The sun is shining hotly and the road continues to flood nearly every day because of the rain. It feels like time is escaping from me and just flying, sneaking by me when I’m not paying attention.
Recently, I took part in my first real roadtrip. The day actually started with me taking my drivers license exam. I was there at 7 a.m. with two friends to help me through the process. Mostly it was just waiting, and waiting, as hundreds of people took the exam. Mine was an interesting experience, and I was home around 11. Then the trip began: Duc and Sharla on Duc’s bike, and me and Tyler on my bike.
We started out towards Tri Ton, a small town in the province of An Giang. Duc had said something about driving up a mountain there, and we were excited about it. However, after driving for a long time and having just reached the town limit of Tri Ton, the rain started to come down in buckets. We all stopped at a small café and drank sugarcane juice and ate shrimp chips and waited. And waited. The rain poured down and thunder was crashing all around. I had one raincoat and everyone else bought glorified trash bags that tear easily. When the rain was more of a mist we took off again. It was cold driving like that, with the rain sneaking in around the edges of my poncho. Finally there was no more rain and we drove along a narrow road with Khmer temples at some points. There were mountains jutting out of the flat delta on our left and a broad expanse of perfectly flat rice paddies on our right.
Tyler and Sharla had digital cameras and were trying to capture some of the beauty of it all.
We finally came to the mountain, Nui Cam, and started up the steepest road I’ve ever driven in Vietnam. The road was wet but I was downshifting and doing okay. But then there was a gate. We stopped and the people there told Duc that we couldn’t go all the way up the mountain, we had to pay 30,000 each and they would take us up. So then we turned around and went back down. Nui Cam is a touristy town, and but on this particular day it seemed to be nearly deserted. We found an empty restaurant and ate noodles and everyone laughed at my wet and wrinkled feet. After eating we lounged around in hammocks and talked about the roof of the place collapsing on us. Chuckling and a little giddy with exhaustion.
Then back to the motorbikes and off for Long Xuyen again. The road we traveled was narrow, but it was cool because of the rain. We drove slower on the way back. But as we approached Long Xuyen, I was conscious of a growing pain. When we finally arrived back at the guesthouse, I could hardly walk because of the pain. I’m definitely not used to sitting on motorbikes for extended periods of time. And because I had been wearing a helmet for so long, my hair wasn’t curly or puffy, but stuck close to my head. More roadtrips await.
The analogy that’s been in my head lately: Beating on a dead horse. I’m the one doing the beating and the dead horse is whatever I want to do. Eventually the beater gets exhausted. And, according to the analogy, the horse never gets up. Things just add up and eventually feel like they’re falling apart.
Exhibit: A meeting. Several weeks ago a bunch of English teachers were bugging me to start a discussion group for teachers. “Okay,” I said, “I’ll do it.” I decided to choose the topic for the first meeting myself, because trying to come to a group consensus is like trying to run really fast and fly, at least in my opinion. “We’ll have a meeting in one week to schedule the meetings,” I said and everyone agreed. Then the meeting comes around and hardly anyone is there. No one is saying much at all. I wished I had a cattle-prod or something to get some sound out of the few teachers that were there. “Here’s the hand-out with questions,” I said. “They are discussion questions so don’t try to answer them at home, we’re going to talk about them.” Every one agreed or at least pretended like they understood. “Everyone is tired now,” I said, “so I’ll write my email on the board here and please email me with topic ideas for the next meeting.” At least a week passes with no emails. I don’t want to dictate everything to them, but the horse just won’t get up. And then there are always the questions: “What’s the topic?” “The hand-out is on the table, you can read it.” “I didn’t see it” “It’s right there.” Etc.
I’m just really down about trying to do this all the time and my energy, which isn’t the best at any time, is failing fast.
I’m tired. I’m physically tired of working. My mind is numb during the times when I’m free. There are so many things spinning around and I’m just trying to focus on the things that matter. My dream when I came here was to teach literature. Now I’m teaching four, 45 minute periods every week, and I pour my heart into it and wonder if the students appreciate it. Then the rumors come back that my reading class is boring. I’ve never taught reading, I don’t know anything about the TOEFL exam, I’m just reading books and trying my best, and then the news comes that people don’t like the class. I don’t know what I should do. And then the pressure, to teach more, to go to the English Speaking Club, to start a new club for the teachers, to start movie night. Sometimes I just want to give it all up. I don’t know what I should be doing. I don’t know what’s right. I feel so tired. I’m giving away my energy by buckets and nothing is coming back. After teaching I walk away in a daze covered in sweat and chalk dust. There were no erasers in the classroom. The brand-new building has fans that don’t work. My room needs cleaned. I need to eat sometimes. Maybe this is just a bad time, but the more I think, the more I want to escape to somewhere else. I’ve been here for nearly a year now, and that’s a long time for me. Perhaps my restless spirit is telling me to move on again.