Friday, November 20, 2009

I'm not in Korea anymore

I came to Vietnam for an edge. So whenever I am clearly scammed I can't contain my jubilation. To be fair, at the time, I wasn't as thrilled as I am now. I had my first episode last week. This course is intense when it comes to work-load. So I left the coffee shop at 7am, to make it to my school by 7:05, to finish printing for my 9:00 class. Way too much time, but I had other work to do after I printed. I got into a cab thinking of the listening lesson I was about to teach... and paid no attention to the brand of taxi. Here you should only pick certain taxi avoid the story I am about to tell. The man started taking a different route. I told him he was wrong, and to turn right at the next street. "No, no, short cut, you relax," was his annoying response. 20 minutes later I was completely lost and hyperventilating. "Too much traffic," the taxi driver said. "You get out here, and walk straight, you school on left, very close." The school was neither close nor on the left. He had dropped me off in the middle of the city, 30 minutes from my school. I wander the street looking for a legitimate taxi, couldn't find one, so I hopped on a motor-bike taxi. This time, I negotiated my fare ahead of time (fool me once...etc). We get no more than 20 yards when the motor bike's back tire blew out. I billy-goated off the bike, luckily unscathed but I can't say the same for the driver. The man was livid with me. I think his gestures implied it was my obesity that ruined his bike. I wanted to to tell him I was just in America for 2 weeks, so a little weight gain was inevitable...but I swear I've been doing Yoga every day to compensate. We argued. I refused to apologize for my love handles and pay for the tire. In order to escape the escalating argument, I simply jumped on the next motor-bike I saw. I didn't negotiate the price...just told him the address and to hurry. We get to the school. I have less than a half an hour to prepare my classroom. Flustered I thrust the usual fare into the motor man's hands. He grabs my wrist. "60,000 dong," he says forcefully. This is more than motor bike's charge for an entire day of tooling around the city. I refuse. He is still grabbing my wrist. All he sees is a dissheveled blond. Here a damsel in distress is meant to be exploited not assisted. This is the first time I have used my Hapkido out of a play fight with Matt. I hoshinsel him...then run heals. Please don't think me naive. I am vigilant, but I slacken in the morning. No one scams before 10:00 am. False.

I was so flustered and pissed by the time I taught my morning class but I couldn't take my aggression out on anyone but the poor man who my listening lesson was about. I was so mean, my teacher asked if I knew the man, whose life we were listening to, personally. So, Jeff Norman...if you are out there.... I'm sorry. I'm sure you're not a Micheal Moor wanna be, I'm sure your mom enjoys you living in her basement and there is nothing wrong with being a paper boy at 43. It could always be could be a soul sucking taxi driver in Ho Chi Min City. Move over Korean 50 bus drivers...I have a new arch nemesis.

Saturday, November 14, 2009


Alright. Vietnam four days...and go.

