Thursday, March 15, 2012

Long Time Coming

Wow. I really have been ignoring this blog. I will start by saying that Karen and I have decided to end our Asian odyssey and are moving back to Nova Scotia in July. I know that we have said that in the past but I assure you that, this time, it is true. As I write this my wife and I are living on two different ends of this ridiculous country and only see each other about once a month. We moved to Saigon back in May and Karen got work almost immediately while I stumbled around between jobs, while my bank account hemorrhaged funds, for almost six months before packing it in and heading back to Hanoi with my tail between my legs. I am now back at ACET, working a full time teaching schedule, while running the R&R Tavern at night. It is a massive load of hours which, by no small measure, is making up for the massive lost to my savings during my time in Saigon. Karen decided to stay in Saigon and complete the contract for her school which finishes at the end of April. She will, at that time, join me in Hanoi for our remaining two months in Vietnam.
Now that I have planned to depart this country, I realize that, as much as I have complained about this place, I will miss it forever. I have seen and done some pretty amazing things here. I will definitely leave a part of me behind when I go. the truth is I don't know if it is that I left it or that Hanoi took it, but either way it will be here.
It's been a hell of a ride, and I don't know if I will ever post in this blog again. But, if any of you are still reading. It has been an honor and a pleasure to share this bizarre, life changing experience with those of you who were interested enough to read along. Well over a hundred posts, spanning 7 years in Asia. I hope this is not the last adventure I have that is worth writing about, but you never know. Life has a way of trapping you from time to time and Nova Scotia, particularly has a tendency to hold on pretty tight.
Those of you I am leaving. I have been privileged to know you, and those of you who I am coming back to. I can't wait to see you.
Signing off.
Ed

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lombak Island

Karen thought it would be a good idea for us to take the Public or Discount ferry from Gili T to Lombak Island. You can clearly see the island from Gili but it was a lot farther away than you would think, as we were about to find out. We walked the half K up the beach road to the dock and bought our tickets, which at 10 IDR clock in at about a buck ten.
The boat was leaving right away. We could see the little ferry rocking back and forth in the surf and I was suddenly worried. This was not the sturdiest looking vessel I had ever seen. We were told it had a 25 person capacity. I was thinking it would be a little tight with 25 people but shouldn’t be too bad. Karen and I got on early and took a seat towards the front of the boat. We then watched with our concern growing, as goods and equipment were also loaded on the boat. We watched horrified as person after person got in or on the boat. At last count there were well over forty people stuffed inside, on top of and on the side of this rickety inboard motor boat.
“These are exactly the kind of boats you hear about sinking on the news” I said just as we pushed off. We sat patiently as the captain spent five minutes trying to get the engine to turn over. Finally the motor roared to life and lilting dangerously to the right, we sped off toward Lombak Island. The entire trip, luckily, only took 25 minutes.
We landed, luggage in tow, and attempted to get a taxi. A real taxi, not an animal powered one. This island was much bigger and had actual motorized vehicles on it. We hooked up with a British girl who was going to the same area as us, so we decided to share a taxi. I stood back in the shade while Karen and the Brit bartered intensely with the taxi driver. Eventually an acceptable price was agreed upon and we set off. It was a good thing we were not traveling by horse because the drive took an hour by car. On a positive note, it was one of the prettiest drives I have ever experienced. The entire ride was made up of winding roads through the mountains that had expansive panoramic views of mountain peaks and ocean below. Truly stunning.
The resort is nestled in a valley with oceanfront acreage. Literally in the middle of nowhere, there was not a lot for us to do except enjoy the ocean and the pool at the resort. We eventually got a little stir crazy and decided to take a taxi to the nearest town and try to drum up some excitement.
As soon as we got out of the taxi the sellers surrounded us. “look here boss!”, “Check it out boss.” They overwhelmed us. I immediately got claustrophobic and pushed my way passed them, trying to be as polite as possible. I know it is how they make their living, but the aggressive hard sell while competing with other sellers doing the same thing is a bit much for anyone to take. We escaped to a market where there was a live performance of Indonesian stick fighting going on with much fanfare surrounding it. We tried to see it from the ground but were not very successful. We decided to hop into one of the restaurants with balconies overlooking the grounds.
The view of the stick fighting was great, but the best surprise was the food. We dined on calamari rings and steak that was delicious. We left the restaurant bursting with fantastic surf and turf. The sellers were at it again and we fought our way through them and into a taxi to take us back to the resort. We found ourselves fairly stressed after the short little trip into town. It is too bad that such a wonderful place has to come with such an aggressive human element. Don’t get me wrong I understand that these people are just trying to make some money from the tourism, but I don’t know if I would ever return to this place due to their overbearing tactics.
Anyway, I am sitting at the pool bar looking out at the ocean as I write this and am thinking that maybe the sellers aren’t enough to keep me away from here after all. It is a truly beautiful place. Karen grows impatient with my blogging so I am going to sign off now and join her for a late afternoon cocktail on the beach.
Cheers for now,
Ed

Gili Trawangan Part 2

We checked out of our hotel the next morning and went directly to the resort where after a short delay checking in, we were in the pool and relaxing at full capacity for most of the afternoon. At some point in the afternoon we took another attempt at the beach but unfortunately it was the same situation. Sharp shells and sharp coral all over the place sucking every ounce of enjoyment out of the ocean, once again. We decided the only way to enjoy this ocean was to be underneath it and booked a scuba dive for the next day.
We pulled ourselves out of the pool at 7pm and decided it was time to eat. A couple of showers and a quick change later we were once again eating some BBQ on the beach. After eating we found ourselves a nice private table facing the ocean where we just enjoyed the sound of the water and the moon reflecting off of the waves until once again the days sun and fresh air took it’s toll and the best day we had had so far came to an end.
The second day at the resort began with a buffet breakfast followed by some more soaking in the beautiful pool bar. At one PM we were on a boat and heading out to a dive site with some other folks and a few guides to ensure everyone who was going our was going to come back. Due to my oversized lungs and air gluttony, I was given a steel tank that held more air than the aluminum tanks everyone else had. We went down as a group of five. Karen, myself, a couple of newlyweds and our guide. Once again the current was incredibly strong and we just let it take us where it wanted to. The dive was fun, if a little uninteresting. There wasn’t a lot to see at the location that was chosen for us. The dive lasted 39 minutes and I began to feel ill immediately upon resurfacing. This feeling was to last for quite awhile as fatigue and nausea stole my second day from me. I spent most of that day recovering in the hotel room.
Our third and final day at the resort was much better. I woke up feeling much better and embarked on a day of drinking at the pool. Karen joined me later and we met a fun group of people. Michael, Erik, Tommy and Pinkey. They were American, Swedish and Australian respectively. We stayed at the pool bar until they kicked us out and then we went across the street to the beach bar where there was a band playing. Karen and Tommy talked me into getting on stage with the band and singing “Sweet Home Alabama” with Tommy doing backing vocals. We then made our way to a Japanese restaurant where we had the best sashimi I have ever eaten. Karen and I lasted until midnight when we left the younger folk to their own devises and headed on back to our hotel. It was an even better day than our first day at the resort and a perfect end to Gili T, as in the morning we would be taking a ferry to Lombok island.

