Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Family and More Memories

So I'm going to cheat.  I've been home (which is the USA for you tea party people) since the 20th of July but I'm going to pretend I'm still in VN so I can finish up this blog.  Thus, I must ask you to suspend belief and imagine real hard I'm still back in Vietnam, forgetting the fact I have been stuffing my face with high fructose corn syrup and processed foods for the past week.

Done?  Okay.

I finished up my stint in Saigon for about 6 days.  Now, if you have heard me talk about my family in Saigon, it may seem like I hate them--and to an extent, I do in that they suffocate the hell out of me and as DJ Jazzy Jeff would say, they "just don't understand" or get me, mainly my sarcasm, and this results into them thinking I am the dumbest person in the world.

Example:  I leave the house without permission to walk around.  Now understand, this is after I have lived in Hanoi practically by myself for 10 months.  They call me a couple of times and I just tell them I'm walking.  I'm hungry and buy a sweet bun.  I return home and my aunt looks surprised I can feed myself. 

"How much did you buy that?!?!" 
 I reply, "300k [15 dollars]." 
"OH MY GOD YOU GOT RIPPED OFF!!@!@!@"
I have a blank stare.  "You know 300K is 15 dollars.  Who would buy a bun for 15 dollars?" 
"WHY DID YOU BUY THAT FOR SO MUCH!@!@??"
"I didn't really buy it for 300k..."  Sigh.  I spend 10 minutes trying to tell them I was joking...

Example 2:  I go for another illegal walk.  I return.

"Where were you?"
"Walking."
"Do you even know where you are going??!?@!"
"Nope.  And by walking down the street, I was mugged, lost my cell phone, and had to eat a dead rat on the street to survive."
"WHAT?!@?!  You got MUGGED#!@!!??"
"No..."
"OH MY GOD, and YOUR PHONE!@!??"
"No..."  Another 20 minutes there.

Example 3:  There is an ad in VN TV and movie theaters that show a white couple screaming at a spider.  A white girl pops in and googles on her phone how to kill spiders.  However, she does it in Viet. 

I say, "Wow, her Vietnamese is really good.  Even better than mine!"
My cousins looks at me.  "No, they use computer animation to do that.  You see, she really doesn't know Vietnamese..."
"I know...I was joking and trying to make a comment about race and advertising in VN....you know what, just FUCK IT and everybody get a sense of humor!!"  (This was a boiling over point--And the f--k it part was in my head)

Another thing that bothered me was really a translation issue.  Now I can almost eat anything.  My limits include dogs, cats, and durian (sau rieng).  Other than that, I am good to go.  My family would try to feed me every 2 hours (see post about food/eating).  As a normal person, I don't eat that much so I would politely decline if they offered food because as an adult, I have learned to understand signals my body gives me, such as "I'm not hungry right now."  Yet, when I decline food, they say khong biet an, which translates to "I don't know how to eat that."  As a person who ate a rat on the street to survive, I find that really condescending and it always pissed me off because I don't want to be labeled as the pansy "I like my lettuce e coli free" fancy-pants American who is afraid of oriental food.  I can and have eaten almost every major dish of Vietnam.

The phrase "khong biet an," however, does mean something a bit different than its literal translation.  I know this but it still angers me for the reason above.  It usually means that a person doesn't prefer to eat a certain food, as in I don't favor this specific fruit.  This complicates things as when they say that, they decide I'm still hungry, they just recommended the wrong dish and still push food towards my digestive system, not understanding that I don't eat because I'm NOT hungry.  It also angered me that none of them recognized that nobody in the family wanted to eat every 2 hours, showing that NORMAL people don't eat this much.  Yes, I get they are trying to be nice, but please leave me alone. [Slams door, listens to Nirvana with my lower lip out]

Yes, looking back, I was a bit of a cranky pants to my family, but I did cool off, at least I tried to, at the end of the week.  And yes I do sound like a 15 year old teenager with a bad tude because my parents never did this to me during my teen years so here was my chance to be a rebellious teenage at age 24.

Still, I like my family.  If you think about the situation, I guess I can understand their position: 1) They are responsible for me in a "foreign" country and have to answer to my parents 2) I'm kind of a big deal, 3) and here is the toughest one, I probably will not make it back to VN before some of them die.

So while I wished they would be more considerate of what I wanted--for example, just room to breathe--I do realize VN is not a yearly trip for me and I have only meet my family 3 times in my life.  I don't like to think about this stuff, and I'm sure most don't, but it is something I need to recognize and accept.  A week of being sheltered isn't so bad in the long run, considering these may be the last moments I spend with them.  It was nice to share that time, even if it wasn't very pleasant for me, but you got to be less selfish when it comes to stuff like this.

To pump up my ego even more, I also recognize that from my dad's side, my two sisters and I are the future of US-VN relationships for the family because my dad is the only member here in the US.  This might complicate things in the future in terms of money (see Daughter From DaNang--also an example of suffocating family life, though I'm not a big fan of her actions.  Also, right now, money isn't a big deal as I am still a student, thus I am POOR.  Please donate to my bank account.), but I do feel I should have some connection to them presently and in the future.  And to be realistic, if I was getting older and towards the end of my life, I would want to spend as much time with Tony as possible.

So there are some memories of my family life in VN.  Again, messy yet loving.  So, you know, like every family in the world.  I know I have become negative Nancy again, but good times include really good food (when I was hungry), fun conversations, and sad, yet meaningful goodbyes.

More quick memories:

The airport security stopping me in Saigon for my 300 pirate discs.  "Well the American shows are okay, but we're going to have to take the Vietnamese films."  That comment was surprising to me--last time, it was the American DVDs causing problems, not the VN films.  After some haggling, I was let through.  Don't tell the dude this, but I was on the verge of giving him 20 bucks, with the upward limit of 75 dollars.  Informal Economies.  It's for Research.  Learning about piracy culture.  Pick one of those excuses and don't judge me.

Seeing a European tourist cry because she was being honked at too much when crossing the street.  This is why I believe when the nuclear Apocalypse comes, as foretold in the book of Sarah Connor, people from third world countries will do MUCH better than us wimpy first world peeps. 

Another example.  Seeing a small kid, maybe 5 or 6, pick up a leaf.  I'm thinking, Oh that's cute.  Him eating the leaf.  Oh shit.  Seeing stuff like this has made me much more humble and now I have this nasty habit of labeling things "first-world" problems and "real" problems.  Don't get me wrong, I still complain a lot about stupid things, but I try to be more aware of real problems.

Example of "first-world" problems:  Oh man, Netflix is now 15 dollars.  I have to pay so much to stream movies through my xbox.  Oh geez, life is hard.

Real problem:  Shut the fuck up.  I just ate a leaf from the street for lunch.  Take your twitter problems and shove it up your ass.  [This is why this is a nasty habit]

Post is getting a bit long.  Save more for later.

tony

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