Decided on a couple of must-see places, Cat Tien National Park and an island called Phu Quoc in the Gulf of Thailand. Went to inquire about them and found out I can take a bus to the park (four hours from HCMC) for only 5 dollars; can fly to the island for $48.00 one way which is very good; Saigon is a city I think I will have to leave to miss.
I left Vietnam Airlines crossed Truong Son St., which Rufus says it is not a hard street to cross but to me it is basically a four lane highway, and went back to my room which Mme. Tuhy had just finished cleaning. She brought me a little glass bowl and some chopsticks which really touched me for some reason, and she picked up all of my clothes off the floor, so she is not going to let me be a slob, got it.
When I walked out my room this guy who lives here asked if I wanted to go to the airport with him to pick up one of his friends which I usually never turn down a chance to go to the airport but I must say I have not been feeling 100% like myself and as all the power was still out decided to go to the mall just to be in the A/C someplace.
I hear “Hello teacher” turn around it is a new boy in one of my classes there with his mom and his brother. They all made me really happy, why was I getting emotional about chopsticks and students, two common things in the new life. Well, I felt done with the mall and it was too hot for parks or cafes, so I keep walking and eventually just end up back at the building where the school is, on the tenth floor of which there is a cinema.
I’ve never even gone up there; the school is on the sixth floor, but the elevator just happened to go up there and the next thing I knew I was in Sex and the City 2. Don’t read the reviews, I made the mistake of it while looking up the New York song (it’s by Jay-Z) I’d heard for the first time while bedridden watching Fashion TV on Bui Vien, second time just last night at the Piss Up (again Rufus).
Maybe it is just the simple fact that it was something familiar in this land of strangeness. That could have been it. I actually got choked up at a couple parts (did also roll my eyes at Carrie a couple of times–you do that with her), said out loud Carrie don’t forget your passport which is definitely good, talking to yourself in a movie.
When I walked out I was doing my Carrie walk obviously and this guy backed up and knocked over one of the heavy metal silver stands that hold those velvet ropes, it was nice. And when I left I thought this is what art is supposed to do. Is it art?
And then there was this little girl riding on the back of a motorbike in the light rain, yellow hooded sweatshirt, and the lights from the stadium were hitting her face like a spotlight, her little cameo, and she was pointing at something, gesture someone older would do, and I just thought, I love her: she is part of my life, not just here; anywhere.
I guess I am still “getting my bearings,” although I am now at the point where I can see for the first time a little bit more clearly what it is going to be like to live here. When I was staying in the Van Trang Hotel, it was still in effect my landing. I am now in another part of the city called Tan Binh which is closer to the airport and my school.
The reason I said Bui Vien/District I it is super touristy is because it is. Tourists here might be walking around anywhere but they are walking down Bui Vien in the heart of Saigon, ignoring or acknowledging other blue eyes amid the madness of it all, occasionally smiling when the fifteenth person that breakfast tries to sell you sunglasses.
I kind of love it so far: I love the craziness of it. Some of it makes me feel like a big fat privileged dork, like how hard the kids work and how much I get paid to slacker-teach them just because I have “experience” but I shouldn’t put it in quotes, I do have experience and this is why I get to walk down the hallway the exact minute class starts with my laundry basket which is actually pretty cool. I’ve made up my mind to concentrate on doing the best job I can and so far I do not feel like running away, on the contrary.
The job is the easy part for me so far, like flying was for Mave Rick, and if I were to make a Top Gun comparison I guess my romance with the city/culture would replace Kelly McGinnis. There is so much support in the other teachers, the staff at the school it is like walking a balance beam on the floor and the ground is all one of those special mattresses invented by NASA. It is much easier than other teaching jobs I’ve had.
This morning one of the kids did this wheelbarrow move which happened fast and his his shoe lifted up my skirt and the kids all started laughing, I felt my face turn red and I looked at Lan and she was laughing too and she just said “accident” and I was able to go on, it just really helps to have someone else in the room, needless to say when they are there to help, not judge or critique you. Even though we do 22+ hour weekends I notice myself actually taking the time to do things like use the bathroom and eat food during the day whereas other teaching jobs I’ve had were either too busy or too stressful or both to do either.
One more on the staff, Uyen, is Rose’s wingmate, Rose is the angel for me here so far and as I’ve lived abroad I know you need those. Rose got me the apartment I’m in now, with French lighting, marble floor, coy randomly swimming under the stairs, for 200 a month, friendly prices. The guesthouse was 300 and was chock-full of foreign teachers, but here I get invited to dinner with the family and eat a couple of bites of pork or something because I am not the biggest bitch in the world and am going to push away food people are giving me when I am starving.
The guy is French and I say Merci when he pours beer out of a 40 oz. bottle about 8 ways for all of us eating, he likes this. Finally, I find out there is a Taiwanese guy named Johnny living upstairs from me, a chemical engineer who has lived here in Saigon for three years and at this place for a year and a half. He rides his bike to work as it is only ten minutes away, and says I can use it whenever he’s not. He has a rice cooker in his room; I love that he’s told me this right off the bat.
Wow, I’ve been typing like crazy and I still feel like there is so much more of course I am sure that there is, we had bamboo soup for dinner, and some crazy drink that tasted like grass. I have had several remarks that I am good with chopsticks. They actually act like you are a guest in their country; I can see why people do not want to leave and don’t. That said, I miss all of you family and friends greatly. Think of you all the time, always. Am ready to have visitors. Although you will have to let me know in advance so Madam Thuy can register you with the Vietnamese officials lest she get fined 500 bucks.
Time to see if I can get some work done now…ooh except there is a cat here with a broken tail that sat by my feet during dinner and when they were all talking in Vietnamese I held my finger down to its nose and it nudged it as cats do and I thought I spoke its language as much as anyone else’s.
I don’t know who is reading this but as these things go, if it is being read you are reading it, hello and thank you. Feel a bit like I’m throwing it out into the void, not that I am going for definitive lines around me.