Tim Walker’s Familiar

What is it in human nature that causes us to show the least regard to those we consider familiar?

Familiar – Familial – Family.

Most of us would never dare treat a person we just met with the disrespect many of us show towards family members; they’re just family though, it’s easy to say – it’s not that important to maintain relationships with family members because they’re always going to be there, always going to be your family…

Until they’re gone and all you have left is regret. They’re gone and all you can do is wish you didn’t take them for granted while they were here. They’re gone and you wonder why you didn’t show them a little more respect while you could; why you never told them how much you cared or how much they meant to you while they were still here with you, beside you, every day.

…Invariably we put on our best presentation to meet someone new, with the intention of laying down that scintillating first impression; then once that first impression has been delivered – however disingenuously – once our impression has been accepted and initial opinions have been formed, we seem to feel we no longer have need to impress thus we revert to our former, sometimes abrasive, often boorish, painfully apathetic, selves…

Appreciation is a tremendously basic, but in this modern world a very much overlooked or often a forgotten, emotion. Complacency is what takes over when appreciation is forgotten; once appreciation has been forgotten and a person’s lifestyle has fallen complacent, they will only ever become less able to appreciate hence be more likely to take for granted the lives, or particularly, the goodwill, of their familiars.

…Familiarity is a killer. It’s a destroyer of relationships and it’s an annihilator of the gentle spirits among us. Abuse – sometimes physical but mainly mental – is a common result of familiarity between loved ones; a spouse becomes overly familiar thus bored with their significant other and over time uses a dominating demeanour to assert their authority over the other, something they would never consider doing with a mere acquaintance or work colleague…

Even familiars have their limits though; no matter how close or strong a relationship, there is always a breaking point. Here’s another notable aspect of human nature: push someone hard enough, push them away enough times and quite simply, they won’t come back. The love that you might once have considered unconditional may just have revealed its conditions.

…The dominating counterpart will use manipulation and affront to keep the other beaten down, unable to generate the self-confidence to ever stand up for themselves or to fight back. That weaker of the two will lose self-worth to the point they can no longer see they are deserving of anything or, least of all, anyone, better.

It’s dangerous, it’s detrimental, it’s destructive, it’s downright devastating; it’s the effect of familiarity and if you allow it into your familial life, it will likely consume you too.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Tiki Foregrounded

Photography by Sal F Reece-Pact

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXII

The evening of arrival at my newest hotel, the Yen Trang, I could feel my body beginning to succumb to the illness that would have me in bed for the best part of three days.

Every pollutant that I had inhaled over the past few weeks, coupled with much too much booze and far too little sleep, had rendered my chest congestion much too severe to ignore so, after an early evening meal of ‘bung me op lah’, I ducked up to my room to sleep/rest/sweat out what was effectively a two week hangover (the horrors of this ordeal are documented in previous instalment, Vietnam XXIV).

Those few days’ downtime in fact came as welcome relief as even my resurrected budget was now at risk of being blown; while I had been sure to pay my total accommodation bill up-front affording me a feeling of security in that respect, with my remaining few dentist appointments still to come I needed to be continually mindful of overspending…

The issue I had encountered, and indeed the reason I was having such difficulty maintaining my everyday sense of frugality, albeit while overstaying in the ‘world’s cheapest tourist destination’, could be summarised in just one word – starts with a capital ‘N’ and rhymes with doobie – Noobie.

…Feeling faint and still very much ill, after around 72 hours of terribly broken sleep I hauled myself out of bed (to this day I have no idea how I kept such an accurate account of time/days, but I didn’t miss/wasn’t late for any scheduled appointment), plodded downstairs and had the Yen Trang reception organise my transportation back to District 10, for my fourth (or perhaps fifth) appointment at Nhan Tam dental clinic. I then recall arriving at the premises and being promptly taken through to the dentist’s chair. I recall sitting in that chair for another few hours as the attractive female dentist drilled away at the last of my decayed root; I recall My Hanh’s irritation as, for the umpteenth time, I somnolently allowed my mouth to fall closed…

The woman of my dreams had rendered me utterly smitten and with that came the compulsion to give, and to do, for her, everything that her adorable little heart desired (then later, when I read ‘the book’, there are no words that will describe how stupid I feel).

…By the time the taxi dropped me back at the end of the third Bui Vien – following completion of a root canal, the filling of cavities, as well as the extraction of my first wisdom tooth, it was evening and darkness was beginning to fall…

Having a wisdom tooth removed was one of my trip’s major highlights; I am unsure if the technique used at Ho Chi Minh City’s Nham Tam Dental Clinic is the same strategy employed by other dental clinics around the world, but this was awesome. The lovely My Hanh had just finished drilling and filling a cavity; she rose to her feet and said simply, “Now we do wisdom tooth extraction, OK?”

“Sure,” I replied excitedly (having never had a wisdom tooth pulled I was very keen to see what it entailed and, in fairness, to this point I had suffered none of that fabled ‘dentist pain’ which seems to prevent so many grown adults from ever going to the dentist, and I think I was feeling a little excluded).

With that, to my disappointment My Hanh turned and left the room, to be replaced by another, somewhat less attractive, male dentist. He sat in the dentist’s chair and started rummaging through his tray of heavy metallic ‘instruments’ (dude, just say it, they’re tools). The dentist then selected one of these instruments and indicated that I should assume the ‘open-mouthed upward-staring’ position. My Hanh’s cute little assistant went about applying local anaesthetic to the targeted area of my gums, in the process numbing out half my left cheek. Mouth agape from the corner of my eye I gazed upon the dentist brandishing his shiny metal ‘dental tongs’ (which I had already decided would have looked more in place at a Classic Kiwi barbecue, turning snags, shifting onions, or the like).

Suddenly he was in. No messing about, he just went for it; twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling. At first I felt nothing; in my ears there was just the distant sound of splintering, like a foot stepping into a shallow iced puddle. It was only when I felt my head starting to move from side to side that I realised how much force this Vietnamese dentist must have been exuding on the task at hand. I focused on the man, gripping now with two hands his pair of barbecue tongs, twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling; dead set wrenching on this sage old tooth. The splintering audio became louder, like dry twigs now being snapped inside my eardrums, as the dentist continued working the tooth out of the jaw. Twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling (I could feel the climax nearing and at this point, I won’t lie, I was getting pretty excited); I glimpsed the dentist’s strained face and saw sweat beading on his brow. Twisting and pulling, twisting and pulling – then all at once the dentist’s weight fell back.

Still with mouth agape, still staring at the ceiling, my tongue, which I had been prudently holding well clear of the worksite, instinctively darted back, feeling for the hole. Oh wow, there it was. Oh wow, it was so deep – my tongue went right inside it. Oh wow, it was like there was no bottom to it at all; the hole was just so deep. I looked wide-eyed at the dentist as he, triumphantly it seemed, clasped in the end of his dental tongs my very first extracted wisdom tooth. I unthinkingly sat up in the chair and started applauding; I didn’t even really understand why I was clapping, it just seemed so, I don’t know, deserved.

…I went straight up to my room (curiously, despite my enduring illness, still I insisted on taking the stairs two at a time to the fourth level), showered for only the second time that day – the norm is at least three – shaved and, with only the one appointment remaining thus having now paid the dentist bill in full, headed down the street, to again become the wilful victim of extortion, exorbitantness, exhibition and entrapment, but moreover, obviously, to see the woman of my dreams…

That initial endearment of ‘Woman of My Dreams’ – despite knowledge that any long-standing pursuit of the goddess Noobie would be futile, despite my better judgement, despite what I knew was great folly in logic, despite my most basic mental attachment to common sense, despite everything – was being quickly replaced by ‘Love of my Life’.

