Exploring Vietnam’s Countryside

Once in a while, someone does something that makes you go “wow”. Today was one such day.

Today I went out with Hieu to Long An to shoot some photos for the restaurant. Somewhere along a road, we stopped to buy a drink from a roadside stall. To call it a stall might be an overstatement. Basically, it was one person sitting under an umbrella with an ice box. We bought one drink at 9.000 dong, and the seller gave us two cold wet tissues! When Hieu gave the seller the 1.000 change, she refused it initially. This is the first time I have ever seen a roadside seller give free wet tissues for a drink. Absolutely impressed.

We shot photos of rice fields and dragonflies, houses and ducks. It was an amazing time out and we ate these absolutely delicious roasted chicken from a roadside stall! Ah reminds me of the pictures that I saw last time of Hanoi on Facebook and my desire to check out the place.

Language, like a computer screen, while only being a channel for communication inadvertently alters the message that is being communicated in the process. Like Shane Hipps says in Flickering Pixels on media, I believe the ability to use a language in its full glory is important (though not necessarily critical) component of communication. What my mum’s students said is appearing to be true—that Vietnamese vocabulary is far harder than its grammar.

I have decided that I may still be best in the IT field, and will be positioning myself for system and security related jobs. 2011 is gonna be awesome! Maybe I’ll still go to Cua Dong if I have some free time!

Holy Spirit, how I need you! Come and satisfy me! Let Your kingdom come, Your will be done in my life as it is in heaven! God come and rekindle your flame! Amen!

Two and a Half Weeks at Cua Dong

Today is Thursday of my third week at Quán Cua Đồng. It’s been quite enjoyable overall, meeting people from all walks of life having different kinds of expectations. I think I am ok with taking 80% of orders now, except when there are more unique requirements like having more or less of a specific ingredient.

I believe I have found favour with all of the staff, though there were a few surprises like guys who put their hands around my stomach. The first experience was definitely quite freaky. Working here has added some stability to my life, but perhaps it has also dampened the sense of urgency to move on to the next stage. One of my friends believes that the will of God is not a thread in the darkness that has no room for mistakes. I’ve also realized that it is possible to look at both “permanent” and “temporary” jobs from the same point of view—that both kinds of jobs, and in fact everything else in life is temporal. What we do at these temporal steps can leave eternal marks though.

Working as a waiter in a restaurant is mostly a detailed job and you are always on your feet attending to customers and most of the other time is spent doing preparatory work (e.g. cutting vegetables) or taking an afternoon nap.

Striving to up my level of service (well actually largely a language problem) itself is a struggle. It would take strong intention and lots of practice to take orders without the use of a menu, joking with customers and telling my story.

The customer base is fairly varied, from students to office staff to directors to C-level executives to foreigners—both residents and tourists. There is a lot of second hand smoke here but thankfully the restaurant is fairly airy.

But Norm Kober is right. It is actually the thought and prayer for matters of one’s own heart that take the most time.

A New Adventure

It’s been about 9 months since my arrival to Vietnam and what an adventure it has been. I recently decided to take a break from working at Radical Coaching to explore something new. In the interim while looking for a more stable job, I decided to work in a restaurant! The last time I served in a restaurant was helping out the Cambodian family I lived with in Australia in 2008. The experience was quite positive, so I though I’d give it a try here! Ever since I started working at my friend Hieu’s restaurant Cua Dong on Monday, I’ve gotten to meet so many wonderful people from all walks of life.

From day one, the experience has been very positive. I was amazed to find that many of the staff came from the provinces, and lived in the restaurants! They would wake up at 6:30 in the morning and close the doors around 9:30, only with an afternoon nap in between. The staff are really like family, with the youngest at 15 years old (I think) to people in their 30s. I was initially shocked to find out that the average staff was getting under 50c an hour. But yes, they are a lovely bunch of people to hang out with.

Though I had no intention of taking orders on the first 3 days, I inevitably got requests when I deliver drinks. Most people were fairly kind to be clear with me and some would even state their requests in English. Can’t remember much more from those days so I’ll fast forward to today.

I stayed late today to help Hieu out with preparing some Christmas decorations for the restaurant. As I was preparing to leave, there was this lady and guy who were having some issues communicating something. They were not happy with a dish as it was served half cut. The restaurant had ran out of the small size, so the kitchen decided to serve half of the large one. I overheard them talking in Chinese so I intervened to see what I could do. Turned out that the lady was from Taiwan and the guy was from Korea.

I write this not because of what I did, but because these two people had a countenance that I had not experienced in a long time. The lady’s eyes practically sparkled, and in a way light radiated from her. I strongly believe they are Christians, but did not talk with them. This is the second occasion that I missed when customers were very open to talking with me.

Anyway, life is really amazing. I am now officially an uncle and I am always wowed by God’s goodness. Truly he has come to give us abundant life (John 10:10).

My Vietnamese is improving daily and I will make attempts to take orders tomorrow. If I’m feeling better (had a little flu today).