After something like 2.75 years in Vietnam, I'm taking the low road back to civilisation.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

#1 The first 72 hours of 2010.

Note* This was drafted months ago and appears here in - more or less - it's original form. I need to close out this countdown so I can concentrate on updating people with what has been happening and is planned for the coming months.

Am I cheating by quoting a period of 3 days? Don't care. By paraphrasing the modern philosopher Tassell "It's a vibe". December was undoubtedbly the most depressed I have ever been. On crutches, my comeback on two legs- particularly on the football field- shattered, and facing a year out of football, never to play for my team again was bad enough but upon our return from a fantastic stag weekend in Phuket, I slumped to a new low. A not inconsiderable number of friends were voicing their displeasure for Saigon, the recent parallel that I had drawn with Thailand, facing what could well be our last complete family Xmas plus a very sombre juncture in time all conspired to make mid December such a difficult time for me.

However, I made a couple of people share my baggage, and things began to look up. Things certainly took a positive spin at the Apollo Xmas party, and I looked forward to New Year with genuine lust for life. An intimate house party for those Apollo-ites who were working on the evening of the 31st was held at our house. Of course, we subsequently hit TNR (which had never smelled better) where, in a throwback to the first time I met Casey, everyone was having a good old bug-eyed time and the celebrations eventually wound up at... forgotten the name of the cafe upstairs on Do Quang Dao... when life for the Saigonese had begun yet another ordinary day. And for me, 2010 brought a fresh new beginning which enabled me to really embrace my final months in SE Asia.

Without getting too publicly soppy, Hana was (without being too literal) the one thing about Saigon I am taking away with me. And the best thing. I mean, I love my Phuket Spicy 7's winner's medal, don't get me wrong. Again, I'm at risk of harping on about the Raiders, but my piece on them has come and gone. Raiders are in my past and Hana is in my future. Wherever the hell that will take place!

#2 Saigon Raiders

Saigon Raiders could well dominate this list, predominantly because every Sunday up until I started breaking my leg and several occasions afterwards was a tremendously enjoyable parallel to a working week where I was putting myself in front of uninspiring students all for what was certainly one of the lowest ex-pat salaries in the city... especially when I was afforded the chance to become a first choice midfielder in a competitive 11's team for the first time since my reproductive system had kicked into gear. (Why I am rambling about my balls at this point I'm not quite sure...) However, tours were the highlights of my time with Saigon Raiders and those were not Saigon based memories, so I will omit those. I could name my record breaking goal after only 8 seconds against LDC. And for a shameless plug, I will. If you haven't heard of or were privileged enough to have seen that goal, then watch Tshabalala's goal for South Africa against Mexico and you will see a pretty close approximation of the only competitive goal of my Raiders career. Except mine was a sweeter strike since the ball was a few yards outside the box, and he’s probably a bit better with his left foot than I. (I went on to score a handful, but as Facebook shows, those were hardly on a par with the (ultimately meaningless) goal against LDC). We lost 2-1.

So what memory am I going for? Due to injuries, it’s been such a long time since I played seriously in Vietnam that I'm struggling here. This is the first of the ten memories I have written at length about and I have already chosen this as number 2 without having decided on a memory!

However Saigon Raiders 20th anniversary weekend was a suitably appropriate farewell for me, combining an awards night, the Champions league final and a challenge match made up of My Whites against Miquels Reds with around 30 Raiders past and present participating. Had I not picked up an award on the Saturday night and captained my team to a 5-1 victory against Miquel, then there's a chance I would have picked another memory. Not so.

If I never again turn out in the red and white then I will be astonished – Unless that is because Fraser succeeds in changing the kit colour to black and white stripes - I fully expect to feature for them once again in the future, most likely on tour in Thailand.

#3 Mariko’s announcement.

Mariko's announcement shortly after my leg break was something that will (or rather will not) live with me for a long time. I’m not airing my dirty laundry here so no comments please.

#4 Dave's wedding/stag do and the discovery of Weissbier

The weeks surrounding Dave’s marriage to Hue provided me with several good memories and discoveries. The stag do in Phuket cannot feature in this list, but the wedding itself was a very emotional and memorable occasion.

It was around this time that I had discovered Weissbier, which was the greatest discovery of 2009. I had experimented with Erdinger before, but it was HB that got me hooked in the latter stages of the year and increased my expenditure on beer by at least 150%. I have pretty much sussed out the availability of the different brands in Edinburgh now, but have to limit my spending on the cloudy stuff sometime soon.

The groom’s speech reflected his penchant for - in addition to his new bride of course - the written word and Microsoft Powerpoint. It was a unique speech, delivered bilingually in part, that exceeded my estimated length, and lost me 50k. Give a task like a groom’s speech to someone who is as fond of writing down his thoughts, memories and feelings as Dave is, and you will get a lengthy speech, but despite Khalid and Les’s assertions that a speech should be finished within 20 seconds, Dave’s was kept engaging for all by the inclusion of readings in Vietnamese of thanks and joy to his bride’s family (a quick look around would see the Vietnamese listening intently, and the ex-pats mouthing along silently). Normally, if you give the big man a microphone for that length of time, you will see him steadily deteriorate into shambolic slurred state of drunkenness for as long as he can maintain the majority of the quizmaster’s essential skills of reading, speaking, focusing his eyes (on something, anything) and avoiding mashing the keyboard with his elbow to the detriment of the presentation. A once in a lifetime chance to see him come away from an amplified stage more sober than he was when he started, but considerably more glassy eyed.

The Holmes’s guest list demonstrated a challenge that, under very different circumstances, I have faced and which has on several occasions put me off organizing shindigs. Helping everyone get along. On a night out you can just stick to little self contained groups. The difference being of course, that at a wedding the guests you invite cannot be excluded and then invited to another bash so there’s little room for creative omission.

Seemingly at Ben and Rachel's wedding at the same location some months before, Ian and me got into a bit of a aggro with each other over some throwaway comment I made that neither of us can actually recall. The result of which being that when us boys went up to the bar to sort out some shots, those of us with partners seemed to invoke a no shot or no sex for a month rule, as Ronnie and Rachel were able to kill Ian and Ben's enthusiasm for hitting the shorts in the blink of an eye.

However, Ronnie couldn't stop the blood from flowing as Kerry leapfrogged Liam and sent her chin into a very solid object and had to be escorted off to the hospital for stitches.

A fantastic day, tinged with disappointment only at Chris Marsek and wife walking out in the middle of Dave’s speech. Shame on you Marseks.