Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The things I have to put up with every day

A Zapiro in the making

One of the students in a "Young Leaders" (teenage) class I was substitute teacher for took the onus upon himself to draw a caricature (def. noun. "A representation, especially pictorial or literary, in which the subject's distinctive features or peculiarities are deliberately exaggerated to produce a comic or grotesque effect") of me in all my teaching glory. It's debatable whether this is a fair reflection, but the boy has undeniable talent and a fine eye for detail (note the backpack, baggy pants, two-day stubble and authoritative tone of voice).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Americans Part 1: The Young Yanks

*Warning: Vast generalisations follow.

Okay, I must admit, I’m not too neutral or sympathetic on most issues regarding America and its relations with the rest of the world and, having recently read David Barsamian’s enlightening interviews with Noam Chomsky entitled Imperial Ambitions, my feelings on the subject were further entrenched and reinforced. The recent utterings of Bush on how he admits the Abu Ghraib tortures and abuses were a mistake, neglecting to mention the rest of genocide in Iraq, saying that "Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing." Bush at his finest.

Setbacks? Missteps? That’s a nice way of putting it. Anyways, these are just some of the things which have made me decide to rant on the issue of Americans a bit.

At the different schools I’ve been teaching at the majority of teachers come from the States. They can be classified into three general categories. In this first post I would like to describe what I call the Young Yanks: The young Americans who have come to teach to see the world, experience life and make some money while they’re at it (not unlike Christoff and myself).

The thing is, these young Yanks, well those I have met, are mostly from the big cities on the East and West Coast (LA, Ney York, San Francisco). They think they’re more than just pawns in the game, so much so that they try and show you how cool they are by nonchalantly impressing upon you how unflappable and unimpressed they are with Vietnam and the culture here. What they don’t realise is that their over-the-top apathy actually swings their whole attempt on its head and makes it clear how scared and insecure they actually are inside.

They try and impress others with this aloof attitude and throw names around and try and compare the standard of living in the States with that of Vietnam which is totally ridiculous. They drop comments like: “Man, there’s nothing close to a Starbucks in this communist hellhole” or “This places is so dirty man, the smell so is bad, you won’t find anyplace half as bad in the States”.

Their banter revolves around how many weird things they’ve eaten, how many local girls they’ve had and how easy it is to get away with murder in a communist country (“Man, just hand the cops 50 000 or a 100 000 Dong and they’ll turn a blind eye.”). They’re pretentious and have no sense of how grateful they should be to able to have such awesome choices in travelling and seeing the world. They don’t realise that they are actually intruding on someone else’s property and should show respect for the different way of life and actually try and embrace it. They think there’s only one way of doing things and that’s the American way. They treat the schools they work at like halfway houses between parties, feeling nothing for the children’s education I don’t think they’ve given an iota of thought as to how much the parents of these children actually sacrifice to have them learn English (average monthly salary = about $65) and maybe succeed and be able to afford a decent salary abroad some day and, instead, they abuse the high esteem and respect with which Vietnamese actually regard teachers (they’re a close second just behind parents in the respect category).

It sickens me sometimes and saddens me even more when I see how the Vietnamese consciously tolerate them, knowing that these arrogant fools hold, in a certain sense, the key to the future success of their proud nation. Buffoons. All of them. I like that word.

That’s enough for now, I’ll describe the other two groups some other time.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


I may be a tourist in a foreign country, but coming from a place (Stellenbosch) that sees thousands of them stream in through the "in-season", pillaging and plundering all the natural - and unnatural - resources, just to leave suddenly as the weather makes a turn for the worst, leaving nothing behind but a bad aftertaste of sauerkraut in your mouth and perhaps a stinky pair of socks (which was worn knee-high with sandals of course), there are a number of reasons why I've nurtured a disliking for many of them:

1) They show scant respect for natural wonders.
2) Public indecency is not a problem for them.
3) In fact, most of them have no concept of the term or any skaam whatsoever!
4) And they have bad, bad habits too.

For these reasons and more, I wish to disassociate myself from the stereotypical term of "tourist" and would henceforth like to be referred to as an ex-patriate of South Africa in Vietnam.

Thursday, May 18, 2006


With the sports seasons drawing to a close, coming to an end, the curtain coming down on them, being past their crescendo etc etc - my fantasy season is choking on mediocrity and dying a miserable death:
Firstly, the Champions League standings are dismally disproportioned as I didn't set my team for the semis and finals and thus it is unfair to judge my performance on these standings (ahem).

The PGA Tour Fantasy League is the one on which I pin my hopes for a top 3 placing. It's about halfway through the season and I'm in second place (with a few Majors still to be played). I also have a kickass team with Ernie and Rory Sabbatini being my weekly stalwarts.

This table also provides a misconstrued conception of my performance as I joined this league 3 games into the season, so I guess 9th place is not too shabby.

I just plain suck in this league. I'm 4th but there's only 7 guys playing - and come on - look who's above me: JDawg (huh? wizzit?) Banana Boy (don't wanna to know) and a certain Mr Cool (probably an 80s amateur wrestling alias).

Oh and finally! I got an email from my European Tour golf fantasy league which I'm playing in (and actually totally forgot about after I picked my players) sponsored by The Scotsman newspaper: It said that my team was in the top 10 of the competition and my name will appear in the Scotsman on Sunday paper. Just a pity I won't get to see it (Nat get me a copy please!). Okay, enough bragging and loathing for one day.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Chew on this

Ok, I thought I just to share this with you: Right after the previous post I just went across the road from one of the schools that I work at to grab a munchie. There’s this fast food branch called Lotteria here and they have good burgers.

