Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Not just any spa day

As promised, my Vietnamese words of the day are 6 to 10. My accountant friend has started testing me on the drive to work in the morning, to make sure I have learnt them, so I wouldn’t want to disappoint.

6 sounds like sow. 7 baay, where the tone goes up and then down when you pronounce the word. 8 is tam, which goes up. 9 sound like cheen. 10, is the most difficult and each time I have said it today they all burst into a fit of giggles, it sounds like muh eye, where the tone goes down.

Today was, I think, the strangest day yet for many of us.

I was originally going to tell you about the work I have been doing with my client, but think I may save that for another day, once I have loaded the photos which I have taken of the site. It takes me back to a temp job I had before joining IBM, when I worked at the GNER Craigentinny train depot in Edinburgh. Archie, Billy and the rest of the boys would be pretty proud of me, right now, I think.

After surviving lunch with my client and his family, which today consisted of more molluscs, the additional delicacy of boiled octopus and of course beer swigging, all the women IBMers were invited to join Monica’s client at her marketing company later on in the afternoon. I must just add at this point that one of my team mates (not naming any names) has to resort to rice wine shots at lunch in order to survive her family meals, so it’s not just me!

Once the 4 women IBMers and our translators arrived at the office, we were whisked away by our host on a magical mystery tour. We were treated to an afternoon at one of the up market spas in Hai Phong. I know, what you are thinking, aren’t they supposed to be working while they’re in Vietnam?! Let me tell you, this was not just any girlie spa day. I can certainly appreciate what celebrities must feel like when their lives are scrutinised under a microscope by the press. While lying there on adjacent massage tables enjoying our facials, the room filled with at least 20 other women each armed with a camera or video camera. Our skin was publicly analysed and commented on. During which I discovered that freckles are not considered an attractive feature in Vietnam. I will not share the comments made about the other IBMers as that is their story to tell. Anyway, following this 2 hour session, which surprisingly turned out to be quite relaxing, we were asked by the spa’s manager (a friend of our host) to advise her on ways of attracting new customers to her spa. We ended up staying there for another couple of hours discussing business, before we were taken to a local street vendor for some noodles with broth. Throughout the whole experience the 4 of us (myself from the UK, 1 from Poland, 1 from the US and 1 from Spain) could not stop giggling. Apart from laughing and smiling, what else could we do in this situation? Having only just met each other properly, a couple of days ago, I don’t think I have bonded with any other IBM colleagues as quickly as these ladies.

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