…That night, as I once more handed over 500 after 500, it seemed, just for the opportunity to see Noobie’s delighted face, between pool shots I sat and, for probably the fourth time in two weeks, I re-evaluated: I had come to Vietnam with the intention of meeting, falling in love with, and hopefully marrying a Vietnamese woman named Lin (bold plan, I know, but I don’t do shit half-arsed). That plan had disintegrated before it had begun and while I had also hoped to reunite with Mai – which I had since done – I didn’t hold out much hope of dredging out a future there, either. Additionally, I recalled, I had more recently had email contact with the woman named Vy and, while I had initially considered it underhanded to be effectively playing one against the other, as I knew it, the Vy thing had gone nowhere also. Joke was on me then, in that regard; once feeling so clever with all my wonderful ‘contacts’, now feeling a touch stupid as those contacts had presently turned into ‘no contact at all’…

Early-evening, as I had done most days since arriving in Vietnam, I sat outside at whatever hotel I was currently a resident and calmly, sedately, repetitively, went over everything I had done, everything that had taken place that day – recounting in my head every conversation I’d had while similarly burning into my brain the names of the people I had encountered – as well as skimming over notable details of past events, to ensure nothing was forgotten when it came time to document this year’s Chronicles.

…Then there was Noobie – woman of my dreams, bargirl, extremely high maintenance, beyond belief exquisite, ability to effortlessly engender the feeling that I was the only man on Earth (and like I said, ‘no words to describe how stupid I would feel’) – of whom I had had no knowledge before entering Vietnam, but for whom I had developed the strongest of emotions while in Vietnam. Logic told me to leave it; compulsion drove me to push on.

By day I was feeling raked out, hollow, eviscerated; by night, unfulfilled. It might have been the lingering effects of my illness, or perhaps it was a side-effect of the antibiotics they’d prescribed to ensure the bottomless pit at the back of my gums didn’t become infected but I felt empty, as though I’d failed in my quest to conquer Vietnam and by implication, I think, I was struggling with the feeling that I was failing life in general. I couldn’t shake the sensation and, after binning my remaining week’s supply of prescription meds, forced myself to reassess, refocus and lastly, importantly, to redirect.

As with many Vietnamese hotels, the Yen Trang started on the first floor, rather than the ground level. On the ground level, tucked inconspicuously under the Yen Trang reception and situated a few metres back from the road – yet in front of the hotel living quarters and the family who lived there – was the most delightful eatery I had encountered while in Vietnam, Loan’s Café.

The owner (whose husband, rather than sitting outside the premises maintaining ‘security’, did in fact help with the waiting duties), and head chef of Loan’s Cafe, Loan (Luhn), was a wonderful woman who, coupled with Yen Trang receptionist, Lieu (Layho), were more than willing to assist with my self-imposed search for redirection; together these two fine women aided in my freshly revised quest, my ongoing endeavour to glean as much knowledge about the ways of the ‘real’ Vietnam as was possible and ultimately, made my final days in Vietnam tolerable.

It was from here, Loan’s Café at the base of the Yen Trang hotel on Bui Vien, that every Vietnamese woman with whom I had been close – Mai, Noobie, Vy, also indirectly, Lin – would, in a bizarre and confusing turn, over the next few weeks, again present themselves to me as if in one final attempt to mess with my brain.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Dee N Lieu

Photography by Yeo I Wish

Tim Walker’s Kids

If baby sheep are called lambs and baby cattle are calves, if baby horses are called foals and baby cats are kittens, if baby dogs are pups and a doe is a deer a baby deer, what are we supposed to call a baby goat?

Pretty sure a baby goat is a kid, son.

That can’t be right, thought a ‘kid’ was what you called a baby…?

That is correct, it is what you call a baby goat.

Right, a baby goat is called, what?

A kid.

Yeah, so what’s a kid goat?

A baby.

Right, yes, alright, so what is a baby goat called then?

For the record, technically, a baby person is called a child, not a kid.

What, you mean when parents talk about their ‘kids’, they’re actually talking about goats?

Yeah, probably not, no.

So why do people call their children ‘kids’?

Good question, I’ll check into that…

Did you check?

Still checking.

Which would make you a chequer.

I am a little square, yes – have been that way since I was a kid.

Yeah, about that…?

Well, according to my infinitely knowledgeable Collins dictionary, a ‘kid’ is a baby goat.

Interesting, dictionary – why didn’t you just ask Google?

I don’t ask Google, as I have found that much of the so-called factual content on Google is written by people who in fact have no idea about the topic at hand and are simply rewriting an existing ‘factual’ article to produce words known as ‘web-filler’.

People like you, you mean?

In fairness, all my work is one hundred percent original, thank you very much.

No, I was talking about years ago, when you were a copywriter – isn’t that what you did?

Oh, yes, right, yes, that is the modern definition of copywriting – effectively copying somebody else’s writing for another source.

You never copied anything about baby goats then?

Ah, right, not the colloquial definition of ‘kid’ anyway, no, although according to Collin, the term ‘kid’ meaning ‘child’ was first recognised in the nineteenth century but, other than to say, ‘a kid is a baby goat and the word comes from Scandinavian origin’, he was unable to tell me much more than that.

You should ask Google then.

Right.

Did you ask?

Hm.

What did he say?

Confirmed, ‘kid’ meaning ‘child’ recognised in eighteen forty, which does constitute the nineteenth century –

Why do you do that?

Do what?

Write the whole number like that…?

Oh, it’s because technically we’re speaking and people don’t speak numbers, they speak words.

Makes sense, I suppose – what else did Google say?

Yes, Scandinavian origin, yes, it’s all basically the same, and no one appears to know the term’s colloquial origin.

‘Colloquial’, meaning slang, like, for ‘child’?

That is correct.

Wonder what Google says about ‘colloquial’…?

You are aware there are other search engines besides Google?

Yes, but why would anyone want to upgrade to an inferior counterpart?

I’ve taught you well, kid.

Yeah, so why not ‘lamb’, ‘pup’, ‘cub’ or something, instead, why a goat – why ‘kid’?

Would you prefer I referred to you as ‘lamb’?

Not so much, I’d rather be ‘shitkicker’ – are they the baby of something?

Gee, I don’t know, I guess, I mean, it might be a, what, the incontinent hermaphrodite offspring of a, I don’t know, zebu…?

Nah, what about the babies of crocodiles – what are they called?

Really, hah, you want to be called a ‘hatchling’?

Well, suppose, it’s still better than ‘pup’, or, what’s a baby eel called?

An ‘elver’.

Yeah, still better than an elf.

A kid elf, you mean.

Thought a kid elf would be an ‘elfling’, or something like that.

You know, I think a baby elf is just called a ‘baby elf’ – hard to say, given their nonexistence.

Cool story … What’s a baby ox called?

Pretty sure it’s a calf.

Thought that was a baby cow.

It is, they’re basically the same beast.

So what’s a baby buffalo?

I guess that would also be a calf – zebu too.

Even a hermaphrodite one?

I don’t see it should make a difference, particularly in this modern era, it’s still a calf.

Alright, what’s a baby whale then?

Are you trying to be clever?

I don’t need to try.

A baby whale, kid, is also a calf.

So why don’t they call kids that, instead – calves?

Couldn’t tell you, children have just always been ‘kids’.

No kidding, so what are baby goats called again?

Kids, I don’t know.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Noah I Deer

Photography by Bay B Animal

 

 

 

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXXI

To witness a hard-shelled creature of around 70 millimetres long by 15 wide scuttling rapidly across the floor, invariably tracking a linear path, possibly over your foot, maybe up your trousers and even onto your table, to Vietnamese folk, is an everyday sight.

Cockroaches plaguing a building does not mean those premises are unclean or (come on, we’re talking about Vietnam here…?) unhygienic, it simply means a structure is providing adequate shelter from direct sunlight or, particularly, rainfall. Vietnamese are not at all bothered by the sight of these ghastly creatures and in fact, seem to respect them as though they belong or, unbelievably, as though are entitled to occupy whatever habitat they choose to infest…

Final morning at the Pink Tulip hotel, having enjoyed my last complimentary breakfast followed by another revealing chat with Oobit and now running perilously close to my midday checkout time, I tentatively peered through the gap in my open hotel room door. My heart skipped; my breath caught in my throat.

