We've been here a week now, and are settling into some sort of routine, though I do my best to fight it at times. A professor who was here in the class cycle before this one bought a bicycle, and the husband had it brought to the hotel for my use. Consider, though, the photos I've posted of the streets here as well as the fact that the last time I rode a bicycle other than a stationary one at the gym was here, three years ago. I had plans yesterday of biking to a tiger-fighting arena I want to see that's a couple miles out in the country. It was all I could do to bike around the oddly shaped block on which the hotel sits. The seat on the bike was a bit low, only the front brake worked well, and my daypack wasn't conducive to balancing comfortably. It also occurred to me that I had not mapped out a way out of town on anything but the main street. Though it may surprise some people, I occasionally do the sensible thing which in this case was save the ride for another day when I feel better prepared. Instead, I took a walk.
Every two years there's a major festival here, and this year it falls while we're here. I'm still trying to figure out how I feel about that given that it will totally change the character of this wonderful city. The locals are quite excited about it, though. When I mentioned to a shopkeeper that I had plenty of time to buy souvenirs later because we were here for a month, she eagerly asked if that included Festival. When I said it did, she smiled broadly and said she would be looking for me in the crowd. You can see more about Hue Festival here, including a video of highlights of previous festivals. The husband has been charged with finding out a complete schedule of events and how one might obtain tickets to them.
Preparations are well underway for the festival. I do expect that's why we've seen port-a-potties introduced here (more on this subject soon). It's also why they're doing a banner job of fixing holes in some of the more frequently traveled sidewalks and, as I discovered yesterday, putting up viewing stands at places where events will occur. Something will obviously be happening in front of the Imperial Monument, for example. Hue Festival runs from 7 April to 15 April, and since we are leaving on 16 April, we will be here for all of it. Stay tuned for details.
Being something of a data nerd, I've been keeping track of various things. See this picture? What I didn't include was the cyclo driver relieving himself just to the right. Public urination has evidently become something of a problem and not just in Hue. One of the English-language newspapers from Ho Chi Minh City had an article about it as an issue there. So, a week into our stay here, the public urination count stands at eight. Seven of those have been males, and one was a female. Most, including the female one, were under the cloak of darkness. It's not as if we search these out either, though I will admit that the way we walk to the neighborhood in which we usually eat lunch and dinner does not go down highly-populated, well-lit streets.
Three years ago, we amused ourselves at meals by noting the number of geckos on walls of restaurants, both indoor and outdoor ones. We haven't seen as many this time. The count after one week is only six, one of them furry. Yes, as we sat at a table on the porch on one restaurant, I watched a furry gecko climb a drainpipe behind the husband's head, and we both watched as it then scurried across to the other side of the porch on a pipe perpendicular to the first. The husband maintains it was a large mouse, while I insist it was a small rat. We saw some of its friends or relatives last night, peering out at us from a sewer opening, which is a bit more of where we'd expect to see them than on the albeit outdoor wall of a restaurant.
Finally, the count of incredibly useful things we wish we could bring home is at one, this water-heating pot. We pour in a small bottle of water, and before the two envelopes of instant coffee (which is better than any instant I've had in the States) can be emptied into the two cups, the water is boiling and afternoon coffee is served. I know that someone will comment that they have these contraptions in the States as well and that we're behind the times by only now discovering them here. What can I say? This is one part of a daily routine I do not intend to fight.