Recently the days here seem to fluctuate between burning sunshine and rainy and cool. I like the coolness, but I can’t say I like the rain much. Last week in class it started pouring (which I initially thought was wonderful, it would cool things down) and it was so loud that I was practically shouting to be heard by my students. Yesterday, after lunch, I was leaving the guesthouse and headed to the office, and it was lightly drizzling. No problem, I thought. It’d been drizzling most of the morning. But in the 5 minutes that it takes to get to campus, it started pouring buckets. The front of my shirt was soaked. But as soon as I parked my bike and climbed off, the rain stopped. I walked into the office and someone thought that I had been sweating. It rained for such a short time that my colleagues inside didn’t even know it was raining in the first place.

I’ve been in the office a lot lately; we have the nearly religious ceremony of coffee breaks. In the middle of the afternoon, or morning, or whenever, I’ll get a text message, or someone will come into the office, or one of the two guys in the office (Tri or Lam) will just glance over and say something like: “Eric, quick coffee.” And of course I always comply. We walk out across the street from the university and go to a little hole-in-the-wall place with a low ceiling with newspapers and old calendars as wallpaper. We almost always drink coffee (a little more than 10 cents) or lemonade (a little less than 10 cents) and watch one or both of the TVs in the place. Usually they show action movies from America, China, or Thailand dubbed in Vietnamese, or sometimes Vietnamese or Chinese soap operas, or soccer, or Tom and Jerry cartoons, or any combination of the above. The other day I was in there having a coffee between classes and I could either watch one of the Chucky movies or Tom and Jerry. The owner of the place is a middle-aged man who always seems to have a smile on his face and yells out the customers’ orders to the back of the place where pajama-clad women prepare the drinks and then bring them out.

Classes are going just great and I’m looking forward to the extra time off this weekend because of Independence Day. Last year I was in Hanoi at this time, and they had fireworks there, and I sure hope they have them here too. And today marks the end of my Monday, Wednesday, and Friday evening classes, which will be a welcome relief to me.

My co-workers/coffee buddies:


and Tri.

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