That's the direct translation of the phrase "bạn có khỏe không?" - meaning 'how are you?'
It's occurred to me that, when I meet up with ex-pat friends, talk often turns to the things about life here which make us feel unhealthy. Sure, the heat is oppressive. Sure, when you go out jogging people stare. Yes, the roads are lethal, and there's dust and pollution everywhere. Yes, humidity means a lot of sweating, and wounds are more prone to infection. And yes, there's a crazy amount of salt and sugar and flavour enhancers added to food and drink.
But honestly? After six months here I've never been healthier. And here's why....
Where I'm living, the pace of life is slow. Thanks to earplugs, I sleep a good 8 hours most nights, and nap for at least an hour every lunchtime. (Admittedly it's not the same for everyone. The ladies I buy my morning sticky rice, noodles, soy milk or baguettes from are up and cooking at 3am, the ice-cutters are busy cutting ice soon after, city slickers in HCMC and Ha Noi work long hours, and I'm absolutely certain the workers in the Western-owned shoe and clothing sweatshops don't get to nap in whatever tiny lunch break they get. But here in the country, in general, people rest and sleep plenty.)
Cycling and walking everywhere. (Again, this is no longer true for most adult Vietnamese; who are now able to afford motorbikes, and use them far more than necessary. The centre's therapist does the 800m journey from home to work on her motorbike four times a day, and the lady who cooks at the guesthouse rides hers all of 200m to buy vegetables. And I have no doubt that when people can afford to buy cars they will, and will use them as ridiculously as a lot of people do in the UK. But all that is for another discussion.)
3) INSPIRING WORK
My work here is very challenging and very inspiring, I'm learning loads, and meeting all sorts of kind, resourceful people. Working in this situation is requiring me to re-analyse the fundamental role of therapy in people's lives. I'm enjoying exploring teaching methods. Drawing pictures. Acting (the fool). Engaging people with ideas. Finding out what they understand. Working with Nhung, my fabulous interpreter. I'm enjoying the opportunity to be creative and practical - making adaptive equipment from whatever we can find. Although there are fantastic services for children with disabilities in the UK, I do feel that sometimes the easy availablity of expensive specialist equipment, and the restrictions of H&S mean that we either forget, disregard, or are prevented from using more simple methods. I'm having to be part time physiotherapist, part time teacher, and part time speech therapist, occupational therapist, behavioural therapist, seating constructer, psychologist... Again, for another, longer post.
Plenty of that here! No vitamin D shortage....
I'm doing a lot of yoga. Ok so this is mainly because I'm here alone. I don't have a family to look after or fields to tend, and I don't exactly have a packed social life. But the slow steady pace of life, combined with the beauty of the country and the sunrises and sunsets, somehow inspires taking time to think and reflect and centre. (I haven't yet met a Vietnamese who knows what yoga is - free time is a very new concept here, and is generally spent sleeping, drinking coffee, chatting or watching soaps on TV)
6) MINIMAL BOOZING
Rarely drinking alcohol. Partly, again, because I don't have much of a social life, but also, because women very rarely drink here. (It's sadly a different story for men, who drink a lot of beer and rice wine, and who smoke like chimneys. The World Health Organisation office in Vietnam estimates that over half the men over 18 in Vietnam smoke, and health services are reporting rapidly rising rates of cancer, heart disease and diabetes.)
(Hoi An girls..... you'll may well disagree with this claim, but you'll agree that cargo's mojitos are sometimes essential for mental health reasons....! )
7) EMOTIONAL STABILITY
There's minimal risk of me getting close enough to any guys for them to mess with my emotional wellbeing :o)
8) and finally.... GREAT FOOD!
I've eaten nothing but good, fresh locally grown / raised food for 6 months. (OK... I lie. I VERY much enjoyed the dark chocolate-covered coffee beans sent by my mum. hint hint)
I think it's time for another posting on food....