Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bored - On holiday (from work that is)

I think I'm one of those people who always has to be doing something. At university, we have 10 week semesters followed by a 1 week down week where sometimes there's work but occasionally there isn't. This week is one such week. Hanh is currently studying a second diploma in the evenings so there isn't really the opportunity to travel as outside the cities the language barrier is a little too much for me to be comfortable with.

This week I've been a little ill. I've had sharp pains in my stomach which have stopped me eating properly and therefore having a cheeky pint or 2 probably wouldn't be the best thing to do! Immediately 2 of my favourite things are taken out of the equation. Also, exercise hasn't really been a good idea either! I decided (in my infinite wisdom) that I should run 7 km with terrible tummy pains and an empty stomach! After about 2.5 miles I started to feel ropey, and a little while later I was faint and dizzy. Apparently, hot temperatures and not being at 100% health isn't conducive to good running! It was probably worsened by the medicine I'm taking at the moment to reduce severe swelling in my thumb.

So what've I been doing this week?

Wasting it! Well that's not strictly true. I've been catching up on some much needed sleep. I spent the best part of Monday with the in laws celebrating my father-in-laws 53rd birthday which was really nice, especially being the first time I'd seen them since we came back from England.

We ate great food, drank white chocolate Irish cream and sang karaoke. It was a fun weekend!

Apart from that I've generally been watching tv, talking on the internet and procrastinating! I've recently started watching the National Geographic channel and I've learned a whole load of interesting but useless information! I'm hoping that our quiz master Steve is a fan so I can actually answer some questions at our company's quarterly quiz! I was also disappointed that the sports channels here didn't show the test series between England and Bangladesh so I had to watch the text commentary on the BBC website. I'm not sure if that makes me dedicated or just plain sad!

Finally, why am I procrastinating? Well I should be studying for an assignment that is due in a couple of weeks but it's been a while since I've studied so my discipline isn't what it once was back in the day! Also, I have a medical insurance form I should fill in after I had x-rays taken for my thumb, but thus far I've filled in my name and that's about it! Furthermore I could've started preparing for my classes next week. However, I feel slightly vindicated by this one as we haven't had the final timetable for the new classes yet so the level I teach may change...

All in all, I've had a pretty unproductive week! I haven't even cut my hair yet (not sure I'm gonna but I'm pretty sure I'll lose a kilo if I do!), let alone done any of the things I set out to do. That being said, I do feel well rested and pretty chilled and relaxed. Anyhows, I suppose I really should do some reading for my class this afternoon and as you've guessed, writing this largely pointless blog entry is yet more procrastinating!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Cyclo Challenge - 2010

Cyclo's are unavoidable in this part of the world. There are used to ship tourists around, moving house or to rest in for an afternoon nap. I haven't yet taken a ride in one yet, as it's invariably overweight tourists who use them, often driven by a guy a quarter of their size. However, they do have their charm. Yesterday, a group of us from work took part in the 10th annual cyclo challenge. It was a lot of fun, so let me tell you what you missed out on this year, and what you can look forward to in 2011!

Here is an interview between the left and right side of my brain. The left side is asking the questions...

Where? - Taipei School, District 7, HCMC
Time? - Midday to 6pm
Purpose? - To raise money for a charity that builds schools

So, what exactly is the cyclo challenge?

The cyclo challenge is essentially a 2 lap race. However, there is a significant twist. After your first driver does 2/3 of a lap, he has to jump off and give the garland (which is apparently the word for a floral necklace) to a race marshal.

, interesting, so does the race marshal give the garland to the next driver?

Well, surprisingly no. 2 members of the team have to fish some carrier bags with plastic bottles in them out of a 'toxic' lake with a big stick. Once they've achieved this they have to take the bags to 2 more members. They then have to carry the bags back-to-back and drop them into a bin. The race marshal then gives the garland to 2nd driver.

, I guess the 2nd driver then completes the race, right?

You would think so wouldn't you. But, you would be wrong. You see, the 2nd driver then does another 2/3s of the circuit before hopping off the cyclo and giving the garland to another race marshal.

Right, so there's another activity to complete?

Bingo! Two members have their legs tied together, 3 legged race style. They have to hold a jar of water by string, fill and maneuver it over and under some ropes. Once they've bypassed the 3 ropes they then pour the water into a bucket, before having to go back to the start to refill their jar.

Curious, but why do they have to go back?

Funny, you should ask that....You see, the bucket needs to be filled to the brim and the jar only fills about half the bucket.

, understood! So once the bucket's filled the next driver can complete the race right?

Not quite, there are another 3 people waiting by the bucket. One of them is sitting in an inflatable ring, much like you'd find in a swimming pool or on the beach. This person has to balance the bucket of water between their legs while the other 2 people drag them about 10 metres. The idea is not to spill the water. Once this is achieved the race marshal will give the garland to the 3rd driver.

Hmmm, that seems a little pointless....what happens after the 3rd driver completes the race?

