Saturday, September 30, 2006

The Vietnamese Coffee Ritual

I've been teaching my academic English classes in the higher levels how to write and talk about a process - it's one of the skills they need to score high on the IELTS exam entry for Australia. One of the topics is: Talk about how to prepare a cup of coffee - now that sounds easier than it actually is in Vietnam as making a Ca Phe Da (iced black coffee - the caffeine currency of choice in VN) truly is a process worthy of mentioning.

Traditionally the Vietnamese coffee ritual is a six step procedure.

Step One:
Choose your blend. Just like in most Western countries, choosing your blend truly is a class battle. Bourgeois coffee shops usually opt for the more expensive "Trung Nguyen" brand of coffee with its superior aroma and smoother taste, whilst prols and street vendors usually go for any wholesale (think Macro-sized bags) brand which is not as refined in flavour and usually much stronger.

Step Two:
Boil the water. Whilst this step is reaching a climax, it is customary to offer the client a glass of Tra Da (Iced tea).

Step Three:
Mount the coffee filter with the correctly measured amount of ground coffee on a tumbler, pour the boiled water over the coffee, put the lid on, serve it to the customer together with a pot of sugar, a tall glass of ice and a long spoon.

Step Four:
Wait for the coffee to drip (it takes about five to ten minutes), savour the unique coffee shop atmosphere and watch the interaction of other customers, listen to the inevitable drumming of rain on the sink roofs or just inhale the aroma of well-brewed coffee.

Step Four

Step Five: When your coffee has finished dripping, remove the filter, stir in the preferred amount of sugar and pour into the tall, ice-filled glass and rigorously mix the liquid refreshment.

Step Six: Enjoy.

Now if you described the process like that you would score a nine or ten out of ten in my class depending on the correct use of body language and hand gestures :)

My neighbourhood

I took a walk around my neighbourhood the other day. Don't know why I didn't think about it before, but it was probably because it pretty much rains every single day here - dampens the spirits a bit sometimes.

Emmie - hier's my weergawe van 'n profile - my vriend Nguyen Chi Powder

This is my version of a creepy paparazzi weirdo who hides in the bushes taking pictures of former professional sports stars who've let their mid-riff go a bit...this is down at my local neighbourhood sports club which is actually just two tennis courts and a swimming pool

Finger lickin' good - it doesn't come much fresher than this - plugged, plucked and prepared on the spot.

Hitchin' a ride to school

Friday, September 29, 2006

Le Quy Don

I've been writing a story about Le Quy Don Street here in Ho Chi Minh City and taking some photies too.
A funeral procession (I think the deceased was an university professor) as there were many students and mourners: White symbolises death and tears in Vietnam
The staircase inside a Korean Restaurant

Outside a Vietnamese restuarant Bun Viet

Also outside Bun Viet

Polly wanna a crack pipe

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Survivor: Ceres

Okay, now this is a funny disaster story by our good friend at the Cape Times Karen Breytenbach about two fishermen who got caught in a flood and rainstorm and were stuck in the Ceres Mountans for a few days, but, and this is a big BUT: What makes it REALLY funny (and in a sense pretty scary) is that one of them here fishermen be Alan's (aka Mullet) brother, ay!

God Bless Phil the Fisherman: I think he should hook up with my good Vietnamese friend Nguyen Van Troi "The Fisher King" (see previous post: Dis mooi né?). They could swop fishing stories over a bottle of Old Brown Sherry and a visbraai on the beach. Kingsley Holgate ain't got nothing on this duo.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Horsing around

I just read this article on News24 – yes, the site has not been banned (yet) in Soviet Nam – on how 'Organised crime targets sport'.

Pharmaceutical companies are scoring big time cashing in on parents who approach sports scientists and nutritionists and what-not to supply their soon-to-be-superstars kids with these illegal, performance-enhancing drugs.

Since it’s become public, they’ve found it harder to supply these drugs and some are now turning to untested veterinarian products instead. Now that’s not as weird as it sounds, as I know people - I won’t mention names – who have tried the occasional horse tranquiliser (Ketamine aka Special K) and are none the worse for it. How it can enhance performance, however, I don’t know though, as these people end up thinking they’re melting scuba-divers, trying to swim away on the dirty carpet of their dodgy flat for a few hours or overindulge, lose control of their muscles, disappear down a "K-Hole", hallucinate and lose the ability to comprehend language all the while squibbering around like fish-out-of-water till the effects wear off.

I’m sure there must be some kind of animal drugs which can help sports people, like an endorphin supplement used in bear-baiting (boxing, wrestling) or an amphetamine for greyhounds (athletics) or something, but I’d like to see an established professional sportsman try them. For example, let Os du Randt try one of these “uppers” and record the before and after effects. Before: Os du Randt. After: Bul du Randt. Should be a laugh.

