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Fun with nostrils in Vietnam

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At the beginning of the year, my buddy Mike D moved to Vietnam to teach English with our pal Ken. Anyway, Mike occasionally posts Facebook updates from the comfort of his Ho Chi Minh City bachelor pad, and the latest is golden. A real humdinger. I’ve reprinted it below with Mike’s permission.

Lady Elaine Fairchild


“It has been FAR too long since I threw any details your way on life here in the big, communist city. All is going well, but I have been quite busy. In fact, I haven’t written anything to you thrill-seekers since my teaching career started here. THAT might be a whole other journal post, but let it be known that it is going well. A LOT of room for improvement, but steady wins the race. Talent does what it can, genius does what it must…or so ‘they’ say.

“Went to the Dylan concert here at HCMC. It was a really big deal because there are not a lot of bands that zip through here. The Backstreet Boys were here about a month ago and 20,000 dipshits went to see them. The music scene sucks balls here. Anyway, when my friend Danny and I went to the concert I basically suffered from reverse culture shock. Being surrounded by 8,000 westerners in an open field standing on green grass was beyond the comprehension of my puny brain. We ended up wandering through the crowd and the smell of marijuana and got about 20 feet away from Senor Zimmerman. Very cool. I thought the band played great!! Dylan had the energy of a turd in a shoebox, but…hey, dude’s 70! Cut him some slack. If I want energy (and the taste of vomit in my mouth) I’ll see BS Boys. Here’s the set list:

  • Change my way of thinking
  • it ain’t me babe
  • tangled up in blue
  • honest with me
  • simple twist of fate
  • tweedledum and tweedledee
  • love sicka hard rain is gonna fall
  • highway 61
  • (some tune off of street legal)
  • josie
  • mr. jones
  • rolling stone
  • all along the watchtower; and
  • forever young

“He had the set pre-approved by the local politburo. I find it interesting that the gov’t is worried about Dylan but not worried about the BS boys turning this country into a bunch of fags. No offense intended…


“There is an alarming amount of nose-picking that takes place here. I have a student that is just constantly nose-mining in my class and even saw debris (detritus? flotsam? jetsam?) cascade out of his schnozz. WTF? I mean, he doesn’t hide it or stop when I look his way…he just gets after that shit, yo! Well, one night he was really going to town on his poor, abused proboscis and when the digging wasn’t working he resorted to some snorting and light-hearted farmer blowing right in my class! I just kept on talking, walked over to my desk, opened the drawer and grabbed some ‘Pulppy’ brand tissues and dropped them on his desk. He looked at me quizzically and I said ‘it looked like you were having some problems.’ The class chuckled.

“His isn’t the only case, by far, though! One night I was leaving our local ‘shop and rob’ convenience store and there were three giggly girls that were pointing at me and waving. They were like 15 or something. So, being the ambassador of goodwill that I am (i.e. the shaved monkey that people like to point at and stare at) I stopped over to just say hello and be charming. Well, one of the girls commenced to picking her nose and she was two knuckles deep. I had to walk away…

“Just feckless nose-picking running roughshod here in HCMC!


“I was waiting for the bus in the city and a guy wearing a Spider-Man costume (a nice one!) danced/boogied by carrying a sign that said ‘free kisses. ladies only please.’ He stopped in front of a cafe and shook his money maker. Weird.

“While on the bus I heard the song ‘Dancing Queen‘ as a ringtone and the phone was answered by a 90 year Korean or Japanese dude. Weird.

“A utility-truck was backing up and instead of the BEEP BEEP BEEP that you normally hear, this truck was playing Jingle Bells. Weird.

“On TV here there is a truly compelling Lawrence Welkian music program with dudes wearing army gear and women wearing guerrilla warfare outfits just singing the songs of the…revolution? It is so awesome. I can’t even tell you how wonderful it is. Probably the greatest thing I have seen on TV here. If I can find some I will get a link to you.

“There was a German lady at a cafe that looked EXACTLY like Lady Elaine Fairchild from Mr. Rogers. Short hair? Check! Bulbous, red nose? Check! It was great. Now, if I could see Handy-Man Neggry (sp?) or Lady Eberle, we’d really be cookin’ with gas over here.

“There is a Korean chicken restaurant called ‘Two-twos’ here and it is the best. I went in there one night and was whistling and these teens that work there had never heard whistling before. So, I whistled a little tune, drew them a picture of a cartoon cat, drank a Tiger beer, and headed out. A few weeks later Ken and I went in there and the whole friggin staff came out to smile at me and make cat noises. Seriously. We were almost chased out of the place with teens crying ‘meow! meow!’ Weird as hell.


“Ken and I have moved into a 3 story penthouse. The rent is fairly cheap and it is a total upgrade from the other two-bedroom place. Pictures forthcoming. Two rooftop patios and gardens. Three bathrooms…three bedrooms…just totally crazy.


“I have to get ready for work. Expect part two sometime soon. Details on my crummy teaching are forthcoming.


Vo Nguyen Mike

PS I still have to tell you about the bowling around here. AWESOME!”




Vietnam seems like a strange place. I’ve wanted to visit ever since I read Pico Iyer‘s Falling Of the Map: Some Lonely  Places of the World. In the Vietnam chapter, Iyer writes:

Vietnam is still the kind of place where you look out of your hotel window to see not two, not three, but nine cows grazing on the lawn.

Vietnam is also the kind of place where restaurants offer armadillo, and cobras that are slaughtered at your table; artichoke tea, gecko-steeped liquers, and — the specialty of Dalat — coffee made from beans vomited up by a weasel. It is a place where beer costs more than wine, and a Coke sets you back more than an entire meal.  When once I ordered filet mignon and french fries, my waiter gratuitously apologized for being slow — but french fries, he explained, were very hard to cook.

Incidentally, Vietnam is also the place where a new species of lizard was recently discovered — on the menu.

Also: Vietnam is home to the largest cave on Earth and gets additional bonus points for its impressive socioeconomic progress.


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