Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Vietnam (6): Day 3 continues...(31.1.12)

We ended up having a great time on day three of our trip. When I could finally convince little messyfish that I really wanted to go outside and look around, he agreed to come when I told him we would go and get some raspberries and play in the park. Two of his favourite things to do! At the end of our alley, just before entering the busy main street of Pham Ngu Lao road was a fresh fruit juice bar. It was a fancy upmarket kind, especially for the tourists. I knew that because the juices were expensive! they were also pictured and had prices besides all the pictures. because we were so new to Vietnam and I still had no idea how much I could actually get things for, i was quiet happy paying 35,000 for a juice! By the time I had made it to Hoi An, I was paying 10,000 for a juice. Almost a dollar less.... but the convineince of being able to look at a picture and point, and know exactly how much it was going to be, without having to bargain was worth it! Ryker ordered the drink that had the picture of raspberries beside it. Of course when he got it he was very dissapointed. It had been blended with uht milk, ice and water. Yuk for him. He would have been happy with 3 punnents of fresh raspberries. I think he thought he was getting that, because that was what the picture was. He has not had much experience with graphic design and food photography at the young stage of his life. He doesn't realise that the picture is nothing like what you get, yet. At this stage I would have paid $20 for them! but I had no idea thats what he wanted. I ended up drinking it.  It was nice.

We then braced ourselves for the crossing of the road to get to the large park area on the other side. In Vietnam, I read in the guide books, that you just walk. Dont jerk, keep an even pace and the drivers can anticipate your speed and drive around you. OMG! I put Ryker in the ergo. I decided that if we were going to be hit, and I fall on the ground dead, then at least he is strapped to me, and the authorities will be able to work out who he belongs to and how to get him home. I had visions of me being hit by a motor bike and he being flung through the air and lost forever. Found years later living as a vietnamese. An anthropological experiment? No...fear and caution, and things single mums travelling alone think of I guess (well this one did anyhow). The problem with carrying a large 3 year old across a busy road in Saigon however, is that they can block peripheral vision. They also can decide to cover your eyes, scream at you to look at something in the opposite direction to the way you need to look in order to stay safe, they can wriggle violently side to side trying to get out whilst you are trying to walk at a steady even pace. They can stick there arms and legs straight out, possibly getting snagged by passing cars and motorbikes (yes! they do get that close!!), and then worst of all, when I finally decide I need to restrain his arms and hold them down, so we can keep walking he decides to bite me, scream and wriggle even more violently. Fucken nightmare. Fuck the roads in Vietnam. Fuck Fuck Fuck. How the fuck am i going to get around? I have to cross a damn road. Damn Vietnam for not being tranquil and filled with quaint pushbikes pedaled by people in traditional clothing!

