A friend linked me to “Foreign tongues don’t always come easy” on CNN’s website with the note “Is this you at all Paul?”
(As a quick summary of the article, the author laments his English-language monolingualism, and makes the following points: Anglophones have it easy because everywhere else, English is the fallback language of dealing with foreigners; and that the best approach is to get over your what you lack when speaking a second language, and work with what you have. But he puts it much more amusingly. Read that article. Maybe in a new window or tab so you don’t forget to come back here.)
I identified quite strongly with the author’s experiences of performance anxiety in high-school language class onwards, and the feeling of frustration when one knows precisely what one wants to say in one’s native language, but lacks the words, the grammar or simply the finesse to express it in another language.
So the quick answer is “yes, this is totally me”.
— If you’re bored already, or you came here looking for more “ugly cake”, then this is a safe point for you to stop, without leaving loose story threads. It’s going to turn into a mess of story threads shortly, of course.
Vietnam is a land which challenges many of the assumptions I grew up building, e.g., water is drinkable and precious; showers come in cubicles; everyone pays the same price for things; a “sunny” day means unobstructed view of the sun.
Here, water is plentiful but only special water is potable. This is apparently true for lots of peole in Hanoi, not just the foreigners. I believe the Hanoi water company’s 2020 goal is to have potable coming through all the taps. Foreigners will probably still need to boil it, but for different reasons.
I’m actually still not sure if I’m showering correctly. There’s a shower-head, a bucket, and a floor drain, but no clearly delineated area for showering or way to keep the water from covering the whole floor. Either that or I’ve overlooked something and now my landlords think I’m a total grot…
Pricing is a whole topic of it’s own, but every foreigner here who comes from a non-bartering culture has a blog post about it so I won’t bother until I have something interesting to write.
It’s probably just Hanoi winter, but last time I saw the sun I was above the cloud cover. The other day I was thinking “Gosh, it’s sunny today,” only to look up and realise it was still solid cloud-cover, but somehow lighter… So I _think_ I can tell a sunny day from a cloudy day from a going-to-rain day, but I also thought that in Australia with about as much accuracy as a weather-rock.
More importantly though, Vietnam challenges my assumptions about Vietnam. Specifically, about communism.
Dear Princess Celestia,
CC: Anyone else reading my blog.
So I’m a week into my course now, more than one seventh of the way to magic Vietnamese fluency. Or something like that. Between work, classes, minimal homework, and an annoying head-cold, I’ve been pretty much flat out, which is lucky as I don’t have any other plans or commitments. (Or none I can’t procrastinate away, rather)
Advice for my past self: Just because you told your bank you were in Vietnam once, won’t stop the fraud department blocking your Visa card this time.
Is blogging about lacking Internet access like treating methodone withdrawl using heroin?
I’m writing this offline, as circumstances conspired with my lack of organisation to leave me needing an Internet connection to find out how to activate my 3G, and the WiFi signal to my room is insufficiently powerful.