I hope the South African Police Service crack down on these illegal horse-traders instead of spending their time on trivial matters like solving murders, rapes and hijackings.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Smash my head with a baseball bat - Mr Anarchy, Streetfighter, Black Cat

Tanka tanka tanka tank tank, tinky tink tink, tinky tink tink. Ho Ho ho, what a sporting weekend. Sometimes, I don't mind starting the week on the back of such a wholeheartedly sporty couple of days. The weekend was like a jelly-filled doughnut - except this time it was filled with the adrenalin-pumped blood and passion of the Ryder Cup and the frenetic pace of the English Premier League. Okay, admittedly, it wasn't a SuperSaturday as they oh-so originally dub the big weekends on Supersport, but it was good enough for me. A few passion-filled encounters is better than a whole line-up of weak, heartless ties - just like a good, creamy doughnut is better than three shrivelly, old dry ones.
Darren Clarke - whatta man he is. He epitomises the new-money lack of style and class of the working man-cum-rich cliché, but without the arrogance and drivelling self-pitying contradiction these Gatsby's of the 21st Century so often drag behind them like a dead horse.
Standing at the 18th of The K Club, waiting for his mate Colin Mongomerie to finish on Saturday afternoon, cigar in mouth and extra one in hand (whether it was for him or for Monty is not known), Clarke looked like a man in the final stage of bereavement - acceptance - after his wife passed away only six weeks ago after a long-suffering battle with breast cancer.
On the final day, he swatted off American Ryder Cup rookie Zack Johnson and stood back to watch Henrik Stenson finish the formalities as Europe made America kiss their Blarney Stone by a record-equalling 18½ to 9½ set two years ago at Oakland Hills. It was great to watch, as American Captain Tom Lehman, ever the bigger man, stood back and applauded their effort.
Oh and Paul Casey's hole-in-one on the Saturday to win another point for Europe was just another of the numerous highlights this year's Ryder Cup produced. I'm not even American or European and the competition kept me captivated - I can just imagine what it must have felt like for the fans of the nationalities represented...
And if that wasn't enough, the Premier League tie between Chelsea and Fulham was just as hard-fought - with Chelsea finally coming out trumps 2-0 courtesy of Frank Lampard's two-goal resurgence. There's nothing like a local derby - and they don't come more local than that one, with Stamford Bridge about 2 kilometers up the road from Fulham's Craven Cottage - it's a suprise the Blues even took the bus.
Make no mistake, although Chelsea had more talent in their reserve side than Fulham's first team - they didn't dominate the Cottagers - as the form book grew wings and flew out the window. Bones crunched, heads clashed, crowds jeered and chanted, booed and jeered, Michael Brown dived into Petr Cech's head with his boot, players limped or crawled off only to jump right into battle again - it was a massacre - and that, my friends, THAT, is what football is all about. It was fantastic to watch: no-holds-barred pride and pure passion.
Zartz - I can't wait for next weekend.

Updated Fantasy League

Friday, September 22, 2006

Eye on the weekend

It’s been a tough kickoff to the new football season for teams like Newcastle and Liverpool, not just for the footballers and coaches but for the dedicated fantasy league players as well.

More experienced teams such as The Magpies and Mullets FC have been outplayed (or fantasized?) by upstarts like the Wretched Wilburys, the ilk of which can be considered to have had a lucky break with big risks paying off early.

Although overshadowed, the likes of Henno and Alan are soon to take command of the ever-competitive Hoskop League, especially with things heating up after a bottle of Scotch single-malt whisky as been added to the equation.

With Everton traveling to Newcastle and Tottenham playing away at Anfield, the “real” Premier League will probably take a close second to what’s happening in the fantasy league this weekend.

Here’s what things look like after Gameweek 6:

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

The Master of his Universe

Okay, as most of you who know me know, I'm probably one of the biggest JRR Tolkien fans in the world - I've had posters, paintings and drawings of Middle-Earth all over my room at home, in my flat, and if I could have afforded to bring them with - then they would have been in Vietnam as well. I've read the holy book of fantasy - The Lord of the Rings - about 5 or 6 times and The Silmarillion three times. It's engraved on the inside of my skin. I've even tried to learn Quenya when I was younger, but it was pretty much on par with my learning of Vietnamese - gutwrenchingly bad. I dreamt of the Valar, ents and Melkor. Sometimes I still do, which is just weird.

So, to my utter and most pleasant suprise, I saw that Christopher Tolkien, the genius' son, had edited a new Tolkien novel, to be published early next year. Talk about a bonus! It going to be based loosely on the "The Wanderings of Hurin" - which just happens to be my favourite tale of doomed love and despair in the whole world (matched only in doomed love and despair by the "Tale of Turin Turambar"; Hurin's son - and is to be called Children of Hurin. This better be good, but I'm sure it will because Christopher has spent the last 30 years editing the damn thing.

