December 9, 2006

Good Morning Vietnam (whether you like it or not)!

I felt like someone had put my head inside a drum and started to pound on it.

I had spent a sleepless first night in Hanoi, battling with Jonathan for the barely large enough sheet, listening to the incessant honking of motorscooters on the street, hearing the clanking of the airconditioner, and sleeping with my head underneath a towel to block the hurricane force wind directed at my head from the ceiling fan above. I finally fell asleep, earplugs snugly in, at what felt like 5:59 am.

At 6 am, on the dot, a woman’s voice began blaring in Vietnamese. The Voice was everywhere inside the room, bouncing off the walls. I was so startled that I jumped out of bed and peeled back the curtains to look on the streets, expecting maybe a bomb threat, crazed pedestrians running in all directions. Instead, all I saw were some bleary eyed vendors, sitting uneventfully on the side of the street. I tried to identify where the horrible voice was coming from, but couldn’t see anything. This went on and on, until the Voice was replaced with some truly terrible upbeat muzak.

I was furious. I was out of my mind and in a sleep deprived rage – anything to stop it. Jonathan, with his earplugs, stunningly didn’t hear anything. I looked out in the hallway, seeing if any hotel staff were around, but no one was in sight. I gave up and sat miserably in my room until 7, when the thing mercifully stopped.

Later on, I found out it was the “Voice of Vietnam”, spewed from loudspeakers mounted on telephone poles all througout Vietnam, courtesy of your friendly Communist party. It turns out there was a loudspeaker about 10 feet from our room. When I asked the hotel staff what was going on, he seemed surprised that I was so startled by it, it was so commonplace. This particular morning, he informed me, was a message telling people to wake up, be virtuous on the weekend, to clean their houses, and get a start on the day!

One more reason to be grateful for living in a democratic nation…

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