Thursday, November 30, 2006
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
No matter what culture you’re from, what class you were born in to, what god you worship – there is one thing that pervades all society that leaps the cultural divide, that embraces all ethnicities and languages under one flag and that gives us all that content, warm fuzzy feeling inside: Beer. Can you feel it? I’ll say it again: Beer. Yes, matey.
I went out with a bunch of friends last night to sample bia hoi; Vietnam’s version of what could be likened to other alcoholic institutes such as the Geordie’s Brown Ale, the piss they drink in the States, or good old South African Castle Lager, or my tipple of choice, Black Label. Well not really because it's not really a brand like Tiger Beer or Larue, which are both popular here, but I'd like to think of it as an institution that exceeds the realms of "brand-dom". Bia hoi can be enjoyed anywhere, but like most good things in life (and most good beers in life); it is best served chilled, on a porch or veranda overlooking a crowded street in the company of good conversation and a buzzing atmosphere.
When it comes to bia hoi, there are three things which distinguish it from the (six)pack. Firstly, it's usually served in what the bergies (or bums, the unemployed, students, homeless, tasteless or aka my friends and I) in Stellenbosch call ‘n twee-man-kan (lit: a two-man-can; which is an one, two or three liter plastic can).
Secondly, although all bia hoi is brewed differently and contains varying levels of alcohol, it is generally low in content (between 1-4%), as was proven by us last night. Between about six of us, we managed to drink 27 litres, or 54 pints and we all felt fine.
Finally, and to some the biggest difference, is the price. Bia hoi is CHEAP. Like I’m talking cheaper than most of my friends' mothers...okay let’s not go there. Let’s take last night for example. How much would 54 pints put you back in a dirty cheap-to-reasonable pub in the UK? An average of £3, which equals a pocket-denting £162. Hmm…And in South Africa? Let’s take a pint of Castle Draught down at your local. R10. That equals to 540 Rand (About $80). How much did 27 litres of bia hoi put us back last night? Ching Ching Em Oi! Oh my sack! 94 500 Vietnam Dong. Now for those not Foreign Exchange-ingly literate, that equals to a massive $6!!!
God bless bia hoi, and of course Charlie Hops, the man who invented beer, beer, beer, tiddly bia bia bia!
Monday, November 27, 2006
Saturday. The Acet Past Perfects debut in the Soccer for the Streets Charity Football tournament, losing their 0-game undefeated streak to Luat Viet Red Sun by 0-1…The Past Perfects then go on a losing streak by going down 0-1 to Maersk Vietnam…Past Perfects complete their dismal hatrick, succumbing to the superior buying power of the eventual tournament winners the Saigon Raiders 2-1 (think Chelsea versus East Putney Pioneers - haha you guys were lucky Jon), but making a good show of it, as Ian Boyle scores the Perfects first and only goal of the tournament…Café Latin invites a member of the Perfects to sample their quality Larue draught beer later the afternoon…The evening sees Le Pub host the official charity afterparty at which a few brave Perfect team members make an appearance…The party shows the form, spirit and unity that was lacking in the teams performance earlier the day…Café Latin invites back one member of the Perfects and his friend to enjoy the atmosphere of a lively rugby test match between South Africa and England which the Springboks win by 25-14…The evening ends on a high note as Go2 Café invites various late night partygoers to have a seat on their veranda as to enjoy the neon-lights and excitement of the bacpacker area all the while indulging in a fine vintage of Vietnamese rum…
Sunday. Monaco Café makes a bid for two South Africans teachers in a Bosman free transfer (by means of a greasy fry-up and copious amounts of liquid refreshment) in an attempt to lure them to have breakfast at their esteemed establishment…The ploy works…The previously-mentioned teachers move on to District 10 to enjoy a day in the VIP Lounge at the Saigon Horse Racing Club…Not as much money is won as is lost on the ponies who make up the first six races…The thoroughbreds are brought out for race seven and Chilli Thunder and Tung Shing, with odds looking good, finish one-two bringing in 10-1 at the bookies and make two teachers not so unhappy anymore…Maximark Cong Hoa finally makes known their interest in the foreign contingent by means of a well-stocked supermarket where ingredients for a classic South African bredie or stew are purchased…The stew is glorious and reminds them that they're going home in less than two weeks… That Was The Weekend That Was...pictures follow asap.
"Due to unforeseen circumstances that have unexpectedly arisen, the SA Embassy has had to postpone the visiting Kaiser Chiefs friendly matches, until further notice. Your understanding in this matter will be appreciated."
I'm sure my understanding in the matter would be appreciated if you could let me understand what the reason behind the cancellation is? Sorry to all those planning to go watch the game, but you can contact Gita Kamal Sharda at the SA Embassy for more info.
Guess the shibobos will have to wait 'til later...
