Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Less than 50 days and a ride home

I can’t believe I’ve been in Vietnam so long. There are less than 50 days to go before I fly home for a well-deserved respite from the toils and troubles of Ho Chi Minh City. It’s not really all toil and really just troubles, but after 10 or 12 hours of giving class, most days engaging with children with unscrupulous manners, it feels like that sometimes. One of the coolest and also most stressful parts of each day is the trip to work.

It’s about 5-8 kilometers to District 3, where I work in the mornings from Tan Binh District , where we live, and each metre of the 15-20 minute journey is jelly-doughnut filled, action-packed amusement and gut-wrenching stress. But lets start from the beginning.

6:00 AM: Beep Beep Tra Tra Trraaa!!!, stupid cellphone alarm gets me every time; dreaming I’m somewhere cool and then getting warped into some weird scene that always has a garbage truck reversing towards me with this stupid alarm ring tone. Wash and groom; slick and spic as a tortoise with a mismatched tie and shell. Black shoes, black socks (the tie’s in the bag – don’t want it lagging behind in warp speed).

6:45: Push the bike out the green, iron front gate, “Xin Chao”: greet friendly neighbour lady in her beige one-tone pajama/all-day/leisure suit frying her Vietnamese vetkoeke outside our house - I haven't had the nerve to try one yet, just in case I have to spit it out and live with her death-ray glare every morning for the next year.

Vroom vroom, idle the Future in neutral (I’m proud of my motorbike – it’s a Japanese Future, unlike Christoff’s Chinese one, which is supposedly quite inferior - it's got something do do with the lack of reliability and gearshift issues). Up the alley, turn left and right, being careful to avoid the constant state of building and the subsequent debris strewn haphazardly in big mounds enticingly like BMX track ramps along the road. Gun it carefully past the old lady walking her mother (who must surely be a centenarian), holding her carefully by the elbow muttering under her breathe as the Future respectfully struts past. Turn into Cong Hoa Street and hit the vein like a mainline, sucked in through the neck, pumped through the asphyxiating exhaust fumes and maneuver out onto the opposite side right into Ut Tich Street, and count my blessings of avoiding getting mauled by the morning trucks insecting out of Saigon.

It’s a game of “open the gates” along Ut Tich, down to the canal, left and right swerving staccato obstacles like Paperboy (that old Nintendo video game) minus the newspapers. The traffic feels like a tongue twister - my bike the lubricant to keep the words flowing; red lorry, yellow lorry. Past VUS’ maroon tower (my evening school of choice and the previously-mentioned boisterous kids), down into the street solely for bikes running parallel with a festering, stinking canal – this is another game altogether. Three uniformed kids on the back behind their father on the way to work, a boyfriend dropping his side-saddled, mini-skirted girlfriend off at work and the cyclo drivers cycling along in the lazy lane: minor obstacles when you’re heading downhill, swamp air in your air, whistling Peebo Bryson’s Aladdin theme song A whole new world to yourself. Now I'm thinking; "why do old people take morning exercise?" They’re leaving for a better place soon anyways, "probably want to make sure they don’t cramp up in their box" – I dodge them anyway and smile the secret goodbye smile.

07:00: Varra boom boom, a few kilometers later I pull into Acet in Ngo Thoi Nghiem Street smooth as a local, alert and ready for the extra buzz of the strongest coffee east of Istanbul (which I know could never rival the original high - the freestylin', whirling ride there).

17:30: Hit the streets for the afternoon traffic rush back up to Tan Binh, which is worse than the ride down.

I’m strangely going to miss this for the month I’m back home.


Emmie said...

time's fun when you're having flies...

henno said...

Is so ja...