Monday, August 28, 2006

Mooi so

Ek wil net graag vir my neefie Dewald Louw geluk wens met sy prestasie as die nuwe Afrikaanse Idol vir 2006. Ek het altyd geweet ons familie het musikale talent gehad - en nou het hy dit bewys (hy het dit eintlik al lankaal bewys).

Dewald - ek verwag 'n groot geskenk vir Kerfees (en natuurlik 'n getekende kompakskyf)!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Mid-Autumn Festival Play

Chu Cuoi and his wife Chi Hang at the Mid-Autumn Festival, or Trung-Thu

The traditional Unicorn Dancers associated with the festival (sorry the last one's quite blurry - didn't quite get the effect right).

Photo Post

Hey, sorry I haven't posted for a while but computer access has been limited. To make up for it (and buy me some time before I actually have to write something again) here are some photos from August.

Some Anime-junkie at the Anime/Manga Festival earlier this month.

On the Bonzai Party Boat for Andrew's 30th birthday. Me and some little kid - beer, kids and a boat - no, that's not dangerous. 2nd pic - brothers in arms.

I went to go help Manon and play with the kids a few weeks ago at an orphanage in my district - she's the one reading the story to the kiddy. That little girl in the background of the last picture's mother dropped her at the orphanage because her step-father said he wouldn't marry her mother if she kept her. Some sad but true stories.

Monday, August 14, 2006

They come in threes.

As the old adage goes – things come in threes. After the Vietnamese Massage Mafia Affair – as I now fondling...I mean fondly refer to it – Saturday evening saw more inner-city mayhem hit the streets of Saigon.

Christoff and I were on our way to meet some friends at a club called Bottomlime in Discrict 1 (basically the city centre with all the fancy hotels and skyscrapers), but we couldn’t find the damn place after about half an hour's walking and asking for directions. We hooked up with two Spanish guys, Luis and Eddy, spending their first day in HCMC and looking for a place to go out so we dragged them along. We decided a taxi might be the best idea so the four of us hopped in a cheap one.

We were happily cruising towards our destination when we spotted some bustling in the street ahead. Chris said he witnessed one guy running up to another dude and stabbing him in the back. The Spanish guys and I didn’t see it, but our taxi driver sure did, because he slammed on the brakes, popped the boot, jumped out and grabbed something like a monkey-wrench and ran towards the fight. Suddenly it was like a Smackdown free-for-all with guys jumping in and swinging at each other left, right and centre.

I was staring agape at this confusion when I noticed I was sitting alone in this taxi – Chris was half way down the road in the opposite direction and Luis and Eddy were hot on his heels. Sensibly, I followed and we got the hell out of there. We found out later that evening from another taxi driver that the guy who got stabbed was quickly taken to hospital and was alright.

These guys can give Kwazulu-Natal or the Cape Flats' taxi violence a run for their money. Well that’s two strikes, first the Massage Mafia Affair, then the Saigon Showdown – I wonder what the third one’s going to be...

Friday, August 11, 2006

Welcome to the Karma Hotel...

Bleh. I’ve officially had my first encounter with the infamous Asian organised crime syndicates. On Wednesday night I went out with Manon, a French buddy of Jan’s ex-girlfriend Dre, who is volunteering at an orphanage for two weeks here in the city (she leaves tomorrow). Her English friend Lois who was also volunteering left the Thursday so it was a bit of a farewell for her. It was quite late at night, or early in the morning, depending from which day you look at it, and the orphanage crew jumped in a taxi. I’m about to hail one when a motorbike taxi, xe om in Vietnamese, offers his services. I think yeah why not it’s cheaper than a taxi and the fresh air would do me good.

So we’re zooming through the empty streets, head whirling, when two girls drive up next to us. The one starts offering her and her friends’ services: “Massage, two ladies, very good.” Obviously, being the gentleman that I am, I decline. They started offering more profusely and I start declining more profusely, first in English then Vietnamese then Afrikaans. Obviously they didn’t get the message because the xe om stops and the one chick jumps on the back of our motorbike. Now there’s three of us and she starts copping a feel and I’m like “Hell no lady, I just want to get home and pass out.” I grab the motorbike dude by the shoulder and squeeze it quite hard so he gets the massage...erm message. Finally he stops and the chick jumps off, pissed off, and back on her buddies bike and they speed off. This is when I realise the little skank left me sans my wallet. I grab the motorbike dude again and tell him to follow the trail of short skirts and cheap perfume blowing in the wind.

So now we’re in full bike chase mode, the tequila is coursing through my veins and this guy must have realised I wasn’t joking because he was speeding like a demon. His Honda Dream could have beaten Valentino Rossi at this time. We catch up with the chicks and they throw my wallet in the road. This is when I realise the damn motorbike dude was in on it as he sped off as soon as I jumped off to pick it up. Luckily they only took my money (a few hundred thousand Dong) and left my cards and identification stuff.

Yeah well, you live you learn I guess. As James emailed me, incidents like these make you lose faith in then human race and distrust everyone and I must admit I felt a tinge of anger, but mostly at myself for allowing the situation to occur. I’m still wondering if it was just karma biting me in the ass. So much so that I went to go help out for an hour or so with the kids at the orphanage and take some photos to try and get my karma back out of the red or something in that line. I mean, it’s strangely ironic that I travel half way across the world from crime-riddled South Africa just to get jumped in Nam. Well, as I said with our flooded-house incident, every story has a moral. Damn tequila...

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Over the moon

So things have been happening for me slowly but surely on this side of the Indian Ocean, or South China Sea to be more exact. Not only is this my 50th post on the blog it also heralds my big break, but I’ll get to that in a while.

