Consular BS, Interview Date, Traveling to Hanoi

2010-05-26 23:05:00-0700

On May 24th Tien and I woke up with a plan to head to Saigon. We booked a bus for 3pm and spent the morning playing more Wii and PvZ. We played PvZ all the way until the bus to Saigon was right outside Thu's house honking its horn waiting for us to get onboard. We got on and headed straight away, getting across the My Thuan Bridge in only 2 hours and 15 minutes.

As we were crossing the bridge the Kid Koala remix of Moon River came on, and I began to miss 4211 Moraga. I first saw the movie Breakfast at Tiffany's when I was living there, and I remember thinking that it was the most accurate example of how the parties at 4211 would go. Full house, people dressed up, climbing in and out of windows onto the fire escape, etc.. I really loved living there, I think we had something that not many people find in their life, and it was great. This week, a year after everybody else moved off the block, Lauren is finally moving away.

We stopped for a snack and then drove on towards Saigon. Night fell and I put on The Kleptones 24 Hours album. I looked out the window and found it hard to tell that I was in Vietnam. Between the mashup music and samples transporting my mind to somewhere in the Western pop culture ethos, the landscape was also changing. We found ourselves on a highway like no other highway I'd been on in Vietnam. It was raised up on a berm with a view out over the dark trees and neighborhoods. There were even green markers with white numbers ticking away the km. It was a smooth highway, and there were no motorbikes allowed here. It felt like we were in the midwest of the USA.

It was also an extremely efficient way to get to Saigon, as we got there in about 4.5 hours, which is less than any other trip we'd taken. We ended up at the same bus station on some back road of District 5 as when I had left Vietnam last November. It's essentially a garage on a dirty side road off a main street. I think we even took the same van to get to the hotel that we took last November to the airport. We checked into a room on the 7th floor of the Bui Phan Hotel and went next door to Viva Coffee for dinner, then retired. We had an early morning at the consulate to look forward to.

We got up early on May 25, got breakfast and tried to find a motorbike to rent. Nobody would rent us one though since we didn't have our passports since they were at the hotel front desk. We had planned to take a motorbike to the consulate, but ended up settling on a taxi since we ran out of time before finding a moto.

We first went to a service that Tien's sister had hired for her to help handle the consulate procedures. I sat and played Angry Birds on my iPhone and waited there while Tien went to get a letter from the consulate that would tell her when her interview date was. This was a significant piece of information, a huge puzzle piece in the nebulous, infinite maze of US immigration procedures.

And of course they didn't give it to her. It can never be easy with immigration.

They apparently needed her to have a different address. Why on earth it makes such a big deal which address they have on file, I will never know. It is probably the same illogical reasons that banks use when they require you to have a physical address on file instead of a PO box, even when you don't have a permanent physical address. They'd rather have inaccurate info that fits within their broken rules than accurate information that doesn't apply to hoi polloi.

So, I went down to the consulate and stood in line. While I was waiting a security guard walked directly over to me and asked me if he could help me with anything. I don't know why he picked me out of the whole crowd, maybe he didn't like my looks or maybe I was unknowingly giving him a threatening look. I told him my business and he walked away.

When I got to the window where you can ask information and asked them for the date of Tien's interview they said they would not give it to me. They needed updated address information for her file. It's just so fucking important that they know where you *say* you live even if you don't spend most of your time there. So, so, so fucking important. And that got me really fucking frustrated. Dealing with immigration is the most painful, frustrating thing I've had to deal with in I can't remember how long, perhaps my whole life. It makes me livid.

We went back to the service, Tien talked to them while I sat there and steamed, we got a piece of fucking paper with some words on it, walked down to the consulate and they gave us the info just like that. I should've been really happy, but actually I was just really fucking pissed off at how asinine this whole damn situation is. They *really* needed her address updated that badly? It's not like they know how to send letters anyway, none of the shit they sent us ever arrived at her cousin's house when she was living there. What makes us think that if they can't successfully send mail across the fucking city that a letter will ever arrive in a tiny farming village in another province near the Cambodian border? WTF ever, they got their info and we got ours. It was an intel hostage exchange that we had successfully negotiated by complying with the perpetrators every demands.

June 16th.

Tien would have her interview on June 16th, and if she passed it she would get her visa to go to America to marry me on the 17th. This meant we could be back in America by the end of June. I thought about this and tried to focus on the happy things in the taxi back to the hotel.

32::AM::136We took a nap during the mid day heat, then went downstairs and rented a moto from our hotel. This was an idea that we hadn't really thought of before, but I remembered our ease in renting a bike in Da Lat and got the idea from that. We cruised down to Highlands Coffee for lunch, then went back to the consulate to get the official letter that should've arrived at Tien's cousin's house however long ago they sent it.