Friday, November 24, 2006
Two wine wholesale/import companies, Connoisseur Wine Shop and Red Apron, organised a New Zealand Wine Dinner a few weeks ago at Xu, one of the trendier restaurants in Ho Chi Minh City. It was an exhibition of two wine estates, Alpha Domus and Villa Maria, a five course, New Zealand inspired-dinner and the way the vino and cuisine complimented each other.
Disclaimer: This is straight from the menu so apologies to any copyright infringements or plagiarism incurred in the creation of this post. I’m also not sure who took the photos, but I think it was Amber (?), but cheers to the flagrant photo plagiarism as well!
New Zealand mussels
Steamed in lemon grass, ginger and NZ Chardonnay
Vino: Villa Maria Private Bin Sauvignon Blanc 2006
Methinks: A good opener and good fresh combo (this was probably the most complimentary pairing of food and wine).
Steamed mustard leaf grouper
With a lotus leaf salad, mini Vietnamese pancakes and coriander pesto
Vino: Alpha Domus Unoaked Chardonnay 2005
Methinks: The fish looked awkwardly arranged, but the wine saved the course (although an oaked chardonnay would have perhaps redeemed the meal further).
Five-spiced New Zealand veal cutlet
With sweet pumpkin mash, goat parcel, roasted baby onion and okra.
Vino: Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Noir 2004
Methinks: The food was good and the pinot noir, which I usually associate with a lighter dish and had my doubts about, actually complimented it quite well as it was heavier on the palate than a your run-of-the-mill pinot noir.
Slow roasted New Zealand lamb shank
With curry roasted cauliflower, toasted garlic potato puree and pickled ramps.
Vino: Alpha Domus Merlot Cabernet Sauvignon 2002
Methinks: Good combo, the vegetables were all awesome and the Merlot/Cab kept flowing long after dessert and coffee!
Pandan panacotta and custard soursop tortellini for dessert
Sorted. T’was truly a gastronomically imbued evening.
Thursday, November 23, 2006
I wish I could say it’s because I’ve been putting the finishing touches on my cutting edge, Pulitzer Prize-winning, in-depth article for Newsweek about the Vietnamese Mafia and their plan to buy out three quarters of newly released stock in newly established foreign multinational corporations with Vietnam’s newly-found WTO status, and they’re plotting to flood the market with inflated shares, just to punctually burst the bubble and become the world’s next New World Order.
Or that the Acet Past Perfects have been driven to a secluded marshland in the middle of the Mekong Delta for last-minute training, including “bonding” ala Kamp Staaldraad (in other words leopard crawling naked through bloodsucking leeches-as-long-as-your-arm-infested swamps whilst being held at gunpoint at 4 am) and gone through a rigorous process of emotional strengthening in a hope to reach physical and spiritual enlightenment before the charity football tournament on Saturday.
But alas, I’m not gonna lie to you: I’ve just been working my ass off as usual. Will update substantially on the weekend.
Monday, November 20, 2006
Saturday morning, 09:30: With two bellies filled with Al Frescoe’s Scrambled Eggs Breakfast, half-decent coffee and a head still swilling in less-than-decent-but-more-than-sufficient rum, Henno Kotze and Christoff Aucamp, aka Teacher Henno and Teacher Chris, traverse the lushly carpeted steps to the 3rd floor of the Sheraton Hotel to attend the Vietnam USA Society’s annual gala event known as “Teacher’s Day”.
They step lightly and intently into the banquet hall, the slight limp in Teacher Henno’s gait belies a prequel event that might have rivaled the event on the horizon, strangely, a slight déjà vu settles upon him as if this might’ve been mentioned previously as well.
The breakfast was a good idea, as an event that starts at 09:00 and only offers its luncheon at 12:30 is sure to contain a number of unpleasant elements in between of the sorts which could include delegates from different subsidiary and sister educational institutes globally such as Staten Island College or ambassadorial goodwill officers from the City University of New York, drawn-out, backslapping speeches in the presence of said delegates, chairmen, presidents, owners, co-owners, CEOs etc, not too mention incoherent and unrelated Windows Media Playered video clips of archeological dig-sites in Uzbekistan and worms sifted out of the mud from Chesapeake Bay or mutant, hybrid tomatoes that ripen but don’t rot for six months and having absolutley nothing in the slightest sense of the word related to Teacher's Day. These elements were included. Breakfast was a good idea.
Seated in clustered tables self-organised according to campuses, the Tan Binh crew, of which Teacher Henno and Teacher Chris were soldiers, settled down at an subliminally arranged laager of starched white, round banquet tables (Vietnam Veteran and history buff, Teacher Terry, must have organised the military vantage points and lookouts before Teacher Henno and Chris arrived).