On the way to the park, just on the side of the road where we had just crossed was a man poking a live fish with a stick. Little messyfish found it fascinating. I was a little squirmish at how cruel it felt to me. It also seemed like a very strange thing to be doing on a busy city street! Whilst little messyfish was captivated it gave me a little chance to lift my head and take a little quick look around. There was a city pond right there. And there were men fishing it! The man was showing the little kids at the park his catch! Soon little messyfish lost interest and I followed him as he wandered around looking at people and things. He desperately wanted to have a go at fishing. If I was brave enough, and now that I know how freindly and helpful most alot of vietnamese are i would have asked one of the men for a little go. But I was too shy, so i promised him that later in the trip we will go on a boat and go fishing. I really thought that we would really do that. We ended up not doing that however. next trip I go on to Vietnam i will take him his own life vest, so we can go on some of the safer looking boat trips. Again, as a single mum, i just wasnt willing to risk a boat trip. I am used to much highler safety levels here in Australia, and little messyfish can not swim yet. So we actually ended up not taking advantage of all the amazing and wonderful water activities that vietnam offers tourists. There were great boat trips, fishing trips and island adventures everywhere we went. Perhaps next time? perhaps when he is 10?
We then made it a little further down the park to the playground. This time too, I was a little bit more in my body, and able to take a look around while Little messyfish played. I stood right by him, but could lift my head for a second, because I had already checked out this equipment and already had a far idea of the safetly risks. Now I noticed that in the childrens parks were young adults, old men, street kids, and other vietnamese from all walks of life. In the parks in Australia that we go to where there is playground equipment, its is usually just full of kids and their caretaker. These parks however had the whole spectrum of society. You can see in this picture where little messyfsh is climbing that a young boy sits. He was very dirty with bare feet that were completely covered with dirt and grime. I guessed that he was a street kid, and most defiantly not a school boy, despite him being the age of a school boy. He never begged for money though, but he walked very slowly when he did. Possibly using drugs. I felt very sad when I saw him. But I also felt the need to be wary of him. I was after all in the center of one of the worlds largest cities. And I was mother lion with her cub in unknown territory, not knowing what the cultural clues for danger were yet. Soon enough, in fact only minutes later though we learnt our first clue. Little messyfish was "rolled". A bunch of kids in school uniform came running towards him whilst he was on a roundabout type piece of equipment. It had 4 seats. I though that it was great that they would sit on the other seats and they could all go round together. How naive was I! they spun it as fast as they could till little messyfish fell off, then they jumped on top of him and started kicking him. I grabbed those kids and threw threw them off him. I then pushed them as hard as I could and told them all to fuck of and get out of here (in english! da!). As they retreated and walked away they walked backwards making eye contact with me and using hand gestures and aiming and shooting at my precious darling little boy. I was so confused and amazed and the level of violence. Little kids just simply dont play like that with other little kids they do not know in the parks in Australia that I play in. We have parents on top of our kids. Helicopter Parents, telling them to take turns, now be nice, now say please, now say thankyou. These vietnamese kids had no parents in sight. I blamed the shooting action and pretend gun play on the American war. I figured it was part of the psyche and it was just different for kids whose parents had been though such atrocities. I tried not to take it personally. It was just a random attack on a little rich white guy tourist who was in THEIR park. Who knows what it was. I was shaken. Little messyfish was totally ok. He didn't see the shooting. He just thought those kids had fallen down on him accidently. He has no idea it was malicious and intentional. He just wanted an icecream... like the ones those kids had. So i thought not only am I going to get you and icecream, but you can have 20 of them.... Ill show you what a rich white tourist kid gets.... hmmmph! And Ill buy all those mean kids one more or 20 more each too if they want.
Ok so the soft serve 'chocolate" icecream sold in the park by a very sleepy looking vietnamese man was aweful. We threw it in the bin. Little messyfish cried his eyes out. He just couldnt believe that the picture on the side of the icecream vending machine did not match the icecream that was in his hand. He was about to begin his journey into discovering that the graphic design, much more prolific in the cities than he has ever experienced in his country home town was a cruel illusion of reality. The yoghurt containers that are sold in Australia are covered with lush pictures of fresh ripe berries. He buys them only to discover a greyish purple yogurty puree inside. Not a plump berry anywhere. 
As we walked back across the road (yes it was still scary), we came across a western style bakery called ABC barkery. Can you believe it?  Little messyfish ran inside in complete excitment. There was space to run and the women who were serving the self serve bakery and helping with tongs and trays were really open to playing with him. He raced around and around in circles, found some pizza slices and some NZ chocolate icecream. He was in heaven . I was relieved. I had decided right then and there that this would be a daily sometimes twice daily trip. what was the absolute most bestest thing ever about this place? I didnt have to cross any roads to get there. I also discovered a few days later that they had an upstairs. That means completely contained motorbike free childproofed area in which I could sip a latte whilst little messyfish ran around in circles eating pizza and chocolate icecream. 
We bought bread, crossaints and took them back to our guesthouse. I am still trying to find fruit. After that we had a big rest. Little messyfish watched cartoon network, and I had a massive meltdown. The streets of saigon are hard work with a small child first time on my own. I was flat out trying to work out how to do Saigon myself, let alone manage a boistrous highly sensitive active 3 year old boy. 
I wrote and email to a yahoo group that that I am part of. Its a radical unschooling group and there is very direct advice based on fundamental concepts discussed there. It is not a parents support group. The  moderators goal is to ensure that the parents of the children are given the correct advice based on the theories of radical unschooling. 
The advice i got back was to get a child carrier (have that), go home(no way!), its not his responsibility to be safe its mine(oh yes! thats right), find somewhere for him to run (i was at a total loss as to how to do this....it seemed like there was nowhere in the whole of Vietnam...but i fugured that I would try going to a beach side town that had the reuptaion of being tourist freindly and very nice), Someone even mentioned that even jane Godall didnt take her children to the jungle (ok, this was a city full of children and a country full of children. I was not in the congo, the amazon or the desert here!). It felt like the advice was not helpful at all. I was not able to enter into conversation with these women via email, because vietnam had a ban on Yahoo groups. So my support network was severed.
I look back now, and realize that in Saigon there are lots of things I could have done differenlt. I didnt think I had any need to go to The reunification palace. I dont care much about war memoribilia. What I didnt realize, is that all the taxis know where it is (so no walking or road crossing necessary) and that there are large open spaces, tanks and cannons and all sorts of things for little messyfish to run and climb on. there was the rooftop bar of the Rex hotel. Again, i dont drink...why go there? again...a taxi ride (no walking), a large contained space where i dont have to be super vigilant. westerners for me and little messyfish to talk to. We could have easily had a nice big cool drink full of ice with an umbrella on top. Then there is a large water park outside of saigon. A taxi ride there, loads of fun for children. Plenty of western food for mr fussypants, and lots of space for him to roam, so mrs nurotic can relax for a bit. And the list goes on. the list I completely forgot about. The resources i didnt think about. The places I wish I had gone too, becuase in the gettig there and back, I could have experinced the food, people, city and culture. I did not need to pound the pavements with a 3 year old to experience all this. But i didnt know that yet. Instead....I booked a ticket on the train to Nha Trang. My hair was falling out. It was easy to see on the white tiled hotel guestroom floor. I was stressed.

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