…A few nights before in Crazy Girls, during another Ho Chi Minh deluge, as I had watched numerous roaches appear, darting over the floor in front of me like little armoured soldiers, I had treated the situation no differently to the way I would any other unwanted pest; when one of these unsightly vermin had made its way onto my table I had naturally brushed it off, watched it scamper away a half-metre then stepped forward with a dancing-soled Vietnam boot, relishing the feel, also the sound, of it crushing under my foot (in fact the first time a cockroach had made its ungainly way onto my table I had picked it up by a leg to further study the, reportedly, potentially nuclear-surviving critter, in the hope of seeing what made the species so damned remarkable; at this point Noobie had reached forward and slapped my hand, causing me to drop my subject, where it had hit the floor with a ‘crack’, bounced to its feet, then scuttled away, seemingly unperturbed with being dropped onto a marble floor from over 100 times its own height – nuclear-surviving indeed – because apparently the first thing a cockroach does after being touched by a human, is run away to clean itself)…

In my room a figure was huddled up on the bed, pushed right back to the head, swaddled head to toe in sheets. I made my approach, reaching out and touching the raggedly breathing cocoon. It jerked back in surprise. “Noobie,” I whispered, “what’s wrong – what happened?”

Slowly, from amid the bundled sheets a head emerged; two distraught black eyes stared at me, unblinking, for what felt like minutes, then, “You leave me alone … I scared,” she breathed.

As much from relief as from the nature of her response, I almost laughed. “What – why are you scared?” I asked, sitting on the bed and wrapping my arms around the diminutive bundle.

“I scared of dark,” she glanced down ashamedly, speaking quietly, “I scared of alone.”

“Oh, shit … I’m sorry about that,” I tightened my embrace. “You should have come downstairs and found me – I was just having breakfast.”

“Oh,” she looked up, those beautiful big eyes wet with tears, “I didn’t know … I thought you leave me.”

“Come on, I would never leave you, Noobie, never.”

“But you are.”

“Oh … Well, at least for as long as I am in Vietnam, I promise, Noobie, I will not leave you.”

“But you go home – when?”

“Yes,” I sighed, “in two weeks, I will go home, that is correct.”

“So, in two weeks, you leave me.”

“No,” I sighed again, “in two weeks, I will go home, but I don’t want to leave you – I want you to come with me, Noobie.”

“Can’t.”

“So you say.”

“My family in Vietnam.”

“I know that, and I’ve told you we could take care of them from New Zealand.”

“I stay Vietnam,” through the tears she flashed me one of her scintillating grins, “you go back New Zealand…” her smile beamed up at me as she ran her dextrous fingers over places that didn’t need reminding, I was in bed with an exquisite Vietnamese woman “…You take care me there?”

“What if I just take care of you now and we’ll work out the rest after?”

…Suddenly I was under attack from a barrage of death-stares from every crazy girl in Crazy Girls bar.

One such, Linh (Ling), started beating my chest in anger, staring up at me with a menacing (adorable) glare, “Why you do that – why you hurt creature?”

“It was a cockroach,” I said in disbelief, “cockroaches are filthy creatures.”

“You filthy creature!” she chirruped and with that, Linh turned and stormed away.

I peered sideways at Noobie; she too, looked as though she didn’t want to know me. I glanced downwards, to a dozen or-so of these scuttling critters on the smooth floor on which the pool table was situated, sharing the space with an additional dozen or-so pairs of feet walking drunkenly around that part of the bar floor.

I couldn’t imagine that all those filthy cockroaches would make it home tonight; nevertheless, in Vietnam, apparently, to kill one deliberately, is a cardinal sin.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Karla Durty

Photography by Caca Rosh

Tim Walker’s Pedantic

Once upon a time I had trouble grasping its nuanced applications but still, and hypocritical as it may seem, misuse of the possessive apostrophe frustrates the shit out of me.

Recently I stumbled upon a Facebook excerpt: love you’s both endlessly

At first I smiled, then I choked; after that I think I tasted bile.

For a start, yous, is not a word – it’s not a pronoun, it’s not a noun, it’s not multiple nouns, it’s not anything (and for the record, those just back there, they were regular apostrophes to denote the missing of a letter – in the case of it’s, it’s the letter ‘i’ – as in, it is). Slipping in, what I can only imagine, is a possessive apostrophe, certainly makes ‘yous’ no more of a word, anyway…

Also, back up there, right on that first line; ‘Once upon a time’, what the hell is that? I mean, pretty sure I recognise each word individually but, in a sentence, they scarcely seem to make sense. Look at this, we’ll break it down: ‘Once’ is an adverb, it adds to a verb – he (pronoun) vomited (verb) once (adverb) – it’s one, sole, singular. ‘Upon’ is a preposition, a pre-position – also it’s a compound word – up on. ‘A’ is a pronoun, denoting something, and don’t you Facebook fiends dare try using it with a possessive either (because as you’ll see there ain’t no room – as there is additionally none for my ghastly double negative). ‘Time’ is an abstract noun (‘abstract’ because it’s not tangible), it’s ultimately indicative of when that something (Once upon a time) occurred.

…Possessive apostrophes, admittedly, can be difficult. They denote ownership, for example, Tim Walker’s Pedantic, which in this case means it is my article because I wrote it; it definitely does not mean ‘Tim Walker(is) Pedantic’, because that would just be silly and wholly outrageous…

Once Upon a Time there was a hackneyed way to start children’s storybooks (possessive in children’s, because it is the children who own the books) that was so widely used it became practically the only way to begin one of these old stories (no apostrophe, it’s a simple plural, hence the ‘y’ in ‘story’, along with the ‘s’ to indicate the plural, become ‘ies’); this despite the phrase ‘Once Upon a Time’ (and, although they might look the same as possessive apostrophes, those were actually inverted commas – see, ‘inverted commas’ – used to isolate and/or denote/differentiate a term’s meaning).

…That’s all reasonably straightforward stuff though, isn’t it – a possessive is used to denote ownership – it’s when you start getting into plurals of possessives that things can become complicated. Most people, seemingly, either don’t understand the ‘plural possessive’ rule or they simply can’t be bothered with it although, whatever side you choose to take, here it is…

Once Upon a Time there was a silly little boy named Tim Walker. He liked cats a lot. He had a lot of cats. Yet none of Tim Walker’s cats (possessive, as the cats are owned by Tim Walker) liked him very much. Tim Walker’s family (possessive, again singular, there is still only one of him) were all Walkers too (no possessive at all, nothing here is being owned, it’s just a regular plural), and they didn’t much care for Tim’s cats (possessive, singular, only one Tim). In fact, they liked Tim’s (possessive, singular) cats (none) about the same amount as those cats (again, basic plural, no need for possessive) disliked Tim. One day Tim was feeding his cats (again, no possessive). He reached down and picked up the cats’ bowl (possessive, plural; apostrophe this time coming after the ‘s’, indicating the bowl is owned by multiple cats), then carefully opened the cat-food tin’s lid (possessive, singular, there is only one cat-food tin). The rest of the Walkers then appeared (no possessive, nothing is owned), riding in the Walkers’ big station wagon (possessive, plural, as the car is owned by all the Walkers), with Mr Walker’s big voice (possessive, singular, as it’s his voice only) booming over the land.

…Ultimately, the ruling, as suggested by Tim Walker – formally qualified to proofread, edit and, by implication but perhaps less-so, write stuff – if you don’t know how to properly use a possessive apostrophe, please, better you don’t use one at all.

It’s just that, for those people who do understand their usage, a sentence devoid of possessives is much less frustrating to see than the unnecessary inclusion of one.

Thank you.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Ana Nessy-Sari

Photography by Poe Zissa Sieve

 

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXX

Given this week’s Triple-X rating I guess I should point out, content in the upcoming instalment may offend some readers; I mean, shit, it’s doubtful but, you know, it might happen.

