Vietnam 2011

Before I forget, I want to jot down my experience visiting Vietnam for 3 weeks. To dissolve my reputation as a negative person, I will start this by listing four positive impressions I had of Vietnam:

  1. Halong Bay is easily one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. The shrub covered rocks jutting out of the blue ocean is absolutely breathtaking. Hard to describe in words or pictures, but something you just have to experience. Much like how I felt when I first saw the Grand Canyon.
  2. Tropical fruits are a mouthwatering treat available everywhere you go. Rambutan, Mangosteen, Longan, Soursop, Durian, Jackfruit, Sugarcane, and Coconuts. In my heaven, I would be surrounded by overfilled baskets of these wonderful fruits.
  3. The Vietnamese people are extremely innovative – In a country stricken by poverty and lack good work opportunities, the Vietnamese people have found extremely creative ways to survive and make money. The myriads of restaurants that litter the streets, a man who makes sandals out of old car tires, factories manufacturing bricks out of mud collected from the riverbed, and locals making rice-pop using every part of a rice grain, even the husk!
  4. Being a good neighbor is a way of life. In a country where living and personal space seems to be a limited resource, the Vietnamese have learned to live as a community. I witnessed two poignant examples of this camaraderie. 1) When giving directions, one guy told me to go to the intersection and ask for the house I was looking for by name. He told me everyone in that neighborhood should know where the person I was looking for lives. Good luck trying this in America. 2) When we came upon a family member’s house and they were not home so the door was locked, the neighbor came out and opened the door  for us. In my neighborhood, I feel lucky just to know one of my neighbor’s name.

But alas, among all the beautiful scenery of the Vietnam country side and its creative people, there are unescapable environmental, social economic, and cultural problems that must be discussed:

  1. Traffic – You can say anything you want about how it’s just a way of life there, but the reality is, it is very unsafe and thousands of Vietnamese die every year because of it. My advice is to never cross the street in front of a cab, they will never yield to you.
  2. Polluted waterways in the city – it’s sad that the Republican party wants to do away with environmental regulations and the EPA. If they want to see what happens when government does not come out to protect the environment, just look at Vietnam. In the afternoon, the river thats runs through the city is completely black, and covered in garbage.
  3. Police corruption – ask anyone about how the police system works in Vietnam and you will hear the same story. If you get pulled over by a Vietnamese cop, you have to pay a bribe 100% of the time. It makes me wonder how Vietnam will ever get better if all the money that should be designated to public works such as fixing roads, are going into the pockets of corrupted government officials and police officers?
  4. Wealth Gap – You will see 5 years old begging for money on the same street that LV toting women and men are driving their Mercedes through.
  5. Building Codes – When you are in Vietnam, look up. The criss-cross of wires that looks almost like a bird’s nest will surely scare you. No wonder there are so many blackouts. On top of that, buildings are stacked like Legos. I say Legos, but I really mean Jenga. It is unbelievable how they can build dilapidated shacks one of top of another. God forbid if there was ever a fire, or earthquake, the whole city would be up in flames. One again, I am so glad that we have government regulations to help us build safe and beautiful living spaces here in America.
  6. Bartering and scams – The Vietnamese people do not understand the concept of honest business. There is no such thing as fixed pricing in Vietnam. You have to barter for everything. It’s annoying. On top of that, there are plenty of stories about fake products. I was afraid to drink coconut water because I kept hearing stories about how they drain the milk out of the coconut and refill it with sugar water to save money.
  7. Business Regulations
  8. Water and Food Quality Regulations – I will never take the FDA for granted again. Three days of diarrhea made me appreciate all the regulations we have in food preparation and sales. In Vietnam it is not uncommon to see slabs of meet sitting out in the hot sun COVERED in flies. Even after the meat is cooked, it is again left to sit out for flies to feast on. In Vietnam flies eat first, humans eat after. If you look closely, you will also see that washing dishes in many of the Vietnamese shop consist of rinsing the bowls and utensils in a bath of soapy water and that is it.
  9. … to be continued

What to do when your bored

Here is a list of what to do when your bored. (Yes I am well aware of the grammatical catastrophe that is this sentence, but I am not good with grammar myself so I won’t judge. I think it should be “What to do when you’re bored”. As in “What to do when you are bored”) Ok, without further ado, here are a couple of things you can do when you are bored.

