My latest column for The Word is proof, if you hadn’t realised it already, that being married to a strong Vietnamese woman gives you plenty of material to write.
My wife suggests I buy an Air Blade. A friend of hers has one.
“You could put your shopping under the seat.”
I don’t do any shopping. I’m not trusted to do shopping. I’d apparently only pay too much.
I put my foot down. If we’re talking automatics I definitely don’t want a Honda SH. They’re universally driven by morons. The Honda asSHole: for people with an SUV attitude but not quite the money to back it up. The Honda SHithead. I could go on.
Read it in full here. Click the pic of the Word to download the full magazine.
Yesterday my wife received a call from an Australian lady she didn’t know, who had a “business proposition” to put to her.
Strangely this isn’t unusual. People call my wife about stocking her produce. Sometimes they call because there’s an outlet they think she might consider opening a new cafe. My wife has assisted foreigners in business who need a Vietnamese go-between to assist with the bureaucracy minefield. She has a reputation for absolute honesty and as someone who can be trusted.
Tomorrow I am meeting a local young exec who contacted me via LinkedIn to discuss us working together on a PR project.
Anyway, my wife was due to meet at 10 but staffing levels at The Cart were low so she had to get up at 6.30am to open up, later when a staff member was delayed at home, she had to put the meeting back till 12. She asked me to come along. She didn’t want to miss it, she assumed it was important.
When we arrived at a suspiciously unflash hotel the lady we met asked Loan what she did. She had no information on her whatsoever and knew nothing of her cafes. ”You must have come because you are interested in making a change in your life,” she said.
No, WE came because YOU asked us to.
She mentioned NuSkin and I’d have left right then, except it was Loan’s meeting and I didn’t want to call the shots. She showed us impressive pictures of huge headquarters which she admitted hadn’t actually been built yet. Products she told us about were given magical powers – essentially stalling aging by re-engineering your genetics. It even improves your sex drive. Right.
Multi Level Marketing or call it what you like, straying over the line into less legal territory has cost Nu Skin in the past. Based in Utah, USA it’s no surprise that it has a strong Mormon backbone, and is a big contributor to Mitt Romney’s bid to become president.
There’s an interesting article on Mother Jones about them here and, in the Vietnam context, I thought this snippet was interesting:
TAHNS HAVE A JOKE about multilevel-marketing companies: MLM really stands for “Mormons Losing Money.” The notion of selling to one’s friends and neighbors is so intertwined with the culture that the final season of HBO’s Big Love featured an MLM subplot. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Utah has the highest concentration of such companies in the country.
There’s a reason why MLMs, many of which peddle natural health products like Nu Skin’s dietary supplements, have thrived there. Mormon scripture encourages the use of herbs as God’s medicine, and the faith has a strong tradition of turning to alternative medicine.
You can see why Vietnam might also been seen as fertile grounds for sales.
Okay here’s what bugs me. It’s clear that for the most part this company stays just about on the right side of the law. So I’m not claiming anything illegal is going down. But this cold call was infuriating. My guessing was my wife was targetted as an English speaking Vietnamese business woman. That was quite obviously all that was known about her. Nu Skin are listed on Am Cham. Frankly, as I have suspected before when I’ve had cold calls from “wealth management” companies, somebody we give our business cards too, in good faith, is selling phone numbers.
This was our Sunday, and we were scammed into driving across town to talk to this person. When I lived in Cameroon I complained that missionaries descended in numbers not because Africa was Godless, the opposite was the case, I’ve never known anywhere quite so religious.
It was targetted because it was naive. It was still ready to listen whereas those back home had smartened up.
My advice would be not to waste your time talking to them. I wish we hadn’t.
Finally, if you Google Nu Skin there are pages of overtly positive information about them that is so positively corporate it can’t possibly represent a cross section of real experience. They are quite obviously putting a lot of resources into gaming the internet and Google. Hopefully, as far as Vietnam is concerned this may redress the balance a little.
