Some brief recollections about my fourth Tet in Vietnam…

I got a few days off from work before the lunar new year and shot up to HCMC with friends for a couple days of fun and seeing old friends and eating pizza (which I’d been without for like five months and really craving). However, as I learned the morning after eating a greasy Pizza Hut pizza that your stomach really needs to be conditioned first and had a nice stomach ache.

After a couple days of madness and fast food in the big city five of us found seats on a bus back to The LX. Tyler and I had an invitation from the vice-chairman of the province to come visit his house, and we made it back in time for me to take a shower before heading out to his house for a nice evening of seeing some old friends and students and sipping beers and a special kind of dark purple rice wine from some central province that I can’t seem to remember the name of.

For the lunar new year’s eve they shoot off fireworks in LX, and I’d made arrangements to meet up with some of my former students to find a good vantage point to view them.

students

At our agreed vantage point in downtown LX, we had a nice view of the streets that were absolutely packed with motorbikes to the point where they couldn’t move, much less cars. There were even a couple ambulances stuck in the mess that could barely move even with the help of the police.

traffic
(note the taxi stuck in the middle and unable to move)

But finally, about 10:20 p.m., we got to see what we were waiting for. The fireworks began blasting off of the roof of the Dong Xuyen Hotel, one of the tallest buildings in LX. And they kept blasting and going. At one point we thought they were finished, even though it didn’t really seem like a finale, and then they started up again…

fireworks

The first day of the lunar new year I went to visit an old friend who was on duty because he works for the government, this led to eventually going back to his house and meeting other friends, some old for me and some new. After that, I was invited to a quick coffee but after a short time was called away again to another friend’s house for a few more beers before turning in.

The second day of the year of the golden buffalo was nice and relaxing and I was feeling lazy but was eventually convinced to go sing karaoke with a former student and a former colleague that I’d never gotten to know well. The place had a very nice selection of English songs and after singing for a couple hours we went and had a dish that I hadn’t had for ages: beef grilled on a roofing tile. It might sound slightly weird if you aren’t familiar with it, but for those of you who’ve had it, you know what I mean…

The third day of the lunar new year Tyler was back in LX with his fiancee responding to an invitation from the vice-rector of An Giang University. I arrived at 9 a.m. and was greeted by a bottle of brandy which descended into visiting two more friends’ houses, including a Mr. Trang, one of my oldest friends in LX. He and his wife have a new two-month old baby, and he was joyous.

Trang and Thi

Our final activity for the day was more singing of karaoke, and I got back to my room slightly after midnight.

karaoke

For the past few days I’ve been taking it nice and easy and I’m back to work tomorrow.

In final conclusion: Happy New Year!

—————-
Now playing: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott – Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues
via FoxyTunes

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There have been so many things since I last updated this blog months ago. Every time I thought about updating, I just felt more and more overwhelmed with things to write, and kept putting everything off. But there are two major things to note now, if one wishes to be “updated” on my life:

-One: I’ve been to Europe
-Two: I’m back in Long Xuyen and have a job as an English teacher in a private center, which pays much more than volunteering ever did

The latest issue that I’ve been waltzing with is that of housing. When I first came to Long Xuyen, I was living in my manager’s house. After a few days there, I was informed that I had to move on police orders. After that I was living in a house along with two other Filipino teachers, but the house was far from downtown, hot and noisy. Finally, I found house for rent for less than 200 USD a month, and I also found a French roommate. The two of us lived there for around a month and a half before the landlord finally got scared of the laws of the province and gave us three days to leave. As it had taken me a month to find the house for rent in the first place, I knew I couldn’t find a place in four days. So for the past several days I’ve been living in a hotel (where having cable TV is very distracting) and waiting for the paperwork to be finished so I can move to a well-appointed room that overlooks the lake in town.

I still enjoy my life here in this small city that was once described in a guidebook as “the black hole of the delta.” I never cease to be greeting with smiles from people of all ages and have several times been surprised when I am told that people know me even though they’ve never met me.

However the holidays were rather meager for me as I only got one day off for Christmas and another day off for New Years. I suppose that I should just get used to things like that as doctors and police don’t get holidays off either.

And I’ve been wondering what career path in the future is actually meant for me. I still enjoy teaching, but I don’t have as much freedom in my current job as I did when I worked for the university. Sometimes I think back to the time I spent as a reporter in Ohio and wonder if I could write in Vietnam. I was in email contact with Lonely Planet, but finally was told that I hadn’t been accepted to write for them either. Oh well, so it goes. At least in this place my patience isn’t being stressed and squeezed to the point of breaking like it was back in the states.

So, this wasn’t much of a detailed update, but I’ll try to keep them coming more regularly now.