Asia 2009 − 2010

Miscellaneous 2008 − 2009

Bolivia, August 2008

India, Oct 2007 − Mar 2008

Vietnam, Apr 2007 − Sept 2007

Thailand, Oct 2006 − Mar 2007

Miscellaneous 2007

Vietnam, Apr 2007 − Sept 2007

Sunday, April 1, 2007 − Shift in Strategy

When I set off on my 15 month journey, actually it was a year before in the planning stages, I felt I just wanted to get out and make art. I didn't care if there was an audience, sort of like doing stealth art. I also didn't care if there were other artist because they sometimes they bring a level of baggage I can't deal with. I just wanted to make art, alone. Well, I got that and more, I got isolation. I wasn't isolated in the mountains surrounded by trees and a rolling brook. I was isolated from society. It was here that I realized I wanted to be around people who were interested in what I was doing, and I in them. After I found myself in the company of artists, I found them inspiring me to make more art versus wallowing in doubt, blocked. Then after my show, I realized also that it is no fun to show your work to people who aren't interested. So, I was all excited to be going to Hanoi, Vietnam to a real artist residency program, Campus Hanoi, but alas that is not to happen since they have closed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007 − Hanoi Part I

I was to be in Hanoi for one week with Christina before we ventured off to the Philippines. Hanoi is great. It reminds me of New Orleans. The food is good, western food is too plentiful and who doesn't love Vietnamese coffee? In that one week, coincidentally, there were two art openings. I met a bunch of artists and expats. That was cool. So, I decided that I was going to come back. We saw some of the sites. Same deal, not that interested. There seems to be a greater interest in art here. There are a million galleries that cater to tourists but there is also a real art scene here. I believe the New York Times recently wrote an article about Hanoi. Stayed for a week and then went to the Philippines.

Thursday, April 5, 2007 − Alan's Story

While in Hanoi, I had a meeting at 11am which was postponed until 11:15am, so I stopped at little shops along the way. Now I started to run a bit late, so I headed across the super busy intersection filled with hundreds of speeding motorcycles and a couple of cars. An older white man in surprisingly good shape was trying also to cross that busy street, so I buddied up with him figuring no scooter would hit two people. I then turned to him and told him that I used him as a human shield. He laughed and we started to chat for a moment about the traffic and then he told me he was lost, and had been for nearly 5 hours. He was up early and being athletic he decided to go to the lake for a little run, and bit of badminton with the locals. He had no key, no money and more importantly he forgot to grab the business card of the hotel he was staying. He was sweeping the winding streets searching for his hotel. I could see he was getting panicky. Who wouldn't be? I told him of my few close calls and suggested he search the internet and contact his travel agent. He looked at me blankly and I immediately understood that this elderly gentleman, who turned out to be 71 and Australian, had no idea how to use the internet. So, I told him I would help him but first I needed to make it to my appointment with a Swedish artist. So, we walked to our meeting place at the Swede's hotel, and thankfully he was late. So, we sat down and started to search the internet. Very quickly we found his travel agent, a really huge company in Australia called Harvey's but I couldn't figure out how to call them on my Vietnamese cell phone. Internationally calling is really a bitch. I then had the hotel call for me but they wanted to know area codes, and country codes which he didn't know. I looked them up on the net but still the calls wouldn't go through. We also tried to call the Australian embassy but only got voicemail. So, I tried a new strategy, I emailed everybody on the Harvey's contact list. I received email back saying they couldn't locate his reservation and they needed to know which office it was booked. Jonas, the Swede showed up so we all went for coffee at a tiny little street café with miniature chairs. Alan turned out to be a bricklayer, which explained a 71 year old man with huge arm muscles. Jonas and I talked a bit about art which Alan seemed to enjoy. Then the three of us diverted into a conversation about global warming and the deforestation of the world. Alan was not just what he appeared. Jonas took his leave and Alan went to find yet one more internet café. I checked my email and found out that my emails had been forwarded to his booking agent but as of yet, no response. We tried the embassy a few more times, and left a few more messages. I took it upon myself to do a little bit more of the calling because as a person having lived in New York for ten years I feel capable of being a little pushy, especially since this was a real emergency. Well, that and the fact that I was fearful that Alan was on the verge of tears, as I certainly would've been. I tried to paint a picture of a desperate old man which certainly not the case but I wanted these people to get back to me ASAP. Now, I was hungry, it was 2pm and still no information. I insisted on lunch as much for me as for him, he was looking a bit peaked and I was afraid he might be a diabetic at his age. We ate and used a very filthy restroom at a tiny restaurant. The embassy tried to call but the call kept getting dropped and then the network was down all together. I hustled him out of there to find internet again, and hoping to also use the phone. Alan a good deal of the time was chatting, sort of that nervous chatter filling the air so as to not panic. I tried to smile and be attentive but quite frankly I was getting a bit frazzled myself and had to concentrate to find internet access and not be hit by a speeding motorcycle. Finally, we found one with working access, so I got online and told Alan to see if he could use the phone to call the embassy. He called, but again got only voicemail. I found no email in my main box and so sent another very desperate email. I decided to check another email box just in case. Thankfully there was an email. It had the name of the hotel and address, hurray! I think Alan and I both felt it wasn't over until he was safely in the arms of his tour group leader, or his girlfriend. We were only a few blocks away and off we went. Ten minutes later we were there. He would've walked right by it had I not seen the name. No wonder he didn't find it in his morning's wanderings. In we walked, I think we both expected the group to be sitting and waiting for him since it was now 3 pm and they left on a overnight train to Saigon at 6pm but the place was empty. So, we walked up to his room. It was locked and empty. At this point, I stayed with him partly out of curiosity to see the happy reunion but also to be certain that he was going to be reunited with the group. An older man with no money should not be left on his own in a foreign country. He was I am sure very capable in Australia but here he seemed to be a quite a loss to get himself out of this predicament. We then went back down to the desk to get the key so that he could see if the luggage was still there. When he asked for the key and pointed at his name on the list, the clerk said "you are lost." Not anymore. She alerted the tour leader in the other room who came out a happy man. Everyone was relieved but I was hoping for joy. He told us the police had been alerted - ah the police, it never occurred to me to call the police. My only regrets are that I didn't get a picture nor to get to see him reunited with his girlfriend who was at that moment at the lake searching for him.

