Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City!

What a whirlwind my life has been recently- it's been almost a month since I posted, due to a major lack of time. August was full of fun: seeing family and friends, driving around, going to Alton Towers and London, swimming, attempting to go to the gym, drinking (a lot). And also we were sorting out visa and uni stuff and generally  being slightly on edge about it all.
Now here we are in Ho Chi Minh city, starting a new life….again. We’ve been here for a week now and I can tell you it’s been pretty eventful. In our previous teaching jobs we’ve been babied somewhat in terms of living in the provided accommodation with the other teachers and not having to make our own way to work. In Korea we even had our meals provided! So it’s been quite overwhelming trying to learn the ropes of getting to and from work, navigating the crazy roads and finding decent but not too expensive places to eat. Oh yeah, and of course start a new job on top of all that. The centre we are working at has over 100 teachers, so there were loads of new faces and it was rather hectic over the weekend. On Saturday I taught my first classes, which was nerve racking as ever but turned out fine. Vietnamese kids are much the same as Korean- conscientious, hard working, sweet and generally happy to see you. None of this Saudi give-the-new-teacher-a-massively-hard-time-and-ignore-everything-they-say crap. I just need to work on shortening my lesson planning time as for some reason it took me about three hours per lesson! No one cared what I was doing in Saudi so I used to write a one sentence plan then make it up on the spot. As a result I am a little out of practice. So far my classroom highlight here is that you can write on the floors with board marker and then rub it out. The kids love it and it makes group work so simple. 

We’re staying at a guest house called Hotel California. It’s friendly and has a kitchen and a general long term stay feel. On Friday we moved here from another place, which was an ordeal as outside the front door was a whole load of fresh concrete. The hotel staff had to build a sort of mini bridge for us to get our 30kg bags over! When we got to the Hotel California we were greeted by the sight of a woman plucking chickens in the doorway opposite. Then the next day in the same spot a man threw down a twitching cockrel that he had clearly just killed. Quite a thing to see when you first step out onto the street at six in the morning.
There've been a host of other strange sights- an ‘on the street’ barbers; a gym with a completely open front so you’re basically working out on the street. Shoe shine, dried squid, tai chi in the park, an open air ballroom dancing class, the works. It’s a wonder I haven’t walked straight into a scooter yet with the amount of things there are to look at.
So far we’ve eaten in street side restaurants, mainly the Vietnamese soup ‘Pho Bo’ which consists of beef, noodles, bean sprouts and a whole load of stuff on a big plate that basically looks like the floor of a forest. Needless to say my stomach has taken a battering in the last few days, but I’m sure it’ll calm down soon enough.
The other day we walked the 40mins home from work, taking in the sights of night markets, tons of people eating out on the streets, and of course trying not to die on the roads. If you’ve never been to Vietnam, you should know that the philosophy of crossing roads here is ‘just keep walking at a steady pace and they will go round you.’ So far this had been going OK across the small but fairly busy roads near our guest house. But on the walk home from work we came across a massive street two lanes wide either way, with not a single tiny break in the traffic. We stood at the side for at least five minutes, attempting and failing to pluck up the courage to cross. And then from across the sea of traffic we saw a man step out from the other side with his arm stretched out in front of him, palm out like a stop sign. He began to shuffle forwards and soon it became clear he was in fact blind. Blind! We stood watching painfully; I was utterly convinced he was going to be knocked down by a bus or a taxi or a scooter at the very least. It was one of those moments where you couldn't look, but at the same time couldn't not look. After a tense couple of minutes, through some kind of miracle, the man arrived safely at our side of the road and went on his way. After that, there was nothing for it, we just had to go.
Now that I have more time, I hope to be blogging again regularly with stories of our adventures in our new home, the wonderfully, amazingly insane Ho Chi Minh city.

These pictures are pretty terrible but they're all I've got so far...

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