Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Things I hate about VN - Powercuts

Living in the U.K. for most of my life, I've been blessed that I could take having non-stop, 24 hour a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year electricity for granted. If I'm cold, I can turn up the heater, if my phone is out of batter, I plug the charger into the outlet and if I buy a months worth of frozen food, I can be sure that it won't thaw and go bad. Unfortunately, the same can't be said of Ho Chi Minh City.

Now, I'm not overly sure how the power works out here but from gossip and hearsay I've made out the following:

1) The power to the city is hydroelectric. (which is great as it saves the planet)
2) The reservoirs run dry at the end of the dry season. (this leaves insufficient supplies to generate enough power, which isn't so great)
3) The government (presumably) rations the power and allocates cuts to different districts of the city. (which is damned inconvenient)

So, what are the effects of this on my life. Well, we've been having powercuts on and off for about 3 months now, with the latest being yesterday for 5 hours. As you know, the South of Vietnam is pretty mild. In fact, I'm not sure if it ever falls below 24 degrees C. Therefore, especially when I'm sleeping (with a heavy head), the last thing I need to wake up in a pool of my own sweat. Thus, a potentially refreshing, nourishing nights sleep turns out to compound the destructive, dehydrative force of beer. Without beer I usually feel pretty bad when waking up after a powercut so with alcohol you can image the state of my head!

Furthermore, as the powercuts generally last for about 5 hours, food, in particular frozen foods, tend to become inedible, due to thawing or refreezing. It's inconvenient, costly and once caused me to have food poisoning as I once ate refrozen ice cream thinking that my iron stomach could handle it! As a consequence I rarely buy frozen foods as I can't be sure that we are not going to have a powercut.

Other results from Saigon's lack of power is the inability to iron my shirt and trousers before work, having to go to a coffee shop to use the internet and charging my phone as the outages invariably happen with I have low battery!

I guess I'm just used to living in developed countries where having constant, non-failing electricity so it's more of an inconvenience for me than it is for those who are used to it. However, I find it really annoying, especially as half the time they are unannounced. Hopefully in the not too distant future, we will have non-stop power, but for now, I just have to pray that they come on mornings when I wasn't drinking the night before, or when I've just stocked up my refrigerator. And for your information, both of these things happen last time!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Things I hate about VN - Queuing (or lack of)

It's been a while since I last posted, but life, lack of inspiration and various commitments have all left me sort of time to put my thoughts onto paper (or computer!) Now that I have a bit more time on my hands, I can catch up on my favourite theme of my blog, which is the downsides of living in Vietnam. For any first time readers, I don't hate living in VN, far from it. There are just various aspects of life that I would like to change given the opportunity, so please don't get offended or upset if any I say anything that seems a little harsh.

Being British, I love queuing. In fact, I'll join a queue even if I don't know what it's for! Queues make sense. If you arrive to pay for something first, you get served first. If someone is infront of you, you stand behind them patiently and wait your turn. You don't push in and if you do push in you expect to be chastised for it. In this system, everybody knows where they stand, and whilst some people can get frustrated and feel put out, they can't argue that it's unfair.

Now, I don't hold steadfastly to this rule. Sometimes I will let someone infront of me. For example, if I have a full trolley of shopping and the person behind me only has 1 item I will let them past. Why? Because I'm reasonable. However, in Vietnam, this doesn't happen. The only place I've really seen queuing (except at places where foreigners frequent) is at the international airport, and even then the locals seem to resent it.

So what happens here? Chaos. Survival of the fittest or pushiest. I hate shopping here or doing anything that involves waiting in line. This extends to waiting to get into a car park to park my motorbike, buying vegetables at the supermarket and paying for utility bills.

Let me give you some examples. When buying carrots at Lotte Mart (my favourite store), I waited patiently behind a young mother. At the supermarket you bag up your veggies and price them in the produce department in contrast to weighing them at the counter in England. She was buying tomatoes, peppers and onions. By the time she had finished, I'd been relegated to 4th in the line. I wasn't quite sure how that happened! I politely waited and never seemed to progress in the queue. Various people were coming and going, with me being the only person staying. In the end I gave up. No carrots for me.

Another time, I waiting to go in a bike park. Two lines had been formed in front of the 2 ticket attendants. Then some cowboy drives straight down the middle and pushes in near the front. Nobody seems surprised or angry. The next thing I know everybody breaks ranks and a melee ensues. Therefore the average time for everyone increased due to some impatient and ignorant youngsters.

It just annoys me and makes me angry. Now I exclusively shop at places that I know there is a queuing system. No one can possibly argue that it's not the best method to promote fairness and equality. It's just common decency. Surely?!?!