It was while still checked into the Pink Tulip and, having just ended a wonderful discussion with a well-travelled British homosexual named Phil about his (delightfully camp display of) indignation at being mistreated when he had entered, and made himself comfortable at, a strictly Vietnamese restaurant (a street-food restaurant for Vietnamese, not for Westerners – in fact not unlike the one which, according to last year’s Chronicles, I stumbled into while in Hoi An, in the process of benevolently attempting to buy lunch for my boot-maker friend at ‘Ocean’ leather tailors – with very low, Vietnamese-low, prices), that I spoke again to the friendly Dutch expat, Oobit…

Perhaps surprisingly I had made it home the previous night with my body, face, and with my funds, intact; this despite encountering along the way numerous stragglers, loiterers, beggars and other undesirables – as well as multiple offers for a ‘sleepover’ with an utterly exquisite Vietnamese woman (also one or two, admittedly beautiful but probable, men, of a similar niche). I had staggered through the main doors and across the Pink Tulip foyer, then taken the stairs two at a time until reaching the fourth level (experiencing that chest congestion at this point worse than ever), located my room and collapsed into bed. What seemed like only a minute later I was jerked awake by my hotel room telephone; stretching my torso out of bed I made a casual swipe at the wall-mounted phone, knocking the handpiece from its cradle, before regathering and putting the receiver to my ear. “Yeah,” I rasped.

“Hello Sir,” said a hushed Vietnamese voice. “Just calling let you know a girl is on her way up.”

I hesitated, straining through the mental fug; initially I saw nothing then gradually, lucidity pushed through. “Awesome,” I drawled, “thank you Sir.”

“Goodnight.”

The phone clicked. I lay there in bed, trembling. The shock of being torn awake by a phone call, coupled with the news that call had delivered, had left my adrenaline at an insanely high level. (I wasn’t unfamiliar with this kind of sensation, I knew I just needed to allow a moment or two for my heart to stop pumping so fiercely.) A moment later my meditation was broken by the distant audio of clip-clopping footsteps in the hall, therefore it was exactly three moments after hanging up the phone that I bounded out of bed and strode to the door, my head spinning. I yanked open the door to find Noobie standing there with raised hand, about to commence thumping (I recall wondering how long she’d been standing in that position because if it was only a few moments, then catching her like that was indeed a freakish coincidence). My apparently unsolicited appearance startled her; eyes wide she stumbled back from the threshold, a look of astonishment at her pretty face. I noticed she was swaying slightly; in fairness I noticed I was doing the same. “How you know I here?” she asked with an expression of curiosity cum accusation.

“Guy on the desk,” I nodded my head for some reason back in the direction of my room’s telephone, “gave me a call.”

A big cheesy grin took hold of her face as suddenly she lunged forward, throwing herself into me, sending me stumbling back into my room. “Wow,” I recall saying, “I am really drunk.”

Noobie’s face became one of indignation. “How you trunk?” she demanded, shoving me further backwards. My head at this point was so light, I stumbled over something at my feet and ended up sitting on the floor, a few metres in front of her. “You only have six rings,” she said angrily, “why you trunk?”

Honestly, other than to say they were six of the strongest scotches I had drunk while on this particular tour of duty, I had no answer, thus, I did not speak. What I did know was that I wasn’t right; my mental situation, my brain fug had become such, at that moment and for the next few hours, it felt as though I was outside looking in. I could control me, although I didn’t feel quite like I was me (mind you, this just made all that happened over the following while that much more spectacular).

“You go other bar, on way home?”

“No,” I shook my head meekly, “only your bar.” From my position on the carpet, just inside the door of my Pink Tulip hotel room, peering up at the woman of my dreams as she accused me of bar infidelity, it did strike me as odd that she would know precisely the number of drinks I’d consumed that night (of course an explanation to this would come later, and would be corroborated by ‘the book’ that I will read on my final day in Southeast Asia, from the Boss hotel courtyard, Singapore).

“You go to another bar, don’t you?”

No, I don’t go to another bar … I go straight home – straight here, to wait for you.”

I hung my head between my legs and shook it gently, in the hope of restoring clarity; by the time I looked up, to my mild frustration, Noobie had already stripped naked and was climbing into my bed.

“Hey, no,” I stood up quickly, bringing on vertigo, “you can’t do that, come on, get out of bed, put your stuff back on.” I smiled at my own stupidity, “Oh, come on, Noobie, get back here … Come on, I was going to do that – shit man, you’ve ruined the best bit.”

“Thought best bit starts now….?”

“Hm, not quite,” I stood at the bedside, looking upon the mesmerising beauty who was lying under a sheet, essentially in wait for me. “The best bit, for a guy – for me, anyway – is the build-up, the anticipation of what’s about to come,” I feigned consternation. “In this case it’s seeing, appreciating the miraculous beauty that is your body … It’s touching, tasting, it’s sampling the splendour -”

“Too … Many … Words!” Seemingly Noobie had had enough of talking; missed opportunities notwithstanding I was inclined to agree with her.

…Once again sitting on the Pink Tulip porch, again over glasses of café sua da, Oobit was again imparting more of his wisdom.

“My wife, you know, give birth many years ago, but without husband by her side,” Oobit spoke particularly steadily, “my wife, she is what they call, prostitute.”

Before drawing any hasty conclusions about Oobit’s life choices, I had a feeling something here was being lost in translation. I looked at Oobit’s deep eyes, and clarified, “You’re saying, they called her a prostitute because she gave birth without a husband?”

“Yes, my friend, you see, woman without husband, with baby, they call, prostitute.”

“I see,” I said, desperately wanting to see more but wary of any offence this might cause the gentle Hollander, “she wasn’t a prostitute per se, though, before you met her – in that she didn’t receive money for sex – it was just that, when she had her baby out of wedlock, people called her a prostitute … Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes,” Oobit chuckled, “that is basically what I’m telling you … Not prostitute per se, but of course, in Vietnam, almost every beautiful woman, ‘receive money for sex’, at some time.”

I nodded, indicating my increasing interest, willing him to continue.

“When the war started, do you know, my wife’s grandmother is just a girl, you see, and like most girls in that time, the American soldiers are good source of income.”

“You say ‘girl’ – and I’m assuming you’re meaning she prostituted herself to US soldiers – so how old was she?”

“My wife doesn’t like to talk much about it, but oh, I can do math … She was born in the end of fifties, the war went through sixties and finished in seventies, so you tell me, how old she was…?”

I simply nodded soberly, while in my head I churned over figures.

“My friend, you see, it doesn’t matter how old a Vietnamese girl … The soldiers take their pick and do as they please.”

“That’s horrific,” I shook my head.

“That’s Vietnam … That was Vietnam in the war and, more or less, my friend, that is Vietnam today.”

“Wow.”

“Yes … In the war, you see, my wife’s Grandma, either she take soldiers’ money, and have sex, or they rape her, and have sex anyway … It was a choice.”

“That’s shocking … Also, interesting – now I think of it – how many US tourists I’m seeing around here, and moreover, I guess, how well embraced they appear to be by the locals.”

“You see many Vietnam women have American husband, yes?”

Yes.”

“My friend, as I said the other day, don’t believe everything you see in Vietnam … It’s not always what it seems.”

I smiled, not knowing quite how to perceive Oobit’s comment.

He smiled broadly also, then, as if to conclude, said, “You know, to these women, American man, still, very good source of income.”

“Right,” I laughed, “but surely, the same could be said for any Viet woman who takes a White husband…?”

Oobit’s smile similarly became laughter, “You’re a wise man, Tim, and this is true, but it is usually only the American husbands, who are being truly screwed.”

My look of confusion could not be overlooked.

“Ah … Vietnamese woman with husband, usually, totally faithful … Vietnamese woman with American husband, not so much.”

My confusion became revelation.

“It is in the Vietnam culture, my friend, to despise all Whites, you see.”

I returned to nodding, but with a half-smile, “Does your wife ‘despise’ you, Oobit?”

He chuckled, “Probably, but still we love each other.”

“Hm, you also implied that Viet women tend to be unfaithful to their White husbands – do you believe your wife is unfaithful towards you?”

A response this time wasn’t so quick; I thought perhaps I had pushed too hard – maybe my personal inquisition had offended the man. He turned away and sipped his café sua da then inhaled deeply on his Marlboro. Just as I was about to backtrack Oobit spoke up, with greater sentimentality than I had heard from the man. “I hope she is, my friend … I hope my wife finds other men to make her happy, but you know, is not so easy for her, with child.”

I was shocked. “I’m sorry, Oobit, I meant no disrespect.”

