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Settling isn’t always bad

October 14, 2010

It’s amazing what little things can give you a sense of accomplishment. Today, I bought trash bags that fit our trash can. This required me writing ‘trash bags’ on the side of a box the shop lady was unloading – since I guess she couldn’t understand me – and then drawing a picture of a trash can and motioning for a big trash can. The bags we bought the other day were way too small, and there’s no point in having a big trash can if you don’t have big bags.

I also found starch and zip lock bags, which make me happy.

I forgot to mention that after we took the refrigerator out on the balcony, we carried it into the bathroom and sprayed it out with the sprayer next to the toilet. One awesome thing about the bathrooms here is they all have drains in the floor. So, since everything is either glass or tile you can just spray water to your heart’s content and it’ll just drain away.

When I was in Thailand earlier this year, I was perplexed by the sprayers next to the toilets in nearly every bathroom. They look like the sprayer you have next to your kitchen sink, but are on a hook next to the toilet. My friend told me that they don’t like to flush toilet paper, so you spray yourself clean, dry off with toilet paper, and throw that in the trash. They don’t appeal to me (the water is usually cold – you figure it out,) but the one in our apartment was handy when it came to rinsing the refrigerator out.

Monday, we were going to go buy towels (we were drying off with rags we had found in the house), but the landlord said the internet guy was coming at 2pm so we kept cleaning. We called him around 3pm to find out where he was, and he said he would be here soon. He was late because it had rained. I’ve already written about the rain here, so we could sympathize – especially since most of the people ride motorbikes.

We are coming to realize that all appointments are subject to change based on the weather. If someone says meet you at 10am, but around 9:30 a huge storm rolls in, expect them to be at least 45 minutes late. To me, everything is easier to deal with if I know the reason behind it, or if I can expect it.

By the time he arrived, around 4pm, we also realized that we weren’t going to make it out to the crazy Metro that day. We learned the hard way last week that certain roads must be avoided during rush hour. If I can’t be back from the Metro, which involves one tricky left turn that can take 45 minutes, I will wait until the next day to go.

The landlord told us (most of this was via text which is a huge difference from back home) that the cleaning service would come on Tuesday, as well as the maintenance man. So, we were pleasantly surprised when we got a knock on the door at 7:30pm Monday. We figured out that he was the maintenance man based on his clipboard. We showed him everything that was broken and then he left. I was concerned that he hadn’t understood us, until he came back with two new toilet seats.  He pulled a huge nail out of the wood floor in the bedroom, reattached the light on the balcony that had been hanging by a wire, and showed us that the reason our sink was leaking was because there was a huge crack in the U pipe underneath. I’m still curious as to how a big, steel pipe gets a crack like that. It’s not like it would have frozen.

We were definitely feeling better about the apartment at this point.

As we went through each day we tried to list everything we came across that we did not have – trash cans, things to hang pictures, a laundry basket, coat hangers, a can opener, a coffee maker, silverware, a dust pan, floor mats, slippers to keep the floor clean and cushion your feet. Going to the store is a huge chore here, and I didn’t want to get home and realize we’d forgotten important things.

Back at the Metro, we were relieved to hear they had changed the tune on the forklifts. I’m not sure what it was, but as long as it wasn’t Fur Elise I was happier.

A lot of the shopping was pretty straightforward. Plates, bowls, wine glasses, forks and spoons – all easy. Table knives and can openers – not so much. They had one coffee maker to choose from, simple and small, for almost $40. It took me at least 15 minutes, looking at every face product, to find a non-whitening moisturizer. We bought glass cleaner and multi-surface cleaning spray based on the pictures on the back. We discovered you can buy a shrink-wrapped pillow that is about an inch thick, and that you’ll be hard pressed to find a trash can more than a foot deep. There are stick-on hooks for washrags, but no nails, tacks, brackets, or hammers.



On a fifty-foot aisle of rice, with prices ranging from 52,000 VND (around $2.50) to over 200,000 (around $10) per bag, we selected the smallest bag in the store brand (having nothing else to base our selection on.) It was 5kg, and I have no idea what made it different from any of the others. I also wonder whether we can eat that much rice before it goes bad. I’ve seen this much variety in the little markets, with their open bags of rice, and think it might be a good idea to learn more about rice.

We were a little crestfallen to see that even in a store like this, cheese is prohibitively expensive. Deli meat, what little they have, is either too weird looking or very expensive. I guess sandwiches are out of the question for a while.

Being in the stores has really motivated me to take a class or find a Vietnamese person who will show me what all this stuff is. There are so many seasonings, sauces, vegetables, and unknown foods that I want to be able to cook with – or at least recognize if I eat them.

After all our time in the store, we got to the check out line and became a spectacle to the gaggle of ladies in the next line. They kept laughing and coming around the end of the lane to see how much our total was as the items kept piling up. They made me go back to the produce section with all of our fruit and veggies because I didn’t know you had to get them weighed and tagged there. Then Jonathan had to go back around to the ATM because it’s cash only and he was afraid we wouldn’t have enough and it would be difficult.

In spite of having a laundry basket and a big trash can to put our stuff in, getting home was an adventure. The cab drivers smirk a little when we push our loaded cart toward their car. They know they can take us anywhere, and we can’t just get out and walk. Because of their tendency lately to take us for a ride we don’t want, I’ve started sitting in the front seat with my iphone.



I tell them when to turn, and if they start to turn somewhere that seems wrong, I tell them not to. I hate to tell a man how to do his job, I really do, but when they obviously don’t know how, it gets really frustrating. I told Jonathan, by the time we go back to the States, he will have an assertive wife – for better or for worse. It takes the pleasure out of being chauffeured around, but when I’m paying for every wrong turn they ‘accidentally’ make, I’m willing to do it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Charity permalink
    October 15, 2010 18:57

    So was your total out of the ball park? 🙂

  2. Israel Holby permalink
    October 17, 2010 10:34

    It makes me happy to know you have mastered the taxis with your mobile google maps. I still use it.

    Metro is great, but soo expensive. I just hope the service is friendlier there than here.

    I bought a Lonely Planet in Hong Kong on Friday. I hope you don’t already have a copy.

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