Sunday, April 22, 2007 − Hanoi Part II

I am back in Hanoi. My arrival was fraught with problems, again. In spite of making reservations via a confirmed email, the hotel Nam Phoung had no room for me. So, at 9pm at night I was searching for a hotel. I found one. Next day I found a hotel for $6 per night. It is a bit of a dump but clean enough. I am on the 5th floor which means I have a window and privacy.

I've met some nice people. I hope to get a social life together soon.

Today I went to a lecture about the political structure of Hanoi. That was really interesting. Basically, the deal is that the elections are fake and the power structure is a bit of a mystery, even to the Vietnamese citizens. It seems that the people have no voice what so ever. I will withhold the name of the teacher since it seems that it isn’t necessarily safe for them to be teaching this class.

Friday, April 27, 2007 − Hanoi Hotels

I have a few hotel suggestions in Hanoi's Old Quarter.

Nam Phuong
16 Bao Khanh Street
Price: $18
Small, nice hotel. Friendly staff. BUT they don't seem to remember reservations, particularly via email. So, don't bother to make them. Free roll and coffee, for breakfast, and internet.

Prince 57
57 Hang Be
info@goldenlandtours.com, www.goldenlandtours.com
Price: $6
A bit of a dump, but cheap and nice staff. It was pretty clean the first few nights but suddenly has gone downhill. Management took a vacation? Café food is good. Free internet. Refrigerator in room. Hot water. Air con for $2 more per night.

The next hotels I have not stayed in but seem nice enough.

Bam Boo Hotel
85 Hang Bac
tnktravel@vnn.vn, www.tnktravel.com
Price: $16

Sports Hotel
96 Hang Bac
Price: $14

HaLong Star Hotel 1
16 Hang Bac
Price: $12

Tuesday, May 1, 2007 − Oy Vey Visa Problems

Everywhere I go, I have visa problems. When I went to Thailand, I was told "just get a tourist visa" and so I did but on a tourist visa you can only stay for 3 months and then you have to leave for 3 months. By shear luck, I got a 2 entry visa which meant I could stay for 2 3-month periods.

Now in Vietnam I am having problems again. I was again told to get a tourist visa so I got a C1 tourist visa which is good for 1 month in Chiang Mai but then I only stayed for a week before I went to the Philippines. I then had to get a new visa in Manila but waited until the last moment since we immediately headed to the hills. So, I then could only get a D tourist visa for 2 weeks. Now that I am in Hanoi, immigration tells me that I can get a 1 month tourist visa but it is very likely it won't be renewed because the D class visa means they don't like you. This I found out by bringing a Vietnamese guy, Tuan, with me.

Let me digress and tell you about Tuan. I met him and a western fellow named Sean at a restaurant called Little Hanoi. I struck up a conversation with Tuan while Sean was in the bathroom. Sean said that if I needed help finding an apartment or starting a business Tuan could help. So I got his number. After one day of trying to get a visa on my own, and getting multiple answers, I decided to contact Tuan for assistance. So, today we were going to meet at 2pm but at 9:15 he called and said to meet him. So, I did and then together we visited immigration. This is when I found out that class D means they hate you.