Gili Trawangan Part 1

After a good night’s sleep we were both bright eyed and bushy tailed The drive to the dock from our beach was much more peaceful than the trip from the airport to our beach, and I didn’t fear for my safety once. We purchased our tickets from the counter and then it was hurry up and wait for the fast boat to be ready for departure.
A couple of cups of coffee later, we were on our way to the boat. Karen and I were the first on board and secured seats at the back for the two hour water trip to Gili Trawangan , or Gili T as it is commonly referred to. We anchored a few meters from shore and had to jump into the surf up to or knees, holding our bags above our heads as we sloshed on to the beach.
It was hotter than a stove top in hell and we were sweating immediately. We made our way to a café next to the beach to get a drink and some lunch. This was the first of our unplanned days and we had no place to stay. After lunch, Karen suggested I stay put while she scouted out some possible accommodation for the evening. When it is as hot as it was on this particular day, Karen knows that I am liable to take the very first place we look at so we can dump our luggage and begin to relax. She rented a bicycle and took off, leaving me to a book and some cold beer. I would stay there for two hours.
Karen returned, red-faced and dripping with sweat. She had pedaled the length of the beach stopping at every hotel along the way, only to hear the same response. “sorry we full today”. We had made the mistake of arriving on the afternoon of a full moon party to be held on the beach that night. There was hope, however, as she had heard there were some vacancies in the other direction at a place called Ozzie Beach Bungalows. After a short breather, she made her way to the opposite end of the beach to look into this rumour. I bid her goodbye once again as she hopped on her squeaky bicycle and disappeared down the road.
Gili T is known for it’s quaintness and laid back nature. The first and most obvious aspect of this is the fact that there are no motorized vehicles on the island and even the taxis are horse drawn. The other thing that you notice right away are the sheer amount of beautiful people walking around half naked. I am talking about perfect little packages of well-tanned humanity. It doesn’t do a lot for the self esteem of a fat, old bastard like me to be surrounded by so many young, fit and attractive people. I suppose that is why the good Lord created alcohol.
I was well into my cups when Karen returned with the good news that there was indeed, room at the Inn. I finished my beer and hopped into a horse drawn buggy with our luggage and Karen following behind on her bicycle. Twenty minutes later we were shown to our bungalow. It was a comfortable bed and nice bathroom. The only problem, which we were to learn was an island wide scenario, was salt water showers. Oh, and the bathroom was actually outside.
We settled in quickly and hit the beach. There was much disappointment to follow as the beach, while pretty, was composed of a combination of rough sand and razor sharp pieces of coral. The difficulty of walking on the beach was further compounded by a vicious current that pushed you around like old Vietnamese women at a bread counter. This was bad news indeed. After tearing our feet up for a little while, we decided to call it quits and grab a drink at one of the many beachfront bars and café’s. Karen had to return the bike that she had rented for only three hours, so she left to do that, while I found a table and ordered a drink. No more than five minutes after sitting down and Karen leaving, the skies opened up and a massive wind hit the island. It rained heavily for an hour and Karen showed up in a horse taxi about twenty minutes into the storm. We waited out the weather at the café and then decided to check out the rest of the island.
Our age interfered with a long night of DJ’s on the beach for the full moon party and we ended up having a bit of bar-b-que and a few more drinks taking in the sunset. Karen used an internet café to book our remaining days on Gili T at a resort called Hotel Villa Ombak. We would have one night in our little bungalow and then enjoy the rest of our stay in relative luxury at a fairly affordable price. Once again the sun, travel and drink wore us down and we were in our room and ready for bed by ten PM. We slept peacefully through the raging Full Moon party that went until 5am the next morning. It is a sad state of affairs as just a few short years ago I would have been one of those stumbling sacks, walking zombie like off of the beach as the sunrise chased me to my bed. Old age is a hateful bitch.

-E

Friday, May 20, 2011

Bali

The airport in Bali was much the same as Malaysia with the big difference being wait time at Customs and Immigration. We sailed right through and were out in the open air in mere minutes. No busses or trains for this leg of the trip, however, we just sauntered over to the taxi counter and paid a fee for a direct drive to our hotel room.
I spent my first twenty minutes on the streets of Bali fearing for my life. The taxi driver drove at such reckless and terrifying speeds that I gripped the “Oh Shit” handle with all my might. Speeding up to the rear bumper of cars in front of us only to slam on the brake at the last possible second, avoiding collision by millimeters. White knuckled and pale faced, we finally turned on to The 66 section of the beach front where we would be staying. Karen, consummately prepared as ever, had pre-booked us into the Tune Hotel, in an effort to minimize expense on this leg of the trip. Tune hotel advertises itself as a 5 star bed with a 1 star cost. The bed was quite nice. Of course, a bed was all there was. It was the smallest hotel room I had ever seen, just big enough to walk around the bed and enter the bathroom, which was just a swinging glass door. Fair enough, as we did not come to Bali to hang about the hotel room.
The beach was incredible. White soft sand as far as you can see. The waves were massive and there were many surfers out on the water taking advantage of the early breaks and long rides. Kicking off the flip-flops, Karen and I walked along the waters edge for a long time before settling into beach chairs and just taking in all of the sounds and scenery. The beach touts were out in droves all selling the same thing. Henna tattoo’s, cigarettes, bracelets and knick knacks. My polite nature kept them hanging on longer than normal and I had to harden up fairly quickly. It is harder to be a jerk when people are as friendly as the Balinese. In Hanoi it is very easy to tell someone to piss off, as they are generally nasty and indifferent. The sellers on this beach were all smiles and polite conversation. After the fourth or fifth occurrence where the exact same questions were asked about my place of birth, length of stay etc, It was beginning to ruin the enjoyment of the beach that I had travelled so far to get to. I adopted the hard look and stern “no” practice that kept them mostly at bay.
We spent the first day shopping, swimming, eating and drinking the local offerings. I was disappointed with nothing and had a great first day.
Day two in Bali had us a little more adventurous and we rented a motor bike and drove ourselves to Kuta beach, which is the touristy area. We stopped at a money changers and got ripped off through some magician like slight of hand, that was a lesson well learned. We watch them like a hawk now. The sand at the beach was rough and brown and not nearly as enjoyable as the beach where we were staying so we opted to sneak onto a resort and pretend to be guests. We spent the afternoon lounging in their pool bar and drinking Bing Tang beer. It was here we noticed our purse was about 300,000 IR less than it should have been. We worked out that we had been hustled and decided not to let it ruin our day. We left the resort and headed to The Hard Rock Café where we could only afford to order two draught beers due to our misfortune in dealing with the tricky money changers. I talked to the manager about possibly having The Props do a show there. We hopped on the bike and headed back to the good beach, where we showered and changed before going to the beach to watch the spectacular sunset. After another good meal in another good restaurant, we were once again exhausted and in need of a good night’s sleep, which we got in our tiny little hotel room. We had another early morning wake-up call as a taxi was coming at 7am to pick us up and take us to the high-speed water ferry that would be transporting us to Gili T. We have one more evening in Bali at the end of our trip and I am looking forward to it. Bali is a beautiful, chill place and a great way to spend a few days and a few dollars.
Cheers,
E