Well it's just a bit of fun, and if your team finishes in the top 2, there's a straight 3 lap race with your fastest cyclo driver to determine the overall champions.

So that gives an idea of the challenge. There where about 7 races in total and 10 teams were in each heat. A lot of the major companies had teams there and it really is a family event. There were a lot of Vietnamese celebrities (I don't know any of their names) there including their version of Angelina and Brad (pictured below), affectionately known that way because he left his wife as soon as he met her apparently. For the kids there is a sandpit, climbing frames, a bouncy castle and various games. For the adults, their is beer.

It was a fun day! I stayed for about 4 hours. I had a beer or 4, and took part in the dragging the ring game. Next year I hope to ride the cyclo but I was injured so cycling wouldn't have been a great idea! The event could do with a few more things for the adults to do. Fair ground activities like shooting or throwing a ball at coconuts would've been fun. But all in all it was a good giggle and reminded me of school summer fates when I was younger. At the end of the day it's all for a good cause and the atmosphere was very relaxed and friendly. It was probably the best event I've been to in VN so far, and I'm looking forward to doing it again next year!

And before you ask, we did terribly in our heat and I won't expand beyond that!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Holi - A little piece of India in Vietnam

For about 6 months now, I've been involved in playing cricket for UCC. We are the only team of mixed nationalities in the Saigon cricket league. You may be surprised to hear that there is quite a large Indian community in the city and I've been lucky enough to play alongside and against some very talented cricketers. I've also made some great friends through the cricket club and we've grown into a tight group of close teammates and friends. During games we all back each other and after games we celebrate our victories or hail our team spirit when the result goes the wrong way. In preparation for our game, and subsequent defeat at the hands of India B, we all went to the Indian festival of Holi. So let me tell you about it.

Holi is primarily a festival of colour. I asked the guys about its origins but it seems to have been lost over the years. However, it's certainly a joyous occasion to be enjoyed by people of all ages. I can only imagine what it's like in India, but if our relatively small party in Vietnam was anything to go by, then it must be a blast!

When I arrived, the party was in full swing. There must have been about 300 people there, which isn't bad considering I didn't know that the Indian community in HCMC was that big! I think Dan, Ramona and I were the only non Indians at the party which automatically made us a target for the carnage to follow. Unfortunately for my blog, I didn't have a camera on me, but that turns out to be a massive positive because if I had have brought it, it wouldn't be working now!! But here's a picture of me upon my return home....

When we walked through the door, or gate, onto the lawn, we were greeted by men who looked like walking, talking colour by paint drawings! We soon recognised them as our teammates! Unfortunately, we were a blank canvas so they quickly rushed to the nearby table, picked up some powder, mixed it with whatever liquid they could find and smeared paint all over our faces and in our mouths. Nice! I tell you it wasn't delicious, it was difficult to wash out of your mouth and it stains forever! My pearly whites with never be the same again.

If we thought that was all, then we were severely mistaken. Next, a bottle of paint was poured onto our heads. This paint was a lovely, fetching pink. With it being noon at this point, the paint dried rather quickly and our skippers advice that 'it's harder to wash off when it dries' seemed more mocking than useful. It's been 5 days since, and 8 hair washes later and my hair is now still noticeably red tinted. Just as well I kinda like it!

As you've guessed, there was a lot of paint involved! Everybody was covered! And if you exposed any undecorated skin, you would soon be got by the stalking pack, of mainly cricketers, armed with paint. However, paint wasn't the only weapon. Some bright spark had decided that leaving a garden hose lying about for people to wash out the paint was a good idea. Well that was flawed in several ways: 1) the paint didn't wash out 2) it inspired water fights 3) paint and water just doesn't mix! Needless to say I was trapped by the cricket lot. Realising that my position was hopeless, I gave up and let them dose me with the hose! Unfortunately I had my phone and wallet in my pockets at the time, but lucky they didn't get too wet so potential disaster was avoided!

Of course there were other things going on. For the kids there were two paddling pools, which were later dunking pools for those helplessly caught by the, you've guessed it, cricket mob, a three legged race and the old time favourite musical chairs. For the adults there was beer, whiskey and a 16 a side tug of war. Amusingly, the rope spilt in two midway through the second in the best of three competition. I'm proud to say that we were 1-0 up and in control of the 2nd round when the knot came loose. I'm less than proud to mention I fell flat on my ass when the rope went though!

The food that was provided was also great! I love curry and the various complements that come with Indian food so that was definitely worth coming for. There was also some traditional music playing with dancing, lead by our wicketkeeper Negi, that looked like it had come straight from Bollywood! Had I been drinking I'm sure I would've been up there too, but being sober and self conscious I didn't. Next year I'll be sure not to book a tennis game on the same day as the festival!

It truly was an amazing couple of hours. I've been told that it's sensational in India, but if my small experience was anything to go by, I think I'd be blown away if I went there for it. Hopefully next year I'll be able to, although I wonder how long the paint would take to wash out!