Friday, August 29, 2008

Hello Moto!

I swore I wouldn't do it, but desperate times call for desperate measures. Our power went out this morning, as happens pretty regularly. Sadly, it happened about two minutes before Obama went on, depriving the Vietnamese staff not only of A/C and lights, but also the amusing daily spectacle of me yelling along with the crowd in Denver and sniffling incomprehensibly. (Hey, if Bill Clinton gets to cry during Hillary's speech, so do I!)

We found out the power would be out until about 10pm and by lunchtime, I was desperate for some artificially chilled air, some power for my laptop (and so I can finish my project), and some wifi so i could download the speech. There is only one place in Long Xuyen (and probably the whole province) where one can get these things: The Panda Cafe. This place is the hip hot spot in town and every surface is covered with some fashion of cartoon pandas. Its like a bad trip.

Panda Cafe is also a little far from the house - too far to bike in the middle of the day. There was only one option - Xe Om, which translates as "vehicle hug" or more simply, motorcycle taxi. Meaning you climb on the back a motorbike and snuggle up to a stranger for dear life. Motorbikes are the main form of transportation here - and often are way overloaded, which provides endless entertainment. The record so far is an entire family of six on a bike in Cambodia, and I have seen them piled high with baskets of produce, animals, and occasionally construction materials.

I have a healthy fear of motorcycles and had never ridden one. But I went to the corner of the market where the Xe Om guys hang out, and picked one who looked like good ballast. The whole family came out to watch the negotiations, and to laugh as I squealed like a little girl when we took off. It was really terrifying - i started out chastely holding on to the guys shoulders, but in about ten seconds was clinging to him like a baby koala. There is sadly no picture, but when i climbed off the poor guy had star-staped creases in the front of his shirt where I had grabbed fistfuls, and I had a sore jaw from clenching my teeth in terror. We got safely to Panda Cafe, where I am enjoying the AC and salted plum tea, downloading video of Obama's speech, and wondering how I will get back home.

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