Tuesday, 8 September 2015

3 am

I don't know why time zone differences always hit me the hardest exactly 1 week after I've landed. Right not it's 3 am in Vietnam. I just woke up, wide aware, with no signs to be able to go back to bed for another few hours.

Oh well, let's make the most of it. Sometimes you don't always need inspiration to write... only boredom and 2 beers.

I don't know if this is for everyone, but every day while I walk around, my mind is taking notes. "This would be a nice picture. That would be a cool painting. How could I describe this on paper? That girl's pretty hot. What kind of ninjutsu would I have if I was from Konoha?"

So, hopefully, I'll be able to organise these thoughts into something concrete this very early morning, while listening to the roosters sing.

I wish I had a my camera lens! The locals will start to be active in about one hour. Dernit!

One thing I often fail to mention to people who ask me what I like about living in Vietnam, is that there seems to be something special going on every day, a special moment to notice or an even to witness. For example, a few days after moving in, during a torrential downpour, Henri and I went for some food down the street. All the tiny shops, restaurants and coffee shops seemed to be closed (heavy rain has the same effect as a blizzard in Montréal) but we soon found something that seemed open.

A sign above a big sliding door sported pictures of noodle dishes. We walk in, crossing the tiny river that has formed from the rain water, deep enough to completely submerge our feet. There's a few small plastic tables and stools set up, and in the back of the small room are sitting a group of 5-6 men, going through several dishes and beers while talking. As I'm taking off my poncho, one of the men asks me in English "What do you want?". "I want to eat", I reply. Discussions ensue with the lady who is working there (who seems to a few tic-tocs missing of a full clock, judging from the vacant stare in her eyes) and eventually we're told to sit and wait a few minutes while she cooks us some seafood noodles.

We order a dish of fried rice and a dish of noodles, but only one plate of noodles comes out of the kitchen. Oh well, it's 3 pm anyways, we're lucky to have found something open. A snack will have to do.

As we start to share our meal, the man who can speaka little bit of English starts a conversation with us. My housemate Henri is from Toronto, but a 2nd-generation Vietnamese migrant, so he can talk to him in Vietnamese. We quickly learn that it's one of the men's birthday! Figures, that's why they were having such a feast! They offer that we join them in drinking a few beers. I'm about to say yes when Henri turns to me and whispers "You know if we start this right now, we're not out of here for a few hours, and we'll be completely smashed. Look at the birthday guy..."

I look in the corner of the room. The guy who's birthday it is has just moved to a lawn chair set up by the far wall and is sound asleep.

"Yeah, you're right. I don't have to work today though".
"Me neither, but I don't feel like getting day-drunk".
"Hmmm. I'm trying to cut down on my drinking too".

After this quick exchange, we decline politely. But, just to prove my point, that day was unexpectedly special. We got to cheer for someone's birthday. I also talked with one of the men, a small Vietnamese of white hair who I originally thought was about 90 years old. It was hard to conceal my shock when he told me he was in his 60s.

As I was looking for food this afternoon, we met in the street. He said a big hello, shook my hand, and told me he liked me a lot. "Today, I drink beer" he adds with a smile. I already guessed that sir, from the way your breath killed all the plants on the street.

I'm happy to say that after moving 4 times since arriving in Ho Chi Minh city in March, I seem to have finally found a nice house where I can set my bags down for a while (aiming at 6 months). Okay, I could be somewhere else much cheaper, but my housemates are pretty cool and we have two roof terraces, one of which we have decided to clean up and pimp out.

Today I went up there and checked out the numerous neglected plants. As I was cleaning their pots I found myself worrying about spiders, but all I disturbed was tiny, dark geckos who jumped out of the pot at the first sign of danger.

I love these little guys. I saw one of them in my room when I woke up earlier.

I don't know why, but in every class I've taught to adults so far (not a lot, mind you), for the first few weeks, the students always try to find a flaw in me. I guess it's their right since they're paying customers, but I find it quite annoying and counter-productive. I teach conversational English (harder than it sounds, but easier than grammar for me) but am often interrupted and even challenged in the classroom about the way my sentences are built - either as I'm talking, or on written exercises.

I try time and time again to explain to them that written and spoken language are very different and what you learn in school books is too perfect - that no one talks like that in real life - but I am often met with sceptical looks and a respectful "Okay".

I mean, I've never heard "Furthermore" being used so casually before, and so often. Another example: these kids are drilled relentlessly with grammar and syntax as they grow up. They're walking dictionaries. If you make a spelling mistake on the board (which happens when you confuse English and French, like me) they'll get the classroom all worked up. They'll also ask you what a word means when they know what it means, just to see if your definition matches their dictionary's or Google's.

It's still fun however, and I'd like to think I'm quickly getting the hang of it.

Well folks, that's all my brain can muster at this time of the night with 3 hours of sleep. Have a good one!

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