We moved to Kelowna BC and it did not like us - or perhaps we did not like it - so we are travelling across Canada with all our stuff packed up in a cargo trailer trying to find somewhere new to live. :)
Posted at 04:49 on Fri 27 February 2009 by Africanrose
I never drank beer before coming to Vietnam, but seeing as it is one of the main drinks served at work parties and even at some meetings, I have learnt to. Last night was my leaving party at work, which had been arranged on the beach. The operations manager remembered that I often went to the beach over the weekends, and thought that it would be nice for us to have a party there before I left. She was right, the beach was beautiful at sunset, and, after dark, the horizon was little by the twinkling of lights on the fishing boats.
There are several fish restaurants along the beach, and there is a massive construction effort under way to build more before the tourist season starts here at the end of March. I always find it difficult to understand how these places will be able to compete with one another, as they are so close together and offer many of the same dishes, but apparently during the summer Dong Hoi is packed full of tourists. Indeed, the local resort is already fully booked for the end of March. The place we went to served good food, although I am not sure that anything can compare to the crabs and shrimps that I had back in October when the girls from Hanoi visited. I am not sure if it was the novelty factor or the food itself, but it was certainly a feast. The food last night was certainly good, even if one of the fish did splash all of us, soaking me, as it was pulled out of the pond. The food is selected whilst still alive and then cooked to order. There were also sea snakes, whose venom is highly poisonous, but we decided against eating these (apparently when cooked properly and once the head has been removed the snakes are perfectly safe to eat, but I preferred not to take my chances).
Whilst we were waiting for the food to be cooked G, the OM and I went for a walk along the beach, and I learnt about another of Vietnam’s legends. The beach is full of little holes which lead down to crab hiding holes. According to the story, these holes are all made by one man, who was transformed into a crab. The story begins with a pair of snakes, who lived in the man’s house. One day, when the male snake was shedding his skin, the female snake went out and found another male snake and essentially ran off with him. The first male snake believed that the man had killed his partner and was going to bite him and kill him as revenge. However, the man was able to explain what had actually happened and in return the male snake presented him with a pearl as a sign of his gratitude for having been told the truth. This, however, was no ordinary pearl as it allowed the man to hear and understand what animals were saying, an advantage which allowed him to prosper and become very wealthy. However, the man’s wife was not to be trusted and one day she ran off with the pearl. The man searched everywhere for his wife and the pearl, looking under stones and digging holes to find where the pearl might have been hidden. Over time, he was transformed into a crab, and continues until this day to search from the pearl, and the holes on the beach are the evidence of this endless search. Apparently, the story not only explains the crab holes but also carries an important message about trust and fidelity.
Following our walk on the beach, we returned to the restaurant to find that the cockles had already been served and that the others were already tucking in (not that I can blame them, they were quite delicious). There was a table behind us, and just as I sat down they ordered a bottle of snake blood vodka. Snakes are used in several drinks here, although the most common one that I have seen is snake wine, which is prepared by pickling snakes in alcohol and then drinking the resulting liquid (other animals are also used and I have seen cuckoo wine, although I have not tried any of it). This was the first time that I had seen snake blood vodka being prepared. The name of the drink is quite literal: once the drink had been ordered, one of the sea snakes was fished out of the tank and its head was cut off. A man then stood, holding the snake’s body out straight, allowing all the blood to drain into a glass of vodka on the table. This process takes awhile; it is quite surprising how much blood a snake can contain. Whilst one man was holding the snake to let the blood drain another cut it open and extracted one of the organs. I am not sure which one, but it was squeezed into a smaller bottle of vodka and turned the liquid green. After the snake was fully drained, the blood in the glass was then poured into a larger bottle of vodka which was served to the table. I’m just glad that it was not our table!
After the party, I went to the tailor to pick up two shirts that I had had made. I had originally intended to have some made so that I could wear them to work, but I never really got around to it until about three weeks ago, when the OM took me to her tailor. However, having been measured and chosen the materials I was then away for ten days and was not able to pick them up. When I went on Tuesday evening, they were not quite finished, and so the tailor agreed to bring them to the office for me at lunchtime on Thursday. However, there was some confusion and I did not get them at lunchtime so I went to pick them up from her shops. The shop is quite an interesting place, and in the end I am glad that I went to pick them up as I had never really seen a shirt be made before. There were a few alterations to be made, and so I was able to watch as the seamstress picked open the seams and then sewed the pieces of material back together on her old Singer. I now have two shirts, one of which is apparently distinctly Vietnamese. I am not entirely convinced as I am fairly certain that I have seen the style elsewhere (a v-neck with small ruffles along the collar. It is a little difficult to describe without making it sound strange, but I assure you that it looks good. Well, I like it.), but I am sure that it will remind me of Vietnam when I wear it in future.
I have now finished everything that I have to do at work, and have even packed my suitcase. I leave early tomorrow morning (well at ) and I feel a little like one of the characters in ‘Homeward Bound’. Apart from the obvious fact that I am actually homeward bound, my trip is broken into several stages. I have to get a three-hour train, to catch a two-hour flight which will take me to Ho Chi Minh City, where I will remain until when I will head to the airport there for my flight. The actual flight from Vietnam to Halifax does not seem as bad as the trip out here, although I will be leaving Hong Kong at and arriving in Chicago at the same day. I have not even tried to work out how long the flight is and factor in the time difference. I think it will probably just be easier to make sure that I and my luggage are on the right flight and just leave it at that.
All I need to do now is track down my boss so that she can print out and sign a reference letter for me (I had to write it for her last week, so at least I know I am going to like what I read, but it would be nice to have a copy on a letterhead before I leave. I may have to stake-out her office), and then give my room a once over. It is strange how six-month’s worth of stuff amounts to less than what I arrived with. There is room in my suitcase, and this is despite me acquiring two new pairs of shoes, a few shirts, and two dresses. I don’t think I have forgotten anything, but that is what the final sweep of my room is for. Maybe it is just that my packing skills have improved…