“It’s no problem, my friend,” he smiled. “I hope she does when I’m away … Because that’s what I do when I’m away.”

“You said you loved each other though…?”

“We do, love each other, and I help to give her everything she needs … We’re just not that much, how you say, attracted, to each other, anymore.”

I remained silent.

“My wife, beautiful … Vietnamese beautiful … But my friend, I am just man.”

I nodded, understanding. “You are man, you want more.”

“I want more, I want different, I want new.” Suddenly Oobit was back to his old excitable self, “My friend, do you realise, this is my point … This is why Vietnam women mostly prostitute, do you see?”

“I guess I do…” I said, honestly, not all that sure that I did – then it came to me. “Right, yes,” I continued more confidently, “as this influx of tourists arrive from around the world – mainly European, American, or Australasian, and largely men on the hunt for just that ‘something new’ – the Vietnamese woman simply provide the service that these men desire.”

“Yes!” (I think that was the first time I heard Oobit use inflection in his voice) “Oh my God, that is exactly it, Tim, I could not have put it better – they are ‘providing a service that Western men desire’ – and so you see, even over thirty years after the war, Vietnam women still get rich off White man.”

“Brilliant,” I smiled and shook my head slowly, in a display of disbelieving admiration.

 

According to my phone the time was 10:27 a.m.; I had to hurry. Checkout was not until midday, sure, but the Pink Tulip reception stopped taking breakfast orders – their amazing complimentary breakfast menu which is undoubtedly the reason I consider my stay at the Pink Tulip hotel the best value of any – at 11 a.m.

I had promised Noobie she could sleep until midday so, with a gentle kiss on her cheek, I ducked out the door quietly then dashed downstairs to place my order – ‘bread and jam’ (other options included ‘omelette’ or ‘oats with milk or yoghurt’) with the regulation glass of café sua da.

Upon finishing the meal (complete with little packets of New Zealand’s very own Mainland butter, no less), I sauntered out to the porch to finish my drink in the sun and of course, to speak to Oobit.

When I next checked the time, it was almost midday. I quickly excused myself, dashed through the foyer then just about sprinted up four flights of stairs. Arriving at my room I saw the door ajar. I was certain I had locked it when I left earlier. Hesitantly I approached and ducked my head through the opening. It was too dark inside to make out anything unusual, although the bathroom light was illuminating the far corner of the room; that was new. Outside in the corridor there was utter silence; inside my room I could hear muffled breathing. I pushed open the door and stared.

What I saw made my heart skip.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Gloria S Woman

Photography by R Fray/T Darke

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tim Walker’s Heatwave

If one is to believe media broadcasts New Zealand is currently in the grips of a ‘heatwave’.

If one is not an idiot however, one will cease mindlessly believing then (I mean probably, let’s be fair) repeating every hyped-up buzzword pervaded by the media (previous terms of this nature may include ‘housing crisis’, ‘wellbeing deficit’, ‘meth contamination’, ‘weather bomb’, ‘global pandemic’ or suchlike), where one will then pull one’s head in and take a short sharp hit of reality.

One must remember, as New Zealand rests within the southern half of the globe, our country is currently experiencing summer; one is surely aware then that in this part of the world, winter is characterised by cold while summer is more likely to be warm. One must recall furthermore, over years gone by, in New Zealand, summertime temperatures have regularly topped 30 degrees Celsius across January, February, and sometimes even March.

The question one must ask, therefore, is, why is the media making such a big deal of these current temperatures? ‘Heatwave’…? Yes, the temperature is high; no, this is not unusual. Yes, the temperature has been high for a while; no, still not unusual.

By definition, a ‘heatwave’ is a ‘prolonged period of abnormally high temperatures’. It is a fact that New Zealand’s current weather system has been causing uncomfortably warm temperatures, but again, this is not abnormal; for this time of year, in New Zealand, this is not ‘unusual’, it’s not ‘weird’, it’s not ‘strange’ – it’s not ‘freakish’ and it’s not a bloody ‘heatwave’ – it’s just uncomfortably warm outside today, also yesterday, and it probably will be tomorrow too.

I think, and this might just be the heat getting to me, but I think our beloved Jacinda is using these vacuous broadcasts to fill as many of New Zealand’s media timeslots as she can to prevent them broadcasting the news – the reality – that ever since December 2018 when the price of fuel rose to that unprecedented level (in some places almost $2.50 per litre), then after Prime Minister Ardern stepped in and ‘saved the day’ (from her Government’s very own taxation policy) by substantially lowering that figure and promising there would be ‘no more price hikes for at least twelve months’ (implying that instead, the tax will simply be shifted to car licensing fees), the cost of petrol at the pump has been gradually rising, in most places, by at least one cent per week.

Sure, to the cost of fuel there have been no ‘price hikes’ at all; although where a litre of 91 Octane petrol over Christmas cost around $2.00, five weeks on, it now costs $2.06 – I guess not a quick enough rise to be considered a price ‘hike’ but, you know.

Don’t get me started on fuel company price collusion either; in the spirit of fair-trading, of course the aforementioned practice is very much illegal yet, from my perspective it’s obvious these companies are colluding – also being influenced by our very own Jacinda-led Government – because tell me please, over the past twelve months, while the cost of imported crude oil has not significantly shifted – nor has there been any monumental movement in the USD/NZD exchange rate – who the hell has been controlling New Zealand’s wildly fluctuating, yet always ‘competitive’ between companies and with their ‘special deals’ invariably falling on different days, fuel price?

I suppose Jacinda will be feeling New Zealand’s intense summer heat, too; embellishing reality is a rather strenuous task.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Vera Wurm

Photography by M Bill-Ash

 

 

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXIX

Following another massive night at Crazy Girls (yeah, I’m not a quick learner), at the two week point of my journey, I checked out of the Pink Tulip and into the Yen Trang hotel, again, on Bui Vien Street.

According to what I was told before I left the New Zealand winter, I would be arriving at the start of Vietnam’s ‘wet season’; yet the first week I saw no rain at all then the second week it was just the odd day with sporadic rainfall. During the last two weeks of my stay, however, I found it difficult just to stay dry.

I would have been happy to prolong my stay at the Pink Tulip and in fact had tried to do just this, alas a flamboyant influx of custom meant that their every opening was now tightly packed.

That night, at Crazy Girls bar and the morning thereafter, as documented in a previous instalment, was the kind of night that I could only – sorry, no, I could not even have dreamed of experiencing…

Lugging my haphazardly packed suitcase over one block (from Bui Vien around to Bui Vien but without ever stepping onto the main Bui Vien) and checking into the Yen Trang hotel around 1 p.m., I was disappointed that Noobie had refused to come see my newest residence; electing instead to leave me standing at the Pink Tulip threshold wistfully viewing her graceful departure, skipping around puddles and potholes in the road as she went, balanced – surprisingly sure-footedly – upon a glorious pair of 6 Inch Gucci heels, one of the two in fact that I had just bought for her.

…The previous night at Crazy Girls, rather than playing the same twelve or so dated tracks on repeat for the entire night, they had appeared to have been running with an entirely different playlist; I only heard Linkin Park’s ‘Numb’ play once – as opposed to three or four times – and for the first time since I’d been going there I heard George Thoroughlygood’s ‘Bad To The Bone’ in all its guttural wonder – it was amazing, it was brilliant, and then when they mixed in some South American/Latin/Salsa music, oh my, it only got better…

The day before that ‘previous night’, at her behest, Noobie and I had gone ‘thopping’ which, given the, supposedly, meagre price of Vietnamese clothing I hadn’t expected would be terribly damaging to my, recently resurrected, budget (at this point one is asked to kindly cast an eye back to the top of the page and to please read through the bracketed segment in the first line. Best do it twice too; no, shit, do it three times, just to really hit it home).

