It’s approaching Christmastime and although there’s no snow, nothing says Christmas like a Santa cake, a going-away party and a couple of botched cab rides.
Last Thursday was my final class with one of my more advanced elementary-level adult classes. It was sad to think we would be parting ways but they assured me they would see what they could do about requesting me to be their teacher in the new year.
I didn’t realise it until that night that most of these classes stick together as they go through language school. After each course ends, they all sign up again together which makes for a really nicely bonded group that feels comfortable making speaking errors in front of each other, which can’t be said for some of the other groups I’ve taught. Making mistakes is essential for practicing speaking so it’s really important that students feel comfortable with their classmates.
They knew it was our last class together so they brought in a cake from Breadtalk complete with adorable Christmas scene adorning the top.
This week has been a little slower due to the wrath of our colds. Yeah, working with kids is like working in a cesspool of grimy little paws. They cough IN your face. Literally IN your face and then wipe their slimy noses on the backs of their hands.
I caught one kid on the weekend picking his nose in class behind his hand (yeah, buddy, because no one will ever know behind your cleverly concealing hand). For my own amusement, I decided to call on young Minh to see how flustered I could make him. And flustered he was. You wonder why I had pink eye? Yeah, I don’t even want to know what goes on when I’m not looking.
So now that I’m in full-on Kick-This-Cold-mode, I’ve been trying to sleep in more. It’s difficult when the sun starts rising at 4:30 though. My body is usually fully awake by 8:00 with no hope of falling back asleep. Which makes it difficult when I work until 21:30 the night before and don’t really unwind until at least midnight.
Next week’s goal? Perfect the art of the siesta. Yeah, I’m going to willingly embrace the afternoon naps that I was so embarrassed that my parents forced upon us until the age of, what felt like, sixteen.
While we’ve been so diligently kicking our colds, we’ve also had our first get-together chez nous! And of course it was Rhino and Pistol who were our firsts. They came for drinks on Sunday night after Bagheera and I worked all day and we showed them our pad. They were really happy for us and it was nice to have our adopted Vietnam family in our home.
Then it was our turns to be happy for them! They announced that Rhino has accepted a job as the manager of the bar and restaurant at a resort in the beach community of Mũi Né. They’re moving to the beach after almost three years of living in the bustling city of Saigon.
Rhino has just finished his MBA program at RMIT (an affiliate of Melbourne University here in HCMC) and within a week of having received his diploma, he got this dream job! The resort is on a kite-boarding beach in the beautiful but quiet town of Mũi Né.
I can’t say I’m not insanely envious! But we’re already making plans to go and visit. It’s about a five-hour bus ride from the city which is really manageable with two days off.
After they announced their amazing news, we went for dinner at our neighbourhood, very traditional Vietnamese restaurant called the 666. It seems like the Vietnamese like to name most of their restaurants using a combination of three numbers. And no, they have nothing to do with the address of the place. That would be too logical.
But we loved this restaurant! It was delicious and the beer was cold. We also caught the Man U versus Man City game because no good meal is complete without a television above your head. (An unfortunate loss for Man U after being up 2-0.)
We made the short walk home singing Christmas carols and lamenting that our only friends in Saigon (a running joke between the four of us) are leaving us babies to fend for ourselves.
Luckily, we had one more opportunity to say goodbye at their going-away party on Tuesday night. Which also served as a reminder that Rhino and Pistol left us with a great group of their friends.
Expats are really the greatest group of people on the planet. We all share a commonality: we were all loners in this new city once upon a time and no one forgets that. As my favourite blogger (besides Bagheera, of course) Gala Darling says, you have to “create your own family and care for them ferociously.” I really felt that night that we are in the beginning stages of creating that family. It was so nice to be in that bar with so many familiar faces.
We had a fourth former Notorious B.A.Yite join us that night as well. Samara, who went to high school with Rhino and me back in the day, was travelling through after nearly two months on the road in South East Asia so she joined the party that night. B.A.Yites get around! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If there’s a Notorious B.A.Yite within travelling distance of you as an expat, expect a drop-in and a warm reception!
Tuesday night was a late night (which didn’t help our colds the next morning) and included a couple of terrible cab rides. Vietnamese will save face at all costs which means that asking for directions ON YOUR BUILT-IN CAB RADIO is an absolute last resort even when the two very clearly white girls sitting in the back seat having handed you an address and a district (neighbourhood) are giving the international sign for “I don’t know where we’re going” (AKA a shrug).
So we were on a bit of a wild goose chase on the way there. And then got in a cab to go home, gave the driver, again, the address and district in which we live, and he had no idea where he was going.
We were sufficiently pissed by this point because the irony of HCMC is that some cab drivers know the most remote areas of this city without making a single wrong turn. And then we have Numbnuts Cabbie 1 and Numbnuts Cabbie 2 on Tuesday night who are dumber than we are with directions (which is saying something).
I complain but we also are starting to adopt a zen, Vietnamese attitude when it comes to taking cabs and also waiting in line in the grocery store while the cashier practically ages before our very eyes. There’s no rushing them so you’ve just got to let it go.
Unless you’re going to be late for work, in which case screaming “đi đi” (go go) is the only thing that will make you feel better.
Needless to say, it’s time to get on our own motorbikes…