I am in a continual, daily battle here with my posters. I asked my parents to send over some of the posters that I used to have hanging in my room at home. When the posters got here I was ecstatic; my room here would feel more like me. The posters stayed on the walls for quite some time, but they started falling off a few weeks ago. When I come back from class, there is a chance that I’ll find one or two on the floor. Sometimes when I’m asleep one of them falls and the sound is like a crash in my otherwise quiet room.
I’m not sure what causes this, but there are at least two theories. A friend of mine said that it’s the heat, which I believe to an extent. I personally believe that they tend to only fall off of the walls that experience a difference in temperature. For example, the wall between my main room and my bedroom. On good days, there is a poster of Bob Dylan there, however, since I leave the air conditioning on in my bedroom most of the day and don’t turn it on in the other room it creates some sort of weird temperature difference, which in turn somehow lets gravity overcome the sticky-tack.
However, I think that in addition to the heat, the humidity does something to the stick-tack as well. It seems that after this certain period of time the chemical composition has changed. Needless to say, it’s not that sticky anymore. And it doesn’t matter how much I put behind the posters, they still fall down, but only the large ones. Small things such as Quinn’s drawing and invitations to art shows and other more or less random pictures remain on the walls.
Sometimes the heat in the afternoons is oppressing. That’s not a very good word to use, but when I think about it, the word suits the way I feel. I come back from class dripping and dehydrated and try to drink water to make up for what I lost. On top of the heat, the mad mayhem of Mayterm is about to begin. I have until this Thursday to teach, then there is an extended weekend for Reunification and international labor day. Then, on the 4th of May, Dan and the crew from EMU will be in Ho Chi Minh City and Jon and I will be spending a good deal of time with them. This makes me worry about finishing classes at AGU before finals. I’m not sure if I can do it. Which then screws me up in terms of being free in order to get to HCMC to study Vietnamese.
I tell myself that regardless, things will be fine. But sometimes I already feel that I have started this sojourn stumbling and I don’t know if I can properly recover (this is mainly in terms of the language). I guess that there just is an atmosphere of English speakers here, with all the expats and students, and there isn’t much time to spend alone out on the streets or with people who are potential teachers.
Last night, the final evening of English Speaking Club for the semester, another teacher invited me to meet him for breakfast the next morning. The meeting went ahead as planned, even though I seemed to be magnetically attached to my bed, having stayed up late preparing and reading. He took me to have Hu Tieu, a soup dish with lots of rice noodles, pork, liver, and a few small shrimps in it as well. It was good, but we ate quickly and then went down the block for coffee at the Thu. It was nice to relax a little bit.
I went back to teaching in the afternoon for two periods, mainly handing back exams. When I was grading them I realized that I wasn’t very familiar with this grading system here, and therefore I don’t think that I graded everything as best as I could. I prefaced handing out the results by saying this.
For some reason this afternoon felt like it was one of the hottest ever. I was sweating more than I ever had here. After teaching I came back and drank a decent amount of water, but I can’t help feeling that I’m slightly dehydrated. I’m sure a doctor would tell me to drink more water.
Fat man looking in a blade of steel,
Thin man looking at his last meal,
Hollow man looking in a cottonfield,
Life here seems to be filled of doing many small things which at the time feel like nothing is accomplished, and it also means that time seems to slip away. So, in the end, I feel like I’m mostly doing nothing and while I’m doing nothing time is slipping past like jet plane, as Bob Dylan would say. The weather is really hot in the afternoons which furthermore makes me feel lethargic and doesn’t help much.
Things will be gradually shifting towards the insane very soon. I’m going to double my teaching here at the university in order to finish up my classes by the end of May. I need to do this because in the middle of May Dan Wessner will be here with a group from Eastern Mennonite University and I’ll be spending time with them. And then I need to be done with my classes before the first of June because I’m hoping to study in an intensive Vietnamese class at a university in Ho Chi Minh City this summer. Insanity. I was hoping that life here wouldn’t be constant insanity, but I’m finding out that it tends to lean in that direction.
I met Jon in Saigon on Thursday evening after a ride in a government car which bypassed the lines at the ferry. It was actually too cold for me in the car and therefore I didn’t sleep well at all. I was riding with a friend that I met through teaching at the department of agriculture and rural development; he was going to Germany for two months to study. He dropped me off at the hotel and then I ran up to a room and ordered a pizza.
Jon arrived later with longer hair wearing a sweatshirt. The next morning we ate pho for breakfast and eventually, after some difficulties were worked out with the airplane tickets, got on the flight to Thailand.
We arrived in Bangkok and met our CRs at the airport and then started the long ride down to the town of Cha-am, where are hotel/resort was. It was on a highway system similar to the interstate system in America, except people drove on the left, which really messed with my mind. I realized that evening that I hadn’t been on the beach in nine years and just spent a lot of time staring out into the waves. There were many interesting people at the retreat, and it was good to see Ben and Alisa again. Time at the resort passed by quickly and then on Monday morning we were headed back to Bangkok. Bangkok is a heavily modern city of six-lane highways, and then raised tollroads above that. A city of skytrains and subways. A city where I could find McDonalds.
Jon and I had arranged to stay and extra night in the city and so we tried a taxi, but that just left us stuck in the traffic. We then opted for the skytrain. Eventually we found a hotel and ordered a pizza. However, we were so exhausted around dinner time that we just nodded off. We woke up later and wandered around to find a live band playing classic rock, which really lifted my spirits.
The next day we woke up, packed, and then went to McDonald’s, something that I had been looking forward to. It wasn’t quite as good as what I remembered from the states, but it was okay. However, on the flight back to Saigon and then the bus ride back to Long Xuyen my stomach was feeling very odd (so I’ll just blame it on McDonald’s).
I received some bad news from a couple friends in the states today, and now my mind is on them. I’m so out of the loop here and isolated that news just takes forever to reach me. I’d feel helpless if I was there, but being here just makes me feel all the more helpless.
The past three days of my classes were divided up into little 5-minute blocks where I listened to my students speak and then graded them. It was honestly mind-numbing. I’d much rather run around the class and expend my energy that way. I was simply mentally drained after listening to them for so long.
In two hours though I’m headed to Saigon for an evening of pizza and meeting Jon again. Then tomorrow afternoon there is a retreat in Thailand which I’m really looking forward to. It’s only a few days, but it will be so nice to relax for awhile.