…For once I was unfamiliar with the song but the one thing I did know, it immediately took me back to my Salsa dance class of days gone by; at the time I was playing a game of pool with Noobie – as partners this time, not challengers – and, dressed rather formally as I was in a ‘midnight’ purple shirt, black dress pants and my Vietnam boots (need I say it? Last year’s Chronicles), I just couldn’t help myself…

We hailed a taxi and, amid a stream of barely moving traffic, drove across town for what felt like hours. Rain fell in sporadic downpours as I, typically in the backseat of a Vietnamese taxi, slumped well down in the seat to avoid my head rubbing on the roof’s hood lining. Noobie sat excitedly beside me as I ruefully watched the meter climb; by the time we came to a stop it appeared to read 380. As I climbed out of the Hyundai (South Korean car brands being prominent in Vietnam), I sighed and handed Noobie a 500 then climbed out and stood by the car, mumbling words of exasperation, “We’re cutting into our thopping budget, Noobie.”

Noobie jumped out a moment later clasping several 100s and some smaller notes; “I keep…?” She beamed up at me.

…On the table it was my shot but to hell with pool for now; resting the cue I grabbed Noobie and started dancing – the steps, drummed into me years ago but which I had barely practised since, came flooding back. As I directed her quickly around in the limited floor space beside the pool table Noobie looked initially stunned, then became abruptly disgruntled. “No!” she demanded, pulling back her arms and spinning away. “Don’t like dance,” she said, turning and sulking off to the side. It didn’t matter though; didn’t matter one bit…

Suddenly it made sense; another Vietnamese scam, but not really. It is accepted in Vietnam there are ‘scam taxis’, taxis that will force a client into paying up to a hundred times the recommended fare, yet this was, technically, not one of those ones. This was just a regular taxi, charging a regular ‘Vietnamese fare’ and a regular ‘Western fare’; for example, when a meter reads ’380’, the driver will naturally quote the price (to White folk) as ‘three hundred eighty’ (around $30) – a price I was quite accustomed to hearing and indeed, very much used to paying for a ride in a taxi – while quoting a price of only ‘thirty-eight’ (just over $3) to those customers distinguishable as locals.

…I danced like a Latino maniac; as this unfamiliar song played, arms held in front, maintaining Salsa grips as if supporting a partner, on the polished marble floor I brought out all my moves, finishing, as I sensed the tune coming to an end, with a half-spin leading into a deep-dip. I held my imaginary partner there for a five-count then stood, turned, and looked out over the road, catching my breath and feeling the perspiration running under the heat of the lights; every person crammed into the Crazy Girls outdoor area, the space between the official start of the footpath and the half-metre rise to the edge of the illuminated bar-floor, mainly Westerners, was now staring at me…

Having been in Vietnam a while now thus having become fluent in dong/dollar conversion I felt $30 was a reasonable fare for an hour’s driving across town, it had just annoyed me as I was obviously still mindful of overspending; I looked at Noobie, big red lips pulled into an adorable wide smile. My heart melted; I nodded, “You keep,” I said.

“Need lipstick,” she said as we turned away from the road and immediately entered, what I imagined was, a Vietnamese department store.

…. All at once those outdoor seats seemed to erupt into raucous applause. I couldn’t believe it. Bewildered, dazed as I was; intoxicated on a classic Vietnamese blend of heat and who knew what other kind of euphoric toxins, I took a gracious bow. There was a woman (some spectacular blend of Polynesian/Asian/Indian) sitting right beside the edge of the bar-floor, technically in the outdoor area, within touching distance of my boots. I had noticed her seated there primarily because she was stunning, and I guess secondarily because the man sitting over from her looked like such a douche; given the level of confusion/frustration/resentment this type of couple-anomaly tends to arouse within me, I have an awful habit of picking up on these kinds of ‘mismatched’ couples…

Noobie walked straight to the ‘cosmetics’ section and started looking at the different lipsticks; of course I expected (first paragraph, first line), of all things Vietnamese beauty products would definitely be cheap – potentially local, used nationwide, I guessed up to 100 dong – but no. I glanced at the side of the tube Noobie wanted me to buy for her – Russian Red – 650.000VND; I had hoped I could get away with only spending, at most, a few million dong today. After I had paid for the lipstick we jumped into another taxi; I was sure to give Noobie just a 20 dong note to pay for this one. The rain had stopped as we walked into a shoe shop; staff were frantically returning outdoor displays to their positions. I stood at Noobie’s side, watching as she delighted over hundreds of pairs of very glamorous, highly impractical but, admittedly, utterly exquisite, shoes.

…I was aware of Noobie standing by the wall to my left, waiting for me to finish my Salsa demonstration; I was aware furthermore of the stunning brunette with the douchebag partner gazing up at me in subdued admiration. Staring calmly out onto the bright lights of Bui Vien and the bars beyond (particularly Blueskies, with the glorious ladies in red wearing the 6 Inch stiletto heels) I was conscious of keeping my breathing steady, inhaling slowly, exhaling deeply, calmly, though my nose; I glanced down and briefly caught the eyes of my admirer before flicking my eyes back up and to the left with a grin. Noobie stood with arms folded, head down, looking very much like the sulking child she had become. I turned back to the Polynesian/Asian/Indian goddess, gave her a wink then spun right around and went back to sit at my table alone. It occurred to me that, before my outburst, I had been playing a game of pool but, looking at the table, the black was down, and the cue had been laid longways on the table indicating capitulation. “I sink black,” Noobie was suddenly at my side, apologetic.

“That’s fine, I was done anyway.”

“I sorry,” from my right side she tried to wrap her tiny arms around my chest and shoulders.

“It’s fine,” I awkwardly brought up a hand to her face and kissed the top of her head.

She pulled back and looked up at me with a cheesy grin, “You buy ring now?” …

Inside the shoe shop, with rain again pelting, Noobie was holding up two pairs of heels for me to, I thought, decide which one to buy. Both were Gucci brand; the first were a pair of strappy 6 Inch heels coloured gold (which I liked very much) and second were a pair of strappy 6 Inch heels coloured silver (which I liked best but to be fair, other than for the colour, they were two identical sets of shoes). Clearly showing my preference for the silver pair I then watched as Noobie placed both pairs on the counter. I looked at her with confusion, “Why you buy both pair?” I asked in the kind of partial broken English that, over past weeks, seemed to have become my default vernacular.

“Need both,” she blurted as though it was obvious.

“What, why – are you buying more feet, too?”

She laughed, pinched my nipples and smacked my butt, then turned and became suddenly entranced by a pair of Gucci slip-ons. Forgetting for the moment about her heels she found her slip-on size and, with the help of a very encouraging assistant only too happy to ‘assist’ the pretty young Viet woman who had found herself a ‘wealthy’ English friend, started trying on these slip-ons.

…The douche, the boyfriend of the goddess, had been making ugly eyes at me for some time when Noobie returned with our drinks; I had since shifted my admiration anyway to the way Noobie looked in those gold coloured, 6 Inch Gucci heels…

She once more indicated that I should pay for the shoes, which I did then we left. We stopped on the way for a ‘lunch’ of Noobie’s favourite food – pizza (am I alone in finding it odd for a Vietnamese woman, who will have grown up on a diet of exotic fruits, desiccated meat, fish oil and rice, to have such a quintessentially Western preference?) – then, carrying four new pairs of Gucci shoes – two heels and two slip-on – we walked the rest of the way home. It had just passed 4 p.m. as we approached Crazy Girls; Noobie kissed me on the cheek, thanked me, turned then said, “I go sleep now … See tonight.”

…While she looked spectacular, for just the second time since I had been frequenting Crazy Girls, Noobie was becoming noticeably drunk; my drinks too, mind you, were coming to me with more potency than I could recall. The time was nearing 3 a.m. and, as I had come to learn, on Wednesday’s (which apparently today was), Noobie finished at 3…

The bargirls at Crazy Girls work seven nights a week and, as far as I could tell, other than perhaps one night a week, they work until closing – no earlier than 5:30 a.m.

…I was becoming considerably drunk – far too drunk to be alone in Vietnam – and was about ready to go home myself; then as fortune would have it Noobie seductively drew herself into me and whispered in my ear, “You go home now … I come by hotel later.”

I looked into her big, gorgeous, shiny black eyes and saw the adoration I remembered so fondly from almost two weeks ago. “You remember what room?” I asked

She stared up at me vacantly, “No,” she blurted after a pause.

