Next year this will be more appropriate… But it’s still a good poem.

“Twenty-Four Years” -Dylan Thomas

Twenty-four years remind the tears of my eyes.
(Bury the dead for fear that they walk to the grave in labour.)
In the groin of the natural doorway I crouched like a tailor
Sewing a shroud for a journey
By the light of the meat-eating sun.
Dressed to die, the sensual strut begun.
With my red veins full of money,
In the final direction of the elementary town
I advance as long as forever is.

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I had an impromptu visit during my class today. It wasn’t just anyone dropping my classroom, but the Deputy Prime Minister of Vietnam happened to be visiting AGU. And on his tour around the campus he happened to be near my classroom. He came in along with the Chairman of the An Giang People’s Committee and several important people in AGU. He exchanged a few words with me in English and then addressed the class in Vietnamese before leaving. I was really nervous because I was sweaty and had chalk dust all over my hands and pants. But he was just in and out and that was all.

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Julie is back!! That’s right, Julie is in Long Xuyen. She came in yesterday in time to see the Spring Festival (which I need to write more about later) and now she’ll be here for a few days and leave on Saturday. It’s amazing to see her back here. She keeps saying how things have changed and the reactions that she gets when people see her are amazing.

Ahh Sundays… Today involved sleeping until 8 a.m. and then having a nice breakfast at a new place and a new dish for me. It was a very runny egg and a lump of ground pork with spices and such. It reminded me a little of sausage. And then to a café near the artificial lake near the river. Just nice to sit and talk of light things and enjoy the shade and the breeze.

I was with Steven and a good friend of ours who works at the International Relations Office at the university; his name is Tri. He recently discovered a scholarship opportunity to study English for three months in the Philippines and now Sharla, Steven and I have been helping him write a “brief description” of him and his work here at the university. So after coffee we came back to my room and we worked on this document for a good half hour or so.

Tri at breakfast
Tri eating breakfast.

Then Steven wanted to practice driving. He’s borrowing a motorbike from a friend this weekend and he was practicing outside of the guesthouse, trying to get the hang of movements involving accelerating and braking. We went out to the deserted streets behind the university and he practiced more and we cruised around the empty streets and had fun. Then it was 11:30 and time to meet Racheline. Racheline is a volunteer from Australia who lives out in the actual city of Long Xuyen, and I co-teach a class with her and just recently she began teaching for the Center for Foreign Languages here at AGU. So we had a nice leisurely lunch. While we were at the café, we noticed that they had the generator running, which means that there’s no power at the guesthouse. But we came back and sat around for a few minutes and introduced Buong to Racheline and the power came back on and people dispersed and I turned on the music of Tom Waits.

The sky was overcast today when I left my classroom. I thought it would make the weather significantly cooler, but I didn’t notice that much difference. I was teaching a conversational English class, so for the majority of the time teaching I’m either asking the students questions or encouraging them to ask me questions. Tyler and I are actually co-teaching the class, and we’re using some conversational English book we found here, and the subject today happened to be about clothes. I found myself trying to explain why the English language uses plurals that aren’t necessary at all. Words such as pants and shorts and pajamas. Perhaps there is a good and logical explanation that would make sense to me, as a native speaker, but I sure don’t know it and it would’ve been too hard to explain it using only English if I did know it.

Otherwise Tyler is in the center of Vietnam, in the city of Hue, checking out where he’ll be working this summer. David, as I mentioned before, is back in cold Canada (and missed greatly around here) and mentioned that one particular morning it was -20C. And Sharla will be leaving soon to travel with her dad for a couple weeks. Steven and I seem to be the only ones who don’t go many places or do many exciting things. We’re the homebodies that just stay in Long Xuyen most of the time and bum around. And I really don’t mind it at all.

The weather is still a little unusual. It rained yesterday afternoon and later when Steven and I went out looking for sandwiches the dirt road leading up to our campus was full of muddy puddles.

Steven has a history of some amateur boxing back in Australia, and for the past two days I’ve been doing some of the work with him. However, the exercises have left my whole body completely sore and aching, and this morning it hurt when I was getting out of bed, so I’m taking a day off. One of the good things from this exercising is that I finally learned how to skip rope; something I’ve never done in my life.

Last night it was a little quiet around the guesthouse, but things soon changed. In one week the university is hosting the Foreign Language Department’s Spring Festival. This means there are songs to prepare. So before I retired for the night I was sitting outside under the moon, being eaten alive by mosquitoes, and playing my violin to the accompaniment of a guitar, singing along to the songs I knew… It was rather glorious.

Last night there was a strange phenomenon here in Long Xuyen. Steven, Tyler, and myself were out having a nice quiet dinner, and we were discussing what movie we should watch after words. Things were agreed upon before we left and departed from the small restaurant and headed toward home. However, we were also planning on purchasing snacks to accompany the movie. Steven was riding with me, and we noticed that things continued to hit us in our faces as we drove along. When we turned onto Vo Thi Sau street and headed towards the university, the lights near the street showed something that appeared to be falling towards the ground; it reminded me of snow. But it wasn’t. It was billions of strange little insects flying around; not biting or really harming people in any way, except for the fact that there were so many of them. When I was driving I had to squint and shut my mouth and not say anything. And then when we stopped to buy snacks there were swarms around us too. I’m not sure what was worse: driving and having them smack into me, or stopping and letting them swarm all over. Even after the drive back to the guesthouse they were still stuck to our shirts and in my hair, etc. And this morning when I woke up there were thousands that had come under my door during the night and died.

It was a similar experience this evening too, except not so intense. I didn’t have to squint while I was driving this evening, though these strange bugs continued to smack into my torso.