Wow 50 posts, that doesn’t seem like a lot but it feels like a long time. There’s been a lot of musings and ponderings and useless info – not only by me, mind you (thanks dedicated comment posters) – and a crazy World Cup in between too. To think, I’ve been in Nam for more than four months already. Everything snowballed since Chris, pillow clutched firmly to his breast, and I got on the plane in Cape Town early one April morning to set off for Johannesburg, then Nairobi, a weekend in Bangkok and finally Ho Ho Ho Chi Minh City.

All the stress of trying to find work, get accustomed to the strange street names, traffic, food and general culture seems like a heartbeat – except every now and then a surreal moment of clarity hits you. Something small triggers it – a sign that reads: “Dung’s Baby Store” or a man pissing against a wall next to your house with no skaam and you just stop in your tracks and think: “What the hell am I doing in this place?”. Yet familiarity returns and sanity prevails in the end. I think this must be the equivalent of a first-year poppie from the platteland arriving in Stellenbosch for the first time, but once you get into and understand the scheme of things the ball starts rolling and doesn’t stop any time soon.

Since getting work things have happened even faster. It’s like a vicious cycle (like the days when Wilhelm and I worked at the Dros) that you can’t break. Get up for work in the wee hours, work all day and night, get home, have a few beers and sleep just to do it all again the next day. Luckily we’ve forced ourselves to slow things down a bit, making some free time over the weekend to relax and enjoy life a bit more – after all, this IS an adventure of a lifetime that precious few in the world will ever be able to experience and for this reason I’ve decided that gratitude is more important than easy off-the-lip cynicism which usually comes so easily to me. So I thank my lucky stars for all of it and know that one day I’ll look back at this and think: “Shit, did I do THAT?!”.

Which brings me to my second point: My big break. I’m officially in the model/acting industry. Yes, now would be the right time to rub out your eyes. One of the teachers at the Australian school took some photos of some of the teachers to send to a recruiting agency who phoned me on Saturday to be in (what I thought would be) an ad. It was actually a photo shoot for Getty Images who were setting up a photo bank (where all the magazines and companies can buy images of all sorts at exorbitant prices).

Anyways, the “theme” of the shoot was businesspeople (Prof Rabe would be quite proud of that self-edited gender correctness). We were in this big warehouse that was painted totally white doing stupid things like posing for handshakes, giving speeches and giving rounds of applause. It was weird, but I guess when looking at all the weirdness I’ve been exposed to since arriving here it fitted like a glove. They paid me too, which wasn’t actually necessary since I enjoyed the Zoolander role – they didn’t really think my “Magnum” or “Blue Steel” was up-to-scratch yet.

The agency phoned again yesterday, they need me for another shoot tomorrow which should be quite cool – I get to play a messy lawyer or something like that.

But wait folks, there’s more. I was also approached (hehe – see I’ve already got the lingo going) by VUS school to star in the leading role in their English Speaking Club’s Mid-Autumn Festival play in two weeks. I’m playing Chu Cuoi, a character out of Vietnamese mythology, who has to rescue his girlfriend Chi Han from the moon or something like that, don’t ask. There’s gonna be about 200 teenagers or something like that so I’m quite scared. I’ve been to the tailors to get fitted for my traditional costume as well so I have to watch my weight for a while too.

Oh yes folks, this is it. I’m gonna make it big, but I’ll never forget my roots. I’ll give a shout out to all of you at the next MTV Asia Video Awards. What to wear, what to wear…but don’t call me I’ll call you, or if I don’t have time my agent will :P

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Noah's Ark in Saigon

Our house flooded last night. Christoff and I were out in the Pham Ngu Lao backpacker district last night, enjoying the Tiger beer happy hour celebrating that we didn’t have to work this morning. Anyways, we called it a night at about 3 o’ clock after Christoff got batted by a few chicks and his self-confidence was lower then Bafana Bafana’s (coupled with the waning of the Proteas might and the stumble and fall of the once-fearless Springboks, that’s doesn’t leave a lot of confidence at the bottom of the barrel).

Sorry, I'm digressing. So we arrive home just after three and unlock the gate. Christoff says: “Wie bad die tyd vannnie f*kken aand?” I plead ignorance. Unlock the front door. I realized something had gone pear-shaped when little cockroaches come rowing out in peanut shells, with toothpicks for oars. The geckos run across the slick walls two-by-two. There’s water everywhere. A waterfall runs down our stairs. Our empty fish pond is nearly full. The water comes out of the walls, out of the door frames (it looked like one of those rustic beaded curtains).

Ankle deep in water, Mr Diep – the man’s man, ladies man, and man about town – comes wading in with a smile and says: “No problem!” Luckily, both Christoff and I had dulled any sense of anger or worry we usually would have had in this situation whilst wrestling with the Tiger. Diep’s inside the roof, shoveling buckets of dirty water out, his sister’s on the floor sweeping the water off the balcony and his wife’s downstairs mopping. Christoff and I form a human chain to empty the full bucket appearing out of the roof into my bath. It was grand. A real group effort.

The more we tell Diep and his family not to worry and wait until the morning, the more adamant he is to fix it. We manage to rescue our house bar a few damp spots and fallen insect heroes.

Finally, Diep’s party left and Christoff and I just laughed trying to think of what insects and animals escaped the flood and what they used for boats (the mozzies proved their worth with a valiant and daring sea-rescue, picking up capsized ants who had tried to escape through the backdoor on canoes chiseled from Christoff’s toe-nail cuttings.

What a night. And best of all, Christoff regained his confidence: being part of a group working towards a common goal and finally achieving that goal with hard-work, teamwork and determination can do wonders for a man’s morale. Every story has a moral...