Now let me tell you a little bit about Sean, he is a white guy from somewhere in Europe but I haven't determined where. He is very forthcoming with connections. He suggested Tuan help me. He has given me names of club owners who can hook me into the party scene. He has given me names of artists and places to go. He also has suggestion business that would thrive in Hanoi.

Back to the visa issue, my hotels travel agency, all hotels here have them, claims they can get me a 6 month tourist visa for $200. True? Who knows. I talked to Tuan, and he says no and that I will lose my money. I talked to Marcus, the only other American that I know, says it is true and I should do it. At this point, I am so frustrated that I am ready to pack my bags and go to Cambodia.

Sunday, May 6, 2007 − Apartment

Visa problems solved but now it would be nice if I had a better place to stay besides this cheap hotel: $6 per night. It's cheap and it's a dump but I can't really complain. So, so far I went to see a place where the ex-manager of campus and a couple of other young expats live. The place is nice enough, and certainly large enough but it is out from the center of town and that is the problem. Every time I wanted to eat, or have a coffee or see people besides Marcus, I would have to get on a scooter (which I'd have to buy) and drive into town. It was $150-200 per month. The second place I saw was also out side of the center of town. It was the room of a friend's friend which he wasn't using. I could essentially stay for free but pay the utilities but again it was outside of city center. Today, I went and saw a place with Tuan. I told him before what my budget was but tonight we met up and he kept talking about $450 a month or less. And I was like that's too much. And I told him for that price I could get a western style apartment with all the amenities. Turns out he had a place lined up and so we went to see. It was strange. Let me try to describe it. The neighborhood was fine. Just outside the Old Quarter. The first floor of the place was a store that the old guy owner had turned into a café, I think very recently but wasn't getting enough business. So, we sat down with the owner, and he gave us glasses of water (it's a café and you give us only water?) Tuan kept saying it's nice right. And what could I say. Sure. I had only seen the first floor. So, Tuan right away starts talking about them making the arrangements with the government officials for a foreigner to live there. And then I was like, "uh, can I see the rest of the place". So up I went with the son. The second floor was kitchen and bathroom - one room. No separation. Oh, and tiny. About 5x7, maybe. Then up to the third floor which was a bookshelf and a mat for sleeping. Then up to the fourth floor, which was just mat for sleeping. Clothes where hung from random hooks and such all the way up. Then up to the roof which was also tiny - obviously. The stairs going up was basically a sturdy ladder. A little treacherous, but I have been on worse. The thing that flipped me out the most was the fact that they want "up to $450". When Tuan started again pushing me on it, I said we have to talk. So, we left and I told him straight up it was too expensive and that I could get a western style place for the same price. I am a little annoyed that he tried to get me to go into such a tiny place for such a huge price. I think basically the old man is in a very tight spot and they want me to rent it for a few months and then they will go stay with friends or relatives while I stay there. Nuts really. Coincidentally I met a young German woman who had a place which she was giving up in June. It was $250. So, I guess I will go see it very very soon. Well, this certainly is turning out to be a bit of an adventure.

Monday, May 7, 2007 − Apartment Continued

I got a lead on an apartment near the Old Quarter. An older Vietnamese woman artist has a house she renovated and wants to rent out the two bedrooms to artists. It is near the Hilton Hotel and the opera house. The place is still being renovated but so far it is looking pretty posh. First floor is going to be like a living room. Second and Third floors are bedrooms and the 4th floor is a kitchen, which I haven't seen yet nor the roof top terrace. About the only thing I can talk about is the bedroom with is very large and has its own bathroom - a posh western-ish bathroom with a small Jacuzzi style tub! How long has it been since I had a tub - well a nice one that I would actually sit in. The floors are wood and being redone. My main concerns are that it smells like varnish and paint, and the neighborhood which is not so great for me. Not bad but not great. But it is huge, maybe too huge, I might be afraid to be alone there. I think it will be all inclusive, and furnished, for $250, but the owner is rich so I might be able to get it for less.

