Wednesday, 18 September 2013

That's it, I quit

If you read my last post then you'll know that Lee and I have packed in our job here in Ho Chi Minh. And now, ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, I present to you my reasons why.

The boring stuff/list of grievances regarding the job itself include:
  •  medical insurance that only covers you for death or hospitalisation (the NHS never looked so good)
  • No sick pay. 
  • No paid planning time. 
  • No system for sharing lesson plans, creating a situation where hundreds of teachers are reinventing the wheel with each day, at great cost to their time and effort. 
  • No paid bank holidays. 
  • Only two lifts in a building with 14 floors, so at the weekends you have to walk up floors and floors of stairs over and over because the kids are using it to go from floor 1-3. This sounds trivial but walking from floor 3-9 in your break to get to the staff room, I think takes the piss.
  • Boiling hot classrooms. Don't these people know how much I sweat?
The crux of the work related issue is that we felt we weren't told the whole story at interview, and the truth of the job just didn't sit right with us.

And now we come to issues with the city itself, or should we say 'dealbreakers.'
We were picked up from the airport by a friendly South African girl from the company. Tired, sweaty and ready for bed, we got in the taxi, so glad to have arrived. Then SA girl begins to tell us things. Scary things. Sure, it's nice and probably necessary to be warned, but still these were things I for one didn't want to hear during my very first moments in Ho Chi Minh.

"Two teachers from the company died this year, they think from poisoned fake alcohol. One of them was found dead alone in his hotel room. Don't drink the spirits."
Right. What, anywhere? Ever?

 "I never carry a bag because there are so many bag thefts by scooters on the street. If you're lucky they'll rip it right off you, if not they might drag you along the road with them. I keep my money and my phone in my bra, and that's it."

We weren't sure how seriously to take this- for all we knew she was a bit paranoid. Could Ho Chi Minh seriously be worse than, say, Bangkok? The thought seemed ludicrous. 
But since that initial warning we've met at least four women who this has happened too. (And bearing in mind we've been here for three weeks, I think that's quite a lot.)

We were out having a drink the other day and we met with a girl we knew who was quite drunk. We walked home with her, with the view that this would keep her safe. As I've mentioned in a previous post, in this city there are no proper pedestrian crossings, you simply have to go. I walked with drunk girl across a big, deserted road. A scooter was heading towards us and I was trying to work out if they would go in front or behind. They seemed to be aiming for us, it was weird. Most scooters, aware that you are moving forwards, head behind you, but this guy with friend on the back came infront. Very, very close. All too late, I was like 'shit, they're gonna hit us,' then they veered into drunk girl and I heard a BANG! 
I thought they'd hit her but then seconds later I realised (as did she) that they'd pulled her handbag clean away, the strap making the noise as it broke away from the bag itself.
And then they were gone.
To experience it up close like that was shocking to say the least. Drunk girl was in utter shock, we all felt terrible for her but didn't really know how to make her feel better. And then there was that deep down selfish part that thought 'thank goodness it didn't happen to me.'
This is not the life I want. The constant vigilance at all times of day and night for bag snatchers, or making Lee carry everything, hence relying on him in much the same way I did in Saudi.
Maybe I'm being melodramatic, I don't know. All I know is that it's not nice.  
The next day we were warning a hippy couple, who promptly came back with the story that the guy had been recently held at knife point and mugged in Nah Trang up the coast. Talk about trump your story! But apparently that was OK, because 'They won't actually stab you here, not like back home in Australia.'
Oh, yipee! Now I feel thoroughly at ease.
The day after that we told a senior teacher at work what had happened, to which she promptly showed us her arm scars. 'I got dragged about 20 metres before they let go.'

Unfortunately these are not just rumors, they are all too real and I just don't like it. 

The last point I will discuss in my blog post of pure joy and happiness is scooter accidents. The roads here are crazy. It's organised chaos, organised I believe on because the Vietnamese people have been scootering the streets here since they were born. But for a foreigner, how the hell do you navigate your way across a cross road where everyone just filters constantly like sand. You've got to have eyes in the back of your head.
There is no way on earth I am buying a scooter.
Although we seem to be pretty much the only foreigners that feel like this. Square? 
On our first night, South African girl showed us the massive scar on her foot (and later we found out she also skinned her chest) from a scooter accident. On that same night we met a guy who'd broken his collar bone.
We've heard stories of handle bars being yanked, people being flung, we've seen scars and cuts and bruises. And it's enough to put us off for life.
And the big problem with writing off having a scooter is that Ho Chi Minh doesn't work without one. Taxis are slow and expensive, and walking is a gauntlet.

So in conclusion- 'That's it, I quit, I'm moving on!'



  1. Sorry to hear that but hope you are well. I had a similar impression of HCM a few years ago, although I have met (crazy) people that had a blast buying tuk-tuks and driving them them from South to North with only a few bruises. Where is the next destination? Take care! Roy (Sri Lanka)

    1. Glad we're not the only ones who felt like this! We're heading back to korea again in the not so far future.
      How ru guys and baby Erik?

  2. change will be exciting!!

    i always love finding a kindred travel lover! can't wait to follow along on bloglovin'.

    the well-traveled wife

    1. We seem to have an awful lot of changes but yes, I hope ur right!
      Welcome to my blog and I look forward to reading about your adventures too.

  3. Wow Rachel, a really crazy story. Hope you guys find a better place to live soon! Best regards to Lee, too!

    1. Thanks Eddi! Yes all is good here now in Korea :)


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