Friday, October 10, 2014

Early Saturday morning in pictures

 I went out at 6:30 AM on a Saturday morning to enjoy HCMC with sleepy, quiet streets and sparse traffic.
 Ummm.... no.

 Across the river is HAGL, which stands for "Hoàng Anh Gia Lai." I don't know what that means, but it's a landmark that people use frequently on the expat forums. It's near the bridge; I guess that's why.
 An older couple on a boat. The wife is doing laundry off the side. I love seeing how people here combine traditional and modern lifestyle elements to carve out niches for themselves. Boat life is a time-honored tradition around here.
 A bigger boat getting ready to head off to get itself a load to carry. It will probably get filled up with sand or gravel and then go upriver to Cambodia, where land development is really taking off.
 Blue uniform means security cop. He is headed off to work. At 6:30 AM only a few security cops have settled into their posts already.
 A vendor selling breakfast from her motorbike. One of the security cops bought coffee from her. I don't know what else is on the menu.
 I don't even know what kind of flowers these are.
 An English sparrow on the path. English sparrows are actually native to Asia - but probably not to Vietnam.
 Lovely coconut trees.
A tiny lizard hiding in a bush.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

My day in shopping pics

Today I went down the street to the Korean pet boutique to get some of that gourmet cat food the kitties love so much. Just before I got there, it started to rain, and when I left I found a heavy downpour.

So I dashed across the street, through the narrow park, and across the other street to the Highlands Coffee on the other side, because I hadn't had lunch yet, and they sell a bành mí for only 19,000Ð.

I also got a cá phê sua ða (iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk), because, hey, it doubles as a dessert.

Highlands Coffee has a pretty tame, Western-style menu, but it does
have this one regional novelty:

A green tea jelly freeze. With real cubes of jelly floating around in it and real whipped cream on top. This thing is the very definition of Vietnamese fusion cuisine. Now, most Vietnamese cuisine is fusion cuisine. They top their rice dishes with Korean BBQ pork. Pho bò contains beef, which is not an animal easily raised in this terrain. But, yeah, I think the green tea jelly freeze is the coffee shop's way to bring in customers who don't have an emotional attachment to Starbuck's.

The American equivalent would be, say, Chinese chicken fingers, which is not a food that really exists in China.

Then, on my way home, I encountered a vendor selling mangoes from his motorbike. I asked for two mangoes. Just then an orange vendor pulled up, and I came home with this:

That's 7 mangoes and 6 oranges, all for $5.00 (or 100,000Ð).

Yeah, I'd say it's a good deal.

(But what am I going to do with seven mangoes?! I hope AwesomeCloud develops a taste for mango slices real soon.)

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Tiếng Việt Tuesday: ordering a banana coffee smoothie

We went to the Can Gio Mangrove reserve last weekend, where as soon as I got off the bus at Monkey Island, a monkey ripped my plastic bag out of my hand and ran off with it. The bag contained a water bottle, which fell out and got claimed by another monkey, and my Vietnamese phrasebook.

Photo credit: Rick Silva

Photo credit: Christine

The first monkey tore my phrasebook to shreds. So this week I went out and bought another phrasebook. A bigger one with more phrases and sentences in it. And I set about studying my new phrasebook, and studying and studying it, and watched some YouTube language lesson videos to help build up my vocabulary.

But I don't think I really retained any of it. Not yet. Language acquisition is a long, hard road.

So I decided to aim lower this morning. I went to Fun Fruit World, which makes excellent banana coffee smoothies. I often get one for breakfast. A banana coffee smoothie is the perfect food - all the nutrition of a banana, plus real Vietnamese coffee.

(If you don't like bananas or coffee, that doesn't make the banana coffee smoothie any less of a perfect food. It just means you are unfortunate enough to dislike the world's most perfect food, and I will pity you, but also be annoyed at you if you whine.)

There's a new guy who works at Fun Fruit World, who does not speak English. And even though I order the same thing every time I go there, he always struggles to figure out what I'm asking for. He has had plenty of time to just memorize the order of the white chick who keeps ordering in English every morning, but he has failed to do so. So my goal was to make it easy on him. By ordering in Tiếng Việt.

Coffee is Cà phê.
Banana is chuối.
Smoothie is sinh tố. 

I always have trouble remembering the pronunciation of "chuối." It's a lot like "joy" with a lift at the end like it's at the end of a question. "Joy?" But the emphasis is mostly on the u. And the ch sound is halfway between ch and j.

When I'm reading it, I can remember all that. But out on the street, I tend to mangle it and no one can understand me.

Oh, and the last phrase we need is the phrase that tells the server you are ordering something. In English, we say "I want..." or "I'd like..." But the Vietnamese come right out and say "Give me..."

Give me is cho tôi.

Cho tôi một ly sinh tố cà phê và chuối.

Google translate reminds me that "một ly" is the modifier for one smoothie. I forgot that part this morning. But I successfully ordered without it.

("và" just means "and.")

One thing I did to help me along, though... especially to remind me of the tough, tough pronunciation of chuối... I found the banana coffee smoothie listing in the menu. :)