Saturday, May 30, 2009

good bye sirmadame!

I am attempting to actually get my clothes washed.

I will break this sentence down for you...

The Vietnamese or SE Asians in general do not value clean clothes or the pleasure of clean clothes as much as Latin Americans or myself do. My evidence is my last 3 attempts at clean clothes:
1. Saigon - clothes come back individually tagged, don't smell of anything in particular, I keep forgetting to remove tags and being poked for total duration of wearing
2. Hoi an - give my clothes to random man who weighs them and puts them in the basket of his bicycle, clothes come back smelling clean, but upon further inspection they are just about as dirty as they were when I gave them to him. Plus I spend 24 hours wondering if I would ever see my clothes again.
3. Hanoi - random place on Hon Bo street, no washers in sight, clothes come back smelling like cigarette smoke and are not clean.

What does a girl have to do around here to get a nice Mayan lady to wash her clothes on the rocks of Lake Atitlan? Seriously. Na na knows how cranky dirty clothes make me.

Laundry's done. I'll report back. And sorry, I know this was a dave style rant. And the post title is just something random that my junk boat porter kept saying.
je je

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

vietnam otra vez

When I go to get a new job (at least one year in the future) and some one asks me what doing this job taught me I am going to say it was an ability to go with the flow and deal with what life dishes out. If you don't have flexibility then you are fucked.
Yesterday I met Jorge, who is L-A-T-I-N-O. Pinche latinos, always f'ing my shit up. I fly 41 hours from Latin America and they still manage to find me and keep me on my toes. Honestly this wasn't really Jorge's fault, I should take the blame, it is all my crazy idea generating mind's fault. The situation goes something like this:
I am sitting in the oasis of JoMa, coffee heaven in Laos: wireless, good coffee, comfy seats. Jorge appears in typical latino fashion: loud, passionate, full of life, and he is freaking out a bit because he is running a trip blind with a tough group. So we do the TL decompression thing: talk about crazy pax, what we have been doing, etc etc. Then we decide to go pay our bills at our local operator. This ends up being more complicated as we get lost, have the wrong address, find a tuk-tuk, get lost again, get found and realize that Jorge doesn't have a Vietnamese visa and he is leaving TOMORROW (which is now today). Of course Jorge is Peruvian and the Vietnamese embassy probably only have a vague idea of where Peru is, and have decided that Jorge is not coming in. I am gringa, si? And though we are a nation of Imperialist puppets we are allowed to go into their proud Vietnamese nation. So now the shit goes down, PINCHE JORGE gets to take my AMAZING group through Laos, and I have to go back to Vietnam. I like Vietnam a lot, but Laos is my place, it is my Guatemala. So man I am pissed.
I guess this is my way of telling you I am going back to Vietnam.

This all is compounded by having an absurd experience trying to get out of Vietnam just 2 days prior. We crossed at what the Lonely Planet dubs, 'a remote crossing,' which was pretty obvious as we arrived during lunch hour and the whole place was empty. Well except for the WC attendant who was very clear that the toilets cost 5oooVND to use. I guess it was worth it, they were relatively clean. Anyhow, after the end of lunch call sounded we loaded all the passports through the WINDOW FOR EXIT OF FOREIGNERS FROM VIETNAM and started to wait. Then it turned out that two of the passports hadn't gotten stamped upon entry. So now we are in 'remote' Vietnam with a man telling me, 'no stamp, no Laos." GREEEEAAAAT. After the man makes 5 phone calls, makes photocopies that he doesn't have a place to file, we finally get our stamps and are allowed to leave. Plus there was a thorough investigation of the extra pages that have been stuck in my passport, they didn't seem to impressed by the taping job that the American Embassy in Costa Rica had done. I just can't wait to do that all over again.
The beauty of it is that as soon as you get out of Vietnam it all immediately shifts to Laoatian smiles and good vibes. Vietnam may have Hoi An, but Laos has my heart.

Monday, May 25, 2009

better than sweet corn

Moto tours of Hue kick ass, even with the slight tinge of goma.
(from top to bottom,
rice paddy outside of hue,
pagoda fence posts,
mr. khoua,
lotus blossoms as seen from the japanese covered bridge near hue)
Posted by Picasa

vietnam through a broken lens

rice and noodles have made it hard for me to poop
i miss the peeling off skins of black beans flavored with salsa lizano
and bilingual thoughts
but i am here steaming and sweating like a potato baking in its skin
here is a place that i never thought i would last
a place i don't understand
filled with plastic bags and a lilting choppy language i can't claim to know
i stumble through hello and thank you often speaking vietnamese to laoatians
and responding with 'si' as often as 'yes'
but here i have found a part of myself that i never expected to discover

(view of hoi an from thu bon river, bow of boat on thu bon river and my bia larue -- i returned the bottles to a very pleased vietnamese man, fishing on the thu bon, sunset)

