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Published: October 15th 2011
Ms Hoa and I
My best student.....
photo courtesy of Mr Bob!
Well, how long can you wait?...is there anyone still out there?.....time for an update!
Another perfect morning....5am and 1,000 pre-tumescent roosters rise as one....blood pressure building, neck veins standing out like David Parkin at three quarter time, then exploding across the neighbourhood as dawn's rosy crack appears through the mist coming off the Big Red River...probably a lethal concentration of toxic particulates, but I'll call it mist....I wonder what would happen if all these cocks crowed simultaneously?...you could probably hear it from the moon....and then there are the dogs and the caged birds etc etc.....
I get to the market by 6am, some strange looking fish, as usual, but I'll take a punt....there are some pix here of the market people....
Rough, rutted roads make body parts, ill-concealed by local fashions, jiggle and shake with alarming but exciting results, determined by age, gender and BMI.....I probably fit in quite well....but you've gotta concentrate, take one's eyes off the road for too long and certain disaster awaits ... potholes appear overnight, where from? why? how? but the closest householders strategically place cardboard or branches or an old car tyre to warn the knowledgeable....
Whatever it is I just wish
I could grab it by the scruff of the neck and jam it into a bottle...synthesise it, mass produce it, have it on-hand all the time.....it just comes out of the blue, an ordinary day, it's been pretty good actually, new job, fixed the blown globe in the front light...only took me 2 hours to get the cover off.....bought a pump and pumped up the tyres on the bicycle, made a fabulous pho ga for lunch...no, clearly no clear reason...I just feel good! I feel really good, I'd put really in italics if I could...that good. I recall pondering this emotion before, somewhere in the blogsphere, an unadulterated peace...an unadulterated piece....hahaha...even with a big sign I just stuck to the fridge door saying "check the oil you idiot" doesn't faze me...even though it's getting critical, this new job is quite a ride aways, like 30 mins flat out in off-peak and 45 mins this morning at 6.45am, so it's maybe 20kms(?) I have no idea of distances here, it's all about the time...but it's a long haul for the little 125ccs of throbbing aluminium and plastic, and I've been hearing her start to rattle and groan and give out those
House from the lane
sorts of noises that indicate the oil has left, and at every hairs-breadth-or-death joust with the maniacs in the traffic I'm fearing a seizure! And on this trip to work, winding around the river and out along some big roads it's getting up to 80kph which is substantial speed here....I mean, tranquilo, it's pretty safe kids, don't panic, the big roads are 5 or 6 lanes wide, bugger-all traffic, perfect bitumen...well, for the time being, and plenty of vis.....
I've started working in a school...jajaja...yes, I know I said never and in fact I just quit after 6 sessions with young kids in a language centre because I just couldn't do it....but that's another story. This private school asked me to come along, I said only senior level 2ndry and if there are any discipline problems I'm out of here, and only three mornings a week....so today I started. The first double was Business Studies, a great bunch of 16 year olds, good English level, into their music and sports and all that teenage stuff and so far good. Only drawback, there's no curriculum or text books...wtf? So, I started with the basics of business and I've downloaded some curriculum
ideas from the web and if I can source some textbooks the school will stump up for them. Basically I'm left to my own devices, the school doesn't seem to care what I do! All a bit odd. The other group are a bit younger and elementary level English but good to work with and lots of textbooks of course.
Well, a couple of weeks later.....been to Luang Prabang in Laos for 5 days to have a break and get a new visa...Laos is so peaceful after Hanoi....I realized after a few days that I hadn't heard a horn for four days....it was amazing, here everyone rides/drives with the horn constantly on....and of course no-one gives a rat's......
So, I have a lovely little house, a little way out of the city centre but close to the Red River and a drop kick from the West Lake...both cool.....closer to the West Lake it's expat central but down my lane it's all Vietnamese. The house is bigger than I need and more than I wanted to pay but I fell for it the first time I saw it. Three bedrooms a big lounge, kitchen, big basement parking room and a
little west-facing terrace up top and a bigger terrace facing east, out over the orchards to the Red River. I've got the barby set up and a table and chairs....I often end up sitting up on the terrace in the evening, it's fantastic....the locals rarely use their terrace tops so I'm pretty much alone.....if I could just get rid of a couple of houses in front of me to widen the vista.........
I'm working 7 days a week......but only part time.....from 1.5 hours Monday to 6 hours Thursday it's between 12 and 18 hours a week, they're always chopping and changing schedules, courses start and finish, I get called in to fill in for absences and called off when classes are cancelled...you gotta be flexible!
In between times I've picked up a couple of small groups of impoverished uni studes that I'm helping with their english.....the gap between rich and poor here is really extreme...one of these uni students works 6 x 9 hour shifts a week and gets 4mil VND per month....that's about $200.....a bit under a buck an hour! Three girls share a room thats about 5x3m, the bed takes up a third of the room, there's a
small cupboard-room for the dunny and wash basin, 2 desks, bookshelves and a wardrobe leave SFA space, they eat, sleep, cook, clean, wash, live in this tiny room....for $30 a month each!
Meanwhile, out on the big dyke road I'm getting hassled by monster Bentleys and Rollers, with the car tax here they are worth the best part of 2mil bucks!!
Back too work.... I'm also free to take off, I'm going down south for a week in Nov and I'll be back in Oz for a month in Dec/Jan, then back in time for Tet which will be another week off....so it rolls along.....
A couple of my classes are at 5.30pm so I've got to face the peak traffic, it's unbelievably crowded, thousands of motos jostling for position amongst dozens of cars....the pollution, exhaust fumes, even for a smoker it's tough to breathe....I copped, for the second time, the classic moto rider's crushed foot the other night going to work. Threading between two cars that decided to converge I had to brake and put the foot down and subsequently had it run over....boom boom......luckily I have the (almost) steel cap sandals.....it's been the wet season too,
which makes it even more hazardous as most of the moto riders, who can't see too well at the best of times are absolutely blind in the wet!
There's Strength in numbers. At a big intersection I pull up, a solid wall of vehicles is flooding across in front of me, I wait until enough bikes are ready and then we ease forward, inch by inch, until one of the cross traveling vehicles hesitates, you get to be able to pick this moment, it's a signal, we all lurch forward then, a few desperadoes still force their way through but we have the running....then our side floods through until the same thing happens for the other direction...it's sort of chaotic but also sort of organised, I reckon it works better than some of the intersections with lights.....meanwhile, there will always be some idiots coming the wrong way, or coming in from the other side, or deciding to turn without warning, or stopping in front of me....and everyone has their horn blaring.....occasionally someone goes down but at 10-20 kph it's never too serious...and the best thing is...there's never any road rage! Well almost never, I have only come across two
instances of road rage, and both times it was me!! hahaha.....although the competition for track position is fierce and unrelenting and unforgiving, they will jam their front wheel into the smallest gap, if everything comes to a gridlock they all just sort through it with never an angry word, quite amazing.
My language skills are languishing still, only the occasional lesson as work gets busier, and as I'm speaking and teaching English every day, it's v hard.....I need immersion, if I could just stay in my neighbourhood for a month or two, and speak only Vietnamese, I'm sure I would have the basics nailed.....for now I need a Richard Harris skill or Babel fish or something.....it's all too much...what a complicated language....all tones and inflections and unutterable noises....jajaja
I'm thinking I'd better just hit the Send button and get this out of the way...
basically and comprehensively, Life's Good!
and lots of pix, I couldn't believe it.....the house, the friends, the lanes, the market...you get the picture.....
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