Malaysia

We departed early. I mean dairy farmer early. We entered our taxi at 5:45 am, still a little drunk from the night before. We make quick time to Noi Bai Airport and began the two and a half hour wait for our departure. We found ourselves in an Asian restaurant located on the top floor of International departures and cured our hangovers by proceeding to get drunk again. A few Tiger draughts and a bowl of Pho Tai Chin later we stumbled through security and immigration. We purchased some more cans of beer, sat down on uncomfortable metal seats and waited for the boarding call. We made our way across the tarmac and boarded the mid-sized plane. Karen and I got three seats to ourselves and were somewhat comfortable for the three hour flight to Malaysia.
We landed in Kuala Lampur and the first order of business, embarrassingly, was Mickey D’s where I had my first Big Mac in 11 months. Karen ordered the Big and Tastey while I got the Big Mac meal with an extra Big Mac thrown in for good measure. We were thoroughly underwhelmed by the cuisine served up at the golden arches and walked away Mcbloated and Mcnauseated.
We left the airport and made our way to the sky train, which would take us close to Central station where we could then walk to the MRT that would take us to our hotel for the evening. We landed at 1pm and after all the dicking around with transit, it was 4:30 by the time we arrived at our hotel. The hotel, which we splurged on a little for Karen’s birthday, was The Renaissance. It had a fantastic pool that we took advantage of before showering up and taking a walk around the city. After a long day of traveling and drinking we were bone tired and found ourselves in bed by ten pm the first night of our vacation. It was a very comfortable bed and a much needed night of sleep.
It was still pitch dark when out wake-up call shattered our peace and quiet and drove us from the cool comfort and calm of our bed and once again we found ourselves on foot heading for more public transport. It was back to the MRT which we took to Central Station and this time we decided on a bus, as it was early on a Sunday morning and therefore less traffic and it was a fraction of the price of yesterdays trip. I watched two episodes of Supernatural on my laptop and then we were back at the airport. McDonalds again, but this time for breakfast, which was much better than the dinner the previous day.
So here we are. Stanked up with airport au de toilette and awaiting the boarding call for our next three hour flight to Bali, I am wasting time by blogging for the first time in a very, very long time. I can’t wait to hit the sunshine and golden shores of Bali. The next entry shall be coming soon.
Cheers,
E

Saturday, March 26, 2011

More kind words for The Props

A great article written about The Props on the eve of our Album debut, "Year of the Horse" We also have our own website now if you want to check it out.

www.theprops.org
www.theprops.org

The Article
http://hanoigrapevine.com/2011/03/hanoi-ink-the-props-a-think-piece/

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A great article written about The Props

http://www.dtinews.vn/news/sports-_-entertainment/props-drop-debut-album-in-hanoi_3677.html ...CUT AND PASTE THE LINK OR JUST CLICK ON THE TITLE!!!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Cha-Cha-Cha Changes

A few things have happened since our last post. Our long time roommate, Mark, has returned to Germany leaving the room on our second floor vacant, as well as the room on the top floor. We put an advertisement into the www.newhanoian.com and found ourselves some replacements. Now we have Elise(Holland) and JT(Australia), that are both currently taking a Celta course to become qualified English teachers. So, the living situation has changed drastically. The work situation is the same for me, working at Oxford English UK and Hanoi Hotel while Karen has moved over to ACET (Australian Center for Education and Training) She has joined the ranks of such illustrious teachers as Brady(Vocals/Harp of the Props) and Andrew "Vinyl" Vennemore (Guitar/Vocals of the Props) and seems to be enjoying her new place of employment.
On a sadder note, we have lost a member of the band. Tom Lancanster has left the Props due to family and work obligations. He was an invaluable member of the band, and his songs and presence will be missed by all. The props, as a band, are trucking on. We played the Hype festival as a four piece with a surprise appearance by the recently de-propped Tom, for the last two songs of the set. We are currently considering replacements for the irreplaceable, which will be no easy task.
The Hype show went over with a few hitches, but overall was an enjoyable experience. We shared the stage with Killa Kela and the drummer from Franz Ferdinand as well as some other hip-hop/DJ folks, The Backyard Dogs Van Ho Ba, The Hanoi Bossanova band and a crazy instrumental band called Gibbon Suburbia that came out in masks and fur and completely rocked the house. After we got off the stage Jagermeister was being offered to anyone who was interested and as usual, I was interested. The rest of the evening gets kind of blurry after that, but I was told I had a lot of fun.
That is it for now, other than anxiously awaiting the arrival of my Mother and Daughter to Hanoi in July, it is straight on work and occasional play until said arrival and a three week vacation that shall ensue immediately. Can't wait. Edwardo needs a vacation bad.
Till next time, Keep your grip loose and your eye on the ball but most importantly, try to kill it with every swing, otherwise it just ain't worth getting up to bat.
-E

