Archive for November, 2013


Dance Legend

If you’re the regular arcade-goer or own a Playstation at home, you’ll certainly be familiar with Dance Dance Revolution (DDR).

I was out with some cousins, and we decided to go to an arcade. When we got there, I saw that they’d switched up the usual DDR up/down/left/right foot pads.

From this:

To this:

My first thoughts? Bootleg! They thought they could make replicas just by switching around some buttons? Thinking there was nothing to see here, I began to walk past.

That is, until I saw this:

He’s not even looking at the screen. Someone, give the kid a deal or something!

Needless to say, I was most impressed. And I quickly shifted from my ‘the Western world knows best’ attitude regarding product production and the performing arts. Sometimes it’s the little things that show how bigoted we can be, and I’m certainly no exception.

Reality check! People around the world might do things a little differently than in Canada. But that doesn’t mean it’s for the worse (or better). It’s just… different.

Ever had that epiphany? Where the world as you know it comes crashing down? (Or at least your original mindset gets a bit of an adjustment).

P.S. I believe the arcade game was Pump It Up, a Korean version of DDR. I found this out much later. Like, just today. So there you go.

 

Photo Credits:

Dance Dance Revolution: Cruise Savvy

Pump it Up: Eugene Shuge

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It’s on you

Food is pretty cheap here. Conversion is 20,000 VND (Vietnamese dong) for every USD. You can get drinks (tall glasses, by the way) for 25 cents. Dishes come out to be between $1-3 per plate/bowl.

As such, the kids are able to treat me to snacks and things every once in the while. On this sunny afternoon, we walk out to a drinks place, just across the street. There is a little plastic table and chairs there (like those kiddy ones you put in the backyard).

Typical seating for a meal or drinks

Typical seating for a meal or drinks

We look at the menu on the whiteboard to select drinks. After a few minutes of debating (“I want that one! … No, wait, that one!), we each take a seat.

Ming Xi (age 6) calls, “Ah Yee! (Aunty!) We’d like to order!” An older lady steps out, asking what we would like. We place our orders; saleslady says it’s 5,000 dong per glass.

Ming Xi looks through her wallet (or rather, the little white pouch she always straps to her waist). She has 7000 dong (a.k.a. 35 cents). She tries to barter with the saleslady: “Ah Yee, can we get a little bit less for 3000 dong?” Aunty says no, it’s a fixed price. Ming Xi and I decide to split a glass.

While waiting for the drinks, Ling Ling goes to the store beside, to buy a bag of chips. Ming Xi fiddles with her straw. She bends it out of shape until it is a cracked, unrecognizable piece of plastic. “Ah Yee! Can I switch this for a new straw?” Aunty says that the straw is messed up now, I don’t want it, here just take a new straw.

Our glasses are done. Ling Ling gets a sweet coffee drink. Me and Ming Xi get a glass of lemonade.

The salespeople here must think I’m poor, being treated to drinks by a 6-year old and 10-year-old.

Oh well, I’ll take it.

Ever traveled abroad and noticed it’s the small things which are always different from home? Any interesting stories about even just getting a snack or grabbing a coffee?

Here’s another round of Tips, and things to prepared for when you set foot in VN:

Expect to be poked fun at for your weight.

Not so much with strangers, but if you have family or friends, well…

I’m a pretty average weight here in Canada. But boy, in Vietnam, I’m a freaking an elephant. I fit size XXL shirts and tops there. Don’t even get me started on pants. While shopping one time, I decided to try a pair on. Needless to say, I struggled (I pulled them up to my knees before I gave up).

Looking back at all the group pictures, the size of my leg always looks about the same as my cousin’s torso. It’s rather depressing.

Don’t get upset! They can laugh all they want. I like to think I’m well-nourished.

Do not publicly display your support for democracy.

Before we visited Vietnam last year, my brother was packing his clothes. He was picking out t-shirts when he came across one with the Democratic Vietnamese flag (yellow with three horizontal red stripes – it was the flag of South Vietnam before the Vietnam War and represents the Vietnamese who support democracy or live in democratic nations). My mom started joking: “You can’t wear that in Vietnam, they’ll shoot you on sight.”

Yes, the locals know you support democracy (coming from Canada, the United States, etc.), but that doesn’t mean actively flaunting your belief system in Communist Vietnam. Maybe you won’t get shot, but it could still get you into trouble with the officials.

Seriously. Don’t do it.

Saigon vs Ho Chi Minh City

Perhaps there is some confusion on what exactly to call that city, since both names are used. To explain: Saigon is the original name used for Vietnam’s previous capital. They renamed Saigon to Ho Chi Minh City in 1976 (following the Vietnam War), after the leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam. You’ll still see both names used. While Ho Chi Minh City is the official name, a majority of the locals still call it Saigon. You’ll also see Saigon used in travel brochures, bus transportation, and so on. By the way, the Vietnamese who fled overseas after the Vietnam War never call it Ho Chi Minh City (see Saigon, not Ho Chi Minh City). So, safest bet to prevent offence is to use Saigon, at least until the other person uses the name Ho Chi Minh City themselves.

Be careful where you put your generosity.

To illustrate why, here’s something that happened to me:

A man approaches me and begs for some money. My cousin Phat takes me by the arm and starts leading me away. When we’re out of earshot, Phat says:

“That guy has a job, but he comes to this street corner everyday to panhandle.”

“Oh yeah? How do you know?”

“I see him leave work, then he comes here afterwards. He makes a lot of extra money that way.”

“Huh! Con men like him.”

My cousin sighs, “Yeah, he makes more money than I do.”

So what do you know? A rich panhandler. You’ve just got to be careful that your generosity isn’t wasted and is actually going to help someone in need.

Want to share some other tips on staying alive abroad?

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