As I prepare to enter my final week here in Hoi An and at my work place (CHIA), it's been a time to sit and reflect on life here.. or so I thought... that was until I found myself quite randomly in Da Nang on Saturday evening, being the only non Vietnamese person in a crowded hall full of University students, watching them perform in some kind of talent show!!! Now these kind of experiences you can never plan for!
I'll get on to the events that led up to this weekend's adventures shortly, but first I'd like to share a few events from the week. My week day evenings have been pretty taken up with dinners, beers, football, and drinks with my neighbours. The kind of life could never have at home.. or maybe the kind of life I should have at home, instead of trying to work so much! Monday evening I found myself sat by the river in the old town of Hoi An. I was joined by one of Hoi An's longer term ;volunteers' Eri, a Japanese lass who is working here with some kind of conservation project supported by the Japanese government. As we sat comparing notes about our respective organisations, we noticed how the river was beginning to lap up to the path, and as a local boat filled with what looked like 200 motorbikes on it passed by, the water had now reached our plastic chairs and tables. With no rain in sight I was wondering why the water seemed to be rising. One look above, and the full moon was answer enough the high tide! This is a local spot, but a few tourists had sat down enjoying the very cheap (30 pence) beer. Though f they were getting that price I'd be surprised. Just ten minutes later, and the water had reached us again, and this shifting of chairs and tables every ten minutes continued for the next half hour... funnily enough the locals did not move their chairs once and seemed happy enough to sit around in the rising tide!Thursday night I took my Therapy Team (Van & Phuong- Physio's and Anh - Translator), to one of the nicer Western restaurants 'Cargo', where as a thank you and goodbye meal. The side of the building we entered on was completely dry, but the other side of the building had a foot of water by it! Finally after months of being taken to local Vietnamese places where I did not know what utensils to use, what food is actually edible, where to throw the bones away, or or what part of an animal's internal organs I was eating, the tables were turned. Now my colleagues were the ones who were not quite sure what to do... the pizza was easy enough to eat, though they needed some coaxing to eat it without the need for fish sauce! The spaghetti perhaps offered the biggest challenge, as we were sharing the dishes, and my colleagues quickly realised their chopsticks were going be of little help to them. They easily mastered the twisting fork method of spaghetti eating, and I was surprised when they refused the desert, because they seemed comfortable.. perhaps it was the rain that had sent the other diners running for cover that suggested it was time to leave. We got back to more familiar surroundings after dinner as we visited a local coffee shop, before the girls drove off into the night on their motorbikes!
So onto the weekend's adventures. My new job begins next week, and my new colleagues were having their monthly lunch together (something that is done here where you celebrate any birthdays that month). I had an invite as did my American physiotherapy colleague _ Virginia and her husband David. 22 of us sat around having a fantastic sea food lunch, whilst we tried to get to know each other better. Everybody was very welcoming and shared their personal histories with me, and of course (as is the system here) I had to discuss why I was not married yet, and how willing people were to find me girlfriend in Vietnam. One of the Doctors - Ms Thuy - told me of a 'concert' she was attending that night, and thought nothing of inviting me along. After lunch my day consisted of relaxing in the coffee shops of Da Nang, with my Ben Elton book - inconceivable - (you should read it, I have not stopped laughing since I began it!). I had agreed to take my colleague Lai back to Hoi An after she had attended a wedding in Da Nang, so as she was still enjoying herself, I took up the invitation to attend this 'concert'. I was instructed to wait at the Institute of Medicine - "a funny place for a concert I thought". The security guard was in no mood for letting me in without an escort but this was no problem once Thuy arrived with her fiance, and her two young nieces. After being escorted up several flights of stairs in the main building, we turned off the main corridor and into an assembly hall. Every seat appeared taken and soon I had 200 smiling faces staring at me as we walked down the middle of the hall, and sat on front row! This turned out to be an early celebration for 'Teachers Day' (Nov 20th) where students, even University students, perform songs and dances of all natures, for their teachers. My host was actually a teacher at this school, hence the invite and the reason for being there. I won't talk too much about the performances of the students, but I must describe the scene a little, as there were several older men, trying to deal with the poor sound system, as one poor boy was left on the stage speechless as his microphone just kept making a terrible sound! The most memorable act had to be that of a group of girls, who not only chose to wear outfits that would not be out of place in any of the UK gay parades, but chose a 'rap' soundtrack that had more swearing in it, than a 50 cents concert! I just was pretty shocked by the swearing in the song, as normally you don't hear any kind of cursing here. I had to conclude that nobody in the audience actually understood the words of the songs! A quick call from my colleague, had me walking out of the hall, again followed by the eyes of 200 people, and a few calls of "hello, where you from?". An hour later and I was back in Hoi An having a beer with my neighbour, after taking Lai home, happy to hear that Liverpool had returned to the top of the Premier League!
My last full Sunday in and around Hoi An was a really nice one. I met my neighbour at 0800 to offer some tuition in English.. UK English ( not Australian English) as I keep making the point there! After some quick breakfast I met another worker, Vi, from the foundation that works at the orphanage here. We enjoyed a local coffee in the unexpected sunshine before returning home to collect my dry washing... washing can take a week to dry in the rainy season! After some sorting at home, in preparation for my move next weekend, I met my Japanese friend again, and we took a drive on a motorbike. (this week's pictures come from the drive around!)Regards from Vietnam!