The Trip from Binh Duong, Conspiring About Visas

  • By Daniel
  • 2009-07-12 01:07:00-0700

At about 1:40am the bus finally arrived at our guesthouse in Binh Duong. 40 minutes late is par for the course in Vietnamese transit. As we were getting on a man in a brown shirt shook my hand and tried to talk to me in Vietnamese. I just passed him and found a seat, stuffed my bag under it, verified that there wasn't a single position I could sit in that was comfortable and turned my iPod on. We cruised around all sorts of weird city streets picking up passengers from dead end dirt roads, big industrial complexes, the side of empty city streets and so on. A few employees were directing people where to sit when they came on, and sent most of them to the back of the bus. The front seats had been designated as reserved by placing plastic kiddy chairs on them.

About 30 minutes into the journey I smelled smoke in the air, but it wasn't the kind of smoke on the breeze that blows in from outside. I looked up and sure enough there was a man smoking in front of the bus. It was the man in the brown shirt. Then I realized the two gentlemen directly in front of us were also smoking. I wondered when they would be told they weren't allowed to smoke, but when an employee stood up and lit a cigarette my hopes of clean air disappeared in the growing cloud of smoke. Pretty soon there were about 10 people on the bus smoking.

A few hours into the ride the man in the brown shirt came walking down the aisle and said something to me. Tien translated it. "He wants to fight you." He was just joking though, and in fact ended up being an employee of the bus service. He began directing people around here and there, and kept coming back to say things to me in Vietnamese. He was obsessed with fighting me. He was also obsessed with the hair on my arms and legs. He kept feeling the hair on my arm and on my legs, saying things about fighting me, and about how he had a beautiful daughter he wanted to introduce me to, and about how he wished he had a son so he could show him all these wonderful things. At one point I could've sworn I heard him say "gay man" as he looked at me, and after that I was convinced that he was gay. This joking and touching went on throughout the whole bus trip. He was good at his job though. I've never seen vendor ladies get off a bus quicker than when he shouted at them.

Another interesting character was a man who got on the bus at one of the stops. He was wearing a pale blue suit and had long wide fingernails. He had medium length black hair and was carrying a black bag. He set the bag down by my outstretched left foot, reached in and pulled out a microphone, turned something on with a spark and then began trying to sell people little sea horses over his PA system. He also tried to sell them some weird herb medicine and something else in a little cylinder. He got off at the next stop and I was glad he wasn't shouting into my sandal anymore.

At about 10am we finally got home. 8 hours and the second worst night of sleep on my trip, successive to the worst night. I greeted Tien's family and spent a little bit of time with them, but was immensely thankful when they suggest I take a shower and get some sleep.

I woke up and caught up on some internet stuff while it was raining outside, then Tien and I headed back to Long Xuyen to pick up the engagement photos that we'd taken before I went to Cambodia. They were good quality, though a bit silly. It's funny, but some of them are actually very good. I dislike the way I look in them and wish I could've gotten a tan and a haircut before the shoot, but everybody here swears up and down that I look handsome and I that's what counts since the photos are more for the family than myself.

When we got home I went straight back to the internet to conspire on how to circumvent the mountainous bullshit related to Tien's visa. I was up late working on that, and when I finally got to bed I slept wonderfully. The first night of great, uninterrupted sleep since I had left Laos.

I woke up early the next day and began playing games with Ngoc. I was fascinated with what was required for an adult english speaker to play a video game with a Vietnamese child. Unfortunately I didn't have many games on my iPhone, but decided to buy a few and see how well she did with them. Crayon Physics was a little steep of a learning curve for a 4 year old with no instruction. Before I could get any more games the power went out.

The morning was still early so Tien and I went down to an internet cafe and I talked with Lila about ways to handle the visa stuff. She gave me some great ideas that I had considered, but not from the angle she was attacking it and I decided that would be my best bet. I was happy with the information I'd found and the ideas I now had on how to possibly get Tien's visa handled in a timely manner. It involved a little extra help from other people, but sounded promising.

On the way home I got this awesome idea on how to circumvent the whole visa thing entirely, bought a SIM card and talked it over with Rob, then came to the conclusion that it was not awesome at all and there was no way it would work. Oh well, gotta keep the creativity flowing, even when it takes you to dead ends.

The power was still out when we got home. It came on briefly, then went off again. Tien and I went to a nearby internet cafe to do a few more bits of research, and soon afterwards the power there went out as well, but I had gotten most of the information I needed. When we got back home the power came on and we went back to work on the visa stuff. We had hoped to get the help of her brother in law for part of the visa stuff, but he was unwilling to help because he said it wouldn't work. This was frustrating to me because it seemed like nobody wanted to even try except me. I had this dream about marrying tien, traveling with her and taking her back to America. Only one of those had even remotely come true, that being traveling to Vung Tau which is a drop in the bucket compared to what I had hoped for, and the other two aspects were mountainous hurdles. I was really frustrated so Tien and I went for a ride on the scooter.

I saw a dog laying in a hammock, chewing on the netting.

We ended up at a spot that I like in a nearby field where they are preparing to do construction. We watched a beautiful sunset as we talked about the hardships we are facing in making our dreams come true, but resolved to keep on trying.

The next day we went out to do some engagement party preparation. I got fitted for a suit without them even picking up a measuring tape. We got some coffee and I sent a quick e-mail from my phone to Dan and Cass asking them for help with the visa stuff. By the time we got home they were waking up back in America, had read my e-mail and had agreed to help however they could. The feeling of receiving their support was glorious and I was reminded of how awesome it is to have great friends in times of need. It's awesome to have great friends at any time, but when they are there for you when you are in a tight spot it is a glorious feeling. My spirits were revived and later that evening I went to work discussing the details with Cass.

At dinner time I had a beer, which is uncommon in Tien's house, and enjoyed watching Ngoc and Tien's sisters play with Labryth and GloBall. These were much more fun for Ngoc, though it may have been because Thule had instructed her on how to play, I couldn't tell. In the middle of it all, a tiny lizard jumped onto me and I ended up chasing it around trying to catch it. When I finally did catch it I found that it was too small to do the belly sleep trick, so I let it go.

It had been a great day and the sleep that Tien got as she drifted off beside me was a great way to finish it off. Saturday morning I woke up to Tien climbing back into bed. "I have some bad news from the people in my village..."