It’s funny how your life changes in little ways in another culture. Like the Vietnamese locals, I shut down from 11:30 am until 1:00 pm, taking an hour or two naps, and then shaking off the sleepiness with a quick shower and some nibbles.
I’m frequently surprised at how well I sleep these days in one of the noisy countries in the world. Now, I have to confess that being totally deaf in one ear does help, yet my blissful snoozes didn’t always go so smoothly. Other aids include my status as a single man – no kids to jump on my bed at 5:00 am in the morning, no girlfriend to push me out of bed to let the dog do his business outside. Living alone can be a luxury in Vietnam.
This gives me advantages such as enabling me to divide the day into morning chores and afternoon work sessions, followed by early evening pig-out sessions in local restaurants then more work and entertainment options until 1:00 am or 2:00 am – then more sleep!
The interruptions to a good forty winks can vary substantially depending your location: mid-city or semi-rural, near a karaoke palace or a late-night Vietnamese bar (many bars couldn’t really be called ‘bars’ – just too sleazy with vulture-like taxi boys following your every movement) or neighbors with that early morning need to use a hammer.
Living near a bustling market that kicks off from 5:00 am doesn’t help either; nor does any proximity to construction sites, truck routes or chaotic school drop-off zones. You might think that living on the eighth floor avoids most dramas. However, Vietnamese families have the odd habit of shouting at each other in a room no bigger than a car. Deafness? Possibly. Although I tend to think it’s more about shouting over the top of the other person to win a pre-dawn argument. Ever notice how mothers-in-law use this tactic early in the day?
Although this usually means arousing from my slumber while it’s still dark in the morning, I do get the handiness of uninterrupted Internet speeds and quietly and calmly going through my ‘to do’ list without intrusions from other occupants of the house. Mind you, the dog does give me the ‘hard stare’ to point out his insatiable hunger and if I don’t do something about it, then there will be trouble.
When I first settled into my house in Hoi An, I was surrounded by farmers, carpenters, and gardeners so the rooster crowing in the morning was hard to get used to. Nowadays the chicken’s background cackling just doesn’t register on my mind, nor does the early morning unsupervised release of the neighborhood dogs yapping and barking their way up and down the street. Even the husband inside yelling to his wife who’s outside slowly sweeping the pavement has become a background blur to my ears.
My Vietnamese friends make me laugh with their complaints about trying to get to sleep. As I’ve pointed out again and again, they should stop drinking Red Bull late at night and switch off their phones – a suggestion that’s often met with outrage. How can I live without knowing what’s going on? Dude…stop asking your boyfriend on the phone after midnight what he’s doing, where he's been and who he’s been talking to… I suspect that might be one secret to a long-lasting relationship.
One thing that really assists my shuteye these days is the wide availability of good bedding and seriously fluffy pillows – I’ve got a lot. With my good ear buried in the soft huge pillows, I could sleep through anything.
I’ve spent good money on making sure my dozing is as comfortable as possible, no backaches, aching necks or pains in my shoulders from lousy pillows and my housekeeper frequently asking me when I’m going to throw out the old stuff so she can grab it. It’s not the old moldy pillows that she wants – it’s the pillowcases – they are pure cotton or linen, the stuff of dreams for a poor lady with kids and a grouchy father sleeping on the floor.
Yep, I sleep like a champion, particularly after a long evening session of watching anime, many beers, and a decent pizza. When you live in a country that exposes you to so many stresses and strains when dealing with the world, sleep is the ultimate cure; no wonder the Vietnamese can sleep through anything, anytime, anywhere.
Now excuse, me… It’s time for a catnap!