the feudal lord

It’s not often I’m in the Imperial City of Hue; it was the city where Kings lived and it is also the city where I was born. It’s always humbling and educational whenever I visit this great city. The ambient and the vibe of this place are much different than any city I’ve been. There’s a sense of serenity, and peace. The people here are not into flashy materialistic items or showboating their cars and lifestyle like that of Saigon. Religion and family is a big part of everybody’s lives in Hue. I walk down the street and people would know my name and my history of this place. Though I’m not home in Hue often, or most of my life, they all have fond memories of me running down the street causing havoc. People often tell stories just to tell stories, but when these people tell theirs, their eyes lit up and there’s this warm passionate feeling I get from them as if they really do care.

Whenever in Hue, I always visit my uncle’s house. Often when I’m not with other visitors, they would make me stay with them. The house is nothing special; it is a typical Vietnamese house, slim in width and tall in height. It’s a light blue house with two stories. There is not much on the top except an alter; the ground level has three rooms, the third being the shared bathroom. Though there’s not much to it except chipping interior paints due to the years of flooding, it does feel homey.

Being in this city and home, I value the family time I get to share with my uncle, aunt and cousin. Though I did not grow up with them, they are still family. Being here, I have the advantage of gaining many benefits. One of which is home cooked food and other of which is family history lesson. Living in the States in my whole life, I never really got to know about my family history. My dad passed away when I was in high school and my mom doesn’t know much about hers since she was from the countryside. It’s always bothered me not knowing exactly where I came from and with this trip, I think I more than I can imagine.

I’ve always heard that my grandfather was from another city. His hometown was Vinh, Vietnam; a name of which my father was named after. The question of why he came to Hue was never answered, until now. My grandfather, Diet, was a “bo doi”, a Vietnamese term for soldiers who fought against the French in the French-Indo War. He was part of the northern army, the people’s army, Ho Chi Minh’s army. He was sent into Hue to fight the French and this is where he met my grandmother, Ngoan. After years of fighting and the war over, he had married my grandmother. When it was time to go back north, due to the split of the country, my grandmother was already pregnant with my dad. Soldiers fighting for whichever side split and had to go back to where they came from. My grandfather made the choice, with his newly married wife and baby, to ditch the army and stay in Hue, a centralized, neutral city, to live with his family. Because of lack of communication routes and outlets, my grandfather’s family thought he had died in the war. So why was this significant? The decision to stay in Hue changed the whole aspect of our family history.

When I was growing up, I’ve always been told that we have a family temple out in Vinh. As a kid, I’m like, “what are you talking about? A temple? That’s huge, weird.” I never cared to ask the question of why we own a family temple out in the city of Vinh. So goes the story, my grandfather was the eldest of seven children; I don’t quite know the exact numbers. In Vietnamese culture, this makes him the leader of the household and the kinsman, titleholder and owner to all properties. So why is this important at all? Apparently, my grandfather’s parents were feudal lords, of royal lineage in the province of Nghe An, City of Vinh. They own a vast amount of lands in the province. Because they had thought he died in the war, they decided to split half the land up into six and give it to the other children. What they did with the other half, I’m not sure. But the land that was split into six was enough to make these remaining children filthy rich. My uncles and aunts, as they call it here in Vietnam, now owns a vast amount of properties in Vinh, along with a big collection of cars. As most of you might not know, but you need to really have money to own any cars in Vietnam, as they are taxed 300% on top of their based price. My family history is interesting due to this decision made by my grandfather. Why? If you follow lineage according to head of households…after my grandfather, my father was the first child in the family so he was the next in line to be head of the household. After him would be me. Yes, me! Can you imagine if that decision was never made and we were still living in pre-history time, I’d be a FEUDAL LORD. Haha. But due to that decision, the lineage to the head of the family was kind of split or outcast. Anyways, I’m sick of writing. I suddenly have the sudden urge to rile up an army, go back to Vinh and reclaim my true rightful land!!! Great piece of family history huh? Now who’s with me? Let’s go fight my war!!

ripped off?

After a night of heavy drinking, my motorbike decided not to start-up, and this is the first time it’s ever happened. Nabil and I went down to the garage, getting ready to start our day when I tried starting the motorbike, shockingly…it didn’t start. Not familiarized with how motorbikes work, we just assumed the battery was dead since it didn’t make any noise. I am still relatively new here and don’t know how anybody would get anything fixed around here. There’s no such thing as a tow truck; if a bike breaks down, you’re dead. You either just leave it there to deal with it another day or you find yourself pushing it to the nearest auto-shop, wherever that may be. Luckily for me, there’s tons of auto-shop along the streets I live in.

