Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Moment From Vietnam

First, a little backstory:  There is a "narrative team" at Bigpoint - basically a bunch of creative writers that work on the story and setting elements of our games (jealous is me).  These narrative designers put on a write-in once a month where we all get together and do some writing exercises; you know, get the creative juices going. Well, one of the exercises from the last write-in was to write about a specific scene from our past in a foreign place, with as much detail as possible.  So... the scene I picked was eating breakfast at the corner noodle shop on our street in Vietnam.  I felt like it came out pretty good!  And it described a bit about life in Vietnam that I don't want to forget, so I've recorded it here.  Consider it a snapshot of a typical morning on Le Duan street in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Note:  I've tried to clean it up a bit (it was in bad shape since it was a hand-written exercise), but it still reads a bit "stream-of-conscience-like".  

I am sitting at the corner soup restaurant on Le Duan where we live in Da Nang.  I say "restaurant" liberally of course.  Like most eating locations in Da Nang, it's little more than some plastic chairs and tables set up on a patch of concrete.  This location happens to have an awning made from palm fronds and old advertisement banners, held up by what looks like the trunks of small trees that had been cut down and stripped of bark.  Also typical for such places, the cook is a middle-aged woman, clothed in the Vietnamese jumpsuit that looks so much like pajamas.  The ground is filthy - covered with discarded food bits from previous customers.  This is not alarming, as it is the custom to put garbage & unwanted food under the table.  The plastic tables and chairs are low to the ground and anything but sturdy.  An American might think they were children's play things, but it's what everyone sits on in places like this.  The plastic of the tables & chairs is a red color that used to be as bright as a fire engine, but has taken on a dingy, stained quality over the years.  Mold and constant moisture is not kind to such things.  If you pay enough attention you can smell the moist, organic scent of mold in the air almost anywhere in the city, but here it's more difficult because it is masked by so many other scents.  The "bun bo" cooking in the pot, the pickled chalets in the jar on the table, exhaust from the occasional passing motorbike, the dust from the road, the dog who romaed beneath the table looking for scraps, and even the unwashed bodies of the local workmen that walked past or sat down for a meal.  There are no dust motes in the air.  The air is much too moist for that - so full of moisture that the sunlight is a bit hazy.  On mornings like these, someone from a dry climate with harsh lighting (like myself) might question whether it was actually cloudy or not.  Despite the filtered light, the heat is rising.  The hot soup is not helping with the sweat that is starting to accumulate on my back.  My helmet and shoulder bag are sitting on the chair next to me.  The scattering of locals around the restaurant send occasional looks my way.  I think I am somewhat of a novelty.  The woman cooking the soup smiles at me when I look at her.  She's seen me many times before and welcomes my business.  Her daughter is sitting nearby with a shirtless todler.  The baby stares at me with fascination.  I don't look like the people he usually sees.  The air is full of sounds.  Locals talking in their peculiar Vietnamese chatter, the hum of motorbikes on the busy "beach road" down the street, and the more harsh buzz of those passing by the shop. Wet and shirtless men pass occasionally from the direction of the beach. The dog is not very interested in me.  He is skittish and only dares look at me from afar. I fear he is not treated well.  He also doesn't seem to like the unidentified bits of animal flesh I drop on the ground for him.  He must not trust them either.  They look a bit like organ meat - maybe spleen? - but really, who knows?  There is a smaller dog too, it looks less like a tall fox and more like an overgrown squirrel.  They play together sometimes, but spend most of their time looking for food.  Understandable since they are so thin.

Okay well... that's the story!  Enjoy.  And here are some more random pics of Vietnam.  Just to set the mood. I wish I could find one of our street, but I can't seem to locate it.  Oh well.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Hamburg: First Impressions

Hey there readers (who am I kidding, there's what - 3 of you?  Maybe?  Ha ha ha).  We've lived in Hamburg for almost 3 months now, and we've taken a lot of pictures.  Hamburg is a super beautiful place full of wonder and rainbows and fairies... the last of which is undocumented, but I KNOW it's true. So here's some pictures, and some explanations:

We moved to an area south of Hamburg city-center (across the river) called Harburg.  It's got very convenient shopping, a lot of ethnic diversity, and is located right next to a giant park.  We live on the 3rd floor (German - which means 4th floor American - check out the pic of the stairs, it's no easy climb).

This is a picture of some of the buildings on our street.  It's very "classic" looking, even though it's not the nicest neighborhood.

Are here are some pics from the parks near our house.  There are tons of tiny frogs everywhere, and rabbits too.

Here is the "Hauptbahnhoff" - the central train station.  I go through it every day to get to work, as do soooooo many other people (it can get pretty crazy in there). :)

Downtown Hamburg has a lot of historical amazing buildings (even though most of them had to be rebuilt after being destroyed during WWII), and is chuck-full of canals and other beauties.  Feast your eyes!

Hamburg Rathaus (town hall)

A huge church near Rathaus.

Inside the Rathaus courtyard

A pretty little area of Hamburg called Rodingsmarkt

This is a funny thing they do in Germany - couples will inscribe their names, and sometimes cheezy romantic stuff on a lock and clamp it to a bridge.  Some bridges are really popular and have hundreds and hundreds of locks!  It's a step above spraypainting "Sam + Jamilla" on the subway wall (though, that happens too. :) ). 

A crazy-looking building near St. Michael's church

Even the Starbucks looks old and classy (this is a starbucks...)

And now - St. Michael's church!  Aptly named after me - it's patron saint.

(I have no idea what this Easter Island head is all about.  Easter... religious holiday... huge church...? Seems like a stretch to me.)

This area of town is called the Spiekerstadt - it's the old "Warehouse district" for Hamburg.  Super pretty and cool-looking.  It should be a Mecca for all the steam-punk denizens of the world - it's very turn-of-the-century industrial.  The rooftops are just CRYING for a dirigible to land on top.  

AND... the best part... they have this awesome thing where they make ice cream that looks like spaghetti. Oh man... vanilla noodles, strawberry sauce, and white chocolate "cheese" on the top.  Whoa.