I saw another place today, around the corner from where I am now i.e. in the Old Quarter, tourist central. The place is a funky Vietnamese apartment. It is based around an open courtyard, with a roof top terrace. There is a large bedroom, with a bit of water seepage on one wall, a kitchen that is basically open air and a small bedroom. The drawbacks are that it is funky, not furnished, no refrigerator and not available until June. It is also $250 plus about $25 in utilities. I could get a roommate if I wanted. But I love the open air feel and furnishings, including refrigerator, won't be too much. But because the open air thing, it doesn't feel secure necessarily. However it is funky in that way I love. I guess no one in Hanoi will rent for a period less than 6 months which is a problem since I only need it for 3. A Vietnamese artist used to live there, and may be coming back about the time I will be leaving which could work to my advantage. If we can get the original artist guy to say he will come back in September, then it will probably be ok, otherwise, probably not. Also, if he is going to come back there is a tiny bit of furniture and furnishings that I would guess would stay.

The current resident is to contact the original resident, then the landlord. We shall see.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007 − Vietnamese Lessons

I was here almost a month before I got my act together to Vietnamese lessons. I went to the school in the History Museum but I found them to be very unhelpful and strange. I really had wanted to get into a class so that I could also meet other people like myself. They didn't provide classes so I didn't see any advantage to using them. I saw signs up for Vietnamese Teaching Group. I contacted them and their rate was the same as all others, $6 per hour. So, they sent out someone the very next day. I knew something was up when I had to insist upon giving them my hotel address so the teacher could find me the next day. The organization has turned out to be very unprofessional. My teacher is like 20 years old, and probably still in college. I like her but for the rate I am paying, I should get an experienced teacher. The manual that I was given has grammatical and typographical errors in it. One lesson is devoted to being able to ask someone what country they are from. Why would I ask someone in Vietnamese what country they are from? Wouldn't I just ask them in English? I will only be speaking Vietnamese to Vietnamese. Presumably, they will all be telling me they are from Vietnam. So, I really only need to be able to say Vietnam and American in Vietnamese. I still have not paid them. They have not called. I do not even know how to pay them. Very unprofessional. Avoid these people.

Friday, May 25, 2007 − Things that Don't Change

For those of you who know me, you will not be surprised to hear that one night here in Hanoi while walking home in an isolated area, we happened upon 3 people arguing: 2 young men and 1 young woman. The woman was between the 2 men and one of them pushed her. Well, what do you think I did? I step up and yelled at them in English of course. This broke it up and they then ignored me. For some reason, I thought I was over this. I thought that I no longer did things like this? I thought I was a changed woman, although I am not sure why, and now followed the creed live and let live. Apparently, some things never change.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007 − Frustration in Vietnam

Long time expats in Hanoi talk about Vietnam being frustrating to live in. Besides every single person you meet here either wanting something from you or trying to rip you off, that hadn't been my experience. Until now. I am trying to get an international post office (international for us foreigners). They said 5 days. They said Tuesday. Now they say maybe 20 days, and maybe not at all. I have managed to really piss them off because I dared to show up and ask. The clerk was totally yelling at my little 20 year old tutor. I think now the answer is maybe not all. I better find a plan B.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 − Now I have seen it all

Now I have seen it all. An Arena computer game competition is being broadcast on a Korean station, Arirang. It is one of those networked killing games. Quite an old one if I remember correctly. It has come a long way from my grad school days. I can not believe they are broadcasting it. There are two announces analyzing the game as if it is a football game or something. Shocking really. Now the game announcers are on screen. They are wearing paramilitary garb. They also speak perfect English with out an accent, way better than the news announcers. What is going on? I can't believe it. I wish I could capture this for you to see.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007 − Acupuncture

Today, I went to see an acupuncturist who came highly recommended. I have wanted to try acupuncture for a long time, and I generally believe it has healing ability. I find myself to be suspicious of this particular "doctor" because she took out a diagram to remember the spots on my stomach that pertain to certain parts of my body. It was a little weird although it is possible that she was referred to the diagram not for the information per se but the English translation. Let's hope that it is the case. I left there feeling a little sleepy but now at 10pm, I am totally ready to go do something. Bored. Want to go out and drink some beer, or shopping, something.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007 − Typical Day in Hanoi

Today is a typical day for me in Hanoi, although it really could be any day anywhere in which I am not working a regular job. I woke up at 9:30am. Laid in bed for awhile. Got up and did my laundry. In my new apartment in Hanoi, that means that on my rooftop terrace I put it in a bucket with soap and washed and rinsed three "loads": lights, colors and darks. Then hung it up to dry. That took me nearly an hour. I then went to find a little something to eat and my "morning" coffee. I ended up walk a bit of a distance to a large market that has a lunch time buffet for less than a dollar. I rub elbows with the people. When I say rub elbows, I mean quite literally. If you aren't willing to be pushed and shoved a little bit, don't go. I feel like this is a side effect of long term shortages, although I like to think of this as a side effect of communism. They push a shove like there will not be enough and up until 10 years ago or so, that was indeed the case. That is not the case in the United States, although my parent's certainly remember a different time. For my whole life, there has always been enough of everything. I am not even one of those people will push to get a seat on the subway, nor the best shirt at a great sale. I just won't do it. I don't feel I need to nor that it is worth it. So, for lunch I had a big plate of rice, with miscellaneous vegetables and meat plus a glass of cooked spinach in it's water. I also picked up some balloons and tape. The balloons are to fill with water to throw at the cat that peed on my shoe! I walked back and went to my favorite café for Vietnamese coffee with sweetened condensed milk. Then checked my email at the crappy internet "café" that has nothing to do with café. I talked to a young couple who was traveling for a few months, of course she was from the Midwest. Now, hours later, I am home.

