these:
Common scene - guy peeing beside a busy road (or highway, in this case)

Also common - toddler jammed between parents on a bike, on a busy road
(just like Alex, on our other motorbike trips)

Dragon dance for Tet

Small children walking within a couple of feet of busy (relatively fast) traffic - I'd never be comfortable with my kids doing this, but it is common.

So, I've spent all this time getting to the relative's house.  Finally we arrived and... well... nothing really happened.  Three things stood out -- not all good.

a) The house is on a fairly large bit of land.  Out back are several parallel waterways, maybe 300 meters front to back, with strips of land between.  Mostly they grow coconut trees, but there are also veggies and other things going on.  We climbed into a canoe and paddled our way around for awhile, then did it again later.  I pretended I was Charlie Sheen in Hot Shots part Deux.

b) I avoided eating a Scooby.  There's more to say about this, and I'm not going to say it.

c) Alex's distant cousin, Quan.  He's in 3rd grade, has several girlfriends and an cell phone, and he's a character.  He took Alex by the hand and led him around, and generally steered him away from the dangerous and dirty areas.  He knows a decent amount of English, and made Tu give him her phone number.

Those are the highlights - here are a few more pics from the day trip...

Eventually, we travelled the 3 hours back to Vinh Long (the countryside, not the city.  actually, through the city.  nevermind).

That's all for now.  There will be one more post (probably), but it won't occur until after we get back home.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Tet (Feb 9, 10, 11)

To clarify, Tet (Lunar New Year) was Feb 10.  This post covers three days, or so.  There's really not much to say about our activity (or inactivity).

With respect to Tet, we usher in the year of Snake.

The evening of the 9th, we were eating dinner on the front porch after sunset.  The dogs suddenly went doggie and ran to the gate yipping and yarping.  I saw a bunch of people outside the gate, but it was too dark to see who it was.

After a bit, Ma went to check on them, but they'd already got the gate open, and came up to the porch.  I saw kids.  Lots of kids, actually.  Followed by a few adults (moms, aunts, whatever).  They all said hello, Alex did his "con thich con tai" trick ("I like girls") followed by "chuc mon nam moi" ("happy new year"), and the kids went inside.  See following pics (some more of Di Hai's family, as it turned out):


Next day - Tet.

c. Thu, a. Son, and HyHyy (Tu's older sister, her husband, and their younger son -- remember?) arrived from HoChiMinh city.  Also, a. Duy (Tu's brother) arrived with a friend Uyen.  Total of 10 people in a 3-bedroom house.  Arrangements were made - this is no big deal, especially for Tet.

After dinner (If I recall) everyone except Ba and Ma hopped on motorbikes, and we went to see a Cambodian temple some twenty minutes south/west on QL53 (the opposite direction from Vinh Long City).

I must say, Buddhist temples have a tendency to use every color in the world, for decoration.  Ornateness is sort of a requirement, I guess.

Tu and Uyen.  I include this only because Kim noticed they look like they are doing the worship (she asked where is the incense).  Actually, they are putting on make-up.


Day after Tet.  More of Di Hai's family.  She has a lot of family.


And one more pic just for fun:

That was a long post.  Sorry.

Next up is our trip to Ba's family.  That won't be overly long.  And there is probably one port post after that, but it won't get posted until after we get back in the U.S.

Vinh Long City (Feb 8)

So we decided to go to the city.  It's about 25 kilometers north of here, across several waterways, over QL (highway) 53.  We have two motorbikes.  I like the Honda Super Dream, because it is easier to drive.  It's also smaller, bumpier, and less comfortable for the riders.  So I drove the bigger bike (Mega-Dream?  whatever...).  It's nicer to ride on, but I'm more worried about dodging buses and trucks.

There are a lot of buses and trucks to dodge.  On a two-lane highway with potholes.  Fortunately, speeds rarely exceed 30MPH... but a head-on is still 60, and that's serious.

Anyway, we got our helmets, locked the house, and rode the 25km to the city.  It was fun.  Alex likes riding the motorbike, but he's always disappointed when I drive because I make him sit behind me, in front of Tu.  Ong Ngoui (grandpa) lets him sit in front.

Riding is really nice - it was early in the morning, so the wind was still a little cool.  We wore masks, so I couldn't wear my glasses (they fog up), so I had to dodge bugs as well as buses.  Nevertheless, it was a nice drive.

We got into town, and I followed Ba and Ma around a corner and into a parking lot.  Oh, it's a Pho place.  Awesome!  Pho for breakfast!  They like this place - they came into town 4 times in a month just to eat here.  I was excited!


Then I was disappointed.  They had too much sugar, and no spice in the soup.  Tsunami is better.  Pho Mai is better (I suppose, I never ate Pho there).  It made my tummy complain.

Then we went to CoopMart, and I was happy again because I could buy Custas and chocolate vinamilk.  It took Alex a while to get used to CoopMart, but eventually he was running around causing trouble, like normal. :-)  The pics are out of focus because, two-year-old in CoopMart.

After CoopMart, we went to DongA bank, where you can get 2.0% interest on US dollar deposits, which is 20 times what you currently get in the U.S.  Go figure.  We also stopped by a pharmacy and picked up some Omeprazole, which is good for all kinds of acid reflux prevention.  Then we drove back home.

Typical CoopMart parking lot 



Shampoo.  Or motor oil.  I'm not sure which.

 Looking for something to pull off the shelf.

Ba and Ma looking for... something - a new broom, I think.

 Hmmm... what should I break?

 XaXi (or Sarsi)... a local variation of root beer.  You might not like it, but Tu does.  Also, I do.

I tried translating this sign.  I think it says "If you steal this ugly box, we will shoot you."

Well, Ba didn't drive straight home.  He stopped at the market, and we drove straight home.  Then we realized we didn't know the combination for the lock on the gate, so we drove back south on the dirt road again, then turned back east toward TL901 (generally, back in the direction of the local market), just for fun.

The road is under construction, which means after the very dangerous soft dirt, you get moderately dangerous small rocks, and then a quarter mile of un-navigateable large rocks, which will (some day) be turned into small rocks.  And we're still on the big bike which doesn't maneuver well.

So we turned around and went back the way we came, and I almost laid the bike down again in the soft dirt.  But all is well.  We got home, and I had my Custas and chocolate milk.