I pulled out my keyring and showed it to her.

“OK … See soon,” she said, and trotted off.

I departed and opted to take the back way – the safer way – home.

I recall rounding the corner and coming upon a small group of middle-aged men and women. “Sin chow!” I called merrily.

“Sin chow…?” one called back, with what sounded like uncertainty.

Coming to a halt, “Ban ko quear khom?” I called.

“Doy quear,” the man replied with a chuckle, now sounding more relaxed. “You know,” he went on a moment later, in what might have been an ominous tone, “you shouldn’t be out so late by yourself … Bad things might happen.”

“They might,” I shot back, momentarily finding clarity amid my drunkenness, “and if history’s any indication, they likely will.” I turned to face my English-speaking addresser, leaning back and locking eyes with the wizened little Vietnamese character, “Mind you Sir, this is Vietnam, and from what I’ve seen, in Vietnam, bad things here, they don’t seem to give a shit what time it is … They just happen as they please.”

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Manny Shue

Photography by Fort U Feet

Tim Walker’s Single-Use

Imagine having an item in need of quick packaging, going to the kitchen and pulling open the fourth drawer down to find that, shock horror, you’ve run out of single-use plastic bags.

That very nightmare, in the weekend, became my reality; with a gargantuan head of freshly cut broccoli in one hand I had pulled open the world-renowned bag-drawer then watched, aghast, as my world of store-bought simplicity had come crashing down around me.

Seemingly the New Zealand Government and indeed, Governments worldwide, have sought out the most basic eco-related issue to resurrect and have then made a big thing of doing just that.

The issue I take with this is that there are so many other, potentially more serious, problems on which our Governments ought to be focusing; pollution is a major one and granted, there is a feeble Government effort underway to mitigate this plight, but ultimately they must have realised, from a political standpoint, it’s much more straightforward to condemn, exaggerate the dangers of, then to outright vilify, something that for many of us, is not just a single-use waste product, it’s a multi-use depiction of versatility…

Do not misunderstand me, I am all for conservation, eco-awareness and the like, and sure, in some places, perhaps single-use plastic bags are a problem but out here, in the New Zealand countryside, oh Lord, won’t you please, at least give us some of those flimsy wonders – these things are bin liners, they’re dirty boot transporters, they’re freshly picked vegetable holders, they’re sports gear packagers, they’re returning-a-garment carriers, they’re home-kill meat freezer-bags – in fact there are few things for which these single-use (although I’m pretty sure we can stretch it out to nearer 100) plastic bags can’t be used.

…In my opinion, as mentioned above, this is a clear example of leadership laziness. It is so very easy for a Government to cajole a nation of eco-wannabes onboard an eco-bandwagon – or any other kind of bandwagon, for that matter – simply by having the media disseminate hysteria on an issue of their choosing; ‘if you don’t use a clean-burning fire you’re killing the world’, also, ‘fuel-guzzling cars are killing the world’, ‘takeaway coffee cups are killing the world’, ‘single-use plastic bags are killing the whales’, ‘plastic straws are killing the turtles’, ‘cigarettes are on target to kill everybody in the world’, or conversely, ‘if a consumer does not ensure they rid surfaces of 99% of bacteria (leaving every one in a hundred bacteria free to thrive which, providing that one is not asexual or, heaven forbid, manages to locate the other surviving 1% from the other bacterial holocaust that morning and start a bacterium production-line, should be fine), they will probably die too’.

Government induced hysteria (as noted, I am not against benefitting the environment, I am simply against world leaders exaggerating, or outright lying, about stuff for largely their own gain #politicalpopularity), scaremongering or Government manipulation is as dangerous as the nature of the negativity it pervades; I am still bemused though as to how, with such passionate and widespread condemnation of tobacco products, the New Zealand Government chooses to remain unmoved on the nation’s number one drain on the financial and healthcare sectors, alcohol – they seriously have the gumption to bemoan the ‘damaging effects’ of tobacco consumption while the effects of alcohol become progressively more costly, yet increasingly affordable hence available thus damaging, to everyone…? (Incidentally, at last count tobacco tax revenue was still a few $billion greater than that from alcohol, too; sadly though, single-use plastic bags were not able to ever generate any tax benefit to our Government.)

Admittedly, families can maybe do without their log-burners, petrol-heads can maybe do without their V8 engines, coffee drinkers can maybe do without their disposable cups,  cocktail drinkers can maybe do without their straws, smokers can maybe do without their cigarettes but can we, as ordinary people, ever be expected to do without our beloved single-use plastic bags?

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Gav E Mint

Photography by Mannip U Lotion

Tim Walker’s Vietnam XXVIII

Ho Chi Minh City District 1 comprises intersections, massive junctions where maybe six roads, each with up to six lanes of traffic meet; yet all that traffic, defying belief, never has to stop.

With so many vehicles, so many motorists having slowed to walking pace (I am aware I touched on this phenomenon in last year’s Chronicles but this time there is a different point, so please bear with), the motorcyclists – who, across HCMC, outnumber cars by at least eight to one – take their feet from the foot-pegs and – sometimes wearing jandals, sometimes wearing sandals, sometimes stiletto heels or other ridiculously impractical style of motorcycle-riding footwear – in order to maintain balance while creeping forward, a rider hovers or lightly drags their feet over the road as they virtually walk forward with their bikes between their legs. The problem they encounter, with such dense traffic and so many nimble motorcycles weaving their way over the road – usually with a leg dangling out each side and seldom wearing any kind of protective covering – is that when all those lumbering vehicles are forced to tighten up to squeeze through an egress (perhaps between two particularly widely spaced – but  of course still moving – cars), it becomes very easy for a rider to misjudge/overlook another rider’s flailing foot/leg and collect it with their, for example, own bike’s frame/foot-peg; this may result in the dragging of the other rider’s foot or leg under that passing bike’s frame or foot-peg, the subsequent skinning of that foot or leg, the crushing of that bone, along with the spraining or the outright breaking of that ankle.

Few Vietnamese citizens are likely to have health insurance, and, as most consider themselves retirees, I would speculate even fewer expats; ultimately for the unfortunate people suffering the above affliction, ordinarily, professional healthcare is not even considered meaning wounds are never sterilised, fractures and sprains are never splinted, and breaks are never set. The bigger problem though, even if hospitalisation had been undertaken as an option, the likelihood is, the outcome would not be any better…

During my final week, staying at the Yen Trang, I spoke with a middle-aged Kiwi expat who, although Robbo ran his business out of, thus currently resided in, HCMC, he did make regular trips back to his Whanganui home in New Zealand. Robbo told the story – once directly to me and three times more that I overheard – about a cut that he sustained to his left thigh while in Vietnam some time ago. As he told it, in the beginning it wasn’t a bad gash, but it soon became infected, and this is when things became disastrous; apparently it was only once the wound had begun to stink that he had sought medical attention. Here he was told he had gangrene and the only option was for the Vietnamese Healthcare System to amputate the limb; unsurprisingly Robbo had demanded a second opinion. Rotting from the outside in, he flew home to New Zealand and presently checked into a hospital in Whanganui. The competent Kiwi healthcare professionals immediately set to work dressing, medicating and essentially remedying his problem.

…This, as I earlier mentioned that I would, has explained the alarming frequency around Ho Chi Minh City, as told by a ‘dep chi’ taxi driver on the way to my second dental appointment, of (usually young) adults limping, hobbling, or walking with some form of assistance. There are plenty of other reasons for adult lameness, too, across Vietnam – birth defect, infected bug bite, polio, other injury – but the majority, are most probably victims of the aforementioned, very common, motorcycle mishap.

Reportedly the amputation incident happened to Robbo around a year earlier, and although he does have a horrendous scar (on the limb that, thanks to the competency of the NZHS, he still has), he is currently in possession of both his legs on which he walks no differently to most other portly Kiwi males.