  1. Eat a yam – yes, go find a yam, boil it and eat it.
  2. Read a book – I recommend reading something in the science fiction category, it will keep you busy for days since those books usually come in a long series
  3. Browse reddit – go to reddit.com and browse through the pages. Be sure to sort by “top” “this month” or “year” or whatever. It will keep you entertained for at least a couple of hours.
  4. Watch a documentary movie – There are a ton of documentary movie that can teach you a lot of random stuff. For example, watch “the cove”, “inside job”, “food inc”, etc…
  5. Go for a walk – either drive your butt somewhere nice and scenic and go for a nice hike, or go to a nice park and go for a stroll. If you have a dog, this will make it easier. It’s pretty creepy to just be walking randomly by yourself.
  6. Go on hulu.com – If its night time and you can not go for a walk right now, you should get on hulu and watch something.
  7. Write a blog entry – yes I am bored, therefor I am writing a blog entry. This is something perfectly fun to do when “your” bored. If you don’t have a blog, let me know  and I can create you one. It only costs like $10 a year. And if you become as good a blogger as I am, you can even make money doing it. I make about $500 a month just blogging random stuff. Like this.
So moral of the story is, stop being bored and go find something to do. Ok, fine that’s not really a moral, but just go do something will you? It annoys me when people are bored…

How to speak Asian

The other day at the post office, an Asian man was at the counter talking to to an employee. His english was not good, but he sounded like he really needed some help. The employee was very polite and courteous, but she made a mistake I’ve seen many people make. She spoke louder and faster, as the miscommunication got heavier. This is a common mistake people make. They try to explain themselves, which requires more words, which only exasperate the problem.

As anyone who have ever had to deal with non-english speakers know, the easiest way to make someone understand you is to speak slower and use less words.

For example, if you’ve ever been to an asian supermarket and see two people who do not share a common language, like a Vietnamese woman and a Chinese woman, or an Asian woman speaking with a Hispanic employee, you’ll see that they use very few words with lots of gesturing. Often time just using keywords like “Chicken, Three”. It’s rather amazing actually.

It was uncomfortable watching the miscommunication escalate, partly because whenever a situation like this arises, I always get the feeling that everyone in the room expects me to speak up and translate for the “Asian”. Because I am “Asian”. But as anyone who have hung around us Asians know, there are dozens of ways for you to speak “Asian”. And unless you are wearing a bottle of fishsauce on your head, or carrying a bowl of pho in your purse, you most likely don’t speak my kind of “Asian”.

Eventually the employee gave up talking to the customer because the conversation was getting no where. She told him to wait and disappeared to the back.

At this point, my wife and I had a conversation about how sorry we felt for the non-english speaking customer because we see a bit of ourselves and especially our parents in them. We then try to guess what nationality he really was. I thought he looked Japanese. She didn’t even venture a guess because she could not tell. But like I said earlier, lacking a bottle of fishsauce on his head, I did not think he was Vietnamese.

When the employee reappeared from the back, she was not alone. She had, with good intention, brought back with her another employee. An “Asian” employee. I must note that earlier, before she left for the back, she had not asked the customer what language he spoke. She must have just assumed he spoke “Asian”.

Don’t get me wrong. I have dealt with this specific employee at the post office before, and I think she’s a very nice lady. She wanted to be helpful, and she did the most helpful thing she could think of. It was a nice gesture, but “Asian” is not a language.

This time it worked out. Both “Asians” spoke Mandarin. Which I only know because the Asian-employee asked the Asian-customer, in english, “Do you speak Mandarin?”.