After that we just cruised the city, at first because we got lost and then after we found our way we just wanted to keep cruising and see some sights. It was the first time we'd had a bike in Saigon. Tien had one while she was living here, but never while I was around. Before returning to the hotel we went and bought some plane tickets to Hanoi, some doughnuts and some sugar cane juice. We took them back to the hotel and watched Avatar on my laptop.

We lazed away the morning of May 26, spending a lot of time online in our air conditioned hotel room. My brother was online and he told me that my dad had almost died while choking on a chicken bone. He had passed out and gashed his head on the way to the floor, home all alone. He woke up covered in blood and called for help. My mom was with him at the hospital and he was doing decent, alive and stable and probably not permanently damaged. My brother and I decided to buy him a helmet since he seems to be making a habit of this kind of thing, having done something similar last Christmas.

Tien and I caught a taxi to the airport. That taxi hit a motorbike on the way there. Just gently though, and the driver bitched loudly as he rode off with his passenger. I wondered how Saigon would handle the influx of cars that would undoubtedly come with its current business expansions.

At the airport there were two girls talking in castilian spanish sitting behind us in the waiting area. The Jetstar flight to Hanoi was unremarkable, other than the fact that it was Tien's third time flying. She did well.

I got an aisle seat in the bus from the airport to downtown, and aisle seats always suck. My shoulders are too broad and everybody hits them with their hips as they walk by.

This was Tien's first time in Hanoi and I wondered what she thought of it as I recalled my last trip and took in the differences between the north and south. Things are more ornate up here. There is more dirt and more rocks. Most highways are raised up on berms or on bridges, and there are significantly more cars. The traffic didn't flow nearly as well as it did in Saigon, and it was because of the higher number of cars. One car could be stopped and it would back up the whole flow, whereas in Saigon the motos just go around. Another thing I noticed was that people would drive their cars like motorbikes, driving into oncoming traffic on the wrong side of the street, as if they could just slip by oncoming traffic as easily as they could on a motorbike. Traffic here would prove to be much more frustrating and less fluid than that in Saigon.

At the bus stop a man with a taxi offered to take us to his hotel. It was nearby where we wanted to stay so we went. We agreed to stay there, but the more I looked at things the more I realized we'd checked into a pretty crummy hotel. Not only that but after walking around our neighborhood we realized that it kinda sucked. Those two factors made Hanoi much less fun than I was hoping.

We went out for dinner and found something just as mediocre as our hotel, ate, then retired for the night.

By Daniel , Category: 365-32

Tags: journal / life / travel / bus / consulate / saigon / vietnam /

Other articles

Hanging in Saigon, choosing Binh Hoa over Nha Trang

2010-05-13 23:05:00-0700

On May 12 Tien and I got an early breakfast and decided to walk down to the river. It looked nicer on the map than it actually was, due to construction and heavy traffic, but it was nice all the same. We ran into an Australian couple and asked them ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

From Taipei to Saigon, and more importantly, to Tien

2010-05-11 23:05:00-0700

On the flight to Saigon I sat next to a nice Vietnamese man from Canada who was going home to visit family. We didn't talk a whole lot, but he did mention that Saigon is different every time he goes back, always expanding and always building. He'd grown ...

By Daniel, Category: 365-32

Continue reading …

Leaving Vietnam in 2009

2009-11-24 23:11:00-0800

Nov 24th was my last day in Vietnam in 2009. My stomach was a little upset, probably from some meds I was still taking for my lingering strep throat, which echoed from my last trip home to the USA.

Tien's sisters had prepared some gifts for my family and ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Strep Throat in Nha Trang, Back to Saigon by Train

2009-11-21 23:11:00-0800

Friday, Nov 20th, I woke early to a very rainy and stormy morning. Having less than a week left I decided to go ahead and figure out my plan for when I arrived back in America. Some of my friends were online since it was evening in the USA, and ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Traveling to Mui Ne

2009-11-15 23:11:00-0800

Sunday morning when I woke up I noticed a recurring morning phenomenon; stiff ankles. I thought about how I should probably stay more active to avoid that displeasure.

Right after waking up Tien called a bus service and found a bus going to Saigon at 9:30. Thu got us ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

The trip home from Da Lat

2009-11-10 23:11:00-0800

Sunday morning was warm and glorious. Eating breakfast outside was a treat that morning. We hung around the hotel until a van came to pick us up at 12:30 and take us off to our bus. We had expected the van to arrive sooner and give us time to ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Going to Da Lat

2009-11-05 23:11:00-0800

Thursday morning when I woke up the first thing I did was plug in my dead hard disk to see if it had yet another life. Luckily it did and I put my laptop to work backing up my photos and music.