 

One overcast day, from the PC at the Pink Tulip, it was nearing midday when I spontaneously asked Mai if she’d like to join me for lunch; she replied that she would ‘love to’ but as it was starting to rain, she might have been a little late (far as I knew she was also in District 1 and while I had detected the odd spot of moisture, I wouldn’t have considered it influential). I glanced out the Pink Tulip’s large glass doors to see, as is customary with the commencement of precipitation, every commercial outlet in the vicinity was frantically starting to bring in their chairs and tables, their advertising racks, brochure stands and/or other produce…

As with ‘Tropical’ countries (situated between the Tropic of Cancer in the north and the Tropic of Capricorn in the south), rather than the four seasons experienced by much of the world, these countries undergo just two seasons – a ‘wet’ season and a ‘dry’ season; yet with no ‘icy southerly blast’ or ‘chilling easterly wind’, as I am accustomed to feeling on the east coast of New Zealand – in fact not much air movement in the least – all year round, the Vietnam heat is intense. The rain though, when it comes, it comes in deluges; great hunks of water tumble from the sky like nothing you’ve ever seen – unless maybe you’ve lived in the Hokitika gorge – where, even for someone like me who claims to ‘not be bothered by rain’, conditions rapidly become insufferable. To step outside at the height of a classic Ho Chi Minh downpour/deluge/diluvium one’s clothing will become immediately saturated and, such becomes the water/air ratio, one may actually have difficulty breathing; that is correct, you might literally drown on your feet outdoors.

…Perhaps ten minutes later, once the shower is over and everything exposed to the rain has been washed clean (mind you, all that residue and stink only ends up clogging the gutters therefore they’re really no further ahead), chairs, tables, racks, stands and displays are returned to their places, then out come the brooms and the rags; even though this is likely only brief respite before the next downpour the diligent female staff set to work sweeping water out of entranceways and alcoves, wiping walls and window panes – including spotlessly cleaning every exposed window in the premises – now covered with grime and mud spatter from the driving rain.

I had contacted Mai before 11 a.m. then, from the comparative shelter of the Pink Tulip porch, from midday I waited for Mai; in fairness rain did fall at times between 12 and 1 p.m., so I wasn’t terribly surprised that she didn’t show up. After 1 o’clock though I ducked back inside for a Facebook update; around half an hour earlier she had pointed out again that it was raining and had asked if I still wanted her to come…

This was typical of Ho Chi Minh women, they seemed to require constant assurance that they should continue doing something or simply, they would stop doing it (in the days to come, I will encounter a situation where my oversight of this fact, that Vietnamese women require these constant updates, means that I miss the opportunity of a lifetime).

…’Yes Mai, I’m still waiting here for you,’ I had replied.

‘So sorry I be there soon. I running late,’ she had said.

While sitting on the Pink Tulip porch I found myself in regular discussion with the cheery folk from the hotel opposite – in fact this is where I first became acquainted with a Dutchman named Hubert – and, during these intermittent showers/deluges, rather than calling a few words at a time across the road, I would excitedly skip over the road for a more intimate discussion. There was a sleepy middle-aged woman, Nga, who all day, not unlike most Viet males, seemed to just sit outside this business, doing nothing in particular; achieving nothing in particular, other than to periodically engage in conversation the occasional passing local or – in rare cases – tourist. The time passed 2 p.m.; I went back inside the Pink Tulip foyer for a Facebook update.

‘On my way now,’ was the first, from half an hour prior.

‘It raining again,’ was the next, from two minutes after the first.

‘Are you wait for me,’ had been sent two minutes after that.

‘Do still want me for lunch’ had been sent two minutes after that.

‘Yes Mai,’ I replied, ‘I am still wait for you, as I have been wait for you for the past two hours.’

‘Yes Mai, I do want you for lunch, as I wanted you for lunch two hours ago.’

‘How far away do you stay from the Pink Tulip hotel on Bui Vien?’ I asked.

‘Not far,’ she replied, ‘Very close.’

‘Do you have lunch,’ she asked (a question which, incidentally, since becoming acquainted with Mai over a year ago, I had become all too familiar with hearing; she had a real ‘motherly’ instinct about her and was constantly inquiring into my well-being).

‘No Mai,’ I responded with frustration, ‘I have been waiting to have lunch with you.’

‘It raining,’ she said.

I looked outside; it was raining, but just barely.

I skipped over the road for another chat with Nga and Hubert, to find a lean, middle-aged Australian man had since joined their party.

I briefly explained my current predicament, my intentions and my aspirations, adding that I had been awaiting this woman’s arrival now for over two hours; this sent the Australian into uproar. “You bin waitin’ ova two bleddy ours for a Goddamn wumman…?!” he tactfully inquired. “Matey, you muss be the wurl’s biggess sucka – I neva wayed for no Sheela for inny longar in tan bleddy minniss!”

“Hm,” I considered before offering a rebuttal, “you’re probably quite right to maintain that stance, too … I mean I’ve yet to meet any Australasian women who was of the standard, of the essence, of the immense quality, of these fine Asian women.”

This sent the Aussie into further uproar; between fits of laughter he blurted the question, “You sayin’ thez summin wrong wit our girls, are ya?”

“Sir,” I chuckled at the irony, “let me assure you, there is certainly nothing more wrong with your girls in Australia, than there is wrong with our girls in New Zealand.”

The third uproar was definitely the best one, “You’re a cheeky bugger, entcha,” he called to my back, as I made my way back to my seat on the Pink Tulip porch.

By the time Mai showed up the time was almost 4 p.m. and, subsisting for the past hours only on café sua da and whatever nutrients I could extract from the air around me, I was ravenous. I gave a brief welcome then directed her down a few doors to the Oasis – where I had been assuring the youthful doorman, Stronghold (I never did catch his Viet name although I thought ‘Stronghold’ was an awesome title, and of course I told him as much), all afternoon that I intended to be bringing a lady there for lunch – only to have Mai veto my decision and insist that I climbed onto the back of her motorbike. Therefore, with one final rueful glance in Stronghold’s direction Mai and I puttered away on her little scooter.

We ended up eating at a busy street-food restaurant a little way down the road but, such was my hunger (along with the exacerbation of my bodily tremors that this causes), even my two-handed chopstick technique was failing me. At one point, Mai looked at me with concern, “You … Schtuggling,” she queried.

I raised my head and smiled; she was a typical solicitous Vietnamese woman. “I’m fine, thanks Mai.”

“Use this,” she handed me a spoon.

Noodles and deep Vietnamese spoons don’t go; I’d have rather had the chopsticks.

Mai looked into my eyes, “You get hurt,” she said simply, compassionately.

My mind whirred; could she see the residual black eye behind my glasses or the gash which had by now healed so well it was practically indistinguishable (thank you Nhan Tam mystery dentist for your tub of miracle salve), or had she heard something through the HCMC Hotline – she had been the one to make contact with me, after all.

She leaned forward then used two hands to remove my thick frames, more closely inspecting the dirty brown residue of subcutaneously congealed blood; her eyes darted to the left – to my right cheekbone. “When this happen?” she asked, possibly unnecessarily.

“Over a week ago – it’s fine.”

“I sorry.”

“Like I said, Mai, it’s fine … There’s no trouble.”

“OK,” she sat back. “You like, I show you Vietnam.”

After I had wolfed down as much of the meat substance and packed away as much of the nondescript greenery as I could manage, Mai took me on a tour of HCMC District 1; allowing me to conclude, while you might see more on foot you certainly don’t see as much.

We stopped, inner city, bought glorious Vietnamese smoothies then sat in the dusk, amid a horde of Viet youth, and chatted, in a delightful mix of Vietnamese and English. We drank our drinks, then Mai’s phone beeped; she promptly delved into its realms and was lost therein for the next while. I glanced up and saw the three females of the Viet cohort looking on with dismay and confusion – ’Why does this attractive Vietnamese lady, having found herself a nice Englishman, spend all her time looking in her phone?’ – they seemed to be asking.

Mai dropped me at the end of Bui Vien Street (not the main one or the other one, but the other one). I walked inside the Pink Tulip foyer, looked around; looked at my wristwatch, spun around and walked back onto the street.

I wanted to see Noobie; I was going to Crazy Girls.

 

 

Article by Tim Walker

Edited by B Sotted Foole

Photography by Wai Nut Mai