Friday, February 12, 2010

Clogged Drain

I haven't posted anything for a while so I might as well get back into the swing of things with an unusual one. We have a new roommate on the third floor of our house who went away to Bangkok for the week before Tet holiday. We went up to do some laundry, as the washing machine is in the bathroom on that floor, and noticed the sink was half full of really disturbing looking water. I attempted to unclog it with a wire hanger and was unsuccessful. Karen and I came to the conclusion, from the look and smell of the water, that he had thrown up in the sink and because of that the pipes were completely clogged. Instead of telling us, he went away for a week and left us to make this particularly gruesome discovery days later. We called the always helpful Ai and asked her to contact the landlord to send a plumber as soon as possible as Tet was only days away and we didn't want to deal with this for another 10 days. The landlord was there 15 minutes later. He showed up with a weather beaten plunger and made his way up to the third floor. He spent a few moments trying to force the drain to clear and then went at it with the wire hanger. He was as successful as I had been. This is where the story takes a strange and repulsive turn. Karen and I are standing directly behind this man, looking over his shoulder as he takes on the sink. ***I need to describe the third floor bathroom before continuing this story. There is a shower stall, a basin and the washing machine. The washing machine, basin and shower all empty into a drain in the corner of the room fed by pipes. There is no toilet in this bathroom.*** To the complete horror/dismay/surprise/shock/outrage of Karen and I, the landlord unzipped his fly and began to urinate into the drain. I didn't know if I should give the man some privacy or roll up a newspaper and whack him across the nose before rubbing his face in the mess he just made on our floor. In a true tribute to the level of desensitization that Vietnam has inflicted on us over the past 44 months, we simply walked away and went downstairs. the landlord came down and,because he doesn't speak a word of English, wrote a time for later that same day on a piece of paper. With that, his business was finished and he bid us a goodbye. " Ok, thanks for coming into our home and pissing on the floor, you disgusting animal." I replied cheerily. He nodded to me and hopped onto his scooter and sped out of our lives for the time being. The plumber came later and fixed the sink. To the best of my knowledge he didn't relieve himself on any the floor of any of our rooms, so we have that going for us. For those of you still checking in on us from time to time, Happy Tet and may the year of the tiger bring you much luck and prosperity.
Pray for our sanity,
-E

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Thailand Ultimate Explorers

We have sent in an audition video to be one of the couples selected for a contest being put on by Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT). We recorded a video and threw in some of the video and picture we took in Bangkok on our previous trips. Now that we have submitted our application we just sit and wait and hope that we get chosen. It sound like an amazing opportunity and Karen and I are both hoping we get chosen. We would be brought to Bangkok and given an awesome vacation that we would then twitter, blog and facebook about while we are doing it. There are five teams competing and the winner of the five teams wins a grand prize. There will be a voting process over the next little while so stay tuned and help us become Thailand's Ultimate Explorers.
Clink on the title to go to the site.
-E

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The New Hanoians take on Halong Bay

The 1st annual Grass Roots and Bamboo Shoots in the Bay occurred on Saturday, September 26th. We gathered in Downtown Hanoi for some breakfast and coffee at 7:30 am on Saturday morning and waited to board the three buses that would be taking all 150 of us to Halong Bay. The trip was long but not uncomfortable and everyone was anxious to get on the beautiful junks, we could see awaiting our arrival, anchored in the bay.
After a short organizational stopover at the Bhaya building we were ferried over to the junks where we were showered with rose petals as we made our way onto the boat.We were led upstairs to the dining area and given a welcome cocktail. We all found a seat and listened while the organizer welcomed us and gave a short orientation speech.
Our names were called out and we collected our room keys.
The rooms were awesome. Private balconies and soft, plush double beds. It was so much better than any junk I had ever been on before. We quickly settled in to our room and hurried upstairs again to have lunch. I filled my stomach with surf and turf and then it was time to decide if we wanted to go swimming, kayaking or take a nap. WE took a nap.
I was woken up an hour or so later and told we had to head over to the cave right away to do soundcheck. I jumped out of bed and gathered everything I needed. I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes as I boarded the little shuttle ferry for the 20 minute ride to the cave.
The cave, or Grotto if you prefer, was outstanding. It was massive and wide with steps leading up from the water. We took a few moments to take the amazing location in before getting down to business and doing soundcheck. With the help of Sean, soundcheck went smoothly and we were ready to have a cold beer or two by 5:30.
The rest of the people arrived about a half hour later to more rose petals and insane but very appropriate music creating a surreal atmosphere that everyone was quite taken with.
The Jagermeister, rum and beer were attacked with gusto and everyone was able to have a drink or two before sitting down to yet another wonderful bbq buffet. The band got changed and made our way to the stage after dinner. We played two 45 minute sets in the coolest location I have ever seen. With free rum, beer and jager flowing all evening, it can't be too hard to imagine that people got a little tipsy. DJ Kulture came on after us and spun tunes until they finally had enough and kicked us out.
We finished off the evening with some bottles of wine and some Bitburger beer on the top deck of boat 3. It was a fantastic ending to one of the best days I can remember having in a long time. Great work Eliot and the rest of the gang at New Hanoian and Bhaya cruises. Well done.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Props Live at R&R Tavern

video

Ed video



This is my new band, The Props, playing at R&R Tavern last Friday evening. This is the fourth band I have been in since landing here in Hanoi. This band is, by far, more my style than any of the others. I enjoyed playing in all of the other bands, but The Props is more like the music I would be writing myself if I were currently writing music, which I'm not. Maybe I will start writing again soon if I ever get some free time to do so. Anyway, I am heading back to the candy cane stacks once again with my lovely wife Karen and we are hoping to see all of you a few times, at least, while we are there. We are only going to be home for just under a month so we have a lot of stuff to squeeze into that time frame. I look forward to seeing everyone and there is a second half of this video that i will post soon. I had to cut it in half as it was too large to post as one video.

Take 'er easy.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Yard Dogs LIVE!

I have enjoyed practicing with Mike, Simon and David for the past month or so. It has been a great way to spend a Sunday. We were preparing for a one time only show before Simon heads back to the UK and France for the summer. Our one show turned into two shows as we were invited to play for a benefit being put on for a poor local boy who has lost both hands and a foot trying to save a friend from certain death at the hands of a live power box.
The basement of Al Fresco's restaurant was filled with friends and acquaintances for the Yard Dogs first show. We had some help setting up the sound from Shaun, and we'd like to thank him for everything. It was a great evening that I am still recovering from as I write this. I am including a video of some highlights from the evening. Next stop, the Matador on Wednesday evening for an encore performance
-E video

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Just a post to show we are still alive and well.

I have nothing exciting to write at this time. Be patient, it is coming. I will post this amazing quote by the legendary Hunter S. Thompson, I couldn't possibly say it better than he does....

Security ... what does this word mean in relation to life as we know it today? For the most part, it means safety and freedom from worry. It is said to be the end that all men strive for; but is security a utopian goal or is it another word for rut?