Monday, June 25, 2007 − Greedy People

I hesitate to write about this but I have had a number of bad greedy people experiences here, besides the constant ripping off by every vendor. I stayed at one hotel for over a month. The overnight clerk was not at all friendly to me, and maybe down right rude until he found out I was an English speaking American. He would asking me to help him with his English. He would read passages to me and I would help him with his pronunciation, which was poor. He never would offer me a cup of tea or a snack. Nothing. Then he wanted me to go out to his school but that would require me to skip my class to go to his which seemed fine to him. Also, I would have to venture out there on my own. He would ask me to help and I would say that I was sick, and still he would insist. I would sit with him for long periods of time. Then it came to the point where he would be texting his friends while I waited. So, I chalked this up to one isolated asshole. Then at Cinemateque, the alternative movie theatre, a young woman who did the translations for the movies asked me for help on a war movie of all things. I helped her the best I could for 1.5 hours. I told her she could call me next time she needed help. We exchanged numbers and she said she would take me for ice cream one day. That of course never happened, but not very important. After I helped her for that 1.5 hours, the clerk who was sitting there the whole time asked me for a donation for the movie I was about to see. I felt like saying that the 1.5 hours of help was my donation. Well, whatever, they are two separate people. Then a week or so later, she texted me at 3pm to come help her and she would be there until 6pm. I was with friends having coffee but we were heading there for a 4pm movie. She asked me to come at 3:30pm to help her, I said I would try. So we arrived shortly before 4pm and she wasn't there. Oh, well, not my problem. So, we went into the movie and right before it was starting she came in looking for me. She came over and wanted me to leave the movie and help her. Why would I do that? She didn't offer to let me view the movie at a later date or anything. I was just supposed to miss the movie to help her. I told her I would help her after the movie, she thought about it and generously agreed (sarcasm - I know she works until 6pm so I guess she calculated the length of the movie and figured we would have enough time so she wouldn't have to stay late). But I was supposed to miss part of my movie. The only reason I followed through was because I wanted my 20 year old Vietnamese teacher, Cuc, to see the process of translating a movie. So, after the movie, we went into the office. I introduced her to Cuc and then she banished her to another seat in the office. I thought she told her to go get a chair. But then I looked up to see little Cuc sitting far away facing the opposite direction. I called her over. She hesitated but I insisted. For me, there was no point to be there if she could get a little exposure. How rude of this woman to want my help but then expect for me to accommodate her schedule instead of she mine. This was the same with the guy from the hotel. And then for her to treat my friend so rudely. That was an opportunity to repay my kindness. So, now I feel it is a Vietnamese MO - help me but I will not appreciate it, I will show you any kindness in return and I will expect you to do it on my convenience.

The other way these people are greedy, and related to the shopping situation. Now, not only will they rip you off in pricing, they generally will not give you a volume discount, and they will relentlessly push you to buy more and more and more. I by chance met a woman at my favorite sweets place at the market who had an art gallery across the street from me. She knew who I was and where I lived. Her husband was an artist and she knew the previous artist tenant in my apartment. So, I told her I would stop by. I thought to talk. I did stop. She said her husband was gone. She didn't really seem interested in talking, only at shoving pieces at me. I looked around a bit and decided to buy some cheap small pieces. She relentlessly showed me more and more all done by local artists. I decided to buy some for all my friends to support my fellow artists which of course set her off even more. After I was done, I asked how much and she gave me no discount what so ever, well she did a tiny bit (less than a dollar) but to me it seemed that some of the prices were a bit high. Then she tried to get me to buy more. I left there feeling used. What for me started out as an act of kindness, ended up making me feeling exploited. Now, I wish I could say that this was some isolated incidence here, but it is not. I felt the same way in Thailand. I often feel like if I give something, more is expected, or demanded or even taken and not just in Vietnam and generally not appreciated. It really takes the joy out of giving.

I feel bad writing such negative things about a place but this has been my experience. It is possible that I am the only one. At first when I got to Thailand, I was chalking it up to desperate people but these incidences weren't even with the poorest people.

