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5 Most Ridiculous Experiences From My Time in Vietnam

5 Most Ridiculous Experiences From My Time in Vietnam

In the spirit of Thanksgiving (though a week late) and as my time here draws to a close, I would like to appreciate some of the most unexpected and outrageous things I’ve experienced during my time in Vietnam. There are much too many instances to note, so instead, here is a list of my top five most ridiculous experiences:

1. Pet Squirrel – Now I should preface this by saying that I have not once seen a squirrel since leaving Chicago back in mid-May. This is not to say squirrels don’t exist in Asia, I’m sure they do, I just don’t have the luxury of looking for them when I’m preoccupied checking for random motorbikes in all directions. Either way, walking around one evening about a month ago, some friends and I noticed a few men huddled around a tree, clearly very excited about something. When we got closer, we noticed there was a brown squirrel hanging out mid-trunk. He was tied up, by the neck, with a string no longer than 3 feet in length hooked around a nail in the tree trunk. He clung to the tree in fear, unable to scurry to safety higher in the tree or on the ground. We then witnessed the men attempting to feed garbage to the squirrel, which, for obvious reasons, was unsuccessful. I pass by that tree whenever I get the chance, but have never see the squirrel since.

2. Atonal Karaoke Man – Every night outside our dorm in District 10, around 11:30PM, a sole man begins to belt out karaoke on a system whose speakers are ready to blow. He sings anything from Katy Perry and Justin Beiber (both Vietnamese favorites) to Queen and The Rolling Stones, but all of it in the most atonal way possible. His serenade usually lasts between 45 minutes to an hour and leaves us all praying for peace and quiet. Last night he was even joined by someone playing flute in our echoing halls.

3. Beijing Belly/Nose Picking– Beijing belly, or the beer gut belly of a man exposed due to his shirt being rolled up to his chest (presumably because of the heat), is a common site in many countries in Asia, though I have seen it most in of course Beijing and throughout Vietnam. One day while walking in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh City, I saw a man proudly exposing his Beijing Belly, and before I could look away he began aggressively picking his nose and staring me down. Never have I been more intimidated by a beer gut and boogers.

4. Cattle Prods and Traffic – One day, we had to exit our taxi 10 blocks away from our service learning site, due to an absurd amount of traffic. When attempting to swim our way through a sea of motorbikes, we noticed a man “directing traffic”. What we first believed was a baton turned out to be something much more unexpected and sinister. This man was holding a cattle prod! Not even 20 seconds later, he was using it on a motor bike driver who was trying to sneak past him. A month into our semester and I believed I had seen everything.

5. Night Market Set-up – Last weekend I decided to take on Ho Chi Minh City as a tourist and check out the night market, where other students had gotten some pretty great deals. I arrived early, but just in time to see hoards of shirtless men parading by – some on foot, some by motorbike – carrying large tents and dragging large metal crates that I can only assume held the contents of each individual shop. There must be upwards of 100 people involved in the process of setting up the market every night. I couldn’t imagine how all of those shops could be set up so quickly but when I returned from dinner less than an hour later, it was in full swing. This was certainly a sight to remember.

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