Let us visualize the secure man; and by this term, I mean a man who has settled for financial and personal security for his goal in life. In general, he is a man who has pushed ambition and initiative aside and settled down, so to speak, in a boring, but safe and comfortable rut for the rest of his life. His future is but an extension of his present, and he accepts it as such with a complacent shrug of his shoulders. His ideas and ideals are those of society in general and he is accepted as a respectable, but average and prosaic man. But is he a man? has he any self-respect or pride in himself? How could he, when he has risked nothing and gained nothing? What does he think when he sees his youthful dreams of adventure, accomplishment, travel and romance buried under the cloak of conformity? How does he feel when he realizes that he has barely tasted the meal of life; when he sees the prison he has made for himself in pursuit of the almighty dollar? If he thinks this is all well and good, fine, but think of the tragedy of a man who has sacrificed his freedom on the altar of security, and wishes he could turn back the hands of time. A man is to be pitied who lacked the courage to accept the challenge of freedom and depart from the cushion of security and see life as it is instead of living it second-hand. Life has by-passed this man and he has watched from a secure place, afraid to seek anything better What has he done except to sit and wait for the tomorrow which never comes?

Turn back the pages of history and see the men who have shaped the destiny of the world. Security was never theirs, but they lived rather than existed. Where would the world be if all men had sought security and not taken risks or gambled with their lives on the chance that, if they won, life would be different and richer? It is from the bystanders (who are in the vast majority) that we receive the propaganda that life is not worth living, that life is drudgery, that the ambitions of youth must he laid aside for a life which is but a painful wait for death. These are the ones who squeeze what excitement they can from life out of the imaginations and experiences of others through books and movies. These are the insignificant and forgotten men who preach conformity because it is all they know. These are the men who dream at night of what could have been, but who wake at dawn to take their places at the now-familiar rut and to merely exist through another day. For them, the romance of life is long dead and they are forced to go through the years on a treadmill, cursing their existence, yet afraid to die because of the unknown which faces them after death. They lacked the only true courage: the kind which enables men to face the unknown regardless of the consequences.

As an afterthought, it seems hardly proper to write of life without once mentioning happiness; so we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?

- HST

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Another year over, and a new one just begun

It has been far too long since our last post and for that we apologize. We are now recovering from the week that was Christmas and New Years. We had as much fun as was possible considering the vast distances between us and our friends and family. R&R Tavern was our home away from home this holiday season. We enjoyed a wonderful turkey dinner on Christmas day with co-workers from Oxford English UK. Huong outdid herself with a fantastic meal that made us, if only for a short time, feel as though we were home enjoying a turkey dinner with all of the fixings. Next was NYE where we also celebrated the coming of the new year with friends at the bar. It was a good way to ring in the new year so far from home. Thanks again, to Jay and Huong for their efforts this holiday season. I hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years and we miss you all and were thinking of you over the holidays. I will do my best to not let so much time pass between posts.
Bring on the new year and year number four for the Merlins rocking South East Asia.
Ciao for now,
-E
Please enjoy this short video of clips taken by Karen over the past year on her cell phone.

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Friday, October 31, 2008

40 Days and 40 Nights, well not really but...

It has been raining here for more than 24 hours and it just won't let up. The flooding has become a real problem on the roads and I am starting to worry about our first floor. Karen shot some video of the condition of our city streets, and we apologize for the quality of the video as she shot it on her cell phone, but she did a great job of catching some of the madness at its worst. So here it is. The state of Hanoi as I am writing this, and it is only getting worse. Awesome.
Happy Halloween
-Ed

PS. Click the title for some pictures

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Sunday, October 12, 2008

Hanoi Rocks!! Regurgitator Live

The show went down without a hitch tonight, and I had the best stage experience of my life. There were thousands of people in attendance for My Favorite Uncle's last performance. Yes, that's right, I said our last performance. Paul, our singer, is heading back to Australia and the band as we know it will be no more. It was fun while it lasted and I will remember it always. We brought in a whole new age of rock and roll to Hanoi, as until now, there had never been any shows like this before. I will always be happy to know I played such an important role in the bringing of rock to a place like this. there have only been three major shows in Hanoi this year and I played them all. Your welcome Hanoi, and I hope you keep up the good work. These people are desperate for good live music and I can't be around here much longer to bring it to them. So bring it y'all. Make the scene where there isn't one.
Regurgitator rocked the house and made it abundantly clear why they are professionals and the rest of us are just amateurs. They drove the Viets crazy with song after song of hard rock mayhem. I got caught up in it myself a little bit, I am not ashamed to say. The crowd was hungry, and we served up some prime riffs. I have never in my life, experienced such an enthusiastic and energetic crowd. They were amazing. I have included a video of the goings on this evening and Marty and Mel, I didn't get your autographs but watch the video all the way to the end, I think I got you something almost as good.
Chao for now,
E


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Saturday, October 11, 2008

(My 100th Blog) Last Show at Lo Su

Yes, Ladies and gentlemen, it is my 100th blog and I am using it to display some video from R&R Tavern, our home away from home here in Hanoi. The bar will be moving to a new location and the venue will be changing a little bit. A few of us got together and brought the end out in style as we drunkenly butchered other peoples songs all evening long.
Thank you R&R, and Jay and Huong it's owners, for providing a hell of a nice place for us to forget we are in Hanoi, while we are there at least.
Stay tuned as tomorrow I am playing an outdoor festival with Australian power pop group, Regurgitator.

Keep on, keeping on.

Ed




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Friday, September 19, 2008

REGURGITATOR!!!!!! WHAT? WHAT? YEAH BOY!!!!

Alright, to be fair, I had no idea who this band was. I can not be blamed for this, however, as I am a North American, and as such I am not privy to this particular band. This is an Australian band. Those who like them, like them a lot. ( Nice right, An Alexander Kieth's reference, from Hanoi, in the middle of Asia. Who rocks? Me, that's who.)
I have heard Australians, and let us remember they are the only country in the world to be their own continent, tell me how awesome Regurgitator is. They are like Canada's Tragically Hip, apparently. So I am excited to announce that your's truly will be opening up for them at an outdoor venue where there are supposed to be 3,000 to 5,000 people in attendance. Yeah, that's not a lot, but I ask you, Have any of you played for that many people? I rest my case. I know some of you have, so shut up!
Regurgitator are being brought in by the Australian Chamber of Commerce, or Auscham, as they are lovingly referred to around here. I say lovingly because they rock! Having attended Canada day here in Hanoi and being bored to tears by the festivities, I must say, Australia knocked it out of the park for the Big Day Out. I am a fan of Australia now.
It will be a true rock-n-roll day, with an outdoor festival followed by a party back at the hotel. C'mon, that is awesome. I apologize if I am coming off as a bit of a braggart, but I am not there with you to passively-aggressively shit-talk my own work in hopes of you telling me how great it is. Ah Hem. Anyway, I am super stoked, and looking forward to a great night. I, of course, will be writing a blog about the evening so I hope you stay tuned.
Word to Big Bird,
Ed

