The other night we were sitting around and I brought up a theory that I’d been turning over in my mind: The dysfunctional family of foreigners living in the guesthouse theory.
I use the term family to refer to the fact that four or five people usually do a lot of things together, i.e. meals, movies, hanging out, etc. Dysfunctional in a way because all of us have simply arrived here and now we are in a situation where we all live in close proximity to each other. No one that is here came here knowing anyone else (I came here knowing Jon, Jack, and Julie, but now the world has swallowed them up) but now it’s to a point now where we almost need each other. We need to talk to each other about this new culture and place. We need the comfort of speaking our native language with other native speakers. When I try to write about this, I find it quite difficult to put into words, but there is a feeling that I get and it’s hard to sum up. A feeling of camaraderie because we are all in the same/similar situation(s) and therefore we are somehow drawn to each other, and hence, the dysfunctional family theory.
Teaching seems to be winding down a bit for me and I still have a pile of tests and papers to grade. I tried to take a short nap this afternoon only to be pounced upon by Buong. A week or so ago I went out and bought food and ate in my room. And I gave him a few small pork bones. He still plays with them now and I seem to wake up in the midst of little bones all the time. Anyhow, I was trying to nap and he wanted to play with the small bones. So that wasn’t working out well. And then people started to send me messages so I just got up; another frustrating nap experience.
The weather is changing somehow here, and I’m not really sure how. It was drizzling a few nights ago which seemed a little odd. I’ve been asking around when the rainy season ends, and people usually just say “December,” but if my calendar is correct that’s in a few days.
Yesterday was another road trip. This time we were headed for the city of Can Tho. The caravan consisted of Duc, Sharla, Steven, and me. The main goal of the trip: to eat pizza. It was Sunday, so that meant a leisurely breakfast and a late start on the trip. But around 10:30 a.m. we were off. We drove through the partially-overcast weather on a rather narrow road, but at least there were relatively few potholes. Once again, my rear was starting to kill me after ¾ of the drive, but I stuck it out in the name of adaptation. There were more and more industrial parks and even a sign for an airport as we pulled into the 5th largest city in this country. The order of things was this: pizza, bakery (at Sharla’s insistence), and then Citimart.
It occurred to me as we sat down to eat at the pizza place, with its tri-lingual menu and being full of foreigners, that this city was almost like a smaller version of Ho Chi Minh City. Little kids didn’t shout “hello!!” at us when we drove through the streets, we spotted lots of white people walking around the park by the river, etc. A very different feel from the dusty small town of Long Xuyen.
Pizza was wonderful and we ate overlooking a small park and the river. After we had been stuffed with cheese and grease we had to wait for the rain to cease and shoved a pizza box into the “trunk” on Abe. Then it was off through the misting sky to a bakery that smelled really good from the road. However, inside I saw little or nothing that really appealed to me.
Finally, to the Citimart, a kind of supermarket/clothes shop thing. It’s rather difficult to explain, because I’ve never really seen anything like it in the states. The ground floor was supermarketish, followed by a second floor with clothes, shoes, and massage chairs for sale. The top floor was mainly an arcade where Duc and I blew a few bucks shooting zombies in a video game. Only when we were ready to leave did I realize that the top floor also contained a bowling alley. Bowling: a passion and frustration for me, but always fun. Next time I suppose.
The ride home consisted of some speeding on straightaways. Several times I was hitting 70kph. I checked the conversion and it works out to nearly 44mph. Not very impressive by American standards, but if you have seen the traffic and road conditions in the Mekong Delta, you would know how fast it feels here.
In the evening movie night rolled around and Tyler and I went over and started things and then Sharla showed up later to view the Chinese film. Near the end of the movie I hear the loudest thunderclap in my life and it rumbled on and on for what felt like a minute. It was still drizzling a little as the three of us piled onto my motorbike for the chilly ride home.
It was a cool raining evening and a total of seven students came to my class (which should have around 25). I decided to teach anyway and tried my to make reading seem interesting while the rain drizzled down and some strange insects were covering the walls. Tyler and I were both teaching that evening and decided to end our classes early due to the lack of students. Upon reaching the guesthouse we discovered that Steven and Sharla were nowhere to be found. A phone call was exchanged and we learnt the location of the two and headed out for a small meal at a place that we call the teacher’s village. We sat around on floors with lots of other teachers from AGU and joked and nibbled on food that was sitting in dishes on the floor. We stayed there quite late and finally came back to the guesthouse in the cool evening air.
Thanksgiving day in Long Xuyen. There were talk of plans for a feast in the guesthouse. I didn’t actually take part in buying the decorations, but I did help putting them up, a little. That was yesterday. Today rolled around and people in the guesthouse had found where to get a turkey and found a restaurant that would cook it for us. Tyler had recently gone to Ho Chi Minh City and found ingredients for stuffing and they were cooking that too. And there was a rumor that gravy would be included as well. People were beginning to congregate around 3 or so. Sharla was mopping, others were beginning to cook potatoes, and me and Tyler looked around a little, and then went out to try and fix the blinkers on the motorbike. Finally the turkey arrived on a motorbike and shortly after the eating began.
Some of us started eating as soon as the turkey was cut, and not small pieces either. I hadn’t realized how much I missed turkey. It tasted wonderful, and the stuffing wasn’t the best, but it tasted good. The gravy didn’t make it, but I ate and ate and was stuffed like I should be. Jenna and Phil put to together a very sweet (literally and figuratively) apple pie somehow and it was amazing, except for the fact that I was so stuffed that I could barely put it down. Eventually people started going off to class and bed, and then it was just the four: Steven, Sharla, Tyler, and me. We played Monopoly and watched some TV before we went to our separate rooms.
Events like this day tend to make me think of the past because of the significance of the holiday, at least in my memory. This is the first Thanksgiving that I’ve experienced away from my family. There was no fire in the woodstove and no games of pool or ping-pong in the basement. The weather here was a little rainy in the evening, but not brisk and chilly like what I’m used to. I have a new life here, and it’s like this guesthouse serves as some strange unifier that turns all of the people here into some odd family. I don’t mean odd in a negative way by any means, but being in these walls, and being from Western countries pulls us all together. It was interesting that this was Steven’s first Thanksgiving ever; I didn’t know that they didn’t have it in Australia.
And life beats on here, to the rhythm of blasts of motorbike horns and the dying rainy season. Things pile up for classes at the end of the semester and I’ll be hustling around like a madman, a crazy nut, and then I hope to relax with my parents when they get here. The days go by so fast.