My Shorts #1: The Brief Stories You Don't Usually Hear About
When I hopped onto that first flight from Vancouver to Guangzhou, China (part 1 of a 3 leg flight to Koh Samui, Thailand) I was pretty confident that I would miss home, but not its comforts. The people, the culture, the Canadian climate - all things that I knew I'd miss - but I didn't think I'd miss much else.
I didn't think I'd miss specific foods, like mac & cheese, pan fried cod, or a solid eggs benny with hashbrowns. I figured as long as the food was healthy, tasted decent, and didn't break the bank, I'd be good to go. I was wrong.
I didn't think that clothing would be a problem. I've always had a simple style: simply wanting fabrics that are practical, pieces that fit well, have a bit of stretch, and don't make me sweat like a mad man (which isn't overly hard for me...I swear I burn hotter than the average human). I sold or gave away over 70% of what I owned, thinking that I'd simply buy suitable clothing here. Again, I was wrong.
What is it that people say about making assumptions? Well, they've never caused me (or anyone else) to be an ass, but they have led me into some different (read 'awkward, humourous, painful, annoying) situations...situations which I figured it's time to share with you fine folk.
So I give you 'My Shorts', volume 1 :)
Asian Diet vs. Western Diet
The Asian diet led to some immediate weight loss. I always ate healthy in Canada but struggled to lose that last 10-15 pounds. Turns out that the culprit was probably breads, as there isn't a whole lot of it in on the menu around here.
Currently, I'm at 215 lbs (which is pretty lean for me) and around 12-14% body fat. The problem was that my remaining wardrobe was suited for a 230 lbs version of myself. So when you put your phone in your shorts pocket and the weight of it makes them slide off, you know it's time for new clothes.
But does Vietnam have clothing that's suitable? Not really.
Their sizing is very different. In Canada, I'd be between a Medium and a Large right now. Here, even the XL's don't fit right, and shopping in the Western stores (with inflated Western prices) is only going to be a last resort.
So I decided to find a local tailor and simply get my current wardrobe altered.
The Half-Naked Foreigner
I asked my friend Trung (who's from Ha Long) if he knew a guy. Of course, he said yes. So we hopped on the bike and drove off, winding through some random streets and small markets that I had never seen before.
We pulled over at one market and Trung spoke with an older Vietnamese lady who told us to go to her husband instead, who was back at their home (he's more experienced with men's clothing, apparently). So we drove through a small alleyway and pulled up to this random house (how Trung knew exactly where it was, I still don't know, as I'm pretty sure the lady didn't give us an address).
We walked into a dimly lit traditional home with tile floors, uncomfortable looking wooden furniture, an old sewing machine with a work light angled over it, and an open space with a mat on the floor and a large mirror. This is the space where, in less than 2 minutes, I would be directed to strip down and try the clothes on.
Now I'm not exactly a young boy who's too self-conscious to change in front of the other boys, but this setup was a tad different. The tailors young son was there and seemed quite interested to watch what was about to unfold. Then there was the crowd of locals drinking tea just outside the home, who had a direct line of sight to the foreigner attraction. Finally, there was the tailor who didn't speak a word of English and was poking and prodding me in every place that needed altering. Every. Place.
Altered Clothes and Alligator Wine
When the poking and prodding had finally come to an end, we negotiated a price (Trung talked, I listened) and we were off, with instructions to return at the same time the next day. I left with little to no idea about what to expect, but I trusted Trung and he trusted the guy so I figured it has to turn out decent.
The next day I went back for round two of poking and prodding, this time with the altered clothing. I was happily surprised. The guy clearly knew what he was doing and, despite the language barrier, he understood what I needed and was even able to make some last minute changes right there on the spot.
(What I haven't written about is the two glass jars of fermented baby alligators and toads that he had on his coffee table. All I know is that some Vietnamese men drink it because they believe it gives them strength, vitality, etc. I did not partake. I'll try to grab a picture next time).
With such a great turnout, I went back to him two weeks later with more of my clothes, and in 24 hours he had completed all of the changes that I needed. In total, he has altered 3 pairs of shorts, 4 shirts, and one pair of pants for me, all for only 400,000 VND (around $25 CAD). Only my Aunt would give me a better deal than that ;)
Hooray for New Experiences
Ok, so this one wasn't that short. But hey, hooray for new experiences, right? Travel isn't about ticking countries and continents off your list, it's about seeing and experiencing the different aspects of our world and learning/growing as much as possible through it all.
But yeah, let's keep the next one brief. Until then...