It was to be a turf war, as the Tan Binh Campus Crew, otherwise known as the Ut Tich Dozen, named after the street in which their fortress lies (and still sporting various vestiges of the Tet Offensive decades ago, such as sooted canon muzzles found on the roof), would take on their arch-rivals of the Nam Ky Khoi Nghia stronghold, and the newly-statused headquarters of Khanh Hoi found across the Saigon River in District 4. There was also a handful of lesser battalions stationed across the city present, including the former command centres of Vo Thi Sau and An Duong Vuong as well as the allies in the guise of the Vietnam Australia Society, but the Ut Tich Dozen knew they were up against the wall, being posted out near the airport, the frontlines of the English teaching offensive, waiting for the barbarians.
It was a firefight in the form of a campus entertainment show, followed by a danceoff, as a Filipino Louis Armstrong trumpeted in the call to arms, with What a Wonderful World, the Spanish Satchmo reassuring Tan Binh that, like himself, being outnumbered didn’t necessarily mean being outgunned. Tan Binh made the first move, dropping bombs that would make Zach de la Rocha flee to his basement and mutter to himself “Will. I. Am.”. It was another veteran of the previous war who led his troops into battle. Hanoi Leroi lured the other campuses into a false sense of security, before looping the baseline with a “We Will Teach You” duet with Ashley “Food for Freddy” Mercury.
There was a breach in the other campuses' defence, Tan Binh took the advantage brought along by the momentum of their performance and crippled those who tried to resist. We had won hands down. The other campuses performances were lacklustre; an acoustic love song, a raincoat-inspired modern dance which was a tad to deep for Teacher Henno to fully understand the symbolism and gist of it, followed by a beautiful duet mourning the loss of life and the loss of love at the hands of the Dozen. The emotions were saturated and helped along by the bottles of Hennessey strategically placed on each table. It was, after all, just past nine in the morning so suprisingly by the time the waiters brought along the tumblers to pour the cognac, the Dozen had already ordered their second, followed by the third and fourth.
It was the fuel needed to dominate the danceoff; the fluidity and cutting edge dynamicism of the Dozen was unrivalled, donning sunglasses and flexibility, the usually stoic Sheraton banquet hall turned into a brothel of debauchery and Ao Dai-clad teachers turned into harlots and respectable, gentlemanly male teachers transformed into silk-tongued, arms-a-limbo cads.
The battle had been won, prizes were handed out. Teacher Brian and Teacher Henno were left in the dark, pondering their lack of success at the awards ceremony. Chris walked away with an Allied award from VAS as one of the distinguished teachers of the year, but he dropped his trophy on the way to the afterparty at the Lion Brewery.
Teacher Henno limped out with a swagger, slightly dejected at the lack of respect for his perhaps off-beat teaching techniques, but proud of his campus and co-teachers. It was a good morning, followed by a good day and evening.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Luckily I bought some new DVDs for tonight, Crank, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, some arty Vietnamese movie called Spirits and last but by no means least: The Return of Jafar - an Aladdin sequel.
Meanwhile, you can check out my expat interview if you like for www.expatinterviews.com. If you're an expat or planning on becoming one, this is a cool site to check out what's happening in your country, dos and don'ts etc.
Friday, November 17, 2006
Soccer for the Streets is a 5-a-side competition taking place next Saturday that has some big name sponsorships involved, including Adidas, Coca-Cola and Maersk. Our team is a mish-mash of staff and teachers and thus it's quite a multicultural team including Vietnamese, Englishmen, a Yank, a Canadian, one South African (duh) and a Scotsmen. We've been practising sporadically on Sundays (whenever we get an available field to practise on) and gasping and puffing through the two hour practises, with an occasional smoke break between halves for some. Yours truly will be gracing the forward right side with sublimal skill and a touch of class with the heavy weight and responsibility required to don the legendary No 9 jersey ala Alan Shearer (what a man he is). Hah.
We've been drawn with Maersk, some other corporate team and the Saigon Raiders in the group stage, which is a bit of a laugh because we just managed to scrape a team together and money for kits. We are...wait for it..."The Past Perfects" (only a teacher will appreciate the pun).
If you're in town next weekend, come around and support the charity and have a laugh with us (or at us) and watch some uber-unfit dudes stumble around and hack up a lung.
Come one, it's for a good cause...
November 25th - Tao Dan Sports Stadium, District 1, HCMC. Free entry, games begin at 09:30.
Monday, November 13, 2006
Here’s a list of some the books I’ve read in the last few months ranked according to content and readability.
1) Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrel by Susanna Clarke
Awesome reading. Clarke’s 19th Century writing style lends the novel such weight and credibility you feel like you’re reading a historical biography of English magic.
2) Imperial Ambitions by Noam Chomsky
Interesting information that you can gobble up in a day or two and impress your witless friends with.
3) The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby by Tom Wolfe
Classic Wolfe as only he can man - mind-blowingly detailed description of the who’s who and what’s what of middle-of-last-century America.
