Before I take you on an exploration of the wierd, wonderful and complex Vietnamese belief systems (I can almost hear the excited anticipation!) here's a couple of stories from November.
The first because you have to take the rough with the smooth, and I don't want you to think it's all fun fun fun....
After a good morning's work and a delicious noodle lunch in the sun with the kids, I went to use the toilet. It's a squat, in a mouldy low-roofed cupboard, with no working light, but I'm used to it and it's never normally a problem. But today, as I bared my bottom and squatted to pee, a rat poked it's head up through the hole in the toilet.
That's just too much.
Can you imagine what that's like?
So if you ever get jealous while you're reading about my (more fun) adventures here in Vietnam, just go and sit on a nice, clean, normal-height, rat-free toilet for a few minutes, remember this little story, and tell yourself how great life is.
And the second because it's good to laugh at yourself.....
Riding along on the back of a xe-om (a motorbike taxi - literal meaning 'go hug') I was chuckling cynically to myself at the state of the driver's helmet, which was completely cracked, with big chunks missing, and held together with thin wire. "Wow, this dude really doesn't get the point of a helmet, does he! You'd never see this in England. What a fool...." I thought.
Until I remembered that I was on the back of this man's motorbike. Wearing his spare helmet. And it was hardly going to be his better helmet, was it now.
On arriving, and being relieved to get there in one piece, I paid the man, gave him a small tip, said goodbye and headed off to meet a friend. He called me back, which is unusual, and was gesturing, with the money in his hand. I knew I'd paid enough. Why was he asking for more?
"No more, sorry brother. Bye" I said (in friendly Vietnamese) and turned away again.
He called me again and started waving his hands in the air.
"No more!" I said (a bit more firmly) and turned to walk away again, amazed at his persistance, it's really not common here, especially when you speak some of the language.
When he called me back for a third time, I couldn't help but get a bit angry inside and started to say pretty firmly (although I'd never make a scene, especially here, where it's just not done) and in a big-girl voice; "Now really, you know I paid enough, and I already gave you a tip, and I'm NOT giving you ANY MORE...."
when I realised that I was still wearing his dubious helmet, and he wanted it back.
I felt like a total dumbass. But then again, if he'd just said what he wanted....!
(VSO, I totally understand this helmet story is the reason why you have are rules about us wearing our UK provided, full-head, certified, stig-esque helmets. It won't happen again, I promise!)
Now get to the front of the queue for your tickets - the cultural smorgosbord of Vietnamese beliefs will be starting soon....