Okay, as much as I ranted about the local food in the previous post, I must admit hauling along quite a number of what you could call “ foreign essentials”, things which are either too dear in Vietnam, too difficult to source out or just impossible to find (for reasons of either legality or culture). Turn the cart upside down, though, and they could be called a Westerner’s “lavish indulgences”, or more harshly; unnecessary excess crap to lug along on an already long flight. Of course I prefer the former term.
Be it as it may, I’d like to share with you now these fine items which are of various values; sentimental, monetary, sanitary or just plain sanity.
First on the list was an essential collection of 20 cds. I think Sarah and I have managed to put together a fine assortment of new albums , cheesy treffers (as they call rubbish music that’s only good for drunken singalongs in South Africa), local (as in Aussie and Saffa) or nostalgic albums. Classified geographically, these are:
Australian: Xaviar Rudd and Izintaba (Koonyum Sun), John Butler Trio x2 (April Uprising and Three), The Whitlams (Love this City), Eskimo Joe (A Song is a City) and Powderfinger (Golden Rule).
South Africa: Jack Parow (Self-titled), The Rudimentals (Set it Proper), Valiant Swart (Die Mystic Boer), The Dirty Skirts(On a Stellar Bender), Max Normal.TV (Good Morning South Africa), Springbok Nude Girls (Goddank vir Klank) and Black Mango Presents (Breathe Sunshine Vol 3).
International: The Flaming Lips (The Soft Bulletin), Florence + the Machine (Lungs), Pendulum x2 (Immersion and In Silico), Kings of Leon x3 (Because of the Times, Youth and Young Manhood and Aha Shake Heartbeat), Putumayo Presents (Sahara Lounge).
Cheesy World Cup Fever induced purchases: African Musical Safari, K’Naan (Troubadour), Listen Up! (The official 2010 World Cup Album).
*A quick endorsement from Metallica: If you haven’t heard of any of the above-mentioned artists go out and illegally download all of their music (except for the ones in the last category which are all pretty naff), and send the royalties to the Royal Society for Protection of African White Tigers.
Next on the list, (and never far from my mind) was foodstuffs: From South Africa and still in the mail are a fine range of Ina Paarman’s spices, stocks, and sauces. Sarah reckons Ina is like South Africa's very own Martha Stewart, but without the criminal record. Also, choccies (think Tempo and Bar One), four small potjies – quintessential SA outdoor cast iron cooking pots).
Our Australian amassment contained…wait for it, Tim Tams! Mint Slice! Gigantic Kit-Kat Chunky bars! Now before, you say: “But you can get Tim Tams in Vietnam, stupid.” As any discerning chocololic worth his block clearly knows, they’re just. not. the same, so rather keep quiet as not to look like you don’t know your cacao from you co…coffee. They’re made in Malaysia where different criteria are used to determined deliciousness, or is it deliciosity?
Anyways, sadly but not unsurprisingly none of the above consignment made it to Week Two of “The Return”. A half-jack of mezcal complete with two alcohol-bloated little worms only just made it into Week Two.
There were also numerous toiletries: think face cleansers without whiteners – I know it’s hard to imagine – and things that won’t make you break out in a rash and hives from just looking at the chemical ingredients on the label.
There were heaps of shoes in Western sizes, including a pair of gumboots (for Saigon downpours), and “real” football boots. What?! You mean the boots they sell for a hundred thousand uncles on Huyen Tran Cong Chua Street aren’t real?! The fact that your toes were sticking out of them after your first kickaround should’ve made that clear, buddy…
Books! I wish I could list all the books we had, but sadly the two pristine rectangular boxes we sent from Australia by post, containing our books, teaching material and other odds and ends arrived a few days after us, battered, bruised and misshapen sans most of our books. Luckily a lot of Sarah’s cook books were saved the culling and I’m pretty sure it’s not the first time Salman Rushdie’s novels haven’t made it into a country. A lot of our teaching materials were also rifled through and some removed (at least we’ll soon have a new generation of Vietnamese postal workers getting 7.5 on their IELTS tests).
Now to what I believe to be the most important items: A Bundaberg Rum Wallabies overall (great for messy nights out with the boys), my silk SA flag, as well as beanie and scarf and the ultimate South African cultural weapon: Our modern day assegai, that much maligned, often misunderstood hornet's nest in a stadium, the bane of all English supporters existence at the World Cup (or possibly a tight second after the Uruguayan referees in the second round match against Germany). The vuvu. The vuvuzela.
Lavish indulgences? Please, mate. Essentials.