28 February 2008

Return to Hot Weather

After a month in the cold of the San Francisco bay area, I arrived back in Ho Chi Minh City to lovely warm weather. I remember this time of year being very hot, although that may still be a few weeks away. But I don’t remember it raining and that is what it has done several times in the past week. It wasn’t a lot of rain, but I don’t think there is supposed to be any at all for several months.

The taxi ride back from the airport was my all-time highest fare paid. The reason? The traffic. In just one month the amount of motorbikes and cars has noticeably increased. How is that possible?

And then there’s the view from my window; when I moved in two and a half years ago, I didn’t even know there was a river not far from my apartment, because all I could see was green jungley stuff. In fact I used to go out on my balcony to try and spot the helicopters I heard at night, only to finally figure out that they were boats chugging down the river. But all that lovely greenery is gone and I have a straight view of the river and the houses on the other side.

They have also been clear-cutting on the land that I pass on the way to work. A river tributary runs along a section along the highway. Walking by it, I had noticed these little square platforms with low, three-foot walls, perched on poles, with a walkway connecting them to the bank. I couldn’t figure out what they were; thought maybe fishing shacks. Then, one day on the way to work, I noticed a man seated inside and stared at him, trying to see if he had a fishing pole. Something didn’t seem right. I then looked straight ahead and noticed a woman standing next to a parked motorbike. That is when it hit me that these were public outhouses and the guy was taking a leisurely dump as his wife patiently waited, and semis rolled by. I planned to bring my camera and take a picture next time I walked by.

Well, I finally did have my camera with me the other day, but it seems the toilets have been removed. However, there was a new sight to behold; men fishing in the river/sewer. Several guys were wading up to their waist in this nasty water and grabbing fish. And as it is in Vietnam whenever there is something different going on, people were stopping their motorbikes to get out and take a look. As soon as one person stops, more pull over. No one was even curious at my stopping to take pictures.

Never eat river fish in Vietnam.