Admittedly, it’s been far too long since my last post. (Thanks for keeping me accountable, Jigger!) The good news is, the reason for my lack of writing has been filling my schedule to the brim in order to have tons of material to write about. You’re all welcome. Since February I’ve had more visitors, stellar classes, become borderline obsessed with yoga again, played tourist in my own city (yet again), had a knife-wielding man try and stab our building’s crazy dog, had our first cockroach, got a new motorbike, and I’ve been officially granted a work permit for a year.
At the beginning of March, a friend of a friend came through the city. I’ll call her Teene. One of the many great things about being a Canadian expat is the universal connection one has with every other travelling Canadian. When my Massachusetts friend realised we’d both be in the same city, she put me in touch with Teene and we made plans to meet up upon her arrival in the city.
After work one night, Bagheera and I met her at her hotel in the backpacker district and took her to a quiet bar for drinks and a bite to eat. It was so fun to get to know another Canadian because even though we’d never met before that night, we had an unspoken connection due to a common nationality. I made a new friend that night and after she did a tour of the Củ Chi tunnels the next day we arranged to meet up for dinner before I had to go to work.
HCMC was Teene’s first stop in Vietnam after arriving from a visit to her brother in Singapore. I shared some of my knowledge for the rest of her trip and she filled me in on everything happening with the Massachusetts/Connecticut crew. It felt like a little piece of home. Thanks again for your visit, Teene! And hopefully I’ll see you back on the North American continent soon.
At the beginning of March, my dear Wisconsinite friend Jude got me back into yoga in a bad (good) way. She was introduced to this particular studio thanks to an outgoing co-worker who transferred her membership to Jude at the end of her time in HCMC.
I’ve always been the type to get obsessed with whatever fitness regime I start – be it soccer, rowing, spinning, running or yoga. This has been no exception. When I lived in Montréal I went to a hot yoga (Moksha) place at which they would heat each of the studios to around 35 degrees Celcius. Well, absolutely no amount of heating is necessary in the balmy city of HCMC. It always helps to have a buddy and Jude is the best! So is the studio.
My favourite instructor is the Vinyasa instructor on Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings named My. She’s a beautiful Vietnamese woman and makes me want to be a more flexible person. She’s so slight and yet so powerful. I can only hope to be half as strong and flexible as her when I’m finished here. My favourite part about My is her English.
“Let’s going, guy!” – Yeah, the extra gerund is very necessary and like most Vietnamese, she always leaves off the “s” at the end of plural words.
Jude and I have made this exercise regime even more perfect by making a tradition of Monday Munch Dates at one of the best French places here in the city after My’s Monday class. It’s a hop, skip and a jump from the yoga studio and makes the freshest meals. The best part of these dates, surprisingly, isn’t the food but the company.
Jude and I have grown incredibly close in a remarkably short amount of time. I feel like we’ve known each other for years when it’s only been a few short months. We often reflect on all the things we’ve learned about ourselves since moving here. She’s an artist and a writer. She’s so witty and hilarious in her storytelling. I thoroughly enjoy our very dragged-out lunches that run the gamut in terms of conversation topics.
Speaking of lunch traditions, the rest of the crew (Adrienne, Martin, Bagheera, Jude and I) have taken to going for soup lunches every Saturday between classes at the infamous “Lunch Lady”. I don’t know where the nickname came from but any of the expats in the know call this rustic establishment by the same name.
“Lunch Lady” has become even more popular thanks to top chef Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations. One woman runs the outdoor restaurant. As you probably guessed, she goes by “Lunch Lady” although her real name is Nguyen Thi Thanh.
She prepares a different soup each day but Saturday’s soup is considered the best by Adrienne. The Saturday soup is banh canh which has a crab-based broth in addition to slippery udon-like noodles with fish cakes, fried shallots, prawns and a quail egg.
One of the really cool things about her is that she shops at the same market as Bagheera and me! Her stand is just on the other side of the river from us so she shops each morning before the sun rises at Chợ Thị Nghè and begins preparing her soup for the day around eight o’clock.
Her hard work certainly pays off. We all sweat our butts off while devouring these delicious soups along with Vietnamese bread, fresh and fried spring rolls. We finish our meals with warm tofu with coconut water and jellied ginger, called tào phớ or đậu hủ or tàu hủ. It’s super clean and really, surprisingly delicious. And then we head back to work for another few hours of teaching on sufficiently full bellies.
At the risk of this becoming a post entirely centred on food, I’m going to talk about yet another meal Jude and I shared one low-key night. She took me to a local place – I’m talking baby blue and pink Barbie-house-colouring, florescent lighting, aluminium tables and stools. This place served delicious bánh bột chiên (fried rice flour cake). A Chinese influenced pastry that features a special tangy soy sauce on the side, rice flour cubes with fried eggs and some pickled vegetables. This is a popular after-school snack for young students in southern Vietnam – and not even close to healthy.
We ate quickly (due to the fact that we were seated directly next to the frying station) and hurried back to Jude’s place to mess around on BuzzFeed to find the 42 reasons Joseph Gordon-Levitt is the perfect man. (Duh! I only need two: he was my favourite Angels in the Outfielder and he can croon like nobody’s business!)
Martin walked in at the end of the night to find us in the midst of watching anything JGL we could get our cursor on.
Now I’ll finally transition away from food…
At the beginning of April, Bagheera and I were getting ready to go to work and we came down to the garage to get on our bike. The landlady’s husband was standing at the gate talking on the phone so when I realised that Mino, our slightly nutty dog who guards the building, was off his leash and he didn’t do anything about it. It was at this moment that I realised I’ve started to think like a Vietnamese person – “Well, someone else will take care of it and I’ve got to get to work.”
So instead of insisting that the landlord put the dog on his leash or, heaven forbid, do it myself, I unlocked the gate and as I opened it, Mino launched himself at the first thing he saw. That thing happened to be a very slow-moving, slightly unstable older man on a bicycle. Before I knew it, the man was wielding a steak knife he had in his bike at Mino and threatening Mr. Landlord in Vietnamese.
Bagheera and I waited for this encounter to simmer down and then made our way out of the garage and whizzed by Knife Man leaving the traumatising experience in our wake. The scariest part was actually my complete lack of forethought in opening the iron gate before securing maniacal Mino. I had a day of reassessing my momentary lapse in Canadian judgement. It was disconcerting that I just didn’t care what havoc the dog wreaked because I figured Mr. Landlord would step up and take responsibility for his family’s dog that was off his leash. It was yet another reminder that no one takes responsibility for the things I think they should.
Since I think I’ve exhausted this post with food talk, stay tuned for the rest of the above-mentioned in my next post. I’ll leave you with some food for thought (pun entirely intended) in honour of the changes taking place thanks to the recent lunar eclipse: