We purposely avoided the tourist track because we wanted to experience something a little different and gain a sense of the “real” Vietnam. What I gained was a set of impressions, a head full of vivid images, and the knowledge that there is not one single “real” Vietnam, but a great many rolled into one.
Also discovered that I have developed a new appreciation of how difficult it can be for someone who is trying to communicate with others when one is in a strange country and cannot understand a word of the language, and 98% of the permanent population don’t speak English, your native, and only, tongue. But some have mastered English, though.
There’s a large sign on the wall above the internal swimming pool in the beautiful, traditional Vin Hung 2 hotel in Hoi An: “Please not swim in pool while being drunk”–by what? A goldfish? Can’t be a wild crocodile, they’ve been hunted almost to extinction and only live in the Mekong now, so I’m told.
This sign hung in our hotel bathroom in the beautiful garden city of Da Lat (“Dalat” is the Anglicised version of the name) which is situated in the Highlands:
Irishisms (for want of a better descriptor,) put me in a bit of a head spin. They do provide great material for wags and creative minds, though. Nevertheless, suffice it is to say here, that I’m not really that physically athletic anymore, so I didn’t even try to keep hanging on the shelves. And we didn’t take this sign off the wall and put it on the bed, either. We just took the linen as it came, but which always very clean.
We were mentally too tired out after our long, busy days to properly explore the vexatious question of the way that foreign languages (in this case, English,) are taught to the students in schools in any country. But it does go to show how difficult it can be to speak any language that is foreign to your tongue, and speak it just like a native speaker. Question: does one ever really fully learn a language, or is one always a student of language? Regardless, with language, we had a lot of fun with the people we met. They tried to teach me the names of various things in Vietnamese, and I tried to teach them the names of those things in English. We all found these exercises hilarious, but intensely interesting. For me, the experience was most delightful.
Culture shock can be hard on one too. In some very small places I found it a little hard to understand what one was supposed to do–sit, squat, crouch, kneel, or whatever, and ended up almost doing the splits. It’s all very well for the Vietnamese–they’re small slim, graceful people. But I’m not Vietnamese, and I’m not a contortionist either. Nevertheless, couldn’t resist tying myself in knots to take a few photos:
These things aside, as a whole, I found the Vietnamese I met to be dignified, gracious and pleasant, and peaceable and peace-loving people. They are never pretentious. As well, I found them to be most considerate and sensitive to my needs, and then, when I became ill, they were very caring, very loving, and very concerned. Rightly or wrongly, I felt as though I was a much-loved member of their family. I think that, in this world, perhaps we all have much to learn from each other.