Sunday, September 5, 2010

A different side of Việt Nam...

It's hard to believe that I have been in Việt Nam for a month now. Where does the time go?! Last weekend I was able to take a break from grading papers, organizing my classroom, and lesson planning in order to visit the Mekong Delta which is two hours away from Saigon and where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the sea through a network of distributaries. It was nice to be able to witness a different side of Việt Nam; one that was much more slow-paced (if that is even possible!),
traditional, and uncorrupted by the booming and relentless push-towards-modernism mentality of the city. Many of the natives of this area live on their boats and instead of streets they have cut into the delta and created water pathways to get to different areas of the region. On our trip we were able to ride in a local canoe through these waterways (with our newly bought conical hats) in order to see how the people of the delta live their day-to-day lives. We saw women making rice paper, coconut candy (yum!), and some things that looked
like Indian Frye Bread but were actually made of bananas.
Later, we had lunch in a beautiful garden delta where locals had prepared freshly grilled fish spring rolls (made in front of us), fish dumpling soup, sauteed veggies, and exotic rambutan fruit for dessert. Our delicious lunch was all the while being serenaded by live traditional Vietnamese music, which, I'll be honest, is something that will take some time getting used to!
This weekend I moved into my new apartment! I live in District 5 about 10 minutes walking distance to my school and is right on the border of District 1 where everything happening. Our new place is on the 18th floor and has a gorgeous unobstructed view of the city lights at night and sun rise in the morning. I specifically got a two bedroom so all of you can come and visit (so you better!). It's nice to finally live in the bustling city where everything is in walking distance... all of the restaurants, bars, shopping and tourist sites. Every weekend we have been venturing out and exploring the night scene which is a lot of fun. So many different bars, each with a different and distinct theme. I'm still amazed at how many expats (foreigners) there are in this city... they are everywhere! Forty-percent of my building occupied is foreigners, but I love how the building, gardens and surrounding area still feels very Vietnamese. It is in part due to the amount of foreigners living here that there is the availability of all kinds of different foods from around the world; Mexican, Tapas, American Hamburger joints, Italian, Thai, and Middle Eastern (to only name a few). So if you crave something other than Vietnamese food you can bet it exists here... if you're willing to spend a little more money. :)

Next weekend we are planning on going to a city called Mui Ne which is 3 hrs away by bus. It is famous for its gorgeous beaches and white sand dunes and I am really looking forward to finally having a relaxing weekend. You can stay in beach bungalows for $30 a night.... I cant wait! Ten teachers from school are renting a private charter bus to drive us, which ends up being about $10 for each person. My next blog will definitely update you on the trip.

Note: Once I take pics of the apartment I will definitely post and also if you want to see more pics of Vietnam they are all on Facebook because I cannot post all of them on the blog.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Arrived Safely...

Hello all,
It has been two weeks in Vietnam thus far and I must say that this place has thoroughl
y surpassed all of my expectations. I am having a blast! All of the people I have met at school orientation are great and we all get along so well! Not a day has gone by since arriving here that I haven't been out with friends going sightseeing, exploring, eating, and just wandering the streets of Saigon. I must admit it certainly is a crazy place, but crazy in a good way. I'm not saying that Viet Nam doesn't have its negatives, but every place has its negatives if you choose to focus on it, and I've never been the kind of person to do so.
The culture here is amazing and the city has a certain vibe that I've never felt before; it is a living, breathing, bustling being set to the soundtrack of millions of motorbikes roaring throughout the city (please refer to video). In that respect,I think Vietnam is a mix between Bali and China, sharing all of the good qualities of both places. Christine, a Canadian teacher at my school and her English boyfriend, James, just came from a teaching gig in Shanghai and we all agree that, thus far, Ho Chi Minh City (aka HCMC, or Saigon) is much much more of a friendly, happy, and open place in comparison to Shanghai. I can already tell that my time here is going to be lovely.
Sometimes, as I'm walking around the streets here, I look around and think; "How the hell did I get here?" It all just happened so fast! Now, here I am suddenly clinging to the back of motorbike taxis in the infamous Saigon traffic, eating delicious Pho everyday, and enjoying spring rolls that are not actually called Vietnamese Spring Rolls here! Believe me, it's been hard to grasp.
Upon arrival, the school put the new teachers in a hotel in District 1 called Lan Lan Hotel. It was a cute place in the center of the city near the famous Ben Thanh Market, and was where we would be based for our first week. I met all of the teachers in the first few days and had New Teacher Orientation; where we were given tours of the city, taken to see our current school, and taken to see the new campus that is currently being built. It was a very eventful week to say the least. Now, here I am, two and half weeks later, teaching 5th grade to a wonderful group of 11-year-olds and I'm enjoying every minute of it. It is amazing how different teaching is here. The profession is extremely respected here and students rarely ever have any behavior management issues. It's been hard getting used to the silence of my classroom when the students are doing work as I'm used to usually having a chatty bunch of kids!
I'm currently still on the hunt for the perfect apartment in the center of the city, but luckily for me I have the luxury of staying with my aunt and uncle who also live in Saigon. Who knows... I might have found one while you're reading this!! Cross your fingers! Mark and Dunky-diddles arrive October 2nd and I cant wait! It's going to be a wonderful two year adventure with my love and my Dunky-doo. Never in a million years would I have thought that this would be a stage in my life, but I can see now that this is the path I was meant to take...
Anyway, I must get back to lesson planning for my class tomorrow, but I will definitely be updating you as much as possible and so will Mark, once he arrives.

Love you all,