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

2 years in Nam

It has been two years since we landed on Vietnamese soil and still I haven't decided what I think about this place. I can tell you that I have never in my life felt more free than I have driving the streets of this Socialist Republic after midnight. I come from Canada, which is considered to be one of the most free countries in the world, and while I agree with that somewhat, I never would have realized how much fear I was carrying around with me while I was there. I would drive my car and feel afraid of speeding or if I had a beer or two that was always on my mind. While I was working, I was always afraid of being caught screwing around, like I always did, by my bosses. I was consciously aware of the fact that I was working for other people in Canada, where here it feels more like I am working for myself. There are so many things to fear in Canada that I was taking for granted until I left.
These people are barbaric, innocent, honest,unique,playful,ambivalent,creative and welcoming. I have complained long and hard about the Vietnamese over drinks at a local Western bar, but there is a sincerity with these people that I would be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Vietnam is like a second home to me, and especially now that we are discussing leaving here and going back to Taiwan, for a short time, before finally heading home to end this epic pilgrimage. I want to make the most of this situation and get everything I can out of these people and this place, by finally shaking off my Canadian hang-ups and pre-conceived notions, and just letting myself enjoy this chaotic and complicated country. I love Vietnam and I love the Vietnamese in a way that you love a long losing baseball team or an old beat up car you just can't let go of.
We are leaving. that is a fact and a foregone conclusion. Yet, I am already missing this place before I have even left it. It has ruined me in a lot of ways and I have a lot of changing to do, whereby I can even fit back in to the Canada I have left almost four years ago. It will be interesting, and I guess that is all that matters. we are short-timing now in Asia, and we will see where this road takes us. I can't wait for the trip.
-Ed

Saturday, July 19, 2008

China Beach, Danang, Vietnam

We decided, at the last minute, to travel with R&R tavern owners Jay and Huong and their two children Ross and Patty, to China Beach in Danang for a week of sun and surf. Some of you may recall China Beach from Apocalypse Now, it is the place where "Charlie Don't Surf". We spent four nights and five days in what may very well be the hottest place on earth. We arrived in Danang at about 5pm on Monday after a short flight from Hanoi. We shared a taxi for the fifteen minute drive to China Beach and were in the South China Sea by five-thirty. The water was a beautiful mix of turquoise and blue, framed by white sandy beaches with powder soft sand. We grudgingly removed ourselves from the water and went back to our hotel to change and shower before dinner. We returned to a little thatched hut restaurant, where we would be eating all our meals for the following week. Karen ordered a plate of king prawn and I ordered a standard Vietnamese dish of stir fried Beef and vegetable with a side of white rice. My food was alright, but Karen's Prawn were awesome. I hate seafood, and never eat it, but upon prompting from Karen I tried one and ended up eating half of the .5 Kg King prawns myself. Delicious. With full stomachs, we ordered a bucket of cold beer and spent the rest of our first evening sitting on the beach sipping cold Tiger beer, allowing our food to digest while listening to the waves crash on one of the worlds most famous beaches. The next day started early for us and we spent most of the day swimming and sitting on the beach. I, of course, got burned as I always do whenever I go to a beach. The heat was more extreme than I expected, with temperatures reaching 40+ and the sun was like a mean snotty nosed kid with a magnifying glass and we were the ants. Even Karen, who never gets sunburned, got burned the following day. Day three was much like day one and two, with the exception of heading up the beach about half a K, to a resort where the six of us ended the evening drinking cocktails and watching the most wonderfully absurd band I have ever seen. We went late so we only caught their final set, but it was amazing. It was a three piece Filipino band who were insanely enthusiastic and had a bit of a hard time with pronunciation of some of the words in the songs. I was truly delighted to hear, in their rendition of Another Brick in the Wall, "All and all we're just another brick"s" on zee wall" It was a great week. Karen tried surfing for the first time, but the waves were a little small that day and her attempts were futile. We did exactly what we wanted to do, be lazy on a beach, and got to experience a few new things. Surfing for Karen and The Final Touch band for both of us. The last thing I want to write about is our trip home. Karen,myself,Huong and little Patty left a full week earlier than Jay and Ross. We shared a taxi to the airport for the flight back to Hanoi. The weather had been perfect for the entire trip but sometime after we checked in and walked in to the departure lounge the weather turned nasty and violent. Our flight was delayed 30 minutes while the hardest downpour I had ever seen erupted from out of nowhere. The sky turned black and thunder began to shake the walls of the small airport and lighting lit up the skies. The worst had past but it was still storming when they called us to board the plane. I looked over at Karen and I said " I don't like this. " I asked her if she wanted to wait and fly out in the morning on another flight. She declined and said it would be fine. I conceded and gritted my teeth as we headed out to the tarmac. It was the first time I was actually afraid to fly. It was a rough take off and an even rougher landing in Hanoi where it was also storming. It was an amazing and frightening experience to be on a Vietnamese budget airline, with lightning arcing all around the plane as we made the roughest landing I have ever felt in my more than 40 flights. Well, we made it and it was a great ending to a memorable week. I have included some video. Peace out, homeys. P.S. Charlie still don't surf!
Ed
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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Cholera night boys! I've had enough.

It took three years but I finally caught cholera! It was so much fun. I spent four days doubled over in pain punctuated by bouts of vomiting and almost constant violent diarrhea. Jealous much? I bet you are. Now that I am better, I miss it so much. I am going to start licking small denominations of currency in a bid to bring my new friend back. I hear 2,000 and 5,000 dong notes are the best for Cholera.
All joking aside, this was a hardcore illness that really messed me up for days. It made food-poisoning look like a silly head cold. I had to send Karen out of the house the first day it was so awful and our one bedroom apartment just wasn't big enough for the both of us. Luckily she has seemed to avoid contracting this nightmare illness,so far, and I hope to God she manages to continue to avoid it.
I had to cancel my classes for most of the week as I would have made for a piss poor teacher in my condition. It was not only debilitating in every way, but it cost me a considerable amount of money in lost wages. All in all, Vietnam bared her teeth and bit me in the ass. I will take every conceivable action to avoid ever contracting cholera again. One down, only Malaria and Dengue fever to go. I can't wait.
Now, moving on to a lighter side...
I have to post this picture of a moth I found on the window in our hallway. I want to mention that it is in no way doctored or photoshopped. This is actually how the thing looked. I tried to take pictures with our good camera but none of them came out. This picture is one that Karen took with her cell phone. It is the only one that does this freakish little creature justice. So here it is, ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you the Vietnamese Insanity Moth AKA Donnie Dark Moth

Monday, June 16, 2008

Short Update

Hey folks.
We are sorry it has been so long since our last post, but to be perfectly honest with you there aint been much happnin. We have been existing in a routine of working and sleeping mixed with evenings at the pub. Nothing even remotely noteworthy since Bangkok.
The summer is fast approaching and a relaxed work schedule making for more free time may give us some new experiences to write about. Until then, We hope everyone has a great summer full of good times and better friends. Talk to you soon.

