Monday, October 22, 2007

Duy Nghia and Oanh

We've met some pretty amazing people on this trip. For example, one of our guides in Laos was a Buddhist monk for 17 years and our guide in Hue fought against the Khmer Rouge.

In Hoi An we met another really cool person.

Ian and I were just walking down the street...

OahnLet me take a step back.

When you walk down the street in Hoi An almost every single shop shopkeeper calls out to you with, "you buy?" or "you buy something?" or "you come inside?" You smile nicely, but usually just keep on walking.

That's how we met Oanh (pronounced like the number "one"). She works at an Indian restaurant called Tandoori, which is down the street from our hotel. She managed to get us to stop and the next thing we knew we were invited to a birthday party on an island just off the coast.

Sounded cool to us.

We came back to the Indian restaurant for dinner, but we never made it to the birthday party on the island. We did, however, manage to make it to two hours of karaoke at a local place.

...and I will not comment on Ian's beer consumption.

At the end of the night she told us to come back to the restaurant after our morning tour of My Son and she'd take us to see her island, Duy Nghia, and her village, Duy Hai. She told us to show up at the restaurant at 3:30 PM with two motorbikes and Ian's sister (we've started calling Olivia Ian's sister).

We were kind of nervous about the motorbikes. In our first hour in Vietnam we saw a lifeless body sprawled out on the road from a motorbike accident. We didn't want to be like that lifeless body. We kind of enjoy, you know, being alive and stuff.

We showed up at the restaurant (without Olivia) that afternoon and told Oanh that we just wanted to take a taxi to the boat. She shot back, "but you can't take the taxi on the boat." Then it dawned on us. She wanted to take the motorbikes over to the island so that we could ride around.

How cool is that?

So we rented two motorbikes for about $3 each and bought $3 worth of gasoline and then without helmets, rode through side streets and rice paddies to the dock.

Along the way I saw a lot of betel nut trees. I asked Oanh about them and she explained that old people, and only old people, chew because they like the way it stains their teeth. I didn't tell her that I had some in my pocket.

It wasn't for me to chew. There was a lady in the Hoi An market with betel nut stains on her teeth and I wanted to take a picture of her. I bought some betel nut and then asked if I could take her picture. She proudly displayed her pearly black and reds for me.

At the dock, Oahn paid for our fare across the river to Duy Nghia. Along with about 15 other people, we loaded our bikes up onto the boat then sat in the back as we crossed.

As we crossed over to the island, I couldn't help but think how cool this was.

When we got to the other side we unloaded the bikes and she took us on a tour of her home. We saw schools, a communist cemetary, rice paddies, cows, chickens and not a single other foreign face. Almost every person we passed yelled a big "HELLOOOOO!!!"

Oahn then led us down a very small path bordered on both sides by rice. We came to a small bridge and she said, "OK, let's get off. That's my home," as she pointed to a small house near by.

We met her Mom, Dad, and younger brother and sister...and almost every single one of the neighbors. An old lady showed up and I asked, "Is that Grandma?"

"No, she's a neighbor."

Then another old lady showed up and I again asked, "Is that Grandma?"

Wrong again.

It could have been really uncomfortable, sitting in a room with 15 people where only one person could serve as translator, but it wasn't. I ate one of the hot chilis growing in their backyard for some entertainment and they all decided that I was crazy. They also thought that Ian would make a good match for their oldest daughter.

We set up a date for later that night (that's a whole other story).

Before we knew it, it was time to head back to Hoi An. Before we left, I gave one of the old ladies the betel nut in my pocket. They all thought that was hilarious and they couldn't understand why a foreigner would have betel nut.

I guess some things are just better left unexplained.

We took a different route to get back to the dock, loaded our bikes back on, and as we sat on the back of the boat heading towards Hoi An, Ian and I discussed whether this was our best field trip yet.

I think it was.


Gregory said...

The photos remind me of remote villages in the Philippines. I say it's always good to get off the beaten tourist track, and really try to understand places and people by encountering them as they truly are. I'm glad you've had that opportunity.

Regards to Ian. /s/ Greg

Marianas Eye said...

Very cool!

Do you remember Saipan at all? When I travel, I find that I can get so immersed in a place that I forget I come from somewhere else.