Sunday, May 31, 2009

When it rains, it pours.

Last week one night, there was a very loud, violent thunderstorm. The thunderclaps kept waking me up, and when I got up in the morning, I saw that some of the water had seeped into the house. Apparently there was a river downstairs, but the maid cleaned it up before I came down. Even my bedroom on the second floor had some pools of water on one side, which was very strange to see. That was the first time I'd seen flooding in my house in Vietnam, luckily.

Nothing else to report. The evenings/nights can get pretty lonely here when my friends are busy, and since it's early morning in America, I have no one to talk to. It doesn't help that the sun goes down at 6pm all year round, either.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Daily Schedule

I'm sitting now in a cafe called "Juice", which has become my new favorite place to hang out. Despite the name, they have more than just juice. Their menu includes a lot of sandwiches and wraps and salads, and the few I have tried are absolutely incredible. They've really captured what I love and miss about sandwiches in America, in a way that they usually fall far short in typical Vietnamese cafes. I've had the smoked beef, which turned out to be pastrami but it was quite good, and a french pannini which was made of chicken. Today I've ordered a mediterranean pannini which should feature the usual elements. I guess the reason why I kept coming back here was that they gave me a card that gets stamped every time I get a drink, and after 8 drinks I get 2 free. It's good, because every time I come here I bring my computer and spend a few hours so I have a couple coffees or juices.
The upstairs room is large but cozy, with low lighting, cool A/C, and no invasive Vietnamese pop music, just the sound of the cars below.

It recently dawned on me that unlike some people, I have no daily schedule. I almost never do the same things at the same times every day. This is in large part caused by the fact that my teaching schedule is different everyday, but I also just naturally resist any sort of routine. I know some people like having a routine, but it always seemed dull to me.
I start the day usually waking up in the late morning. The time I wake up is different everyday. When I set my alarm before going to bed, I consider how tired I am, how much I want to sleep, how much I want to do the next day, and I set the alarm accordingly, but it's usually between 10am and 11:20am. During the week, I never have to teach in the morning, so there's no need to wake up earlier. Once I'm woken up, I often neglect to turn off my alarm and fall back to sleep, only to be awoken by the snooze feature. But I'm motivated to get up because of the breakfast waiting for me. I go downstairs, and the one thing I do every day is take my computer with me to the living room. When I've just woken up, I'm too sleepy to do something different everyday. So, I check my email and various blogs and such while watching tv, maybe cnn or mtv, since they play just music videos at this hour. Then my maid brings me a breakfast, which is different everyday. There's always fruit in yogurt, but the fruit changes. Maybe it's strawberry, banana, mango, dragonfruit, any combination of these. She also brings me bread and cheese, or bread and jam, or bread and peanut butter, or bread and omelet, or a BLT she just started making recently. So, I slowly munch through my food, drinking my Vietnamese coffee and becoming more alert. When my laptop battery starts to die, I go upstairs again. It's around noon or 12:30 or so at this point, so I shower, listen to music, play a computer game, whatever. In the afternoon I used to have classes at public school but now they're finished. So lately I've been packing up my computer and going to a coffee shop.
Even though I haven't been writing much in my blog, I've still been writing, in this book I'm working on based on my experiences. The problem is I haven't thought of a proper title yet, and this literally keeps me up at night trying to figure it out. It makes more sense to write it first and then decide what it should be called. At this point, I can't even tell what the main point of it is.
Anyway, even the coffee shops I go to are not the same every day. I've been to several around the city, and rarely do I go back more than once. I'm not the kind of guy who has a "regular" place. Even when I was in college, I would get lunch at a different place every day and couldn't eat the same thing twice in one week or I'd get sick of it. I like most of the places I go to, but they all fall short of perfection. Juice is nice, but it's very far from my house and anywhere I teach. Cafe de la May is good, and the food is cheaper, but it's not as good, and I hate driving on Le Van Sy in rush hour. This other place near my house is nice, it has a vietnamese name like Moc or something, but it's not as comfortable as the Western-type places, inadequate A/C, terrible Vietnamese music, etc.
So, rather than go to one place regularly, I prefer to go to a new place every time, since there's always the possibility I'll discover something approaching perfection.
Now, the way I go to this cafe, or to a class, or anywhere, also changes based on many things. I know half a dozen ways to get to the center of town, but I take into account where there is construction, where is the heavy traffic at this hour, where am I trying to go, and I pick a certain way to go. I recently discovered a whole new way, cutting through a small sidestreet, that is really preferable during rush hour.
Anyways, when I go to these cafes, sometimes I eat lunch, sometimes I don't, and the time I eat lunch is different everyday. As for dinner, I usually eat what the cook prepares for me at home, and I could eat any time from 5:30pm to 10:30pm. It really depends on whether I teach, what I'm doing, if I had lunch. And basically, when I feel hungry, I make dinner, and either watch tv or some tv show on my computer. At night, I might watch tv, but usually there's nothing good on, as I've seen all the overplayed B movies they have on constant rotation. So, I typically watch a tv show like Scrubs or 30 Rock or Simpsons or Seinfeld or anything else I have on dvd or I can find online. Usually every night, I'll watch a few episodes of a show.
As for going to bed, this is different every night, depending on what I'm doing, how sleepy I am, how early I have to wake up the next day. I could go to bed anywhere from midnight to 3am. Basically, when I yawn and rub my eyes, I say, "ok, i'm going to bed." I brush my teeth, turn on the fan, turn off the A/C, get in bed, read a little, and then (hopefully) fall asleep. Lately I've had insomnia so I take some tylenol PM to help me. So that's my (sort of) daily schedule.

BUT I recently added a new activity, which is something sorely missing from my life, and that is exercise. My boredom and lack of work has led me to start going to a gym with my friend Simon, and at 9 bucks a month, I think I can afford it. It's just a simple weightroom, and also has a track and tennis and basketball courts, but it's a nice place to go in the evening, and after working out I'm able to relieve some stress.

In other news, I recently solidified my travel plans. I'm flying to Ha Noi on July 17, and then to Beijing on July 21, and then home on July 24. Really just two days in Beijing, but I think that's plenty to see all that I need to see.

That's all for now!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Dam Sen Park

No news to report, but sometimes people just like to see that I'm still alive. It has been uneventful, and I suppose that a lot of classes are finishing for the summer, so teachers have to find work at summer school programs. It may be difficult for me since I'm leaving in July, but I'm really hoping to get some classes to teach. After the hassle of working here as a teacher, I'm definitely going to appreciate having a full-time, reliable job in the future. I've had enough of not knowing what my schedule will be like next week, of frequent last-minute changes, of getting called in the morning to teach somewhere later in the day. I guess that some people have been able to find more stable jobs, but nothing is set in stone, and it seems like only after you've been around for awhile at schools do you start getting preference.

Anyway... last weekend I went to Dam Sen Park with Uyen and a couple other people. The place is a very big amusement park with gardens and interesting landscaping and a huge lake in the middle. Unfortunately it was pouring rain the day we went. But we still made the most of it, walking around and taking pictures. The rain eventually let up so it turned out alright. They had little pagodas and bridges which looked just like they were from a distant, idealized past. They had an Egyptian-looking temple that maybe had some sort of attraction inside for kids. They had lots of bumper cars and bumper boats and some animals to see. It seemed like a popular place for kids but also young couples in love.

Here are some pictures for your viewing pleasure!