The Merlins

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

4 Days in Bangkok

I went in to Bangkok with rather low expectations, I just figured that it was a big crowded, dirty city. It is those things, don't get me wrong, but it is so much more than that. We ate awesome food, drank beer on the street watching cars stop in lines so that elephants could walk down the road while their handlers extracted money from foreigners to feed the elephant by hand. It was bizarre ,stimulating, exciting and most importantly it was fun. I can't wait to go back to Bangkok as I already miss it terribly. I am going to spare you the long play by play I usually write after a trip, as I feel the video really speaks for itself.
Enjoy the short film,
Ed
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4 Days in Bangkok

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Hanoi International Music Festival

(Click the title above for Voice of Vietnam Article with an interview with yours truly)

The Hanoi International Music Festival was a celebration of the Minsk Club's 10th anniversary. For those of you who don't know, the Minsk is a soviet motorbike that has a cult status in South East Asia. These durable machines seem to be indestructible and while noisy and smokey, are driven with pride by expats and Vietnamese alike.
My day started off with a 9:30 am sound check in drizzly rain and grey skies. While we were not to see the sun for the entire day, it did stop raining and there was a wonderful breeze that kept the festivities cool and comfortable. After sound check I went back home to drop of the motorbike as I was planning on being in no shape to drive by the end of the festival. I came back at noon to see the first band play to very few people. When we hit the stage at 3:30 there were a few hundred people on hand. The show went well except for some problems with the last song. We had a great reception from those in attendance.
In the hour following our set, I was interviewed by Voice of Vietnam and had my picture taken by photographers from different publications. I was a bit of a Vinastar for the afternoon. I got a lot of great video and will be putting something together for the site. I will have to edit it for length as the file will undoubtedly be too large to post. Stay tuned for that video.
There was much drinking going on with beer stalls all over the place and a store next door providing cheap bottles to be smuggled inside. Everyone was feeling fine when the final bands took to the stage to disturb the entire neighborhood surrounding the American Club. But, considering we were on American soil, the local police did not have a lot to say about it.
This was the first show of its kind in Hanoi, and based on the size of the crowd, was a complete success. I hope that it paved the way for more festivals like it, down the road. Speaking of which, we will be playing another outdoor festival on May 10th called The Big Day Out, which is a bit of an Aussie tradition, we are hoping this years event will be the biggest one yet.
Bye for now,
Ed
P.S.
"In Minsk We Trust."
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Friday, April 04, 2008

The Benefit To Our Benefit

Rory Dwyer is a friend and a regular at R&R tavern. He got into an accident early one morning a few weeks back and ended up in a coma with severe head trauma. His time in Vietnam, at least for now, is over. With his medical bills piling up and an emergency medical evacuation from Vietnam looming, some of his friends decided to have a benefit to raise money for Rory and his family who flew over from Ireland to collect him.
My band, Your Other Favorite Uncle, offered to play some music at the benefit. I was looking forward to practicing the set we are going to play on Saturday at the International Hanoi Music Festival, (click on the title of this blog for more info)
However, to my complete surprise, on the evening of the benefit we found out that our drummer,Mel, had been called away to Saigon at the last moment. We played our set without a drummer until when for the last two songs, Thuy, the drummer for Maysons Children, (R&R house band) stepped in and played with us. It was a little rough as far as que's and whatnot as he didn't know our songs, but he kept a solid enough beat for us to rock out a little at the end. All in all it wasn't nearly as bad as I was expecting it to be, playing a set with no drummer. At least on Saturday we will be a full band for the large outdoor event that is pulling bands from Australia, the UK, Japan and Ukraine.
There was a raffle at the end of the evening where there were many good prizes raffled off. Karen and I sat as every prize came up and went to someone else. We watched as Zippo's, art, Leg of lamb, bottles of scotch and many more prizes were given away...to other people. It was time for the big draw for the trip for two to Bangkok, Thailand and a two night stay at the Westin. We held our breath as Tim, the MC, wasted time and fumbled about drawing out the anticipation of the crowd. Then suddenly he called the number 137....Ed. I was stunned. I actually won something from a raffle, and not just anything, but the grand prize. Needless to say, Karen and I were overjoyed. We received many "Congratulations ya lucky bastard."'s and other such nods. The only thing left is for us to pick the weekend we want to go.
As for Rory, the evening was also a success, with proceeds hitting almost thirty million by the end of the night. Good on ya, Hanoi expat community. Well done.
Talk to you soon,
Ed

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Flood Cometh

We arrived home just after midnight and Karen, having to work early the next morning, went straight to bed. I hit the couch to watch some old House MD reruns. I was laying there enjoying the sarcastic wit of Dr. Gregory House, when I was alerted to a most peculiar sound coming from the kitchen. It was kind of like the sound a tire makes when you let the air out of it. I raised my considerable frame to a vertical state and went in to investigate. To my surprise and horror there was a steady stream of high pressure water shooting from the washing machine hook up. There is a bright orange lever attached to the nozzle so I turned it to the left. This action increased the force and the noise of the spray. I turned it back to where it was and called my landlord. It was 1:30 in the morning and I did my best to relay to him the importance of his immediate presence. After speaking for about two minutes I heard him say.. "Who is this?" I took a deep breath and tried again. This time dropping all subtlety. " Apartment 502! Upstairs. Emergency! Come up now!" He still was unable to grasp neither who I was or what I wanted. A few more attempts and I think I got my point across as he said he would be right up. The spray was getting bigger and I felt I could use another set of hands so I rushed to the bedroom and woke Karen. She was as coherent as the landlord for the first few seconds but came around much more quickly. She got up, obviously annoyed, and came with me to the kitchen. Her first instinct, as was mine, was to try the lever. She tried it a little too hard and the entire works came off of the wall effectively creating a fire hose in the middle of our kitchen. We were both instantly drenched with water and we shifted in to full on panic mode. The kitchen was filling up faster than the boiler room in that scene from Titanic, and we both had to fight off our instinct to flee to higher ground. The water had breached the kitchen and was now filling up the living room and making it's way toward the bedroom. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. I ran to let the landlord in, who immediately took control and found the turn off valve hidden behind the sink cabinet. We stood in three inches of water panting like overweight dogs on a hot day, and he had this air about him like I was a complete idiot for not just simply turning off the water as he had done. In my defence I looked for it and only found the one that turned the water on and off for the sink. Also, his delicate little Asian hands may have been able to reach behind the sink cabinet but I certainly would have drowned before squeezing my meatloaf sized fist behind that thing. The emergency was over as quickly as it began and I spent the next hour watching our landlord and his frazzled wife mop up our apartment. I would have much rather watched the ending of House.
Oh Well, at least I have it on DVD.
-Ed

