Monday, January 30, 2012

Vietnam (2): the first day (30th Jan 2012)

The first day:
Wow what a huge day. First saying goodbye to my beautiful husband. Dealing with the massive fear I had (I realize now it was unwarranted, but it was coming from memories of my flight to Kolkata and arriving at 11pm at night to be confronted by a 6 year old boy begging for Thai baht).
I tried to pack my overheard bag into my backpack on the airport floor. I had pre planned to have only one bag and one toddler to carry, so the cabin bag was packed with the plan being it would be compressed into my main backpack before leaving the terminal. I was in super mum mode and determined that in the chaos of the airport madness, I would not loose Little messyfish in Asia to the "white slave trade" (a fear, not a reality). I was stern and strict. I kept yelling at him to stay close, that I must be able to see him at all times and I was getting more and more stressed. I noticed that a security official was watching me  with suspicious eyes. Oh my god, I looked like a drug dealer. I was completely stressing. People all around were in holiday mode. Excited, happy delirious and looking for the exit. I was obsessed with packing my bag just right, micro controlling my child and wondering how i was ever going to get my bag on my back and my child on my front. In hindsight, knowing so much more about the Vietnamese now, I realize that that stern looking official woman at the baggage pickup was probably just watching me because i was such a strange and odd creature, who had no control over her child. In hindsight now, I forgot to be playful. I didnt realize, that if my bag can go round and round on a carosole, then it would be perfectly safe propped up against a pole while I chased my son around and let him run off his energy. In hindsight, I would have found a safe place for him to run around at every opportunity. This was one of the safest places that i could have found in the whole of the trip. It was a clean white tiled floor, airconditioned, no motorbikes and only official types standing around watching and making sure everyone was doing the right thing. As the vietnamese go, kids running around and having fun IS them doing the right thing. It would have been perfectly acceptable to allow that to happen. It is the old "control your child and make him behave" tapes that had me all in a twist, and therefore had little messyfish all in a twist.
 From the first day Little Messyfish could walk, he lived on 5 acres, then shortly afterwards we moved to a little rented cottage on 100 acres of rolling green hills. When we open the door for a walk, he runs and runs. He has complete freedom (except in summer when we are on Red Belly Black Snake alert).
 Then 14 hours later he was sundenly in this alley. Behind that motor bike is the food stall that kept me in heaven, and those motorbikes are not going too fast in these crowded alleys but they have burning hot exposed exhaust pipes at body and face height for toddlers.
 As I duck under the tarps and makeshift sun protectors for the numerous businesses in the alleyways, Little messyfish runs up and down, jumping over puddles of black slime, and cracks in the footpaths. I scream at him to come back, stay close, watch out, hold my hand, get in the ergo carrier now, no dont go there, as he dodges cigarettes, motorbikes, electrical cables, rusty market umbrella legs and pinching smiling question asking humans. I was also imagining that we were dodging hands that would come from narrow alleys and steal him away (remeber the white slave trade?)...but that was just hysteria based on listening to other peoples fears.
 Yum yum, great street food and narrow alleys. i could get everything we needed in the one small alley in the middle of saigon. There were kids to play with, breakfast lunch and dinner, fresh bread, fruit and juices. There were snack vendors selling lolly pops and chips, coffee shops, hairdressers, a knife sharpener, and chilli mincer. The hotel sold cold water and soft drinks, bus tickets to Siem Reap, Cambodia for our trip to Angkor Wat.
 This is the entrance to the Diep Anh Guesthouse, 241/31Pham ngu Lao St, Saigon. I loved it, but with a toddler, one step outside without looking and a motorbike could take you out. That however was the least of his concerns. He was particularly bothered by the strong smells of fish sauce coming from the food stall just out of view on the right of the doorway, the heat that he felt leaving the airconditioned hotel room, having to walk down 4 flights of very hard to distinguish (therefore having to hold mums hand the whole way down) black marble stairs, having to put his shoes on at the doorway before we went out the door, the loud scary noise of a motorbike suddenly driving by, and most of all the constant attention of the lovely (but for him intrusive) smiling pinching and question asking Vietnamese. He would just want to go and get out of there...His urge to bolt was strong! Yep...I had a bolter on my hands in the alleys and busy streets of Saigon. Yes, my hair started to fall out. The last time it did that was from when I was stressed by being a first time mum with a fulltime 9 year old step son to look after and a cake manufacturing business to run.
 Up up up we go. the buildings are tall and narrow. This is the guesthouse we stayed in. Top floor. Wish we had the bottom floor, but they put us on the top floor after I had been in transit for 14 hours, so once I got in and plopped on the bed, the last thing I was going to do was go all the way back down and ask for something I knew I was not going to get.
Anyone for watermelon on a stick? To the right is the chair I would sit on to put my shoes on, whilst reminding little messyfish that he was not to go outside yet, and to sit down and put his shoes on, and not to touch the doormat, and to get off the ground and to wait for me. Sigh. It was exhausting. The first few days in saigon was hard work. very hard work. Most of it was having to adjust to the new environment in a way i had never even perceived. In hindsight, it wasnt actually that dirty. I was just overly cautious and that wore off pretty quickly!
I wrote in my journal "I am totally loving the alleys and street food and all the amazing things to see!! Its like India without all the people giving me a hard time! Its amazing. Go slow, reduce culture shock, don't do too much in the first week, then get out of here! Go to a nice country area or to Dalat".

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