He called for his friends with much commotion. Shit, there are five of them and only two of us. One is intimidating. Five is a nightmare. Waves of fear wash over us. We feel vulnerable. It is dusk, and the road back to our Vietnamese jungle hut leads over a desolate sandy path. There is no one around to offer us help. To our left is an abandoned building. An open field with a gate to our right. ‘Shit, the gate is open,’ I warn my girlfriend. They close in rapidly. We vow to show no fear.
Barking loudly, the entire troop is directed towards our bare ankles by the pack leader. The dog’s bark is worse than its bite, goes the saying. But those are the words of the survivors. What if those who invented the expression did not have the correct statistics? There is nothing we can do. The local stray dogs are known for their aptitude for running, climbing and swimming. My swimming certificate and yellow belt in Judo pose no threat. The only weapon you have is the mind game. Assert dominance but no aggression—a delicate balance. Dozens of people perish from rabies, which is transferred through dog bites, in Vietnam each year.
It is dusk, and the road back to our Vietnamese jungle hut leads over a desolate sandy path. There is no one around to offer us help
Every time, the switch is intense. Having a nice cocktail, a ride in a tuk-tuk, chilling on the beach and then – Oh shit, a dog, will I get rabies? How do I get life-saving antiserum within twenty-four hours? Your happy vacation mood is rudely interrupted. Our run-in with the pack of stray dogs ended without incident. We trudged on, and the dogs continued to bark until we left their vast, self-claimed territory.
Vietnamese women swim in a one-piece bathing suit, preferably covered by a long-sleeved t-shirt
Compared to our standards, Vietnamese dress more conservatively. Vietnamese women never swim in a bikini, for example. They swim in a one-piece bathing suit, preferably covered by a long-sleeved t-shirt. Could it be that they have something against bare ankles, much like Europeans of the Victorian era?
It is wonderful to return to the safe, free, and bikini-wearing community of Wageningen. The Vietnamese enjoying the beach have been exposed to our less conservative clothing standards. They may look down upon them or benefit from the experience. Or does this mean I am falling into an age-old neo-colonial pattern? That is food for my next column.
Steven is doing a Master’s degree in Economics and Policy and enjoys hitting the squash court. He is always up for a game of squash and a good conversation. You can email him here.