I had taken all of Thursday to wander the city, I basically started with small squares around my hotel then expanded them. A geometric approach to exploring the city is essential. The energy and overall activity is so intense it is as if you jumped into a "Where's Waldo?" book. Crossing the street became my greatest challenge. I would describe it as trying to pick your way between two invading armies. I literally stood on one corner for over 10 minutes, trying to make myself man-up. The overwhelming anxiety induced by street crossing, provided me with my first competition for this county. The street soon became a bully on the playground...and I refused to eat his bugs. I forced myself to practice crossing by zig-zagging down the busiest intersection. I feel as if all this exercise did was expend my luck. It was after my third or fourth traumatizing zig-zag that I stood on the sidewalk, doubled over, thoroughly dejected with an apparent false sense of security. At that time, I was suddenly thown over by a motor bike who had jumped to the sidewalk to skip the street traffic. The fall was nothing fatal--obviously. But I now see the sidewalk as that croney who stands behind chearing for a bully who is beating a poor kid to a pulp. Then once the victim is broken and defensless the sidewalk comes in and gives the final blow to my ribs. I shall have vengeance. A large, 63 year old biker, who insisted I call him "Big Lez", saw the entire "episode" and bought me a drink. I needed it...almost as much as he needed a shower. He then went through the finer points of how to cross the street. Soon I shall put the bully in his plae.
Thurs. night I met up with my couch host. His name is Matt. He is awesome, quirky, brittish and has an amazing apartment. He is a life saver...he crosses the street with me.
Friday, was another day for exploration. This time I hired a guide (for less than 10 dollars) to take me on his motor bike around the city. New day: new traffic analogy. Matt described it best. While on the bike, in the traffic, it is as if you are a school of fish. No longer individual bikers with individual mind.
Matt is a great host and took me out that night. I feel this warrents more than a blib, but the worst/most interesting part of the night was the people watching. Namely, white elder males courting young Vietnamese women. There is a distinct difference between Vietnamese women who are out to enjoy themselves and those who are clearly trying to hook some western money. Along the same lines, there is a creepy quality to the old men who enter a bar, circle it once or twice, then leave, obviously only there for "business".
Saturday and Sunday have been more of the same with the added demension of trying to find a place to live for a month. We found one (we: a couple buddies of mine that will also take the CELTA course). So I am currently sitting in my new room procrastinating doing my CELTA homework. I have so much more to say. I also know I will have no time to say it until this CELTA course is over. I think this will be my last blog for a month, which is sad because I feel it is fragmented and does not paint the proper picture of my elation.
They also blocked facebook here. I feel like they just cut off my arm.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

I'm Alive

I HAVE ARRIVED. I am currently sitting in my hotel room in Vietnam tingling from head to toe with excitement. It is 9:00 am. I have already had two breakfasts and two showers. I am sitting here grappling with leaving half my clothes in this hotel... even my sun dresses are made of too heavy a material.

I arrived late last night after the longest successive plane rides in existence. On my final six hour flight I was finally able to sleep. I was so stir crazy by that time, I dreamt that I couldn't sleep and was still stir crazed. The dream was vivid and surprisingly accurate but I imagined my own passengers on the plane. When I awoke, not realizing I had dreamt I freaked out because the passenger next to me had apparently shape shifted. I continued to fall back asleep and have the same dream within a dream, to the point where I'm sure those in close proximity thought me autistic. It was a terrible cycle of wake up, pitch myself, peak out of my blind fold, gently poke the poor girl next to me, establish I had again joined reality, then doze once more. I think I need to start traveling with people.

This morning I woke up at 7:00 am, called my parents, then ventured into the world. Vietnam is sooooooo f*ing cool. Scooters dominate the roads and sunglasses vendors run the sidewalks. In Korea you are elbow to elbow with people, yet the energy seems to be that of a simmering pot. In Vietnam, the pot is at full boil.... the lid is clanking and steam infiltrates the entire kitchen. All of the restaurants are open air with no wall street-side. While I ate breakfast I was not a spectator sheltered in a building, I still felt immersed in the general hubbub of the street. I watched men drink multiple pitchers of beer, people ride by with nitrous oxide tanks on their scooter racks, a prostitute shamelessly proposition street-side, a dog defecate three times in succession, vendors carrying their entire product lines around their necks and I watched white people! I am no longer a shining beacon of blond…other races exist in this Asian world! On my walk home from breakfast, I was pulled into another. I sat and ate with a cool Filipino couple until the need for another shower brought me back to my hotel room.

I have been in Vietnam for less than 12 hours and I already feel saturated with the energy. I'll check out of this room at noon and hopefully meet my couch host at five. I was nervous, I loved being home, I was starting to miss Korea, I was feeling crazy for leaving two great worlds behind. Now, I realize why I do scalp is tingling, I feel like Aladdin (I know the imagery makes no sense because he is Arab and I'm in Asia, but I have a loaf of bread in my purse and wish I was wearing a turban.) So please excuse me as Abu and I go rob the rich and feed the poor, now I am Robin Hood.

....I should start traveling with people.