There was an ominous knock on the apartment door last night around 7.20 pm.

Ominous because at that time, it’s more than likely to be the impish and mischievous apartment manager. He has time to spare, and so thinks nothing of frittering away mine, at just the time I’m in dinner digestion mode, and more hostile than hospitable.

And so it proved. But this time, ‘Mr. Duc’, as I call him, wanted not to smoke and shoot the breeze, but take photos of my passport.

This morning, I discovered why. There’s been a new outbreak of covid-19 in Da Nang, about 500 km north of here.

They’re evacuating the city.

This is all about moi, of course, and isn’t good news. If the outbreak isn’t contained, the Govt. has shown itself to be more than willing to shut things down – cafes, restaurants, plane flights.

As it is, my original plan to return to NZ in August now looks dubious, with flight prices up at NZD3000 and above. Prices settle late September, but that won’t happen in the midst of Alarm and Lockdowns.

It’s a moving feast. On that topic, my stomach is saying I should move breakfast to, er, right now.

Dear D,

The principle of energy conservation – AKA laziness – means I’m copying and pasting the below email containing the latest news.


first, thanks for the email, and apologies for taking so damned long to reply. Flimsy excuses indeed, but first it was busyness at work, until that finished June 29th. More recently I’ve been struggling with putting together a new computer system, working around the bits falling off the old system. This might not mean much to you, but I’m actually running an operating system ( Linux ) from a USB stick now. It’s been good enough to get by, and as a stop-gap measure, but long-term, I have to rip the sticking plaster off, and sort out a solution.

I’ve been doing some work teaching online ( $10 USD / hr ) but it’s been a little touch-and-go with things not working consistently on the new operating system. I hope to get it sorted out with a new hard-drive tomorrow.

Also, the bike accident June 17th has really knocked me back. It turned out to be the worst one since I’ve been in SE Asia, for the fact that my ankle is broken, and a full plaster has been necessary. Making it even worse, I’ve cracked two ribs. Discomfort + pain 24/7. The ribs are now improving slowly, and with the plaster applied Friday 3rd, I can now walk, very gingerly, on the crook leg.

Eight more weeks in plaster to look forward to. At the moment,I’d gladly be on a flight back to NZ tomorrow. But with costs around $3000 – $4000 NZD, it’s out of my price range. At the moment, prices look like returning to sanity late in August. Which is also when my current Visa expires. For work in Vietnam, it seems like it’s a shit-load easier finding a job when you’re already here, so ideally, I’d do that. But if I had my way, I’d probably spend summer in NZ, and come back here, in April. But setting up a new job with that much delay may not be do-able.

I can’t ride a bike right now ( fucked-up leg is too fragile to bear any weight ), so I’ve been getting round with Grab, which is the VN equivalent of Uber. Grab bikes are everywhere, and a 2 – 3 km trip sets me back less than $2 NZD. So good enough, and useable enough to get me to local cafes, street food, and supermarkets. I understand that many expats here don’t bother renting a bike, they just do everything via Grab. Which seems do-able longer-term, and possibly safer, being a novice foreigner, than riding your own bike. My last bike, I think, was rated about 150cc, fairly typical. A damned good engine, too. But the things are heavy, especially when they’re landing on your foot. I’m ok at riding, sorta, but in that critical second or two which is the difference between accident and no accident, I’m doing exactly the wrong thing too often. Which has been braking and attempting a swerve at the same time. I need to think about how I can train myself NOT to do that, but the difficulty is that putting yourself in a little danger to practice isn’t …. practical. As you’re no doubt way above me in terms of bike-riding, maybe you have some advice.

FYI, and before I forget, Grace is moving to Wellington ( Porirua to be exact ) in a day or two. She’s doing a course at the polytech down there. Despite my cautions about Porirua being the Otaika, if not the Otangarei, of Wellington. She’s going down with her boyfriend though, who seems like he has a head on his shoulders.

Right now cooking a pork belly slab in a crockpot , with carrots, broccoli, and a little cabbage. Phwoar. That’s breakfast, after a 7.45 a.m. coffee ( with butter and a duck egg ) and chat with Henry.

At the moment, my apartment is being invaded by the manager ( father of the owner ), and helper. They’re fixing a wall unit which fell off this morning after I made the mistake of leaning on it two days ago. Which is all ok, but I’m sitting here keeping vigil in case he takes it upon himself to try to organise my life for me. Which he’ll do at any opportunity. Or unplugs the HDMI cable connecting this machine, and the TV, which took me an hour of grappling and contortion to get into place. It’s a trait of the Vietnamese which the Thais don’t have. They ( seem to ) feel like it’s their prerogative to give you advice and directions, whether you ask for them or not. I put up with it from the apartment owners ‘cos the place is the best I’ve been in here, and the rent is reasonable. From others, I’ve felt like telling them to shove it, but so far have managed to keep my mouth shut. The VN are lovely people who’ll go out of their way to help, but they’re also martial, and they don’t take shit. Getting into a shouting match with one would end badly for me, I imagine.

So with the recovering from the accident, I’m spending way too much time horizontal on the couch, watching video content. Which isn’t such as bad thing, but I get the old Proddy restlessness and guilt if I achieve nothing for the day. At the least, I’m soaking up the Vitamin D by sunning myself on the balcony, to try to compensate for long periods indoors with the aircon on.

OK, this is a getting a bit ‘day in the life’, so I’ll take off now, and hope to hear from you soon.



The Kindness of Vietnamese

I continued yesterday being the brunt of typical Vietnamese kindness.

They generally won’t suffer affronts, but many or most Vietnamese will go out of their way to help out.

A case in point was yesterday’s visits to hospital to get my ankle patched up after the latest bike accident.

First of all, my good friend Henry continued his long track record of helping me out by giving up most of his day to ferry me to and from the hospital, and to translate the doctors for me.

After the usual long dither I decided on the plaster option ( ~2 million VND vs. ~50 million VND for surgery ) , after the doctors told me I could make a full recovery that way – it would just take longer.

By mid-afternoon the nurse was ready, again with Henry in attendance.

Her first move had been some artful editing of my condition, to save me 600,000 VND, reducing the fee from $2 million.

Then, I made sure to get my bleating in about how UNcomfortable the ‘half plaster’ had been, and my recommended improvements for the full plaster.

I was vindicated, sort of, when she removed the old plaster, to reveal a wound which wasn’t healing, and bruising on my shin, and upper calf muscle from an ill-fitting first cast.

Then she patiently ignored my whimperings and complaints, to produce a cast which – at a stretch – qualifies as a work of art.

First, it has a breathing hole on the top of the instep, so the wound can be dressed and re-bandaged, if necessary.

Then she made ample room at the top of the cast to allow some movement and avoid bruising. And there’s plenty of toe wiggle room, which will help avoid total atrophy.

Then. via Henry, she has offered to come to my digs in a day or three to check, and re-dress, the wound. Henry also told me I’d gotten special treatment, because hospital staff are keen to make a good impression on foreigners.

For a fee, of course, but that’s all hunkydory, as was the entire caper. I wish I’d dithered less, and gone for the cast earlier.

I’ll be wearing it for around 8 weeks, by all accounts.

So it’s back to a version of lock-down. The school year, and job, ended June 29, so no full-time work. So, it’s lots of Netflix, and some online teaching to keep my hand in, and for some pocket money.

All going very well, I may in a week or five make a long-awaited trip to Dalat, the inland, high-elevation holiday spot.