Breakfast Club

One of my favorite things to do is go to breakfast with friends. Especially when we are on vacation or during a busy work week. I am extremely fortunate to have several friends who are willing to share this special meal and time of day with me and I hope to meet more people who wants to join us.

Breakfast is like no other time of the day for several reasons

  1. You get a glimpse of how the world wakes up. From the early morning flowers delivery man, to bakers kneading dough for the morning rush.
  2. It is a quiet time perfect for reflection on past events, but also a great time to plan for the day ahead.
  3. When you get up early enough to make time for breakfast, you don’t have to rush to get a head start on your day.
  4. After a good night’s rest, conversations are much easier and friendlier.
  5. There are a lot of studies to show that eating breakfast is healthy for you. Especially if you are a cream wheat fan like me.

But there are severals rules that must be followed for a successful Breakfast Club.

  1. You must talk about Breakfast Club – The nature of breakfast makes the club very exclusive so it is important to share the love for breakfast to anyone who wishes to join.
  2. You should talk at Breakfast Club – Although it is a good quiet time for reflection, not all reflection have to be in silence. It can be a great time to share your thoughts and pontificate.
  3. Breakfast Club should happen before 9am – Otherwise it’s brunch.
  4. There is no waiting for anyone – If you are not the type of person who can get up in time for breakfast, you should stay in bed. Waiting for people to wake up is stressful and can make you violate the rule above.
  5. You should eat breakfast at breakfast – You can eat anything you want at any other meal during the day. What makes breakfast unique is the breakfast menu.

Anyways these are just helpful guidelines. You can do breakfast however you wish. Just do breakfast. And invite me because I love breakfast.

Wired Wrong

This morning on my way to San Francisco, I drove past a traffic accident where a car was on fire releasing a huge puff of black smoke into the air. As I approached the burning car, I took out my iphone and tried to take the best picture of the scene that I could. I wanted to be like one of those people on twitter that post live images and videos of events as they happen. I felt as if I was doing the world a service by photographing this event and broadcasting it to everyone.

At the moment, it seemed exciting and I was annoyed I was not able to get the best shot that I could have considering how close I was to the accident. But when I calmed down and thought about what I did, I realized that I am an idiot.

First, because I was so focused on trying to take a good picture, I totally neglected my driving and avoiding the hazard on the road. I was so focused, the whole event seems very hazy on my mind right now. But I do remember driving past some debris, as well as what looked like an oil slick across the road. Now that I think about it, I was so caught up in trying to take a picture, I didn’t realize I was putting myself in danger by driving across a gas spill, while there was a car burning next to it. What if the gas caught fire and spread into my car? What was I thinking?!?!

Secondly, as soon as I took the picture, I posted it to my facebook without even looking at it much. Thinking back on that action, I realize I should have been more sensitive the what was happening. What if I caught something horrible unfolding? What if I had taken a picture of someone burning inside the car, or what if I caught an image of a dead body? It seems extremely insensitive and stupid of me to post such an image to my facebook. What if my picture went viral and that’s how someone found out their loved ones was in danger? Luckily I did not catch anything like that, but it was still a stupid move on my part.

Third and lastly, instead of inspecting the scene and looking for how I could help, I drove by and spectated on the event without lending a hand. It’s a classic case of the bystander effect. Without much care for the accident in front of me, I rubber necked and drove on.

I am embarrassed by what I did, and I deleted the facebook photo as soon as I came to my senses. But the incident made me realize that I need to remove myself from technology. Somewhere along the line, I have forgotten how to live like a normal human being.

Why get married?

I wanted to write this for a long time now, but never found the time, so here it is. What is the point of getting married?

Well to be honest, as a male, when we decided to get married, I didn’t really think much of it. I mean, I already love my wife, and I wouldn’t spend my life with anyone else except her, so why go through the hassle of a wedding ceremony?

I’ve always thought of the whole wedding-scam as big ol’ party for the girls. A chance for her to wear a fancy dress and get treated like a princess.

