Archive for October 2008
Here are the obvious:
-Cheap to buy ($100 or less)
-Easy to use and cheap to maintain
Here are the not-so-obvious:
-No need to have a license (which is very tedious to obtain for a foreigner)
-No need to wear a helmet
-No need to obey the traffic laws (you can pretty much break any rule imaginable and never get a ticket)
-Cheap to park (Motorbikes cost 3K-10K to park. Bikes cost 1K or nil)
-Fast to park (Usually you can just find a space right up front)
-Easy to push (It is a bitch to push my motorbike up and down the ramp of my house. With a bike it is a breeze)
-Great for Saigon’s rush hour (A limber bike can do wonder when it comes to maneuvering between the gap of a bus and a taxi. Besides who needs a 150cc motorbike when traffic crawls at 5 miles/h)
-Great for discovering things (Often time, I notice things I normally wouldnt notice had I ridden a motorbike, like a new shop, a quaint restaurant, a vacant lot, an expression on a face or that forever elusive beautiful Saigon girl)
-But to me, the biggest reason why I love riding the bike is because I give me “me time”. On a quiet street at night, as my bike creaks along I think about shit: what happened today, my past, my future, the decisions I have made and will make and the people of my life.
A big rig driver, untrained at transporting heavy load, turns a little too hard on a street littered w/ potholes and capsizes. The load falls on a child with no helmet and splits his head open. When he falls, the gasoline tank tied to the back of his dad’s bike explodes and burns him. With the firefighters and ambulances both overworked, underpaid and stuck in traffic, his dad puts the child’s lifeless body on a bike and carries him to the nearest hospital, zigzagging thru traffic that never yields.
Once he is there at a hospital overcrowded with untreated, maltreated patients who have nowhere to go, no money to pay but all the time in the world to wait in vain, with staff who is overworked, underpaid and of course untrained, his dad calls the mother, who comes crying and yanking her hair in grief. After a brief yet heated conversation with the dazed and confused truck driver, they both come to the sad realization that neither they nor the truck driver has any form of insurance or monies whatsoever, that their child is going to suffer permanent damage, that his future is permanently ruined, that they will spend the next decade paying his bills.
And then they wonder what if!
Whenever I eat at a restaurant here in Saigon, I feel like I m eating whatever the cook has touched: money, her nose, some dead fish, the seat of a scooter, the seat of a toilet. And if it is a gigantic cook , I keep thinking “Did she just wipe her ass and then put the herbs into my bowl?”
The practice is not as prevalent as it used to be. Hopefully sometimes in the near future, I can slurp up that bowl without shit and stinky ass in the back of my mind.
On a separate note, HCM just hosted its annual sports dance competition at Phan Dinh Phung stadium. That means caked-up dancers in gaudy costumes of all shapes and sizes twirling around in a frenzy over loud, predictably sentimental music. The main highlight was when they bummed into each other, which happened quite often. Like everything else, professional dancing here is still very amateurish.
A couple of weeks ago, as I turned left from Nguyen Dinh Chieu onto Nam Ky Khoi Nghia on a red light, a cop walked out on the street, pointed his baton at me and whistled. I knew he wanted me. Instantly I busted a U and ran back to Nguyen Dinh Chieu, leaving the cop standing there looking like a dumbass. Haha. Sucker!
One more thing checked in my list of things to do before I die.
I saw a man with his child walking near my house, suitcases in hands. From the way they were dressed I knew they just came from the rural area. Everyday, hundreds of thousands of villagers migrate to Saigon. Some then leave to other countries in Southeast Asia, America, and recently the Middle East.
They are all in a single search, that of a better life and to keep alive their blood. Some will make it some wont but life is tough and that is just the way it is.
Seeing them reminds me of what is beautiful about man, his audacity, his doggedness and his ability to endure suffering, loneliness and hardship. So to that man and the child following his steps, godspeed.