Television has proved that people will look at anything rather than each other - Ann Landers

I guess an update is in order, but as with most things when people don’t have anything to say they say too much and not really in the general direction of any cognitive outcome but let’s try.

Let’s start with the bane of the technology era - Television. Seeing as I STILL don’t have a computer at home, I have to demean myself to watching reality shows on Star World at night – during which time I became an avid follower of Rockstar Supernova. For those not familiar with the show – here’s the run-down. Three nearing-over-the-hill-but-not-quite-there-because-they-ran out-of-breathe rockers are looking for a new front-man or women for their band Supernova. The ONLY reason why this show held appeal to me was that one Jason “I have a huge neck toned from years of headbanging” Newsted of Metallica fame was one of the members of the band. The others are the effervescent Tommy “The Tommy Hawk” Lee of Pamela and Mötley Crüe fame and Gilby Clark from the classic 80s outfit Guns ‘n Roses.

Anyways, so I was glued to the screen for a few weeks, watching them whittle away at the contestants, dropping, in my humble opinion, three guys who would have been kickass frontmen (Ryan, Magnus and Toby) as well as a hard-rocking South-African born Dilana to choose instead a little Canadian hobbit called Lukas Rossi. It totally went against what the three pioneers of the metal music scene should have stood for and just pissed me off that they could pick this lip-gloss-wearing, peroxide-streak-toting little man with the on-stage antics of a Las Vegas diva meets Evita Bezuidenhout to lead them on a world tour. But hell, who am I to judge. I think Supernova only held the show to buff up their pension and after their world tour are fated to break-up due to “irreconcilable musical differences” (in other words, Lukas kept stealing Tommy Lee’s mascara and would puke on himself in the first hour of the post-performance afterparty” – hugely embarrassing to all and damaging the egos of the other three).

So now that Supernova’s finished, it’s back to the Vietnam specialties: 10 000 dong (R4) bad quality dvds, when, while watching, there’s a two in seven chance you’ll see the silhouette of someone standing up in front of the video camera that’s illegally recording the movie in the cinema to go to the toilet. At least the older movies have been remastered in a sense and the series’ aren’t band. Thus, in the last few weeks when I return from work I’ve watched a host of classics as diverse in genre as one can imagine (Last week I watched Predator and Trainspotting and part of the Fawlty Towers series). Right now I’m watching Over There about the Iraq invasion – pretty stereotyped, not portraying any comment about the war and gruesome in parts but not bad at all.

On tomorrow’s menu: Books, magazines and newspapers.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Saigon Upside Down

Sorry I haven't been able to blog recently, the Internet's been down for a while here in HCM City, but it doesn't really matter because I just spent the weekend crying over Steve Irwin and Newcastle (in no particular order). I'll be back in action soon, probably talking about the football (Premier League and Champions League) so sorry to those who were looking for anything deep about culture, politics or life outside football, but Loesil - at least this may help you with your tenure in the sports sub-editing department :)

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dis mooi né? Part 2

Some more pics from the weekend

Dis mooi né? Part 1

Here we were, three o' clock in the morning, walking down a desolate road somewhere in the Vietnamese countryside. We could smell and hear the see, but it was hidden from view by what looked like looming, impenetrable jungle on both sides.

"This is the stuff they warn you about in Apocalypse Now," said Christoff.

"This is why we shouldn't have drunk a bottle of rum on the bus here."

That's actually where it all started. I finished work the Friday afternoon at 5:30, sped home and quickly packed my bag while Christoff sorted the "Walky Drinky" squeegy bottles with some Captain Morgan and Pepsi for padkos. We went down to Pham Ngu Lao where we had a few Tiger Drafts while waiting for our bus to Mui Ne - pronounced "Mooi Né", imagining what wild and wonderfully exotic beach resort we would stay at. Little did we know that the one we were staying in was, as they say, "off the beaten track", down a side road some 15 kms from the main tourist beach aea - in fact it was in another area code.

We had fun on the bus, just generally talking crap and laughing, and after about 4 hours of driving we showed the bus driver our business card of the Dong Hai Resort, when we thought we were nearing our destination.

Walky Drinky - the way of the future - a trick learnt from many intervarsities

The dude just nodded and we carried on. A while later, his assistant came to us and said he wanted to look at the business card again and went to confer with the driver. A few minutes later a bus came from the opposite side and our driver flagged them down. They, in turn, conferred for a few minutes and it was duly decided that Christoff and I would transfer to the other bus because we had passed our resort. So we jumped on the other bus which, of course as Murphy's Law would have it, was full so Christoff stood and I sat on the steps. After what felt like ages our newly appointed bus driver decided that the above-mentioned turn-off was where we would be dropped and basically kicked us out with smile.

