I’ve reached the seven-month mark on my journey and I’m in another huge state of transition: old friends leaving, making new friends, goodbye parties, parties for the sake of parties, new housemates and preparing to go on vacation. It’s been an emotional week and therefore what better time to write about recent happenings?
I’ll start with the story of new friends… I’ve made a few new friends thanks to our mutual yoga obsession and one of these new friends, Tammy, invited me to a beautiful dinner at one of the newer hotels here in the city, Hotel Nikko. It was a gourmet Spanish-Mexican buffet with entertainment by a Cuban band (Q’vans) centralised here in HCMC.
The band started playing shortly into our meal with a few slower songs. But anyone who knows Latin music knows that it only gets ramped up from there. By mid-meal, the party had started! We were getting pulled out of our chairs at every turn to join the band in some fairly easy mambo and merengue dance steps including, of course, the Macarena. We would sit down, have a few more bites and then be pulled from our chairs to participate yet again.
Tammy has been an avid Q’vans groupie for a while now so we got chatting with the band between sets and joined them at one of the Spanish restaurants downtown for the afterparty.
As part of their routine at the restaurant/bar, they first invite three girls to join them in a dance on the bar and then three guys. I was enjoying the show when suddenly the drummer came up behind me, swept me up onto the bar to dance with them along with Tammy and one other girl. Nothing like a white girl in a sea of Vietnamese to stick out like a sore thumb.
To make things even more fun, my friend Susie is the manager of this particular establishment and she happened to catch this whole ordeal on her trusty smartphone. It’s a good thing she’s such a solid friend and promised it would never see the light of day.
Saturday morning at work was a bit rough given how little sleep I ended up getting but we made up for it with a really delicious “Last Lunch” at the Lunch Lady with Martin. Martin was the first Domino to fall in our group of three besties leaving Vietnam. So we stuffed him with his last Saturday soup, told hilarious stories, and just enjoyed each other’s company.
Sunday night was his true going-away party with our amazing staff and some delicious dinner at where else… the same Spanish restaurant at which I’d made my bar-dancing debut a few days earlier.
Susie’s staff took great care of our group that evening. And I was even lucky enough to bring along two former McGillians, Em and Aaron, who have been on the road for the past two months to enjoy their first non-Vietnamese-street-food meal in a while. It was great to catch up with them and they seemed to thoroughly enjoy everyone from our staff.
After a delicious dinner, we moved the whole brood over to our friend Child’s for a rooftop bash. It was a great evening with lots of reminiscing. The party was a smashing success and made me feel even more bonded with my co-workers.
The Vee You Ess staff greatly varies in terms of age but we never seem to have a lack of topics to discuss as we’ve all got diverse interests and a great deal of worldly, historical knowledge.
As I walked Em and Aaron back out to the road to catch a cab to the backpacker district, Em almost got robbed by a passing motorbike of two teens which would have only added to the misfortune that Jude met the previous day when she had her wallet snatched from her hand as we were organising our motorbikes at the Lunch Lady’s stand. Luckily Em was fast-acting and clutched her bag close to her chest to protect her beautiful DSLR camera that was inside. We got her in a cab immediately after that and she returned directly to the hostel to put her camera in safekeeping.
Martin stayed with us that night due to a lack of keys. Somehow I made it to yoga the next morning, stopped off at the Fruit Lady to get some fresh fruit and returned home to make Martin and Bagheera some delicious buckwheat pancakes and omelettes.
Sadness started to set in that morning as we sat around the breakfast table and discussed the amazing group of people we have in our lives at Vee You Ess. Adrienne, Jude, Martin, Bagheera and I spent the next four days pretty much joined at the hip. And then, finally, the dreaded Thursday arrived. Jude and Martin moved their stuff into our place for Martin’s remaining hours in the country. It was a tearful farewell as we put him in a cab that night.
The girls all stayed together at our place as a source of comfort. Jude was already planning to stay with us since she no longer had her shared flat with Martin once he left. And Adrienne had seen her best guy friend leave Vietnam two days before so we were all in need of some comfort.
I know that this is the nature of our business – people come and people go – but I never thought the bonds that I would make with my co-workers would be so fast and so strong. We were certainly all meant to meet up here, many miles from our homes and I’ve learned so much from getting to know Martin, Adrienne and Jude.
By Sunday, we felt some semblance of normalcy again and decided to get back into the swing of things. We’ve recently had an influx of South Africans join our staff and therefore friend group. They happen to rent a house about a five-minute walk from our flat so we decided to throw a family dinner to welcome them to the ‘hood.
Dustin, who works at our campus and is our link to the rest of his housemates, has been a barrel of laughs since his first day at Vee You Ess so it wasn’t surprising when he started pulling out his arsenal party game ideas. As a group, we had so much fun and vowed to make this a more regular occurrence.
Next house party: Canada Day! Oh yes… stayed tuned! Maple syrup wrestling, anyone?