Saturday, June 30, 2007 − Paving the Way for Big Business

Here is the disclaimer: I am not an economist and all my experience has come from living in Hanoi's Old Quarter.

It is up to the consumer to know what is a fair price for an item. Conversely, pricing in the United State by and large for most products is based on wholesale purchase price, as well as supply and demand. I have no idea how they determine pricing here. I do know that a price of an item is based on your ethnicity, and some assumptions about what you will pay, and how much of an asshole you will be in the negotiation process. But the baseline price for the average person. What is it and how is it determined? I have no idea. I doubt anyone knows.

I hate this bullshit negotiating process. They will charge me more than double what the Vietnamese pay. To me, that seems unethical. I am fine with paying an extra 10% or 1,000VND but double or more is ridiculous: Unethical. The whole process leaves me bitter. So, when I can I will buy at the local convenience store where things have a price listed. I thought that this problem was because I am a foreigner but it turns out that they do the same thing to each other. Well, at least it isn't personal or based on some sort of hatred. On the other hand, it makes me think this behavior is even more unethical. My Vietnamese teacher also hates this process and prefers not to do it but we all have to. I think whole situation is really paving the way for big business. Given the opportunity I would gladly pay more at a supermarket with market prices than to go through the hassle of negotiating with these mean people. And I gather the Vietnamese feel the same way. So, if the Vietnamese government were to ever allow big business markets to come in here it would clean up. First, all the small farmers would go out of business because big business would come in find or create large suppliers of perishable products. Then they will establish a huge supermarket with marked and non-negotiable prices, a one-stop shop. That would be the end of the fresh market vendors.

Friday, July 6, 2007 − 4th of July at American Club


I took my 20 year old Vietnamese tutor to the 4th of July celebration at the American Club in Hanoi. She looks American, right? They had most of the American favorites and some not so favorite: hot dogs, chocolate chip cookies, ice cream, Budweiser, French fries, bbq chicken wings. Entertainment including a guy with a snake, and a band that was surprisingly good. They had a raffle which sadly we won not one thing. In some ways, it felt typically American except that the crowd was mostly Vietnamese, surprisingly. I guess all the Americans went home for the holiday, and to escape the heat or they too felt that $22 per person was a ridiculous amount to pony up.

Friday, July 13, 2007 − Perhaps It Is Time to Leave

Originally I was supposed to be in Hanoi April, May, and June. It is now July and I have an apartment through most of September. As you may remember I was originally to come for an artist residency program, Campus Hanoi which closed before I arrive. So, I have been living here largely unsupported. But, right now, I am so feed up with this godforsaken place that I am ready to leave now.

This morning my landlord called me. He asked me to go for beer (at 11AM). I repeatedly said no but I couldn't understand what he was talking about because I don't speak Vietnamese nor he Egnlish. I thought he need to get into the apartment. I was sitting at my favorite café drinking my favorite drink − Vietnamese coffee. I figured he was trying to tell me he would be by later. He called back a couple of minutes later, so I left to go let him in. He didn't want to get in. He wanted me to get a beer next door at the only brew pub in town and meet his friends. Well, after a few no's I acquiesced figuring that he wanted to show off the foreigner. So, one guy was totally fine but the other guy was some gross sleazy guy with gaudy jewelry making eyes at me. Well, needless to say I couldn't get out of there fast enough. I had half a beer and left. It was totally weird, and I felt the situation was less than safe.

Then tonight I went to an opening at Rygalla Gallery, the only alternative gallery in Hanoi. I emailed the director my idea and a week later he responded that he was too busy to meet, let's talk at the next opening, not a good sign. So, at the opening, I introduced myself and he said he was booked through the rest of the year, let's talk closer to when I leave. I said I leave in September and then I go to India. He asked when I come back and I said I didn't know because I had to go back and earn some money. He shrugged and basically walked away. I mean the guy wasn't even interested in the idea. Reminds me of when some scam art gallery in Midtown was interested in showing my work (and wielding money out of me) and then barely glanced at my slides when I went I met with them. I am sure it doesn't help that everyone thinks I was having an affair with some Viet Kieu artist. It is hard enough to get acceptance as a woman but whore has never been the best way.

My head hurts.

