Saturday, July 18, 2009

Too many hamburgers

It's a running "joke" in Vietnam that Westerners are big and fat. I've heard some variation on this "joke" a dozen times and we've been here less than 48 hours. Okay, okay, so it's true, but is it really nice to say it all the time? Is it even funny? Don't giants have feelings too?

We went to the astonishing Cu Chi Tunnels today. It's profoundly strange to think that a significant and sad piece of American history transpired in this sweltering, beautiful, water-logged jungle crawling with massive centipedes. Forty years later, it seems unbelievably random.
Anyway, the tunnels. They're this mind-boggling network of TINY tunnels in which the Viet Cong soldiers traveled, lived, hatched battle plans, steamed tapioca, and devised awesome, hideous traps to maim and kill enemy soldiers. There's an extensive display of these ingenious traps with their sharpened bamboo spikes for impaling human bodies. American bodies. It's hard to know what to say when the guide gently asks you what you think. "Impressive" is probably the best answer.

Again, I digress. The tunnels. So, a guide got into one of the tunnel hatches to show us how the heroic VC used to slip down into the earth to evade the Americans. See above. Here's what it looks like an instant later, after he submerges himself and pulls the cover down: 

After he got out, we were encouraged to try it for ourselves. Reluctantly, after much cajoling, I climbed into the hole. And then I couldn't get out. It's not like I was STUCK, people! I just don't have the greatest upper body strength and I was in there up to my armpits. So another guide had to give me a little pull and then he made a joke to the crowd:  "Too many hamburgers!"




  1. Tipsy,

    I traveled to India recently to visit my in-laws. Unlike you, I am a woman of size (fat). I know I look different, and it's okay to look: I get that. But the outright sixty second stares I received everywhere we went was something else. Not friendly, either: no smiling when they were caught. Among other things, I did find it fascinating (in hindsight) to experience feeling like such an outsider, an alien almost, and to realize that there are citizens of this country who feel that way every day here. Usually my MO would be to tell people to f*** o**, but as you can imagine, I felt like I couldn't do that, for a variety of reasons, my in-laws being the largest one. Keep sending your posts; I am delighting in them. And maybe you have some leeway and can tell jerks to f*** o**: maybe at the end of your trip?

  2. Quite an account, Tipsy! The issue of Americans being big reminds me of a Chronicle dispatch from Beijing during the Olympics:
    "On the streets, if you are a big and/or tall foreigner, comb your hair. You will be the center of attention. ...

    "I climbed into the front seat of a taxi Friday and Chronicle teammate John Crumpacker shoehorned himself into the tiny back seat. The cabs are compact and Crumpacker is not. He's a powerful fellow, built like a nose tackle.

    "The cabbie laughed gleefully and stretched his arms wide, giving me the universal sign for, 'Is that a man or a refrigerator?'

    "Crumpacker smiled good-naturedly and the cabbie repeated the gesture for John, in case he had missed it.

    "Later we were on a subway and I noticed a man aiming his cell-phone camera at Crumpacker, snapping a photo."

  3. That's a very funny account, Smoyer, and Crumpacker sounds like a genial fellow!

  4. Ha Ha! You should have told him that you where a vegetarian and then see what he said! But you have to admit that it is kinda funny...=)