Tuesday, November 24, 2009



1. Not tipping at restaurants.

2. Low cost of living.

3. Cheap beer.

4. Beautiful, skinny women.

5. Guaranteed employment.

6. Sleeping in.

7. Freedom to break traffic rules.

8. No Internet copy restrictions.


1. Good restaurant service.

2. High quality living.

3. Variety of beer choices.

4. Independent, free-thinking women.

5. Possibility of "rising to the top" of the career ladder.

6. Set work schedule.

7. Everyone follows traffic rules.

8. Fast Internet.

Many times, our happiness in life, is just a matter of perspective.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Thou Shall....

Had a coworker of mine put this together for my students.

Big shout out to Mr. Cuong for working his magic.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Open Letter to Mr. Bus

My Dearest Bus:

How are you fine sir? Work keeping you busy? Indeed, the grind of the bus schedule is a bit much at times. However, I trust all is well.

Excuse my brashness, but I am afraid the time for civility and gentlemanly manners has passed. I would not normally dare be so rude, but you, my friend, have not been upholding your end of the bargain regarding traffic flow.

I often note your presence in the motorbike lane. While a stray venture here or there could easily be excused, your preference to be among the motorbikes has become quite bothersome. As you know, it is classified as the motorbike lane for a very specific reason. I would never go so far as to question your reading comprehension, but please permit me to remind you that it is a lane specified for those vehicles only on two wheels -- not ten. Indeed, one could make the very astute observation that I am myself often in the car/bus lane. However, I need not remind you that I am an agile snake, capable of weaving in and out of traffic like a magician. You, on the contrary, are a lumbering loaf of metal that finds basic traffic maneuvers such as right turns quite the battle. Give me a hole -- even a small one -- and I will slither and punch my way through it before you can say "Ho Chi Minh City." All things, of course, are not equal, and my occasional dip into the car lane cannot be compared to your egregious abuse of the rules.

For fear of writing another letter, please allow me to lodge another complaint. While driving behind you, I am often bathed in your emissions. My dear friend, this is a personal health issue. We both know that my owner's habit of putting his hand over his mouth is futile in keeping out your byproducts, but please take it as a visual cue that your body odor is quite offensive. I certainly would not instruct the fat man next to me at the buffet to eat less -- as that only affects a single individual -- but if he were to, hypothetically speaking, light up a cigarette, you can bet I would confront the situation, manners be damned. As a motorbike that prides itself on the utmost personal maintenance, I ask you to do the same, so that the streets become a bit more cordial.

I apologize for broaching the subject via letter, but I fear that a personal meeting could quickly escalate and end badly for me -- given our disproportionate sizes. If, however, I fail to see any meaningful change, there will be no choice but to settle the dispute over blows. My honor can only be abridged so many times, Mr. Bus. Please do not underestimate me sir given my small stature, for I am akin to a fly. Have you ever attempted to swat a fly off of your exterior? You have, have you? Were you successful in killing it? Of course you weren't. Understand that my speed and maneuverability puts you at a distinct disadvantage if our unfortunate disagreement were to evolve into a physical altercation. I must warn you that, located under my seat, is a six-pack of eggs. If, by chance, one of said eggs were to end up splattered on your windshield, would you be able to catch me? I will let you contemplate the consequences.

Please do me the honor of saying hello to your lovely wife, Mrs. Semi-Truck, and your two adorable children, Taxi Van and Ambulance.



Monday, November 9, 2009

A Very Ericesque Morning

It's been a while since I've written anything in the blog, which can be attributed to only one of two possible reasons:

1. I'm lazy.

2. Vietnam ceased to have interesting stories to tell.

Since it's definitely not the latter, I am obviously just lazy.

I have a good friend, Eric, who is now making his way up the Vietnamese coast in an ultimate bid for China. He's doing so on an older-style motorbike with our other friend Will. After he completes his mission and waves to some Chinese at the border, or whatever he's going to do once he actually reaches China, Eric will return home to America after about a year of living in Vietnam.

Right up until the trip, every little thing the Vietnamese did bothered Eric: the way they drove, the way they ate, the way the interacted with one another, they way they interacted with him, the way they do business, and the way they thought. So, understandably, he finally had his fill and will be returning soon.

Now, I don't quite hold the same vitriol for the Vietnamese that Eric does. In fact, I generally love their quirkiness and unique personality. However, some of Eric's complaints hold water -- a lot of water. Let me describe a very Ericesque morning I had the other day while out and about.

The day started with an innocent enough trip to the supermarket to buy sunscreen. I was playing softball later in the day and didn't want to make the same mistake of having my legs and neck turn redder than the Vietnamese flag. The parking lot of the supermarket, which is nothing more than a long corridor flooded with motorbikes, was nearly full, so I slowly made my way down the aisle until I saw a lady and her daughter preparing to leave. Understanding that the parking spot was of some value not only to me, I made it VERY clear that my intention was to move into the spot. I turned on my blinker, angled my front tire toward the space, and put myself in position to park immediately once she backed out. Despite my conspicuous actions, an old man barreled through and sneaked ever so quickly into the spot just when I was making my move. Six months ago, I probably would have said, "Screw it," moved on, and found another spot. But now, I am a seasoned Vietnam veteran and I wasn't standing for that crap. I jumped off my bike, repeatedly said, "No, no, no, no, no," and physically backed the man out of the spot -- the old man. Manners be damned.

Once in the supermarket, things didn't improve. I found the sunscreen easily and proceeded to stand in what I determined to be the shortest line. A woman had a full cart of groceries in front of me, so I waited patiently behind her, sunscreen in hand. Meanwhile, another lady with a full grocery cart pulled up behind me and stood in line. Once the lady in front of me had finished paying, the lady behind came to the laughable conclusion that this lady and me were somehow together (an old Vietnamese lady and a young, white foreigner) and started to nudge me forward with her cart. No "excuse me," no attempt at communication whatsoever. I then clearly showed her the sunscreen that I was intending to buy, and she once again nudged me forward with her cart so that she could be checked out. Again, being the seasoned Vietnam vet that I am, I pushed her cart backwards and told her, "No." I tried to give my best "civilized people don't behave like that" face to really convey the message.

And finally, my morning capped itself with a visit to the local sporting good shop looking for a hat. Avoiding sunburn was the common theme of the morning. Inside the shop, I found an old box of slightly worn, dirty hats in the corner. One Nike hat sparked my fancy, an obvious Chinese copy, and I asked in Vietnamese to the lady, "How much?"

"250 000 VND." ($15)

Anyone who has spent a significant amount of time in Asia knows that this price is ludicrous. Despite her efforts to convince me otherwise, the hat was a Chinese copy, and a not very good one. No sporting shop would put real Nike hats in an old box and then treat those them like crap. And second of all, no local sporting goods shop in Vietnam would even carry real merchandise. It's just not profitable.

I did my best to argue with her, in Vietnamese no less, but the woman would not budge from her initial (wrong) assessment that I was a stupid foreigner willing to shell out exorbitant prices for cheap knockoffs. Of course, at this point, she was too invested and her pride got in the way of a sale.

I buggered off and found a hat elsewhere, for much cheaper.

So, Eric, don't die on your trip north and know that while we don't share exact sentiments toward the Vietnamese, I empathize.