Sunday, September 4, 2011

Last evening of freedom

CELTA starts tomorrow and I'm sure by this time next week I'll be regretting my wish that it started. However, the sooner it starts, the sooner it'll be done with and I can move on. I probably won't be writing anything for another month or so but you never know.

I'm in Miss Loi's lobby area/living room right now and she, her husband and the girls that work for them are all sitting around the dinner having dinner. They all make breakfast, lunch and dinner together (amongst all the other chores they have, like cleaning 2 guesthouses) and eat at the main dining table. It's such a nice sight. There's one girl who sings while she cleans and it's so pleasant during breakfast time.

Today I ventured out to Quan 4. A guy from my CELTA class, Denis from Slovenia, and his Vietnamese fiance Sandy, live out there. Another guy from my class, Thomas from Saskatchewan, needed some work type clothes because he'd been backpacking through SE Asia for the past couple of weeks and a mobile phone. So we went to Sandy's cousin's cell phone shop. Quan 4 was pretty interesting. Other than us there were no other foreigners in sight. It's pretty removed from the backpacker district because it's over a bridge. Thomas got his mobile. I'm all set with my old Nokia until the course ends. While they were talking tech I decided to visit the clothing store next door. In Quan 4 I think its safe to assume that most people don't speak English. They're not there to cater to tourists because most never make it out that way. I walked into the store and said "xin chao" (hello) and the shopkeeper gave me a bright smile. I don't think she expected that I'd speak or attempt to speak any Vietnamese. I then noticed that she had her shoes off so I asked/mimed if I should take mine off too and she said yes. (Note: The streets of Saigon are dirty. I can't even begin to explain it. NYC has nothing on dirty streets. Plus it's just a part of the culture. For example I walk around barefoot at Miss Loi's. I do have bedroom slippers but I nixed that after one too many spills on the tile.) I started browsing the store and noticed a sturdy leather purse that had zippers and locks all over. I asked her how much it was (in Vietnamese) and she replied in Vietnamese which is when I realized that I don't know numbers in Vietnamese. (Durr, right?) A common practice is to pull out the bills that they require so foreigners will know how much to pay so I indicated she should do that. 380,000VND ($19USD), which I wasn't willing to pay at the moment but might eventually. I might even attempt to get there by myself, buy it and then get back home.

We then decided to walk to the nearby grocery store which is really a grocery store on the lower level and a clothing store on the upper level. I'm not sure how it happened but Tom found clothes (he's like 6'3" or something) and had some stuff tailored on the spot. Another reason I love Viet Nam. I bought a jug to store my drinking water in after I boil it and a really awesome bowl set for my ramen.

Things probably sound pretty mundane but other than Friday night when I went to see fireworks from the Sheraton rooftop bar it's been life as usual. Except I'm in a foreign country. I've been to the pharmacy, 3 different grocery stores, which is a typical thing for me because i'll always forget to buy something. Apparently I haven't heard of lists. Today I went to a bakery, Tous Le Jours, because the French influence is still pretty strong in the baking world, which I truly appreciate. I bought a small custard pastry to go with my afternoon cup of tea and it was ah.mah.zing. I don't really mind eating one of those once in a while because already I've cut down my sweet/junk intake exponentially. I basically only eat the meals I need and its a lot of rice, grilled meats, and fresh fruits. Plus I walk EVERYWHERE. I rolled out of bed this afternoon and had to walk so very slowly because everything hurts. I think I need another massage stat!

So far two girls, one in my CELTA class and one from the course before, have had their purses stolen. Bridget had her purse stolen this afternoon right after I left her. She, however, was carrying a wristlet and I guess she thought it would have been safer that way. I'm really lucky (knock on wood) with the purse I decided to bring. It may be unattractive but it's strong and it loops across my shoulder and I keep it tucked under my arm towards the front of my body. If they really want to steal my purse they have a lot to contend with. Not to mention that I can go Krav Maga crazy on them if they try. (Note: Dear God, I'm not bragging or tempting fate. I'm purely stating facts to ease the minds of those that are worried about me. Sincerely, Nadine.)

I'm off to figure out dinner. There's a really great delivery system that Lauren introduced me too. It's a website, and you can order food from hundreds of restaurants anywhere in Ha Noi or HCMC. It's pretty cool. The only downside is that most places have a minimum delivery and as a struggling college student (or at least a person with the mindset of one) I really want to watch my spending habits and I don't need a 100,00VND meal.

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