things that Lisa will remember

Strange to say that as I was compiling my list of things that I miss (below) Lisa was sitting at her computer next to me compiling a list of things she will remember. We were doing this synchronously without either of us being aware of it until we had nearly completed the tasks. Lisa has asked me to post her list here as well.

I have also posted it in “more” to conserve space on the page.

As much as I am eager to return to Australia, the reality of the move has resulted in a flood of confusing emotions.  I fully intend to return to the region, but I know that the time and space that we have now cannot, and will not, ever be again.  With that in mind, I am recalling that which I will remember for the time I was here:-

Here is something I wrote 15 months ago.  for me I still think this says it all……

Vietnam is a nation in which expressions of contradiction exist in chorus ? breathtaking beauty coexists with abhorrent ugliness, profound wealth resides along side abject poverty, a cunning and resourcefulness that commands respect sits with inane stupidity, zealous tenacity is embedded within a Buddhist acceptance of fate, a thirst for materialism and money arises out of a society formed through a combination of innocence, and naivety, an air of arrogance and national pride is entwined with shame and embarrassment, and totalitarian governance presides over a lawlessness that is mind-numbingly difficult to comprehend.

In isolation, each paradox is frustrating and wearying; in symphony it is intriguing, beguiling, charming and hauntingly addictive, which over time, morphs into an annoying obsession.