Nabil and I decided to push it the local shop and have it looked at. There wasn’t any picking and choosing because we didn’t know which one was good and which one wasn’t. So we pushed the bike out of the first shop we saw. It seemed legit as the banner said…SYM Auto. There’s always horror stories around here on how people gets ripped off, people stealing stuff from the motorbike. Me, being me, this is on the top of my head and I’m super anal. For the first 30 minutes, Nabil and I stood there watching them fixed the bike. They just didn’t know what was wrong with it. At this point, Nabil and I didn’t have anything to eat because well, it was around 2pm by now. There was this restaurant right next to it so we decided to leave it alone and go eat or else we’d die of starvation. We left it alone for 30 minutes, went to go eat…only to come back to the motorbike being torn apart. I was like…the hell, it only seems like an electrical issue, why is the bike all torn up. At this point, I’m getting very skeptical. This being a day after I drank heavily and after I only recently fed my starving stomach so I was getting a bit annoyed and suspicious. We inspected them for ten more minutes then decided to grab coffee next door…there’s only so much we can look at.

After another 30 minutes…we came back cause they said they were done. I was a bit suspicious it took so long and decided to inspect the bike. I noticed a scratched in the metal back seat, a one inch long gash to be more specific. I was PISSED….WHAT THE FUCK IS THAT??? Then I looked in my storage area…I remembered there being 200,000 dong in there!!! YEAH, to say the least…I WAS PISSSSSEDDDD. Nabil could see it in my eyes; I was ready to kill somebody. I started questioning them in Vietnamese. The ghetto Viet is coming out, accusing them of the shadiness. I started cussing them out…they started cussing back. Me, obviously pointing the finger at their shadiness and them defending themselves. He claimed his business has been there for 15 years and are not involved in of these stupid shadiness thing I’m accusing them of. There I was, pissed off, accusing them of jacking 200,000 grand from my storage area and also switching out the back-seat. The backseat of my motorbike is kind of a big deal in Saigon. First of all, it’s a very expensive motorbike around here…brand new, it’s a 10,000USD motorbike so this back seat area is always getting stolen or switched out because it brings value to the bike. Why? because when girls sit on it, their vaginas get wet if it’s brand new. No, that’s not a joke, that’s just how things are around here.

Yeah, I was furious. There I was arguing for 15 or so minutes. Nabil looked at me and I can see it in his eyes, if it’s going down, it’s going down. There’s not much to do when it’s a stand-still like this. Who am I to call? The cops? nope, they always side with locals. They’ll even find ways to charge me since the bike’s not in my name. I decided to say fuck it, let’s go home and think things out more clearly. I was obviously tired, so I paid the guy for his service. A mere 120,000…$5usd for 2 hours of labor work on my bike.

I got home, with a bike in top working condition, yes, they did a great job on my bike. I sat down and asked my cousin who I borrowed the bike from if the scratch was there before. My cousin being my cousin, does not remember. She’s as oblivious of her bike as I am…actually…she cares about it less than I do. :/ She once dropped her bike and didn’t care to even fix it. That makes sense of the obvious right side being scratched up. She kept telling me…honestly…I don’t care if they switched the backseat, it’s just a gashed on a metal part. She advised me not to make a big deal out of me, but I hate being conned like that. I dug through pictures of the bike that I took not too long ago, inspecting and comparing the bike to the pictures. There was no gash on the metal part. Yeah, I was getting more pissed, but at the same time, the hangover was fading away and I was thinking more clearly. Some memories were coming back. Then bam! LOL. I remembered. There was a gash there and it happened 2 weeks earlier…some guys dinged it where I recently parked my bike. Yeah, I felt bad…and as the time faded, more memories came back. The 200,000 dong in my car…I used it, to pay the damn cops when I got pulled over. LOL. Fuck me, for reals. I felt like a complete idiot and asshole at that point. I just made a big deal out of nothing and it’s all because I was too hungover to be thinking clearly. haha. I’m telling you, don’t drinking alcohol, this shit is bad for you. LOL.

Looking back at this incident, I laugh more and more about it. But it also shows how things are around here. There are tons of horror stories around here; people getting things stolen, people getting robbed. Hearing about these stories is good and bad. Yeah, it teaches you be mindful of stuff, but it also gives you a sense of prejudice even before you do anything. I’ve lived around here long enough to know, long enough to know who these horror stories happens to. I walk around and drive around Saigon and I see idiots who hold their iPhones out in the open, simply asking for it to be stolen. Or I see idiots going into places, acting like they’re the shit, thinking they’re rich on their vacation money. These are the people that are asking to get robbed and gets conned. Me, I’m conscious on my surrounding and is fluent enough in my Vietnamese to avoid these things.

