Becoming a ninja mosquito killer. Forget the Fumakilla (bug spray), I’m almost as good as Miyagi without the chopsticks. It’s all about the swift movement of your hands. My secret is to wait in the bathroom for them to find me. Then I can see them easier because they stand out with a white background. You sit there still as a statue, until it starts buzzing around your head. Don’t move too soon—you have to outsmart the mosquitoes. Make them think they have found a juicy piece of skin to land on. Wait for it, wait for it… then with a swift motion of both hands… SMACK! I now have a completely new understanding of that clip in The Karate Kid. It was never about karate—it was about how to survive in Asia with all the bugs. I’m now a black belt in Supa Fumakilla karate. I might open up my own dojo soon….
Relying on others for help. I’m fiercely independent. Have been my entire life. It has taken me a long time throughout the years to ask for or rely on others. But being thrown into a new country with an iPhone that didn’t quite work and debit cards that were being rejected at the ATM made me ask others for help. This is always something that’s uncomfortable for me because I don’t ever want to be a burden on others. However, always trying to do things alone isn’t necessarily a good thing either.
Tapping into my Frogger skills. Trying to navigate the streets of Hanoi is fun and a tad terrifying at the same time. If you’ve ever played the game of Frogger, this will be valuable skill in navigation of the streets. Green and red lights here are mere suggestions, sidewalks are non-existent, and traffic goes in three directions all at the same time. You need all of your senses aware at all times when crossing the street and eyes in the back of your head. As you approach the edge of the street, five motorbikes zoom by you. Hop forward, a big truck comes from other way, hop back, move to the left, and go forward. A few baby steps, more motorbikes, hop to the right, shit people going the wrong way, horns blaring, you close your eyes and run forward!
Tucking and rolling out of the shower. Never thought this would be a skill I would need, but for some reason, my tub is like five feet above ground level in my bathroom. I find this odd since Vietnamese people are short. I’m 5’9” and I have a hard time getting into the shower. There are no steps to get up into the tub nor handles on the sides for grip. After I hike the porcelain mountain and take my shower, the scariest part is getting back down when you are wet. I don’t want to slip and fall since I have no medical insurance here. It probably wouldn’t cost that much anyway, but I don’t want to test fate. So I dry off as much as possible, wrap myself like a little burrito in my small towel, sit on the edge, grab the top of the toilet below, and gently roll out placing my feet on the ground and dismount. No broken bones! I think that’s worthy of a gold medal.
Haggling with street vendors. As an American, I really hate haggling for anything. I do enough contract negotiations for work that I just want to pay for my coconut coffee and leave. However, if you don’t try in other countries, you can get ripped off. So, one night with my new remote friend Jeff, we ventured out to the weekend street market in search of good deals. It’s about a mile long of almost anything you want and don’t need. I was in search of a satchel or backpack and he was searching for a duffel bag. We stopped at the first place, and I found something that was exactly what I wanted. At that point, I was done, I just wanted to pay and leave. He found a duffel bag and started the haggling process. For mine, they wanted 280,000 dong. For his, they wanted 320,000. She wasn’t accepting any other offers, so Jeff went to walk out and I handed her a 500,000 bill ($20 US) for both of our finds and she gave him the bag. So we saved 100,000 dong. Not too bad for my first try. On down the packed, stifling hot street we went, stopping for food on a stick until I spied bright, sparkling hats. I absolutely love hats and in 99% humidity in Asia, there is not much you can do with your hair anyway. I saw this cute black and bejeweled cat hat, which the vendor said was 250,000. I asked, “How much for two hats?” He answered, “450,000,” which is about $18. Really not expensive for US standards, however, we are in Vietnam. I said, “No, I only have 200,000.” He said, “No.” I placed the hats back on the stand and started to walk away. He then said, “250,000.” I pulled out my 200,000 and motioned that it was all I had. We walked away from his stand. He yelled at us as we were a few feet away. He knew I wasn’t giving in. He grabbed both hats and put them in a bag. I walked back and gave him my 200,000 dong, which is about equal to $8 US. I walked away with two obnoxiously bejeweled hats. Did I need them? No. Was it super fun haggling and worth it? Heck yeah!!