It was a first today. Something that I never expected to happen in my time here. I called the bus company to reserve a ticket to the big city tomorrow morning, and they thought I was Vietnamese. She kept referring to me as “uncle,” even though I’m 90% sure that she was older than me. When the woman finally asked for my name, she said: “Oh, a foreigner.”

I never expected this to happen because I haven’t attended a Vietnamese class in years and didn’t think I was progressing at all on my own (because I really don’t even study anymore). I don’t know, I guess it’s a boastful moment for me, but I really felt elated about it.


Yesterday morning the heat was terrible. After lunch I went home and napped and was fearful of the heat in the afternoon because I would be out teaching in it. But there were little cool gusts of wind and it didn’t seem to be as hot. And in class I heard something strange: thunder. However, there was no rain. When I was out having dinner, the rain finally fell. And it was wonderfully cool. Around lunchtime today a light rain was falling, and when it stopped, the air felt wonderful. Finally, some relief from this heat.

At the moment, I’m typing some student’s critiques of the IC3 program that I’ve just wrapped up. It’s just what you would expect: some have good things to say and others complain a lot; typical college-student stuff. However, one of the pieces of paper had a short message about me. It went like this:

“And I also want Eric to teach our class next year and next year and 4ever (but the next 2 years are okay, because I want to graduate!). Thanks for teaching me.”

Things like this are going to make leaving this place tough for me.

The internet here has been having problems since Friday, and still today it might work, and it might not, with no way of knowing until you try it. The official word is that something happened with the cable in a neighboring province, and no one is quite sure when everything will be back to normal.

And it’s hot here. On Monday I was in the classroom (un-air-conditioned, remember) for more than 6 hours, finishing my listening and speaking class and sweating, and later lecturing about Huck Finn and worrying that I might faint. But I didn’t and somehow survived the day. The problem now is that it’s so humid. Your skin feels clammy. And my internet weather thingy said that at 10:30 this morning it was over 100. When the sun goes down, it doesn’t change much, because the moisture is still floating around in the air. I was driving to the office this afternoon and I swear I could feel my eyeballs overheating. I hope the rain comes soon.

But yeah, I’m now finished teaching listening and speaking for the semester. Now there’s just a ton of little odd jobs to do, like grading their research tests (along with the control class’s), typing up their critiques of IC3, submitting all the paperwork for the final exam, etc. Things that aren’t really a lot of work separately, but put them together and you’ve got a lot.

Two out of the last four nights have been restless and nearly sleepless for me. It turns me into a person that longs for lunchtime and the nap that accompanies it. I’ve been asking myself, “Why can’t I sleep?” I’m awake at night, lying in bed, turning and restless, thinking. “Thinking of what?” you might ask. Thinking of deadlines that are fast approaching; of the end of my listening and speaking class next week; of the visit from Dan Wessner and the EMU students; of going home. I’ll be home in eight months. Yes, I’ll be home. It’s a confusing concept to me now. I feel well-settled here in Long Xuyen. I have everything I could ask for here. I’m happy here. But I will be going home at the end of this year. Home to drive in cars, drink from the tap, and use shower curtains once again. Home to where I can’t spit in restaurants and yell at the waiters and waitresses. It’s eight months away but I’m nervous already. I won’t know what to do, I won’t know how to act. Things have changed at home as they have changed for me here. Ohio, at this point, is more like “home” to me now. I was born there, I went to college there, but now it’s like some distant, abstract concept. At times, when a student or colleague asks me a question about something in Ohio, I feel like I have no authority to speak about it. What if it’s different now? Unfortunately things aren’t static. I’ll have to pack my three years into two suitcases in a few short months.

Another story about life and trying to get things done in Long Xuyen: I was scheduled to view the movie Dead Poets Society this morning with one of my third-year classes. I arrived in the room at 7 a.m., and found the LCD projector all set-up and ready to go. However, the sound system wasn’t hooked up or ready to go. One of my students went and found a technician, and he took care of the problem, but by now it was about 7:15. Then we finally started watching the movie, and the power cut out. Slightly annoying, but it usually comes back on in a few minutes. And it did. But then it cut out again, and again. In total, it cut out five times, and every time it did, we had to wait for it to come back on, and then I had to restart the LCD projector and DVD player, only to repeat the same process a few minutes later when the power went out again. Finally, about 7:50, we started watching uninterrupted. I didn’t know it at the time, but part of the power grid in Long Xuyen had been cut, and AGU was running on generators at this time. Therefore, the air-conditioning units had been turned off, and the room was getting warmer and warmer. Luckily, the movie ended before the heat became unbearable.

Afterwards, when I found out that we were all running on generators, I stepped out to a small cafe for a coffee and chatted with the owner before realizing that it was getting time for lunch. Last night, I couldn’t sleep well, and I was looking forward to a nice, rejuvenating nap. However, without power, there was no air movement at all at home. I opened the window, but there was no breeze, just still, humid heat. I tried to sleep, but it was miserable. Finally, Hendrik and I agreed to go to another “office”: a cafe in town with A/C and internet access. So here we now sit, sipping on tea and typing emails and doing other various work because someone somewhere decided that the power to AGU had to be cut all day on Monday. The rumor going around is that AGU will not have full power until this evening at 6.

And just for fun: This is a beautiful and moving song by Bob Dylan. It’s haunting and all too familiar-sounding. I Was Young When I Left Home.

In class this morning, we had close to two and a half hours of presentations. My students are getting pretty good, and I’m especially impressed with their confidence.

In this picture, Hue looks on while Helene presents a point.