4) The Dharma Bums by Jack Kerouac
Killer Kerouac – drinking, backpacking and philosophising across America’s West Coast in the 50s and 60s.
5) Wilt on High by Tom Sharpe
The follow-up to Wilt, Sharpe is damn funny as always.
6) Coldsleep Lullaby by Andrew Brown
Attorney-turned writer Brown’s attempt at a psycholical whodunit set dually in modern and historical Stellenbosch is good, but I think it lacks impetus.
7) The Triumph of the Sun by Wilbur Smith
Set in 19th Century Khartoum, the novel is good but lacks the cutting edge adventure of, say, Monsoon.
8) The Romantic Movement by Alain de Botton
An interesting attempt at analysing and categorising relationships, but lacks substance and warmth. I think it's too Prousty and would do better in a Philosophy 201 "Deconstruction" class .
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Very interesting personal post 9/11 fictional attempt, but I’m not a big fan of this conscious streaming writing style
Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey
Looks like classic Kesey so far, will have to wait and see…
Saturday, November 11, 2006
Roulette machines are so much better than blackjack. Wealth wagered on the spin of a wheel, a denomination placed on a random designated area or colour, greedy eyes watching a tiny, white plastic ball, which, in any other situation would have been indistinct – an ephemeral object imponderable and trivial – gaining accent and importance as its revolutions around the polished, wooden roulette wheel increases in speed. As Ricky Gervais would say, “I can show you a graph here, where the significance of the ball increases with every lap around the wheel. Lines going up. And across.”
Doubt sets in, seeping through the beaded sweat, saturating the mind, as the little sphere slows down. Did I really place enough to ensure a profitable return? Did I spread my luck widely enough? Will the Voisins du Zero feel offended that I snubbed there attentions, vouching instead on the bleeding-heart nature of the little plastic ball who would feel obliged to grace the Orphelins with its presence?
With a scuttled-fish *plonk*, of all 36 numbers it could have chosen, the ball settles unnervingly on the green “0”. Koreans sigh whilst I knowingly smile. That’s roulette. I lost about 300 000 dong, it’s not really a lot, besides, it was worth it, and as sure as hell I’ll be back there again next payday.
Thursday, November 09, 2006
This is not your lucky day.
I know you've been working really hard today but the kind folk here at Symantic have iced the cake for you.
Known infected files deleted.
Grrr. *click*. Roger out.
So apparently the *known infected files* happened to be everything I've saved on the flash disk since the beginning of last year seeing as I don't have a laptop or PC and have to smuggle around to an I-Net cafe or use the computers at work (as I'm doing now) to get my digital fix. So there goes all my work from last year's BPhil Journalism degree and most of my photos from the last two years. Thank god for Flickr, where I've managed to stash some of the newer ones.
In a way, it feels kind of liberating, not carrying all this excess baggage (the movie namesake, by the way, stars Alicia Silverstone and not Cameron Diaz which is a common misconception, resulting in many a drunken bet and copious amounts of beer flowing my way). It feels kind of crap losing some of the memories and hard work from the last year. It feels kind of sad that I feel the need to post about a piece of electronic equipment that faded on me.
Glass half full? At least I have a memory stick with loads of free space now.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
Firstly, I’ve added a photo roll from my flickr account, so my most recent photos will automatically appear on the sidebar – go check them out if you want – it’s easier than sticking a whole scroll (excuse the pun) of photos on the blog. Secondly, I’ve added a section of links from Vietnam – there are some really nice sites from locals and expats alike so do yourself a favour and check them out. I’m also slowly updating my links from my favourite South African blogs.
There’s also the Technorati link which tells me when my favourite blogs have updated so I can check them out – really convenient. Similarly, I’ve also subscribed to bloglines a few months ago but my lazy ass hasn’t added that link yet, but I will soon. I’ll also add my del.icio.us link (as soon as I figured out what the damn tag rage is all about).
Also, for those who really haven’t been here for a while, there are those cute little maps at the bottom which I’ve explained in a previous post.
Enjoy, and I’ll add the final, epic fourth part of my Street Style Propoganda soon!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Monday, November 06, 2006
This is Hemingway's: For Sale: Baby shoes, never worn.
Here are some of my favourites:
Orson Scott Card: The baby's blood type? Human, mostly.
Stephen R. Donaldson: Don't marry her. Buy a house.
Ursula K. Le Guin: Easy. Just touch the match to
Brian Herbert: Epitaph: He shouldn't have fed it.
Some of them are quite thought-provoking and I never knew social and political commentary could punch so hard with 6-words. It's the literary equivalent of Bruce Lee's One Inch Punch.
For example, Richard K. Morgan's: K.I.A. Baghdad, Aged 18 - Closed Casket
I dare you guys to try some and post them in the comments. I'll get the ball rolling.
He said it would last. Longer.