"Luckily it's not raining from all sides like Forrest Gump said," I optimistically mused. So we went for a pleasant early morning walk down what, for all we knew, could have been a wrong-turn, dead-end road which could have ended up like a B-grade horror movie with twisted incest-ridden axe-wielding half-breeds hiding in the jungle and hunting us d0wn but it wasn't because a few kilometers later we found our resort, woke the dogs up which woke the owners up and got our room.

The place was really nice: on the beach, quiet, but quite expensive and we felt a bit strange being the only non-Vietnamese and English-speakers there but it was a cool experience. The next day we took a taxi to the real Mui Ne where all the tourists hang out, drinking cocktails and lazing on the beach. This was more what we expected and actually found a place where we could stay the Sunday night for the tenth of the price we were currently paying, albeit a bit-more dodgy.

Anyways, we bought another bottle of rum and headed down to the beach, just chilling and swimming. Later we went to look for a place to watch the Springbok game but there was none to be found so we just carried on with what we doing and I woke up the next day wondering what happened to the previous one.

Christoff and our new friends (from right to left in case you couldn't recognise them)

Sunday was an awesome day - slight tropical breeze, coconuts swaying in the wind, the smell of mangoes and seafood in the air and we decided to swop accomodation for the better-located, cheaper but dodgier bungalows . It was grand, but what did we do? The same thing we did everyday Pinky: bought a bottle of rum (come on, when in Rome huh?) and headed down to the beach.

"Tropical the island breeze, this is where I long to be, all of nature young and free, La Isla Bonita"

Actually, now that I think about it, we did few other things. I went cruising around on a bike, checking out the scenery and other beaches and Christoff went for a massage, but mostly, we just lay on the beach drinking rum and making up stories about the fishermen in their peanut-shell boats. One story about the legend of Nguyen Van Troi, Troi: The Fisher King, is soon to become an international best-seller, surpassing The Da Vinci Code in the "not-sure-whether-this-is-fact or fiction" category.

Some of Nguyen Van Troi's posse

That night, a tropical storm, monsoon, hurricane or As the aussies call it, a Willy Willy hit with a vengeance and furious anger. Whatever you call it, it was a killer. The roads were flooded until the next morning, people were driving neck deep in dirty water, coconuts were bouncing of roofs like pinballs (with little ingenuity we could have worked out a scoring system and made it into a drinking game even Jannie Smuts would have been proud of: 2 points for a coconut in the swimming pool, 10 for one on the head). We just sat on our stoep and watched. Sardines caught by the locals looked like they were practising synchronised flying, sandcastles were building themselves, and the peanutshell boats looked like frisbees flying through the air.

Soos hulle sê in Afrikaans: Een man se dood is 'n ander man se brood (of so iets) - coconuts collected after the storm

We decided to call it an early night because we had to come back to Saigon the next morning at 8 am. Little did we know (but we should of expected) that our bus was not late, it was not coming at all. Our travel agent guy gave us some lame excuse but said he'd booked us place on the next minibus back to HCH City at noon. So we waited and when it arrived - it arrived. With a ta-ta-ta-ta-ra-ra hooter honk that sounded like something out of a Laurel and Hardy skit (the sound still haunts my dreams to this day). The minibus was already packed ala African-style when we got in, but they took the lady and her child who were sitting in front and threw them in the pack despite her protestations, and we still managed to pick up four more people on the way. It was straight out like a scene from some surf-travel movie except we didn't have boards.

We arrived safely despite numerous heart-wrenching stunt-driving antics by our driver (think: 1-way road, our minibus overtaking a car, which is overtaking a truck which is overtaking a motorbike). And I even managed to pick up a $2 Dis Mooi Né? t-shirt as a souvenir. We can't wait for the next public holiday so we can do it all again.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Gone Fishin'

The 2nd of September holiday (National Day or Independence Day depending on where in VN you're from) is coming so Christoff and I are heading off to sunny Mui Ne for the long weekend.

Mui Ne is about four hours drive from HCM City, on a dodgy bus at night, therefore it's bound to be interesting! Through the year it's a quiet seaside community with a long, white beach and red sand dunes, but in the holiday time it comes to life with an influx of tourists and locals looking for some fun in the sun. Luckily, we're staying at a hotel a few kilometers outside the town so it should be more relaxed and laidback - exactly what we're looking for.

So look forward to an interesting post when we return on Monday with lots of cocktail-sippin', palm tree-lamming, beach-bummin', coconut-cruisin', hammock-lazin', sunlight-soakin' photos!

Mui Ne at its finest