Sunday, August 24, 2008

Thirty-Six Stories, So Little Time to Write Them

How can I describe this day? Maybe I can break it down into three parts.

1. New teacher/parent orientation at the Saigon Sheraton Hotel
2. Brunch buffet with a group of teachers at the Regence Hotel
3. Next door at the spa

1a. Downstairs, a breakfast buffet is served every morning, and this is where the adventure really begins: "Hi, are you teaching at AIS? Where are you from? How did you find out about this job?" And thirty-six stories of how and why people from all over the world decided to come to HCMC within a matter of weeks begin to emerge. Here are a few short versions:

Doug: I'm choosing to introduce him first because within seconds of meeting me, he is using large hand gestures to describe the crab legs and scallops on the half shell he had for dinner last night. He has been teaching in South America for 17 years...Columbia, Venezuela, Chile, Peru. This summer he decided to jump to Vietnam. He's always wanted to come here. He doesn't miss the US at all.

Alice: She is a true international girl. Born in England to a French mother and a British father, she has gone to school in France, Equador and Thailand (and speaks all of these languages fluently). She spent the past six years attending CUNY University in New York City where she studied theater and dance, was married briefly, and because of her divorce and her decision to join her parents here in Vietnam (they teach at the other school), she cannot return to the US for ten years (the divorce made her illegal). She considers New York more "home" than anywhere else, so this is a hard choice. She is exotically beautiful and she will be teaching drama.

Tarn: From New Zealand, has been teaching in Chengdu China, was there when the earthquake hit. Loved China, but found out about this job and said "Why not?"

Most of "us" are from the US: Chicago, San Diego, Portland, Iowa... but a few come from Canada, the UK and Australia/NZ. I like everyone; it seems to be a good, fun group.

After breakfast we are picked up from this hotel and are taken to the Sheraton Hotel, where all parents and students have been invited to attend an orientation. None of us want to stop chatting in the lobby, but we have to sit through four hours of PowerPoint presentations about EVERYTHING school related in a packed of all ages have come with their parents. I can't believe how still they sit through this boring meeting! The parents ask tons of questions at the end. I can hardly stand it~ I never got back to sleep last night~

One last comment on pt 2: I really like the principal. If my first impression is correct, he is smart, genuine and has a gentle spirit. An American, he went to high school in Costa Rica and most recently has been a principal in China. He, too, has always wanted to work in Vietnam. He was circulating in the lobby of the hotel, meeting and greeting all of his new staff. When he met me, I was in a large group of people. "Oh! Marjie! I'm glad you made it! (he was not in charge of interviewing and had only slight input in hiring). (He says to everyone) "Marjie took a group of students to save the Leatherback turtles of Costa Rica!" Of course I thought that was so cool that he remembered that detail from our brief email correspondence, but I guess if Costa Rica is close to his heart then he would definitely remember.

2a. Even though I am exhausted after the meeting, I have made a pact to stay awake as long as possible to beat my jet lag. Some of the teachers decide to get the gourmet buffet at the Regence Hotel. It's not really my thing, as you know, but it turns out to be a great social gathering. I sit next to one of my future sixth graders, Di Wa. Her mother and father have both been teachers here, but are each pursuing other careers now. He is black and from North Carolina and she is from the Phillippines. Their two daughters are beautiful and have been raised in Burma (what they still call it), Thailand, and here in Vietnam. Her name is Vangie. We eat and drink wine all afternoon (I mean, Di Wa doesn't...), and I just don't have the energy to write about all of the other great people there...

3a. When I return to the hotel, my goal is to stay awake...what to do? I decide to go next door for a pedicure and an hour-long massage. Both cost me a total of $18 (twice as much as in China!). While I'm getting the pedicure, Cynthia, my new hero since last night at 1:30 am, comes down from the massage room looking all noodly and says, "I have never done anything like this. I think I'm going to do this here a lot. Is every other day too much?" After my massage, I come down to find her in a chair "getting a new doo." I think she is going to be one of my favorites. She is giving this all she's got.

When I pay at the front, a very cute girl asks me where I am from. When I answer "Seattle" she just about jumps out of her skin. "I am going to Seattle next month!!!!!!" Can you believe that she has finally been granted a Visa and will attend Seattle Central Community College on Capital Hill to pursue a degree in International Business. She is so full of questions about Seattle...she doesn't know anyone there. Her sister is behind the counter and does not understand much English. When Michelle, the Seattle bound one, tells her I am from there and tells her that I say there are many Vietnamese people in Seattle, she begins to cry. "My sister is very scared for me to go there. I keep telling her it's OK!" I ask her where she will live. "I'm not sure, but I think I can find a homestay through the internet." So of course, I need to ask all of you, do you know anyone who might be interested in hosting a very cute, articulate Vietnamese girl who has ambitions to study business in Seattle? I don't know, it's worth asking!

I'm just about to go out and meet some people for dinner. No pictures today, only a lot of words. I'll leave you with this: I'm feeling really, really good about being here. I like these people and today I enjoyed the energy of HCMC. Today's kind of day is absolutely one of my favorite kind of days: meeting people who do the same kind of crazy things I do is pure fun. I think the last person flies in tonight. What will her story be?

(Sorry for the poor grammar and tense changes. Maybe I will edit this later!)


The Norris Clan said...

Oh... what a wonderful start to the journey! Of course the principle would remember you... you're MARJIE! :-) He's probably one of your fans, too. I LOVE the mix of people you are with. What an eclectic group of people! Only thing is they are going to give you more ideas to travel MORE and you will NEVER come back... unacceptable. STOP meeting cool people.
Ok, I feel better... :-) Hope you find that amazing Vietnamese meal soon. I really want to hear about it.

Brian Bowker said...

Marjie, Reading over this blog post fills me with excitement for you!

I'm so glad you are traveling the world again so we can hang out online again! I always feel closest to you when you are away... I guess you could use that tired old line:

"I love you from afar; The farther away you are the more I love you!"

kumma said...

FINALLY got a chance to get caught up on blog entries (I can only do it at work...)

SO excited to travel the world with you once again! You rule.

Jaci said...

Marj-wow-love reading your blog notes AGAIN AND AGAIN AND WHAT EVERYBODY SAYS! Can't stop cracking up-feel bad i didn't send u with a better care package..totally get the bread thing-part of the jet lag..u are well on your way to Vietnamese food paradise...all good things take time as we WELL KNOW! LOVE YOU AND KEEP UP THE CRACK UPS-THE MOTORCYCLE ARMY IS A TRIP!