welcome to the haikutimes

Issue #92, Hoi An, Vietnam, July 9-10, 2004

the early morning
boat from cat ba to haiphong
disturbs those who float overnight,
everynight, in fishing boats
wrapped in blue plastic over
metal hoops,
heading back
to the shore when needed
in small rowboats,
the majority of their time spent
bobbing out there in the bay,
looking around,
trawling with hand nets,
being one with the water
as it surrounds them in
a summer deluge, fat drops hitting
the glassy muddy pearl surface
of the south china sea.

speed boat to haiphong
vietnamese mtv
provides bad sound track

cheesy video
so sappy and serious
boat lists too and fro

in restaurants, on boats
vietnam mesmerized by
synthesized beats

to be lost
in a strange new city!
lonely planet map doesn't help
nor do insistent people selling us stuff
nor does the rain,
nor do the foghorns from somewhere
over there by the shipyard.

i relax in between transitions
to sensitive vietnamese singers
on vietnamese mtv.
not sure of what to do
we agree to be taken to
the tourist office by rickshaw.

it is raining,
we are crammed in the rickshaw together
and when we get to the right street
there is no tourist office,
just a few blocks more of confusion.
we take a taxi to the train station
where the trains are booked
until tomorrow.

the airline office is nearby,
so we decide to buy
a plane ticket to danang
but to do that we have to
get back to hanoi
which means finding the bus station -
no small feat, but now
we have a map, four blocks away,
and after cashing in some
travelers checks we find the station
and are quickly ushered into a tight van
and begin 60 km of anxious travel
the van driven by
a testosterone-filed vietnamese
driver who honks,
not once in awhile,
but all the time.

why not just keep it going?
screeching slow-downs
in the left lane for trucks
who themselves are passing mopeds
and that other, larger tour bus
who creeps up behind us,
honking for us to
get out of the way.
what affront! a battle of egos begins
and does not get any better

but we survive

friendly young ladies
whose immediate impulse seems
to be conversation
but her larger motive
addressing the economic inequality
between us and her aunt, who sews
clothing for a living,
and we who appear
to be traveling for a living.

turong family chapel
quiet pervades
tv blares

chapel faces west
the souls of the dead people
have a place to go

umbilical cord
buried with the placenta
in family garden

lady with black teeth
with basket of potatoes
singing sales song

logjam of styles
roofing from china, japan
and vietnam

internet cafe
the changing face of culture
alongside rickshaw

curse of those with cash
to be hassled while walking
from all directions

above handkerchief
eyeballs firmly fixed on me
as she rides by

moped frenzy -
but seen through eyes of natives,
moped ecstasy

i would rather be
trouristing with all its trials
than fighting in war

cousin with cancer
back home in america
i cry in hoi an

clear disparity
yet we are of the same stock
i smile, say, no, thanks

to think that i used to wait
weeks for a letter!

survival comes first
paint peels, sidewalks crumble
just the way it is

solo/group kukai
jonathan machen