riding down streets lined with huge old trees that bring shaded relief from the intense sun;
the melodic sounds of street vendors crying out above the background noise of daily life;
MiMi and her family;
school girls in their white Ao Dai, appearing like pillars of milk as they ride their bicycles;
Miss Tam, her beautiful smile, and the way she screams out “YEAH” when I say ‘Hello Miss Tam!”
conversations in the traffic as you ride two or three abreast along the streets;
dilapidated cyclos weaving rhythmically through the frantic traffic as if they were in slow motion;
Notre Dame church and the Saigon Post Office;
the waitresses and the good times in Number 5 Bar;
drinking c? ph? đ? at street side cafes;
spending a night on Ha Long Bay with Brendan and Amber;
the sounds of our hem;
Nhan, Tweaky, and Tin – just for all that you are;
trying to eat a meal with my knees somewhere up around my shoulders while seated on something that resembles kindergarten furniture;
the amazing habit of the Vietnamese to simply throw that which is no longer wanted (including food scraps) on the floor/ground;
cruising the streets on the Vespa late at night, feeling the cool(ish) night air dancing across my skin;
the relief that comes with the first rain of the wet season;
the pink church and the banh xeo restaurant tucked away in a small hem just across the road;
an ambulance ride with sirens blaring though the Saigon peak hour afternoon traffic;
sharing my house with geckos and being comfortable with that;
the smell of deep fried banana in batter as you drive down computer street;
the book sellers in Pham Ngu Lao;
Peter G. – his wonderful smile and gorgeous personality;
karaoke nights in strange settings;
the sunrise on December 10th, 2005 at Sapa;
the walk to Man Mai’s house, the time we spent with her and her family, and the hideous cough that three of the young children had;
Landon’s cheeky looks and the complex mix he has of being simultaneously introspective, thoughtful, and narcissic;
Miss Dung and wondering how her life will play out;
luggage carousels at Tan Son Nhat airport;
Hoang, my thoughtful xe om;
the Vườn Chuối markets;
Christmas we spent singing karaoke in a brothel in Cambodia;
the incredible sunsets over the South China Sea;
the unrelenting street vendors in Hang Bac street (the Old Quarter, Hanoi);
the cards that Truc and MiMi made for me for my birthday;
eating seafood at Doc Let beach;
conversations with Jaap;
working with BFT, drinking with BFT, laughing with BFT, and getting huge hugs from BFT (BFT stands for Big Fat Terry and is most definitely a term of endearment);
New Year’s Eve in Nha Trang;
the way Lan’s grandmother touched my hand and heart (without a word spoken between us) one day when I was feeling so sad;
the gorgeous innocence of the Vietnamese children;
Kim Chi and the day that her mother, Em Thi wept in my arms;
the old lady that wears a royal blue knitted head scarf, sitting in the same place every afternoon for two years selling yellow marigolds, and the comfort that came from seeing her there everyday;
nights in Cafe Latin;
wondering how Steve maintains his beard so the he looks as though he has a permanent three day growth;
couples petting in the parks;
being embarrassed by Expats who can best be described as colonialists (they haven?t even evolved to neo-colonialism yet!)
working at RMIT (though by choice, this is a vague memory!);
Linda, her vocabulary, and her crazy personality;
the hydrofoil to Vung Tau;
Christmas at Angkor with Landon, Linda, and Allyson;
eating bun bo Hue in a tiny little restaurant hidden in a small hem behind Ben Thanh markets;
walking through Dalat;
how quickly the Vietnamese people smile at you, and the way that they smile with their entire face;
the red and white sands of Mui Ne;
the tough women in Andong markets and bargaining with them;
the mustard yellow colour of so many of the old buildings that still remain as evidence of an era now past;
the rice terraces of North Vietnam;
the opening of Mekke’s photographic exhibition;
endless fascination at the things that can happen to your digestive system, and still be alive;
the smell of Vientianne;
drinking with Roy and Dutchie at our local bia hoi;
the freedom that comes with being irresponsible;
the way the Vietnamese grieve for their dead;
the night we drove over over a vast mountain pass to get to Mai Chau, how we all did and didnt cope, the group hug, and drinking warm beer to celebrate the fact that we were all still alive when we got to the bottom of the pass;
buying handbags that I could never use in Saigon, but purchased in anticipation of another life outside of here one day;
the majesty and beauty of the Mekong River; 
the night I met Bianca in Bangkok, and how excited I was to see her;
moon cakes;
running into to Hong and Effran in Phnom Penh and the look of surprise on their face when they saw us (oops!);
getting to know Amber better;
the madness of Tet;
eating b?nh m? for breakfast;
the challenge of getting an immigration officer at Ton Son Nhat airport to smile;
the rats that seem as big as cats;
chalk body outlines and arrows we saw drawn on the roads every time we drove out of the city;
getting caught in a rainstorm in Reunification Park and the simple joy that came in finding that the first shelter we happened upon was a bar;
the incredible seas of green in the Mekong Delta when paddies are filed with new rice;
exploring Laos on Baja motorbike, how sore my backside got, and my amazement that I did fully recover!;
big FAT rain;
the disproportionate number of male Expats who felt compelled to remind their female counterparts that 2005 was the year of the cock (my response was generally something along the lines of ?I can understand why you have such a strong association with this year?, yet most of them failed to realise the sarcasim ? I rest my case);
the cyclo driver in our hem,  the love he showers upon his little granddaughter, the way she rides with him in the cyclo, and the incredibly dirty laugh she has for such a small child;
stumbling in to a cottage industry pottery outside of Hue and being taught to use a manual potter’s wheel by a wizened old lady who could not speak a word of English;
being stared at by Vietnamese men;
the yellow flowers of Tet;
sitting on the stairs and crying with Miss Tam when we told her we were leaving;
the two young girls selling roses outside Carmen bar, their cheeky banter, their self-confidence, the fact they can walk the streets at midnight in safety, and the injustice of the fact they they have so little choice to do otherwise;
almost mastering the famous ‘third-world squat”;
the Chattachuk markets in Bangkok;
