UPDATE

So it takes about six months to get used to living anywhere, I’ve decided.  Because if I am actually used to it here now, well.  Yeah.

I’m closing in on what once seemed an impossible distance; eight weeks now remain of this part of my life called Vietnam.

Luckily for me I made some travel plans and I hope these all happen: Vung Tau Dec. 26-7, Singapore Jan. 9-12, Philippines Jan. 31-Feb 8th.  What.  About.  Angkor Wat.  Boo. 😦

And yet.  It is hard to imagine what my current state of mind would be had I not decided to go to Thailand; even my Vietnam trip early on offered a lot in terms of perspective. 

How am I used to it here (I decided today)?

1.) I sleep late on my days off.  There is not a lot to do during the day.  So I stay up late and sleep late. 

2.) I know how to spend my free time: I have one beautiful coffee shop/art gallery I can walk to, and I spend the rest of the time in the yoga studio (2 classes every MWF). 

After that it is dinner (which I eat by myself with a book) and writing if I am lucky, followed (usually) by youtube. 

I don’t watch tv, because I think it’s depressing, and I can’t concentrate at home enough to read anything longer than the NYTimes online. 

3.) I call home whenever I feel like it.  Hearing a friendly voice helps me be less grouchy heading into the long weekends of teaching.  I’m a much better teacher when I’m in a good mood, duh. 

Maybe it sounds like a boring existence, but I don’t think anyone will judge me, why would they?  The point is I made this relentless city work for me somehow: I see that now. 

There was a time when I actually didn’t think I would be able to do this.  It’s not been easy, and I am proud of myself for sticking it out.

I don’t know what I’ll do yet after I graduate from Hamline in May, but the most important thing is not where I am but who I have around me. 

I have been exhausted to the brink of tears at times thinking about how much I miss certain people.  If I do move to another city, I would like to see if anyone will join me. 

It’s not, as they say, science.

Happy Christmas all.

You do know how much you help me; I couldn’t get on at all if it weren’t for you. -Virginia Woolf, Letters VI

Jamie

Apartment searching on the brink of the rainy season

Well hello friends…so it has been almost a week for me here in Saigon and I am starting to feel like a local. I have really started to appreciate certain things about the culture and am already, as was predicted, looking forward to getting out of the super-touristy area I landed in.

Woke up this a.m. feeling a lot better and finally began to search for apartments. The most promising one so far is an “expat guesthouse” located near my school, 300 USD/mo., shared space with 5 other teachers. From the outside the place doesn’t look like much–actually from the inside it doesn’t really either. It is located on a dusty street and you need a to open a gate to get in. I will have a room with AC and a bed and a closet, my own bathroom, use of the kitchen, living room, and rooftop terrace, and, believe it or not, a maid who does the laundry (even ironing)!

The main thing that I have had to get used to is the HEAT–it can really get to you and make you so tired. I drink about 2 L of water a day and just soak it all in. Last night there was a lizard on my wall in my hotel, as if to remind me where I was in case I forgot. I am looking forward to getting into a place where I can put all my stuff away–the transition period can be rather stressful as of course all I want to do is write poems and I can’t really do that when I have to get these life things out of the way shelter, figure out what food to eat, money etc. But I have a plan that once I get into this place and get new sheets and a lamp and get my AC going the words will start flowing again.

The other travelers I meet stress me out as well sometimes–it can be enough to just keep yourself sane without having to hear with every new person that they are homesick, they talk about how hard it is to be away from home and it just makes me wonder what they talk about when they are home and why they would decide to come all the way to Vietnam.

That said, I have the urge to call people from home a lot, the only reason I don’t is because I don’t know phone numbers. I have read and reread the comments DK wrote on my poems about 25 times since she gave them back to me, I’ve kept them in my carry-on, I’ve taken them to every cafe. I kept them in my bed with me when I was sick.

Virginia Woolf once said “I never travel without my diary. It is important to have something sensational to read in the train.” It is for the future poems that I am doing this. When I remember that, surprisingly it makes it all a little easier–they don’t even exist yet and already they are so reliable.