Monday, July 16, 2007 − Rats

I found rat poop in my bathroom. I am not happy. There was a trap in the apartment so I set it up. A no kill trap. I put a banana in it. The rat seems to not like bananas. I am not sure what I would do with it if I caught it. Pay someone to get rid of it I suppose. My stupid old landlord stopped by. Who knows why. At least he isn't asking me to go for beer. I told him I had a rat, and he's reaction just that the streets here are old and keep the bathroom door shut. Ridiculous, like rats don't carry disease. I am being rude partly because he is making a fortune on this apartment and partly because I am really annoyed about the whole beer thing. Stupid old man. As my mama used to say "There is no fool like an old fool." Damn I wish the fool would leave.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007 − Hanoi Apartment


I have a new apartment which I think I have actually been in for a month which I can not believe. It is on the second floor. The 2 "bedrooms" are enclosed as well as the bathroom. The rest of the space is open air which gives it a nice feel but unfortunately it is open to cats and rats too. They seem to like it a lot. There is also a roof top terrace that is kind of cool. It's filled with plants that I have to water. The watering is both zen and drudgery. Here are the pictures.


Thursday, July 19, 2007 − Best Bread in Hanoi


I found the best bread in Hanoi. It is a bit expensive $1.25 for a small loaf but it is this nutty brown bread. Very yummy with just a bit of butter. It can be purchased at the Ngot Long Bakery at 66 Nguyen Huu Huan in Old Quarter.

Friday, July 20, 2007 − Karma of a Big Man

I must of been a really big mean M−er F−ing man in my past life. I certainly have the aggression of one but at 5ft 2in I don't have the means to back up my big mouth.

Again, I have to say that for those of you who know me, this will not come as a surprise. I almost got into a fist fight with a cyclo driver. Last Night at about 10 pm, late by Hanoi standards, I was walking by him and he grabbed my arm so I slapped his arm and he slapped mine back. So I raised my fist pretending like I was going to punch him and he raised his and started to get off his cyclo. I put my fist down and rolled my eyes and yelled at him. I went on my merry way and he came back to hassle me some more. I yelled at him some more and shook my finger at him and he kept making like he was going to punch me and get off his cyclo. I didn't bite. I didn't budge. I kept walking and yelling at him. He seems to have learned the phrase F… you, perhaps from me. Then he I was going straight through an intersection and he started to turn so he almost hit me. I stopped and let him go and continued to swear at him. Screaming at people is perfectly acceptable behavior here but from what I understand men touching women is not. I have to remind myself that this shit happens EVERY where. After watering the plants, I mediated for more than an hour. It seems to help but I still think I will have a restless night. I will keep mediation... om om om

Saturday, July 21, 2007 − Best WIFI Cafe in the Old Quarter Hanoi

My favorite internet cafe in the Old Quarter is a new one, Phuong Uyen Cafe on Luong Ngoc Quyen off of Ma May. They have excellent Wifi, and good cheap drinks. They also have a nice upstairs that is a lot quieter, and very private. Recently they started to serve crab rolls for 12,000VND.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007 − Being Ripped Off

I am so annoyed with being ripped off all the time that I actually buy very little here. I would totally buy a lot more if I wasn't always being ripped off. I would buy more things for my apartment. I would buy more gifts, which I still need to do anyhow. I would buy more fruit at the market and share my excess with my neighbors. Instead, I buy the bare minimum. I recently heard about a person living in apartment here in which the landlord was charging her $12 per month for water when it should be $2. What I can't figure out is why the landlord just doesn't charge and extra $10 per month? That is upfront and honest, this feels very dishonest. I also heard about another person who paid $5 for a ride that should've been $1. So, with these stories comes the fact that us foreigners end up walking instead of the hassle of taking a cyclo or taxi and being ripped off.

Sunday, July 29, 2007 − Retreat at Chua Dinh Quan Pagoda

ChuaDinhQuanPagoda1.jpg ChuaDinhQuanPagoda2.jpg

On the outskirts of Hanoi is quiet pagoda, Chua Dinh Quan. I think they are some how affiliated with Thich Nhat Han, and Plum Village but I am not sure. I went to their day long Buddhist retreat for the second time. It is a total trip. Very fun. The pagoda is run by nuns, and most of the participants are woman also. We start the day at 8am with songs with hand gestures in Vietnamese, and sometimes English. Then we do a bit of walking meditation that feels much more like a stroll through the garden. Sometimes this is followed by calisthenics. We then do mediation for a bit then a talk follows. But the talk seems to be more down to earth than some big lofty sermon. We then have lunch and then "deep relaxation" which really means a delightful nap in the heat of day. Siesta. Followed by meditation and then another discussion. I leave at that point. I take the bus out there which is very cool. It takes me past were the real people live. I love it. The first time I went I was a bit surprised and annoyed by the casualness of the day but the second time, it was really fun. It is a vacation day for sure. Although, watching and practice English with and bossing around the foreigner seems to really make their day. Not necessary great for me, but it certainly adds to the fun if I am in the proper mood. Fun. That is the only way I can describe the day.