When Tien woke up we went next door ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Heading out for Nha Trang

2009-11-04 23:11:00-0800

Tuesday morning at breakfast Tien's mom brought over a young boy who was big for his age. His older sister showed up soon afterwards and we all ate some snacks. They were Tiens cousins and I recognized their father from our engagement party when he came to pick them ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Political talk at dinner

2009-11-04 23:11:00-0800

While the tragic mystery of my corrupt hard disk was unfolding I made progress with other technology. A new version of Blackra1n had come out that allowed me to upgrade my iPhone from 3.0.1 to 3.1.2 and jailbreak it. This was the simplest iPhone jailbreak ever ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Killing time in Saigon

2009-10-28 01:10:00-0700

On Monday, Tien and I decided to find a new breakfast place. We walked several blocks through the heart of the tourist area at Pham Ngu Lao and found a lot of places that looked overpriced and inauthentic. I honestly don't like things to be too touristy, so when ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Hanging out with Dat and Trinh

2009-10-25 20:10:00-0700

On Sunday, my first morning back in Vietnam, Tien and I went to our old breakfast place. It was OK, but honestly it's lost its sentimental value with the realization that it's not that great of a restaurant. It is very convenient though. After breakfast we went back ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Heading back to Vietnam

2009-10-22 14:10:00-0700

It's been a long time since I've written anything, mainly because I haven't been traveling. Espiritu del solI left Colorado and drove back to San Francisco in mid August, over two months ago. In that time I've mainly been focusing on two things: finishing an I-129f petition for ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

The Last Days in SE Asia

2009-07-29 20:07:00-0700

I woke up to an oncoming silence created by the absence of electrical power on Tuesday morning. This was a good way to get an early start because I couldn't sleep without the fan protecting me from the mosquitoes and cooling my body. I took a shower and headed ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

The return from Malaysia

2009-07-27 21:07:00-0700

Tien had expressed how happy she was to be back in her home country when we were walking through the airport, and it showed once we got in the taxi. She smiled a lot and was chatting up a storm with the taxi driver. I began to sink back into ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Malaysia, Part 2

2009-07-26 07:07:00-0700

Wednesday I woke up to hurricane winds and our hotel shaking. I moved the love seat in off the patio expecting to have torrential rains hitting soon, then I went back to sleep. When I woke up 3 hours later everything was calm. I guess that's just how night ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

One Day in Saigon before Malaysia

2009-07-19 19:07:00-0700

Saturday, Tien and I woke up at the familiar Ruby Star which is situated in the Pham Ngu Lao area of Saigon. Our room was small and had no window so realizing that it was time to get up was difficult from the darkness of our bed, but an incoming ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Bad Breakfasts, Leaving Binh Hoa with Tien

2009-07-19 07:07:00-0700

Wednesday morning I slept through my alarm and the noise of the other people in the house and didn't get up until after 9, which never happens. Shortly after I got up the power went out, which is now pretty normal. Tien and I decided to head into Long ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Trip to Vũng Tàu

2009-07-08 01:07:00-0700

My layover between Vientiane and Saigon was Phnom Penh. I thought this would be great because I could call Tien using my Cambodian SIM card and let her know that my flight was an hour late, but she didn't pick up. We were on the ground for about 15 ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Photographed and gone to Cambodia

2009-06-19 19:06:00-0700

I spent the morning on the subject en of a Kodak DSLR in a photo session reminiscent of that in "Lost in Transaltion". The photographer was good though, and Tien looked ƒ incredible. I felt like a doofus next to such stunning beauty, but her sisters flattered me into a ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Living the Dream

2009-06-14 01:06:00-0700

After a morning out with Tien walking around Saigon in the hot sun, after I asked her to marry me, we did what most people do during the mid day heat and napped it away in a cool place. We talked and were happy with all that had happened and ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Engagement

2009-06-12 21:06:00-0700

As I finished my whiskey the flight to Saigon began boarding, so with Kaskade in my ears I took my seat. I gave up the music for some more Jack Kerouac, which I'm really enjoying. My aunt recommended "On the Road" to me, and Rob had gotten it for ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Leaving Binh Hoa and Saigon

2009-06-07 23:06:00-0700

At 5:30 yesterday three long shadows headed for the bus to Saigon. Thu, Tien's sister, saw Tien and I off. One week after arriving in Binh Hoa we were headed back to Saigon, back to the airport.

One earbud and one earplug each, Tien and I lost ourselves ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Scooters and stuff

2009-05-31 07:05:00-0700

I haven't been in Saigon one day yet and I already know the one word that would sum it up. Scooters. It's like everything here is a scooter. I see people doing everything possible with them, from selling corn to hauling TV's 4 at a time. It ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …

Scooters and stuff

2009-05-31 07:05:00-0700

I haven't been in Saigon one day yet and I already know the one word that would sum it up. Scooters. It's like everything here is a scooter. I see people doing everything possible with them, from selling corn to hauling TV's 4 at a time. It ...

By Daniel, Category: blog

Continue reading …