Logged out from news desk duties, former Witness photographer, Ian Carbutt, files his first ‘Diary of a Bootlegging Baldy’ from Da Nang in central Vietnam
First published by The Witness
“In the interest of safety please do not bring any Chinese ladies back to your flat”, the WhatsApp message from my landlady buzzed on the kitchen table.
Well that’s just great I thought. By law in Vietnam it’s illegal to bring a local lass back to your room anyway, so now the odds of me getting married under a palm tree and settling down in SE Asia have narrowed to near zero. The corona virus shutdown is going to be worse than I had anticipated.
I’m living in Da Nang, a city home to 1,2 million people in central Vietnam. Not unlike Durbs, it’s a coastal city famous for My Khe beach, where American soldiers first landed to start the beginning of the end. It stretches like a palm tree beach picture postcard in front of newly built high-rise hotels and apartments and it’s home to the dreaded expats. Hundreds of them. Mostly young South Africans armed and ready to teach wide eyed children how to say “Ja” and “eish” like a Souf Efrikin .
As the news of Vietnamese students trapped in Wuhan filtered over the border from China, talk on the street has become viral. But unlike South Africans, the Vietnamese are not fuelled by hysteria.
There have been rumours that Chinese tourists are being barred from booking into hotels and shops running out of face masks.
Generally, masks are everywhere. Piled high on street corners, in the entrance of all shop and hotel foyers and unfortunately many are used and discarded, lying on the streets and piled into refuse bins. A sneeze in the pub is like a bomb going off and friendly Chinese tourists are shunned like the plague. Nobody shakes hands. But other than that life goes on. Lifeguards paint their buoys, lovers walk down the embankment, children play in the sand, street vendors slice up juicy fruit and business people go to work. With face masks.
My landlady confronted me as I left the building last night and thrust a surgical mask into my hand. “You must wear this at all times,” she insisted. “Inside and out”.
The virus has not only put an end to my nocturnal pursuits but I now have figure out how to drink beer through a face mask. Eish!
Photos © Ian Carbutt
The following images are subject to copyright
Prayers for people of China
On the coronavirus, another Roving Reporters colleague, Robin Martin Channelor, writes: I live in China, and have been here for 865 days. Kathy Challenor and I are thus caught up in the sadness that is the corona virus.
We venture out of our apartment on our Ebikes only to buy food.
Non-essential businesses have closed. Bars and restaurants, and even some malls, have closed.
The medical authorities keep us updated on the virus through WeChat.
One aspect I have noticed is that people here respect the government and what officials are doing to combat the virus. There is faith in the government.
One aspect I do not care for is the racism and silliness that I read about the virus and China on global social media platforms.
If you are a father, please remember, so are about 500 million Chinese men. They are as concerned for their beloved families as you would be.
Chinese people are actually no different to anywhere else in the world. They love, they fall out of love. They are kind, and sometimes unkind. They try to improve their lives and sometimes they fail at that.
If you consider yourself a friend of mine, please pray for the people of China. And please read about the success the government has achieved over the past 40 years in helping to lift possibly six hundred million people out of poverty. Probably more. My expectation is that if the virus takes hold in other countries, the first people to step forward to help will be people from China. They will be kind, generous and thoroughly efficient. And when they invite you afterwards to come visit China, do so.