Thursday, August 16, 2007 − Video Camera

Shortly after arriving in Hanoi, I decided that I wanted a video camera. As it turns out, technology in Vietnam is ridiculously expensive. To give you an example, a video camera that cost $1000 in the US, cost $2000 in Hanoi. I was asking everyone I knew about getting a video camera. Someone I knew, knew someone with a video camera that they didn't want. Someone gave it to them. They would sell it to me for "a little bit of nothing". I got the camera to look at. It turned out to be so old that I couldn't even get the manuals online. It wasn't for sale anywhere. "A little bit of nothing" turned out to be $400. After looking and researching for what felt like a very long time, someone in the States sent me an old one. I paid 100% tax on it luckily it was only worth $20.

Saturday, September 15, 2007 − Lacquer Pendants

For many years, I have been working on a series of abstracts on paper called Strength. I started out making them 6x9inches, then was making them 24x30. I tired of them and put them aside but I did want to find a way to put them into small pieces, that were more durable so that I could give them to people to carry around. I tried to do them in class. They actually were neat, tactile but glass to work with was not that enjoyable for me. So, I never really did them in spite of spending hundreds of dollars on the glass. Now, years later, while in Vietnam, I discovered lacquer. In Hanoi, there is a large art tourist trade. Artist will paint reproductions of everything from famous living Vietnamese artists to Renoir, and everything in between. They also make traditional like pieces for tourists to buy as mementos. I found some tiny lacquer pendants at one store and decided about a month and half before I left to make the strength series into lacquer pendants. The store worker quickly gave me the name and number of the artist, which was surprising since it would've been more like them to try to work a deal and take a piece of the pie. I contacted the artist via my 20 year old Vietnamese teacher. I ended up making a bunch of these pieces. It took nine toxic days. I paid the artist $75 for his time, the blank lacquer pieces and for materials. He would've done it for half that but I felt that it was important to value a fellow artist's time. I of course regretted it later when I tried to hire him to do some non-art project.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007 − Rules for Living Abroad

  • Take language lessons immediately upon arrival. Also, get language software.
  • Within the first month, go shopping. Buy cool things because in a few months you will no longer remember what was cool.
  • Do touristy things early also. It will give you a reason to bum around the city.
  • If lonely, go on a tour. You will get to meet English speaking people.

Sunday, September 30, 2007 − Hotels in Hoi An

I stayed at 3 hotels in Hoi An - 3 nights, 3 hotels. Don't ask. My first place was a guesthouse called Minh A, 2 Nguyen Thai Hoc, $9 per night, had 3 rooms in an old traditional house in the historic district. It was definitely funky as I had expected but after one night I had to go even though after living in Asia for almost a year at that point and having my standards deeply lowered. The door to my room was not properly hinged so that I had to use 2 hands to lift it when closing the heavy door which was very inconvenient when coming back with things in your hands. After arriving, I left my backpack on the floor while went out exploring. When I returned, I discovered a rat had ripped a huge hole in my bag to get to some unopened crackers. That wasn't enough to sending me packing. It was Vietnam and there are rats everywhere, including my apartment in Hanoi. The nightstand light didn't work. The TV remote batteries where dead. The armoire was filled with stuff from previous guests. The bathroom sink leaked profusely onto the floor. Even all those annoyances was not enough to drive me away. The last straw was when I crawled into bed that night and the sheets smelled like BO. That was when I knew I wouldn't be staying another night.

The place, Ha An, was $35. I was given a juice while I waited literally 10minutes for my room. I was escorted to my room which had all the well placed lights on. The bed and rugs had red flower petals on them. Additionally, there were vases of fresh flowers, a fruit basket, complimentary bottles of water, tea and coffee with a thermos of hot water, and ceramic teapot and cups. Of course the refrigerator stocked with snacks and drinks. An album of DVDs were in the room with a player. All of this was topped of with a fabulous breakfast buffet the next morning. Why on earth did I not stay another night? They were booked!

The place was An Huy Hotel, 30 Phan Boi Chou, was just down the street from Ha An. The design of the building and the furniture were on par with Ha An or maybe even surpassed. The was $25 or $30 but given the choice I would stay at Ha An any day. An Huy just missed the target, actually I am not sure they knew what the target was. My room was dusty; the floors felt chalky. The shower curtain was mildewed. The towels were a dingy grey and no hand towels or wash clothes provided. The multiple bottles of shampoo were half used. No attention to detail much less a basket of fruit or fresh flowers. The staff although pleasant, are just doing a job which apparently they would rather not. There is a dead feel to the place. No joy what so ever.

Really it is all about the details.

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