If anything, this incident has taught me lots and it changed the way I go about my everyday life here. I’ve learned that I’m down to get down and dirty in Vietnamese, cussing people out; not that different from the States. I do have an asshole side, even in Vietnam. It may seem like a bad trait, but it’s good in Vietnam. People really need to be told of what to do here. If anything also, this incident also knocked me back down to the reality of things. I am still an American boy trying to fit in.

localized

Well, that didn’t take long for me to start ignoring this blog huh. lol.

I have to admit, it has been awhile. Don’t know what happened, I think I’ve finally settled in and became accustomed to the laziness and the comfort of my…couch. :)

So what’s happened since I last blogged? Goodness, LOTS! I’ll split into multiple blogs.

I feel like a local now; no longer that American, stop calling me that FOP, fresh off the plane, I’m content with being called a local ;) . These locals can still sniff me out, but it’s getting a lot better. I’m starting to get the respect I deserved; I don’t get ripped off anymore :D . Just like this morning, I bought a quarter of a marinated duck for $3USD. Definitely can’t beat that pricing…anywhere!

I’ve always wondered when I would start feeling like a local. I’ve always thought I’d be at a street restaurant, ordering then looking outside to the street and realizing…hey, I’m not in California anymore! Or maybe riding my motorbike around and realizing everybody and their mama’s are on a motorbike. Or maybe when I’m sleeping next to a girl and she wakes up saying…”Chao Anh”, instead of “good morning”. But nope, none of that. It happened when I was at a bank, exchanging money, and I caught myself counting in Vietnamese. There I was…”mot, hai, ba, bon, nam, sau tram ngan dong”. That was when it clicked in my head…FUCK…did I just counted 600 grand dong in Vietnamese. It was a jolt of an unfamiliarized feelings…definitely foreign…and it had a stunk of Vietnamese to it. Yeah, I’m becoming a local.

How localized have I become? If you ask me anything about Saigon, I’d know it. No, I’m not being cocky. I feel like I do know that much about this city within the four (4) months span that I’ve been here. Being the obvious, I know of all the bars in this city, all the restaurants, the ins and out and all the streets. Yeah, I’m even buddies with the bar managers. I go to places and they call me Mr. Victor. Yes, fuck yes, MR. VICTOR. hahahahah. I go to the Park Hyatt Martini Bar and the bar manager gives me free drinks. Yeah, I think she’s trying to get into my pants, but play it right and I’d be getting free drinks for a long while.

As big as this city is, I can confidently say that I know where to go and I’d never get lost. I feel like a pigeon coming back home. Put a pigeon anywhere and it would always find its way back. This is where I’m from; my internal GPS definitely helped guide my ways around here and have definitely made things alot easier. I have the streets memorized and at times would even have to give my cousins direction on where to go…yeah, they’re locals.

Being back here…I’m quite shocked as how good my Vietnamese has become. Majority of the time, people mistake me as being born and raised in Saigon. I would get the compliment…”your Vietnamese is really good, but just looking at you, we know you’re not from around here”. I always laugh it off or joke back saying that I’m japanese. But I avoid all of that now, telling them that anything but Vietnamese is at least a 5,000 surcharge for the joke. That shit adds up!! It took some thinking but I’ve realized that learning Vietnamese as a first language from my parents helped out. All the dots in my brain started getting lit up again. Scientists and researchers do say it’s a lot easier to pick up the language you grew up learning. From my own experience, it’s true. I picked up Vietnamese quite easily; however, there are still tons of terms and vocabularies I have yet to learn. But I’m happy with where I’m at and it’s good enough for me to get by around here.

that’s a 1st…

Well, that’s a first. Approached by these two girls sitting in front of me at the coffee shop. Proceed to talking and joking around, then added them on Facebook. After inspection of their Facebook, I see a creepy picture of me on my laptop that says…”trying to get some work done and checking out the guy in front of us”. Seems a bit off, but only in Vietnam..?

updates 19/05/2013

helllo all :)
It’s been a long time, I must say. Updates..? The count’s at 2. Okay, that’s it, the only thing that matters. I’m done.

haha! I’m kidding. As far as life goes around here, everything’s been the same. I’ve gotten a bit lazier than expected; waiting around for paperworks is turning me into a bum. I wake up, find ways to avoid working out, but still find time to sweep the floor. Dirt bugs the shit out of me, but I’m finding ways to avoid doing that now. Everytime I sweep the floor, I see my hair strands on the floor. That shit’s fucking sad, I’m losing my hair at a faster rate than I expected :( . #random. On top of that, not having a motorbike the last month has been a complete pain in the ass. I’ve been eating eggs or cereal for breakfast then when it’s time for lunch, I have to trek out in the 90ºF weather, walk 10 minutes to go buy lunch. I walk out and by the time I get to any lunch spots, I’m sweating my ass off, shirt’s half drenched. I usually buy the lunch to go so I can come back home to my AC living room. Yes, as you can imagine, by the time I’m home, my shirt’s like drenched.