At least once a week a wayward tennis ball comes bouncing down our alley and as no one ever comes after them we’ve taken to picking them up.
Originally we thought we’d give them to friends’ kids or dogs but mostly they just clutter mantlepieces and shelves as their numbers grow.
Hey Sheraton, how many do we have to return to receive lobster buffets for two?
When I first came here in 2002 and then returned to work in 2004, one of the things I loved most about Vietnam was just how silly it was.
The longer I lived here the less comfortable I felt about giggling. The more Vietnam developed, the less silly it became.
But on occasions there are still reassuring outbreaks of daftness. Today we headed to Uma to spend some gift tokens. Downstairs was wall-to-wall china. To make matters worse, staff were constantly unloading new stock through the front door and whole aisles became blocked with boxes. At one point I found myself “walled in” and unable to move out of utensils.
Silly but not silly enough. Running around constantly, to add an extra obstacle was a tiny short-haired chihuahua (apologies for bad pic). At first I thought it belonged to some less-than-considerate customer, then as it stayed and they left, I presumed it had snuck in from the street. It was only when it jumped up at the cashier and she didn’t recoil that I realised it was the china shop’s chihuahua.
I like the fact that Vietnam can still be silly.
Then we transported a bag full of crockery home on the back of scooter at rush hour. Evidence that at least a little bit of the madness has rubbed off.
Virtually as soon as I pressed “publish” on the last post – which included that we’d so far avoided power cuts – the lights went out.
Having lent out our rechargeable fan we had little else to do but lie still and hope the room didn’t cool too rapidly from its previous air conditioning. Just as we’d reached the point of considering a cold bath, the power returned. We slept in air conditioned bliss.
Today I was to be Skype interviewed for a job that I want incredibly badly. With it set for 2pm my plan was breakfast, gym, two hours of further revising and then I’d switch on Skype and be cool, calm collected (and prepared) for whatever questions they could throw at me.
I returned from the gym sweating by 12. Minutes later the power went. Thinking that it’d be back, I sweated on with further revision somewhat curtailed.
I contacted them 30 minutes before the planned time explaining the problem. I suggested I could go to a cafe for the interview, but really didn’t want to do this – for obvious reasons.
When the power didn’t return they chose the cafe option.
I went upstairs to the flat above The Cart – where the internet barely reaches, there is no air con and the noise from the kitchen can be heard. It was either that or entertaining customers downstairs and competing with the espresso machine.
The fan didn’t work so I had to run back down to the ground floor to get another.
By the time the interview started I was already sweating. The Skype sound was so quiet I had to turn off the fan to hear. Then I had to put my face right up close to the screen just to catch anything – giving the interviewers the up close view of the sweat dripping off the end of my nose. Apparently the internet was so poor that on occasions the picture froze. I can only imagine my look of hot desperation stuck on their screens.
With every question, just as I searched for the right word or phrase I’d be distracted by another nose drip.
Then the internet went too.
Back up and down a couple of flights of stairs to check the router but no amount of resetting it appeared to work. Another dash back home to see if there was power yet (no) and then up to the bedroom to try and get a phone signal to call them.
The interview carried on by phone – which was all but out of power itself. We eventually called it a day 10 minutes in when no one could hear what the others were saying.
After five hour of dehydrating heat and frustration the power has just returned.
We’re completing the interview at 7.30pm tonight. I’ve a lot of ground to make up.
Please let the electricity hold out.
UPDATE: Power held out for evening interview which was done via a four way phone call. However, it was still very hard to hear and we kept losing people. On a couple of occasions I answered questions at length only to wonder if any one had heard anything. Beyond that I felt that in following up the hesitation of the earlier interview my intention to sound clear and concise just sounded aggressive. Not entirely sure at this point if the next round in KL has already been decided or whether I’ve blown it. Not feeling great about it right now.
UPDATE 2: Off to KL for next round of interview on Monday. Phew.