I say “scam” because if you’ve seen how big the wedding industry is, you’ll realized just how organized and profitable the wedding-cartel is. They got magazines, warehouse stores, online shops, consultants, high priced ventures, etc… etc… etc…

But all is not bad. After going through the cumbersome wedding planning process, arguing with my mother, depleting my life’s savings, daily fights with my fiancee (now wife), and nearly deciding that the best option is to run to a Vegas chapel and get it over with it, I’ve learned that the whole point of getting married is to test your endurance and commitment to one another.

There is nothing like spending 2-3 months worth of your paycheck to buy a useless shiny rock to make you think twice about the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Mine is worth every penny. [obligatory]

But that sacrifice is nothing compared to having to decide between what your mother wants, and what your future wife wants.

From my own experience, and the experience of several men I’ve talked to, this is one of those defining choices you have to make in life. You have to decide wether to listen to your mother, or standup for your wife. Because for some gosh dang reason, they will be at odds with each other, even if they are normally fine and friendly.

Throw in the religion factor, like I had to endure, and you’ve got yourself a PARTTTAY!!!

Anyways. I survived. Its just a right of passage I guess. It’s a transition from being a momma’s boy, to a man. A man who know that from now on, his wife, and future children, will be his first priority.

Nowadays I laugh whenever I see a guy reach that moment and screams

“I DON’T CARE WHO COMES TO MY WEDDING, IT’S OUR WEDDING AND I’LL DO WHATEVER I WANT”.

Maybe the reason why America has such a high divorce rate is because a lot of people use wedding planners instead of planning their own wedding? It’s an opportunity for you to learn about your partner, and decide if you’ve made a mistake. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that…

Kill slaves in the name of God

Today I caught another great documentary on PBS: Slave Ship Munity

The part that I found most interesting was how the slave ship owners prayed to God for help when they were in trouble, even though they spend their days torturing and killing slaves.

It kind of remind me of all the “FoxNews” Christians who hate gays, illegal immigrants, and muslims.

Rally and Parade

Within the last week, I’ve had the lucky opportunity to attend two large gathering of people. The “Rally to Restore Sanity” and the “SF Giants Victory Parade”.

For me, the best part was watching other people.

It amazes me how enthusiastic people get over seeing people they idolize. Screaming their names, yelling at the top of their lungs, laughing, jumping up and down, etc… It was also amazing to see the kind of social norms people are willing to break when others are watching. Like climbing trees, buses, light poles, wearing costumes, etc…

I find it odd that people get so enchanted by people they know very little about. For me personally, I think the only person I would ever cheer loudly for are my family and friends.

I am a complete failure

This morning, when my alarm went off at 4:45AM, I wanted to stay in bed.

But then I started dreaming about Mark Zuckerberg (the facebook guy) and how he is a self-made multi-billionaire in his twenties, and I couldn’t sleep anymore.

Now… I am not saying that making a lot of money is the only measure of success, because you can obviously be very successful in many other ways. I am also not saying that waking up early is a path to success, because I know plenty of late risers who are extremely smart and efficient. But for me personally, today, on my 27th birthday, I cannot sleep knowing that I am not yet successful — therefore I have failed.

Ok, before you get all riled up, I know that in virtually all other aspects of my life, I have been very successful and lucky. I have a beautiful and intelligent wife, a great family, good friends, a beautiful home, luxury vehicles, and so forth…

But here’s the thing. I like to set very high expectations for myself. When I look in the mirror, I don’t see any reason why Larry Page, and Sergey Brin are on the Forbes list, revolutionized the world, and I haven’t. I don’t need to be as successful as they are, but I have to be successful by own my measures. And as of today, on my 27th birthday, I am not.

This is not a post about self-pity, or taking for granted all the blessings in my life. It’s just a reminder to myself that every time a birthday comes, I have failed myself for one more year.

Well no worries. I will try to make my millions by this time next year.