Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The washing machine that is my life

Sorry for the delay in the updates but I’ve been thrown into the washing machine with silent protests these last few days and I’ve just come up for air, clearing my throat and nose of the sickly-sweet detergent smell usually associated with hospital corridors and the Department of Home affairs, before I’m once again submerged under the hot, soapy wetness of my life.

Pre-Rinse
I’ve always wanted to be one of those seemingly important men who are greeted at the airport arrivals lounge by a tuxedoed chauffeur holding up their name on a little board. Well, lo and behold, as I stepped off the plane at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on Saturday morning there was my name; neatly printed on a little board held up by a very nervous Thai Airlines representative. First I thought it was some elaborate joke set up by my brother who lives in Bangkok, but the fidgety man quickly informed me it seemed very likely that I’d miss my transfer to Tan Son Nhat Airport here in Ho Chi Minh City, and I was quickly ushered to the departure lounge.

I made it in time, but paid the price of having my bag left behind, (it punctually arrived on my doorstep Sunday morning. In my secret heart I’d missed Vietnam the moment I left, in the same way I miss South Africa the moment my ears pop on take off out of the country and this feeling of homesickness was reinforced when the taxi driver dropped me off on Saturday afternoon. This place really is my second home. He obviously assumed I was some dumbass foreigner (I guess his judgement was spot on) as he could probably see the giddy excitement mixed with relief and exhaustion on my creased face, so, as any self-respecting Vietnamese taxi driver would do, he tried to short change the foreigner. I was too tired to argue and altruistically let him con me. It must have been good karma because I received such a warm greeting by my neighbours who all peeled out of their little houses to shake my hand and to babble something quickly in Vietnamese with fat grins on their faces. I was so happy all I could mutter was Chuc Mung Nam Moi (Happy New Year) and smile. My landlord Mr Diep – the man’s man, ladies man, man about town – and his family greeted me just as warmly and I knew I was home. The hollow in my heart filled up as my senses filled up with my neighbourhood’s sights and sounds, soaking it all up like a sponge that had been left out in the desert only to be rediscovered and dunked deep into the sweet oasis water: the Saigon air so dense you can almost touch it, the flitting sounds of children playing outside, women chatting over their daily chores, peddlers shouting their little sing-song advertisements of their wares as they cycled down my alley, it was all there as I drifted into a deep, fatigued sleep.

Rinse
I finally caught up with some members of the undercover Vietnamese guild known affectionately by their followers as “The Teachers”. The rendezvous point was Sheridan’s Irish Pub and Restaurant in Le Thanh Ton Street. My fellow teacher Sarah and I were planning on making a Tet holiday motorbike trip around the north of the country but that’s now cancelled as her brother is visiting during this time. Instead, over a pint of Amber Stout, she uttered the totally ludicrous request that had me spontaneously crack up because of the nonchalant way it was resented: “Would like to go to Myanmar with me?” That was insanely funny, and of course after I nearly choked on my stout with laughter, I accepted. So for now, my pending Lunar New Year plans are to be hiding from the guerrilla groups in little tribal villages outside Rangoon, not pissing off the military government in Burma (which is Myanmar’s politically correct name) and keeping a watch out for Burmese pythons. I think I should stay away from Irish pubs in the future.

Spin
Monday and Tuesday was spin cycle day; being thrown into the deep end of the wash barrel as far as English-speaking future of Ho Chi Minh City is concerned. My school kindly hooked me up with a level 7 academic English class, amongst others, which is three levels higher than I’ve ever taught before. It was all transitive verbs and non-finites finiteness, but it’s going okay so far but we’ll see what the rest of the week holds. Sorry for this self-absorbent rant but I thought I needed to tell someone and this is my blog after all.

Now all I need to figure out is where the “off” button is on this damn demonic life washer and find the “on” switch on the tumble-dryer…

13 comments:

Rogena said...

Hi. Reading your blog, I wish I could vicariously live. Thanks for the descriptions. For the longest time, I thought I was the only American to experience such pleasure in Vietnam. I spent the summer there in 05 visiting my husband's brothers. It was my greatest dream to go to Vietnam and everyday I wish I was back there. I am also a teacher, fourth grade. I would love to teach in Vietnam. Is the process for certification difficult?

Preya said...

Suvarnabhumi--that's all I could think of when I first read your post. The new airport. Glad I got to say goodbye to Don Mueang in August. Have fun in Myanmar! And enjoy the dry--don't forget the static sheets; they help:)

henno said...

Hey Rogena, yeah this place really is surreal in so many ways, you can check out my expat interview for more info about teaching etc: http://www.expatinterviews.com/Henno-in-Vietnam.html

Preya: Sounds like I should do my homework nice and proper before heading to Myanmar, static blankets? Eish!

Caz said...

henno menno what's your email address punk, i want to send you something which you may be interested in.
If you not keen to post it here, you can send it to me or to my varsity address - stud no 13656503

Chi said...

Hallo! Welcome back! Found your blog, thanks to Google! Enjoyed reading it, great stuff. Glad to hear you had a fab Xmas and New Year back at home. I also had a brill time in Oz and NZ. Now back to the crazy Saigon and my manic work schedule. Catch you soon! P.S. Burma is a beautiful country, you will love it.

Preya said...

Haha, I MEANT for your tumble-dry--the little nice smelling sheets you put in to reduce static, soften clothes, and make everything smell nice. :)

henno said...

Hey Chi! Awesome, we should hook up so you can tell me all about how Auckland is SO not as cool as Cape Town hehe :)

Preya: My bad, hehe, sorry. I thought static sheets were some weird ass desert survival blanket thingymajigs or something hehe

loesil said...

Watse eksotiese fan base het jy nou skielik opgebou?

Just make sure you chat to Troskie about Myanmar before you go. I am sure I can remember her ranting and raving about it in early Thursday-morning VAPS-classes - it feels like our previous-previous life!

Caz: don't bother sending Henno e-mail, he doesn't respond to it!!

henno said...

"Windows on South-East Asia", wow feels like light years ago! Will mail soon, don't get your panties in a twist ;P

mullet said...

Dude! You can't describe your life as hot, soapy wetness! Thats just wrong! hehe

henno said...

That is a bit porno, isn't it? Hmm, I didn't think about it like that - my bad again!

Bryan said...

Nou moet ek vra...waar het jy geleer om so pragtig te skryf? dit was seker nie by adres nommer 26 Crozier. Luister pel, ek was vir 'n tweede keer vir 'n maand in Israel, definitief 'n plekkie dat jy sal geniet met die strande, ladies, ou historise geboue (om Wortel te quote) etc...nou ek is terug in Hamburg vir twee maande. Loving the blog, keep it coming... Bryan!

henno said...

Hey Bryan - nice one! Heard you were cruising around Deutschland chowing bratwurst and downing steins. Killer!