Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Safe on the ground in Hanoi. . .again

The flight is over and I lived through it again.  I had to run to make the transfer in Seoul after head winds held us back an hour or more (out of my supposed hour and a half for connections).  The first day or two after I arrive here are always very odd and I'm not at my best I don't suppose, but things get done somehow anyway.  This trip my home hotel is not available since key people are in America visiting their new grandson and thus there's nobody here with authority for the hotel to submit the police report of visitors. . .so my room in the very back of the hotel where I've been "at home" in Hanoi for the past eight years. . .is empty. . .and I'm living in expensive luxury 7 floors up in the heart of the tourist zone.  Very odd.  There's nothing earth shaking to report, but I'll run down the list.  Since I arrived on the night of the 28th at midnight:

  • dropped by Mr. Dung's (say it Zoong) mechanic shop to let him know I'm here and turn over the bottle of perfume.  
  • Ate breakfast with an economist from Australia who lived in Laos during the revolution.  Interesting!
  • Changed $300 usd for dong at 21,100 vnd to $1, so the dong hasn't lost much at all against the usd.
  • Bought a new sim card for my phone, so I'm back in touch.
  • Visited with the grandma (91 now) at the Home Hotel (I can visit of course, just not stay)
  • Made an appointment for my teeth. . .also in the hotel (Grandma was a dentist, her kids are a professor, two doctors and (critical to this discussion) two dentists.  The two dentist daughters, a bit younger than I, have offices in the front of the hotel where reception ought to be. . .)
  • Went on the back of Mr. Dung's bike home in the evening 28 km out in the country for dinner (including final delivery of the bottle of perfume) and to pick up my bike from the lean to next to the house.  
All of this on about 4.5 hours sleep on the 29th.  I wish you could have come with me to Dung's house, which is actually a small mini mart in one room, with a narrow hallway behind with a toilet, a sink and a flat for a small cooker. . . and (I think) a sleeping loft over head.  The merchandise for the shop is racked up on the walls all around and in the counter across the front and a steady stream of customers comes by in the evening, buying soap, milk, noodles, tea, candy. . .whatever.  Dung and his lady have three kids, two lovely well-mannered and very bright little girls, perhaps 8 and 6 years old. . .and a very precocious two year old spoiled son. . .h'mm.  The girls handled most of the customers as they came, (got what was wanted from the shelf, added up the purchases on a calculator, took the payment and made change. . .at 8 and 6). . .while Mom finished up the tofu with tomatoes (one of my favorites) and chicken with pickled cabbage and soup. . .a grand meal. . .and Dung tried to keep the young son from climbing the walls.  That kid can use a wrench or a screwdriver (loosened the valve cover screws on my bike for example) or a sharp knife (hacked a hard pear sort of fruit to pieces for exercise) or. . .but you can imagine!  HE doesn't mind the camera but his delightful sisters won't stand for it.  Darn.
Two years old, runs screw drivers and wrenches, carves (hard!) fruit with a sharp knife. . .and knows what he wants!

But this is the best photo of his sisters. . .The stock  for the shop covers all the walls and shelves in the front room, and the furniture consists of the green hammock, a small black easy chair and the mat on the floor for eating on.  Oh, and a large flat screen TV that apparently gets ignored 24 hours a day.  Nobody noticed it but me.
 Anyway, it was a glorious first night's dinner followed by the return to the city.  I was afraid I'd end up anywhere but in the hotel, but Dung and all three kids climbed on his bike and lead me through the countryside to the freeway and, truly, from there it wasn't hard. . .23 km or so, very straight and directly through the city to the northern edge. . .thence by a prominent (if very narrow) road I already knew back to the Old Town and home.  But on 4.5 hours sleep?? Oof.

Yesterday, in anticipation of getting the dental work done in the evening, I got out and ordered a new pair of bifocals and found a really nice set of long-armed mirrors for the bike.  The bifocals were easy but the mirrors took some doing.  Last year I was lopsided, with a short mirror on the right and a wobbly long one on the left.  I never did get run over by my right shoulder, but I saw it coming a lot.  For whatever reason the long stem mirrors were out off stock all over Viet Nam last year. This should be better!

You can tell you've been hanging around Hanoi too long or too often when half the Tee shirt vendors, all the one-legged tour guides and several neighborhood watch volunteers all come out to stop you on the street and shake your hand (or sell you a T-shirt or. . .) and welcome you back to Hanoi.  H'mm.  On the other hand, when the T-shirt vendor forgets that she told you LAST YEAR that today was the first day for her new shop under the awning. . .and she hopes you'll be her FIRST customer.  Ha!
Rebuilding bearings on the sidewalk. . .life in the Old Town is like this.

How many people do you know who rebuild ceiling fans for a living?  Eat lots of sugar cookies? Ride an electric bike??  He's cleaned and repainted the blades and their mounting brackets (note gold painted trifids on the bench) and overhauled motors hang in rows from the ceiling.  

Your choice. . .smile at the young lady grilling the chicken skewers, admire the neat old Honda Cub (not so old really, this is a fairly current model) or just stand and sniff the chicken.  Lovely.
Seven floors up. . .a lot to see, but not the ground!
So. . .here's a first-ever video clip for you. . .easy early afternoon traffic a block or two from my home hotel.  You can tell it's not rush hour, everything is moving smoothly.  This takes up a lot of space so I may have to delete it eventually, but smile for now.