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Your Other Favorite Uncle

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And a tour of the new apartment. video

Saturday, March 15, 2008

My day as a Prisoner

Ladies and gentlemen I am writing this blog as a free man. I found myself held captive at a school called Ocean Language Center for eleven hours. It was my own fault to a degree, as I willingly went along with them at first. But, I think I am moving to fast. I should start at the beginning.
There is a small city about two hours outside Hanoi called Viet Vi and I had an interview to be the DOS (Director of Studies) at a school there. I had my interview and all went well. I even agreed to visit the school and check out the city. We made plans for the following day, I was to be picked up at 1pm by a driver that was going to take me to Viet Vi to visit the Ocean Language School. My first instinct was to call off the visit after I accepted a job at Oxford UK language school, but I was curious and this opportunity may have been more lucrative for me. I felt my first of many reservations when the driver that showed up was a Mai Linh taxi. This is a small hatch back taxi that Karen and I never take because they are so crooked. I said Hello and sat in the backseat. I put my MP3 player on and settled in for a long drive. About 25 minutes in to the trip the driver pulls over to the side of the road and gets out. We were in the middle of farmland and I was a little nervous about this turn of events. I was relieved to see he was just relieving himself on the side of the road. I stepped out and lit a cigarette. Upon his return, and seeing that I was smoking, the driver became very excited and proceeded to pull out his pack of cigarettes to show me that he too was afflicted with the dirty habit. He invited me to sit in the front seat. I obliged and he rolled down both windows and for the next hour and a half he would chain smoke as we made our way over the treacherous roads to Viet Vi.
At this point I will mention that I was wearing jeans and a t-shirt, as I knew it would be a long drive and I wanted to be comfortable, also, based ON the conversation of the day before, believed I was only going to view the school and take a tour of the city.
I arrived at Ocean Language School just after 3pm and was met by the entire staff, as if I was some kind of visiting celebrity. Everyone shook my hand and bowed as they smiled from ear to ear. I was taken on a tour of the school, which in all fairness was fairly nice, and then led into a back office where I would spend the next hour fighting to understand what the CEO and Manager were saying to me. There was a lot of pressure and it felt like I had walked into a timeshare presentation. The desperation was dripping off of the both of them as they talked of all the time and money they had invested into this school and how their very futures rested on being able to bring in an experienced foreigner to run the academic side of things. It was just after that when he explained that the students were so excited to have a real English teacher in the classroom tonight. ( This is the point where if this was a movie you would here the sound effect of a needle being scraped across a record as everything came to a stop) "Excuse me?" I asked him. " It sounded like you just said the students were excited about me teaching them this evening?" " Yes. Werry, Werry Happy to see you tonight." Well, this was not good. I was not prepared nor dressed to teach a class. I hadn't stepped one foot inside a classroom for three months. I made it clear I was not happy about this obvious ambush and he backpedalled by saying it would just be a hello, meet and greet sort of thing. It was then that he decided to tell me it was too late to drive me back to Hanoi tonight, so he would put me up in a hotel and drive me back tomorrow evening. That was simply not going to fly. "Absolutely not. Do you understand me? I am going home tonight. I am not prepared to spend an evening here." He seemed visibly disappointed but agreed I would go home this evening. " After you do 5:30 and 7:30 class. We will drive you home." There was a menacing tone to his voice that made it clear my safe passage back to Hanoi depended on my teaching these classes. After a few long moments of silence, his demeanor changed back into a friendly, smiley one and he announced that it was time to go to dinner. I cant say I had any appetite as the entire time he was talking to me he would randomly belch, filling the air with a rotten smoked meat smell that had absolutely turned my stomach. My rising gorge, notwithstanding, I was lead toward the taxi again, stopping only long enough to grab a bottle of French wine from a box behind his desk. We drove a couple of blocks to a decent looking restaurant, where he proceeded, after my admission of an allergy to seafood, to order potato salad and fried dumplings. He uncorked the wine and poured me a glass. We clinked glasses and as I brought the glass toward my face I knew there was something terribly wrong. It tasted like vinegar and I could barely swallow the little bit I had taken into my mouth. The taste must have gone completely unnoticed by my host as he slurped noisily from the glass before swallowing and saying " It's good isn't it?" " Mmm Hmm." I managed blinking away the tears. I pretended to sip my wine as I attempted to eat potato salad with chopsticks. Finally the horrible meal was over and we made our way back to the school. My meet and greet had turned into me doing the first hour and the Vietnamese teacher doing the second. Completely unprepared I walked into that classroom and rocked the house. If he hadn't wanted me with every fibre of his being before that he definitely did now. I had an hour to kill before the next class, so I went for a walk and found an Internet cafe.
At 7:30 I was ushered into an adult class who were on their second English class and could speak no English at all passed Hello and Goodbye. Of course, nobody had told me this and after a ten minute introduction where I outlined my recent history and my origins. There was nothing but blank stares and the distant sounds of frogs and crickets floating in through the open window.
" What level students are these?" I leaned over and whispered to my host.
" This only second class." He beamed.
" So they didn't understand a word I just said, did they?"
" Oh No." still smiling.
" Take me out of here." I demanded.
Out in the hallway he told me that was not the actual class I was teaching, he just wanted them to see me. I then went on to teach forty minutes to adults that were about mid level and could understand the words that were coming out of my mouth.
Finally it was 8:30 and I made a bee line for the taxi. The manager caught me as I was fleeing and started to make many plans for the near future. " We will pick you up same time on Monday. Stay the week and we will drive you home on Friday."
" Yeah, sure. sure. absolutely. 100%" I would have agreed to anything at this point, I was so desperate to escape.
I got in to the taxi and the manager said "Wait, wait one minute." and ran back into the school.
" For the love of God, drive man!" I demanded to my driver, but he just gave me a puzzled look.
The manager returned with a bottle of the same awful wine we had at dinner and offered it to me through the open window. The driver and the manager then spoke at length in Vietnamese about money, and finally we were off. We were driving for about five minutes when the driver shocked me with English as he leaned over and said. "Very bad company. They, all day, no food or drink for me. Very bad company."
" Your preaching to the choir, brother." I responded.
He said he was really hungry and by the time we got back to Hanoi there would be no place open for him to eat. I told him to stop and eat somewhere. So that is how I found myself at a roadside stall after ten pm, drinking Bia Hanoi, and watching my driver slurp Beef Pho noisily as we bonded over the mutual screwing we both received at the hands of Ocean Language School.
It was an experience I shall not soon forget and a very valuable lesson learned.
Till next time, Take 'er easy.
Ed

Monday, March 03, 2008