Today they had this special: Burger Ga (chicken burger) and a Pepsi for 15 000 vnd ($1). So I had it and afterwards I thought: “Mmm, a delicious soft serve ice-cream would round off that tasty burger and smooth beverage just perfectly.” So I proceeded to buy one, which was only 2 500 vnd (R1). I gave the counter-lady two 2 000 vnd notes and she gives me a 1000 note for change (Christoff and I have discussed the pros and cons of having currency of such low value in notes and are yet to find any pros).

Ok anyways that’s besides the point, so the lady is looking for a 500 vnd ($0.03) coin in the till, can’t find one, and gives me a stick of chewing gum – but not just any gum - Lotteria-branded chewing gum. It seems this sorta thing happens quite often. If only other countries would catch one we could all head back to the ‘ol 15 chickens for a sheep barter economy. Oh well, thought I’d share - good gum btw.


Hey, I haven't really had much time to update and post new photos etc. Things are getting along fine, although I'm really working hard and there's not much time for anything else. At least these Vietnamese have damn good coffee that you drink iced. All you gotta do is say "Mot Ca Phe Da", they sell it everywhere and it's cheap - about 70c at some places. And a guy in one of my classes was kind enough to write down the Vietnamese term for "young dog meat" which, contrary to popular belief is not eaten as their staple diet or enjoyed by everyone (it's more of an acquired taste and delicacy, like Foie Gras or something). "Cay To" they call it and I'm still trying to find a place that sells it just, well, just so I know where not to go again. Christoff is ok (ek sal hom vra om jou te mail Loesil), no std's that I know of yet Alan, although he has been scratching himself quite often recently...Otherwise all's good. Will post something longer next time. Oh yeah, we're moving into a new place next week so I'll let you know how that works out. Cheers

Thursday, May 04, 2006


A shoe shop in the Pham Ngu Lao district – this is where all the backpackers stay and has some cool little restaurants, i-net café’s and clubs

I don’t know what these guys sell but it’s also in Pham Ngu Lao Street

There are a lot of the people selling funny fruits – this lady will cut it open for you and carve it till it looks like a lotus flower or something – it’s actually more a piece of art than lunch

More weird fruits – the granadilla-looking ones actually taste like green peppers so I guess they might as well be vegetables

I’ve got a lovely bunch of coconuts dee-dily-dee! This dude chops off the skin and squares it out and when you buy one he chops of the top and sticks a straw in for your sipping pleasure – delicious

A pineapple pruner


Inside Ben Thanh Market – this place is like a very, very big warehouse market that has little stalls set-up in designated areas for clothes, antiques, food etc etc etc – it has nearly anything you can think of and is a haggler’s dream come true (the only problem is it’s so hot and stuffy in there you try and buy what you need and get out as fast as you can sometimes

Statue stall in Ben Tanh market

Shopping in Saigon


This old woman looked so content (or bored?) just sitting in her spot, weighing the veggies

“You’re table is ready, Sir.” This is what a typical Vietnamese roadside restaurant table looks like. Small plastic table, two small chairs that maybe reach your ankles if you’re short and a bowl of chillies

Sugar and Spice and all things nice (including dried fish and squid)

One of hundreds of alleys in the market

If you’ve got munchies – this place is the way of the future

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A day in the city (2)

More Engrish! Obviously we just had to try some Fanny ice-cream
And the result: My Fanny Blue Lagoon!

The woman-who-lights-the-incense’s reflection in a mirror

On the roof of the temple – contrasting old and new

A small shrine inside the temple grounds

Inside the Hindu Temple in Thon Tan Thiep Street – this is one of the smaller, less-touristy temples and when we visited there was hardly no-one else which was a bit eerie

A sculpture on the plain with the City Hall in the background and a big painting of “the man” (his picture is everywhere in HCMC - on billboards, posters, graffiti, houses – everywhere)

One of million billboards and posters advertising the anniversary of the liberation of Vietnam on the 30 April (which is cool because Liberation Day’s obviously a public holiday and the next day is Labour Day: what does that mean? Long weekend!)

Not only do the locals just park off anywhere, they can also carry pretty much anything below 3 tons (or more depending on their bike’s cc) on their “scoo-tays” – this was just one of three blocks this guy was transporting. For those interested in this, check out renowned photographer Hans Kemp’s Bikes of Burden which is a photojournal on the crazy things these guys carry

I just love the way this businesswoman sits on the bike – so majestic, so refined…

A day in the city

This is one of the numerous parks in the city, they have teams of "pruners" and "mowers" who preserve its pristine condition

A typical parking lot

Chris-toff Jackson-ay (Hee-Hee!): "I love you all!"

A typical little street

At lunchtime the Vietnamese just park off anywhere and chow down

Pho Ba (Pho=Vietnamese noodle soup & Ba=Beef): Rice noodles, coriander, onions, limes, bean sprouts, basil, chilli, leeks and a few other stuff. This is their staple diet - breakfast, lunch and supper - and really fresh and tasty (sorry Anke, my food styling is nou nie juis op jou senior-tipe vlak nie!)

Two dudes just parking off next to the road having some tea

Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office with a big painting of "the man" at the back.

A cyclo driver - these guys are everywhere and want to take you everywhere - the only thing is I haven't seen any locals use them so do they know something we don't know?

Another typical little street