Posted by Picasa

Saturday, May 16, 2009

last days

procrastination leads to blog entry.

summation of the last few weeks

thailand is brief, just enough time for a couple bottles of neon orange orange juice and green curry

the tips of my fingers have started to peel off, what does that mean?

buckets at angkor what? lead to a rough ride to P2 which noodle soup cures, I miss nana

get lost with my group in P2, tuk-tuks save the day and deliver us at Mee Goreng heaven

Ipod induced napping on the bus leads to strange lucid dreams

could Lebo be right about Deli pickels saving the world??? all this poverty in Cambodia is making me hope so

I wish I had brought my black gauchos and not my teal ones

I see a one armed mine victim filling in the potholes along an unpaved portion of cambodia's national road 4 and find myself wondering who is paying him for his work

cambodian children thrive on the beach front town of Sihanoukville selling braclets and when not successful swearing at tourists

Handwashing can be incredibly satisfying.

Crossing the border to Vietnam is striking - how can a bridge lead to such difference? I already miss counting in Khmer.

More ipod, more strange dreams.

I eat frog for the first time.

I get my laundry done in Saigon, everything comes back individually tagged

Night train delivers me to Nha Trang, why is train sleep so satisfying?

confused yet? me too. but life is a beautiful mystery.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

back to kampuchea

I've made it to Cambodia.

After some deep breathing and wu-sah's I started my first SE Asia tour, I've got a really nice group of young brits, a renegade kiwi, a lovely italiana and, GRACIAS A DIOS, una mexicana y dos colombianas! Which means I've gotten to speak spanish and eat green curry, could this be heaven? Really what I am learning is that leading tourists is a skill that you pick up, and works anywhere, at this point I just have to learn the route, because the day to day stuff is about the same. Plus now I have a little dry erase board to write my groups notes on so I am like a serious professional these days.

Really life is pretty good, and I was musing to myself on the bus yesterday (ala Stealing Beauty) that happiness is a choice. It was a beautiful ride, Cambodia is so flat that in some places you can practically see the curve of the earth. It is dry season right now (though that didn't stop some scattered bursts of precipitation) and most of the rice paddies are turned red dirt, a couple men were out plowing, and there were skinny cows, "just like from pictures," as put by my italiana. The cows are great, but my heart lies with the water buffalo, whom I have a particular fondness for after almost running one down last fall on the way up north on the muddiest road EVER (right Nana?).

Love to all!

Monday, May 4, 2009

sawadee kah

Nothing like going to log in to your blog and finding it in thai script. That by the way is my way of saying that I have arrived here in Thailand.
After being FREEZING cold in california for nearly two weeks the 29 degree (90F for you gringos) heat is AWESOME. And I better get used to it because that is how SE Asia rolls (mikee knows). Cold is a strange concept here, and when it is found it is usually machine generated.
The whole flight/travel/bag retrival/customs/bus here was pretty standard, really the only complication was my constant sneezing freaking out my row mates. Maybe I should get myself a face mask and a shirt that says, "NO HAY GRIPE PORCINA AQUI!" Or maybe that would really freak these people out. Damn that just made me laugh out loud. Sad really. Plus I am guessing that about 1/2% of them can read spanish.
In typical Gemma fashion I got myself all turned around trying to get to Khao San road to check my email yesterday, and then did it again this morning so now my poor feet are a bit sore. I guess the intelligent thing would have been to wear the keens this morning and to look at the map, but I am one stubborn girl and I love a good blister. I only mention this as I was totally convinced when I was back in the states that Chaco flips cannot give you blisters (MOM), but now upon further thought I remember that I got some gnarly blisters back when I first got to Singapore, so now all bets are off.
Most of my time thus far has been me sitting in the green house cafe somewhere on Soi Rambutri Banglampoo ( and yes i did have to look at a map and a menu to get that road name right). And basically what I am half remembering and half discovering ( I guess one might simplifiy that and call it re-discovering) is that street names are a pain in the ass here, not so unlike in Costa Rica (el lado sur de la casa con el techo negro, 100m este de el arbol con los monos azules), but here every thing/place/street has about 3 different names with different spellings. I have yet to make it to the regional office here so I fill my time sitting at the green house cafe laughing at backpacker fashion (which makes the CA travelers look real tame - excluding Argie street artisans and anyone who thinks they are a 'local' in pana-pana-panajachel) and trying to understand the international dateline and how it will now effect my communication with the rest of the world (things look a bit dire).
Really I can't complain, I am trying to take it easy with the thai food, don't want to start hating green curry my first week here, and trying to stop myself from buying music on itunes with the promise to myself that I can go crazy at Laundry in Siem Reap (Mikee understands). So yea, thats all I've got to say for myself other than the fact that I do miss beans. I've never understood all the bean hating that tourists like to do in C.A. Really maybe they never learned the gloriousness of gallo pinto.

Out. (Oh and I'll try to take it easy with the ellipses next time)