exploring the countryside on motorbike;
being a novelty in remote towns and being stared at by local residents;
the vile smells of the drains;
footprints on toilet seats;
staying at the Hotel Continental;
hearing the sound of someone walking through the hem hoicking up a huge green lurgy from deep within their sinuses while I am lying in bed in that blissful state between sleep and awake;
blackouts and load shedding;
trying to understand, and the frustration in not being understood;
Allyson’s quirky laugh;
the stunning combination of ignorance, arrogance, and naivety, and the effect this has on a society;
realising that the concept of logical reasoning has no value in attempting to understand this environment, and then accepting that fact;
the way it felt holding on to Roy while driving through the traffic as pillion;
enjoying my morning coffee on our rooftop garden;
David G. and our weekend in Bangkok (and the famous shower scene);
exploring Marble Mountain;
the amazing bike ride from Hanoi – Dien Bien Phu – Sapa – Lau Cai;
the taxi driver at 5am in Hanoi, the ensuing argument, and the shame I felt afterwards;
drinking my beer with ice;
the dawn service on Anzac day at Long Tan with Justin, Rachel, Simon and MiMi;
getting Bianca’s wedding dress made;
the little flower girl crying after she had been beaten for not selling enough roses;
Mr Roy and his guesthouse at Vung Tau;
Janice and her thoughtful, quiet, yet adventurous spirit;
the night we ended up at BFT’s house and how I felt compelled to tell him that his cocktails tasted like arse;
the warped sense of enjoyment I got in seeing looks of abject terror in the faces of tourists as they embarked upon a road crossing;
the rewards and frustrations of teaching in a cross-cultural setting;
accepting the fact that there is no such thing as ‘one size fits all’, in spite of the fact that vendors will assure you this is the case;
Hien and her amazing thoughtfulness, her caring nature, her ability, her thirst for knowledge, and her friendship;
having a quiet ale or three (or more) with Dr Laurie;
parties under the marquee at 21 Pham Ngoc Thach Street;
preparing and facilitating wine appreciation course for the staff at Fosters;
getting horribly pissed drinking happy hour Long Island Iced Teas at the Cyclo bar at Pham Ngu Lao;
the coffee in a plastic bag with straw secured by an elastic band that Roy brought to me while I was still in bed, the morning of my birthday in Nha Trang;
limb-less beggars along Nguyen Hue;
eating pork and rice at our favourite restaurant in the next hem;
the sadness that comes from being confronted with such chronic social injustices;
hugs from Loic;
the way Vietnamese women shave their eyebrows and then draw a set in with brown pencil, and how some of them end up with a permanently surprised look on their face;
the sound of the pump running as it filled our water tank on the roof;
the joy of living in a society that hasnt yet been consumed by materialism;
the unrelenting heat and humidity;
walking through rubber plantations;
our favourite coffee lady in Nha Trang and her gorgeous daughter;
cleaning up after MiMi and her new found love of Hanoi vodka;
Le Pub in Hanoi;
being told I have huge breasts whenever I go to get clothes made;
wondering how hungry I would have to get before I ate pig’s uterus/intestine/ bowel etc., and how many times I have probably eaten it without even knowing;
walking through a rice paddy in the Mekong Delta, feeling snails crunching under my feet, and the silt ooze up between my toes;
being hit by a car on the Ben Thanh roundabout;
the way Thuy hugged me when we met again in Hanoi;
discovering Phoung Ha in Ham Nghie street;
the Family Medical Practice (God knows, I saw enough of that place!);
driving home pissed at 1am and trying to cope with other dickheads driving home pissed at 1am;
driving past Reunification Palace;
Valentine’s day, 2004, and ‘romance corner’;
eating streetside food in Bangkok;
the pomp and circumstance, the colour, and the noise of Vietnamese funerals;
the stark contrast between shopping for groceries at MaxiMart and purchasing fruit and veg at the street markets;
big nights at Pinky Moon Bar in Hanoi;
driving home from work with Hoang in rain so heavy I could hardly see 1 metre in front of me;
the ghastly smell of stale urine as you walk past walls just before the first rains of the wet season; (affectionately termed “pissing walls” by Roy and I)
trying to speak the language and the marvelous realization of the value in learning “Kh?ng kh?ch du lịch – T?i sống au đ?y!” (I am not a tourist – I live here) and being able to speak money in Vietnamese;
feeling lucky that I havent contracted bird flu, tuburculosis, parasitical intestinal worms, malaria, or Japanese encephalitis;
walking through the non-tourist urban areas of Siem Reap with Bianca and Roy;
the way street sellers miraculously seem to stock nothing but plastic ponchos within 5 seconds of it starting to rain;
sitting on the beach at Cam Ranh Bay with Dutchie;
Loic and his temporary toothpick habit when he stopped smoking;
the startled look that comes across the face of someone who has run a red light and finds that there is other traffic in their path (what did they expect?);
the wonder that I still hold for the traffic and the fact that only 12, 000 die each year on the roads;
MiMi’s laugh;
wondering if my digestive system will ever be the same again;
the squat toilets on the Reunification Express to Nha Trang and the state they were in after an 8 hour journey;
stunningly beautiful women, dressed in Ao Dai, standing in shop entrances with their index finger buried in their nose up to their second knuckle;
cheap cigarettes, cheap spirits, and prohibitively expensive wine;
the mind-altering beauty of the sunsets in Vientianne;
the sounds of the noodle sellers tapping metal bars as they walk the streets;
the bus trip to and from Mui Ne;
Japp’s hugs;
seeing homeless families asleep on the streets at night, and amazed that they can do so in safety (which says much about the society I come from);
driving past Tich Quang Duc’s memorial everyday;
the beauty of Lake Hoan Kiem;
being 155cm in stature and feeling like a giant in Lilliput;
learning Bianca’s happy dance in the Number 5 Bar;
sheltering from the rain in a small village outside of Hoi An and the way the children gathered around us;
feeling alone, and feeling loved;
sharing some of our favourite things with visitors who have stayed with us;
feeling afraid;
feeling blessed;
feeling ashamed;
feeling privileged to be able to have lived a piece of history with a people who have struggled for so long;
feeling happy that I had someone to share so many of these experiences with.