As we are heading into TET, there are many changes taking place in the city that we are observing. The first and most noticeable is traffic. It is like Charlie is all hopped up on caffeine pills and Ritalin. They are riding around banging in to each other, oblivious to all time and space, most of them hanging on to small orange trees or some other kind of plant life obscuring their vision. It is truly amazing to watch a Hanoi Sandwich( three people on a scooter) driving down the street with the person in the middle cradling a six foot tree in his arms. Unfortunately there are no pictures of this just yet.
The streets have turned in to one large market with every single person selling the same things. They are all selling pots,carvings and orange trees. I am sure there is some significance to this that I am both unaware of, and uninterested in.
TET is like Christmas, New Years, Easter and Thanksgiving all rolled in to one two week holiday. Charlie spends a week hammered drunk and celebrating the new year. We were told it is best to stay off the streets during this time of the year, if at all possible. One good aspect is that the city dwellers, for the most part, all come from rural areas and leave to go back to those rural areas for a few days, essentially turning Hanoi in to a ghost town. We are eagerly anticipating the peace and quiet such a mass departure will bring.
I mentioned the "Lifters" in an earlier blog, and now I have some more to introduce. The "Squatter" is a person who can squat on the side of the road for hours at a time, seemingly unaffected by discomfort or cramping. Squatting is done alone or in groups and can take place anywhere and at anytime. There is also no age or gender discrimination with squatters as I have seen squatting by infants as well as men and woman older than dirt. The position is the same for all squatters. It is like sitting only the bottom or bum, if you will, is not actually touching the ground it merely hovers a few inches above. The thighs and knees are pressed against the chest and the arms are wrapped around the legs. If it is at all possible, it is even more uncomfortable looking than it sounds. Many activities are enjoyed by the "squatters" while in this position, such as smoking, playing board games, eating or drinking tea.
Another humorous discover is, as mentioned above, the "Hanoi Sandwich" and the "Hanoi Clubhouse". These I have named specifically for the amount of dangly little bastards able to fit on to one scooter seat. The sandwich is three and the clubhouse is four. Only full grown adults count for the sandwich and the clubhouse,as children are generally stuffed in any available free space. I have seen as many as six people on a single scooter, but that included three children clinging to the sandwich. I refer to them as fries. It is my new mission to acquire photos of this phenomenon for those of you still reading this from time to time, as it should be seen to be believed.