Last week, I made the biggest mistake here. I decided to walk to my usual coffee shop. It was a clear day and I felt like dressing up to impress any ladies at the coffee shop, cause let me tell you, there are some ridiculously hot expats there. I showered up, cologne in every part of my body, deodorant in the armpits. I put a dress shirt, jeans and belt on. Feeling like a man, and obviously not thinking straight, I decided to walk to the coffee shop. Heck, it looks like a hell of a day, clear sky, light breeze! Turns out, the walk turned my day into literally…a HELL OF A DAY!! Before I’m even remotely halfway to the coffee shop, my dress shirt is drenched, I’m telling you…DRENCHED in sweat. I’m like tripping balls, I’m all dressed to impress then all the sudden, I’m DRENCHED IN SWEATTT. The shirt is like dripping, FUCK FUCK FUCK!!! Survival mode kicked in, that part of me that was like…”I’m going to survive this shit and impress the ladiesss, the hot hot hot ladies at the coffee shop”. Fuck, the only that was hot was my body temperature, sweating balls, sweating armpit and sweating ASS. EW, right, yes, very. Survival mode tells me to stop in the shades, trying to cool down, but when your shirt’s already drenching, it’s kind of pointless in that heat. I swear it was like 100ºF+. I get to 3/4 of the way there and I gave up. I couldn’t do it, I can’t walk into my spots with a drenched shirt. Shit doesn’t work like that; not at all. So I dropped by another coffee shop that I rarely go to since it was right there. DAMN IT, walking in that place is damn embarrassing.

Any places I go here, people would either try to talk to me in Japanese first, when I give them the WTF look of “i don’t know japanese”, they’ll try to talk to me in English. I have to accept what I look like… a fucking chinky eyed Japanese. I can’t help it, I was born Viet, but I look like a Jap. Hell, there’s not a single Vietnamese in this country that can grow a mustache or a beard, but I can. As you can tell, I’m used to going into places and being treated like a foreigner and whenever I buy something, I get the foreigner pricing. Usually ripped off 2x the local pricing. As I walk into this coffee shop, the name of it is id.cafe btw; the waiter greeted me in Vietnamese. FUCK ME, FUCK ME, greeted in Vietnamese..??? Not only did he greeted me in Vietnamese…he was like…”Anh ngoi dung ngoi dum cho em”…translation..? “Can you please sit outside for me?” WTF!!! Is this they treat locals around here…I mean, shit, there were seats, but they’re more for like group seatings, I can see that, but I was just going to grab a seat by myself. But NOPE, I was told to sit outside, next to a fan, ordered my coffee and waited ’til my shirt dried up. EMBARRASSING. :( . They thought I was a local and treated me like a local; kind of sad, actually. The reason is locals always go around wearing a dress shirt and jeans and that was my attire for that day. On top of that, my dress shirt was drenched in sweat, from the chest, to armpit to the back.

By the time my shirt dried up, I was demoralized, and beaten emotionally. I still found some will power to walk to my regular coffee shop. If you saw my face going into the coffee shop, you will probably say .. “that’s the face of a man, who’s been through many battles, the emotional scars are written all over his face. Those aren’t tears coming off his eyes, they’re sweat, sweat from the head and face dripping down.” I was a mess, I just sat there and browsed Facebook, look at pictures of myself in my better days in an attempt to cheer myself up. #fail. Never walking anywhere AGAIN.

With that experience on my back, I can happily say that I finally have a motorbike. My cousin An is nice enough to lend me her motorbike while she’s in the States. Since then I’ve been able to drive to anywhere I want without having to worry about sweating all over the place. Apparently, I’m really fortunate to be driving her bike also. It’s a 150cc, Honda SH. Don’t know what it is? I don’t either, but apparently, it’s the BMW and MERCEDES of motorbikes in Vietnam. Yeah, hahaha, tell me about it. I was laughing my ass off too.

images

Whenever any ladies see a person driving it, they drool over it. YEP, you read that correctly, they drool all over it and their headlights are turned on, get my drift? Oh, that’s trouble, me driving the BMWs of motorbikes, LOL (yeah, I still can’t stop laughing about it). As funny as it sounds though, it’s true, I drive it around and people would glance over and take a look. Big engine, big wheels; built for a manly man like me ;) . Except I’m borrowing it from my girl cousin, but nobody has to know that! Driving this motorbike is completely different from all the motorbikes I’ve driven here. It’s almost like driving a motorcycle in the States. This piece of machinery is heavy, heavier than I expected a motorbike would be, being as it is, it’s harder to control, especially in Saigon traffic. But that’s fine, I’ve been able to ride it around just fine. :)