Thursday, August 28, 2008

Today's Happy Discovery: Cross-Cultural Napping

I have little idea what I'm going to teach, I don't have any books to teach from, I have not seen class lists, entire floors are still under construction, I haven't found a place to live and our meetings are long and meandering. But I am having so much fun. And my air conditioner works.
I really, really, like these people and this school. It is an amazing collection of highly educated, compassionate, interesting people, and every lunch break or after-school event brings another good story. Like anywhere, there are a few negative ninnies. One says she's going to have a party and tell us about "all of the corruption at AIS." But most of us have a very different attitude: we knew it would be chaos when we signed and we're just along for the ride. We've talked about having another party "The Office" style...if you are familiar with that episode, you know that means we are going to hold a different party at the exact same time and enthusiastically compete for attendance.
A few facts about the operation of the school: three security guards are stationed on each floor and the floors are not big... maybe five or six classrooms each. Each bathroom on each floor has a full-time attendant. After lunch I hit a foot when I open the door because my attendant is sprawled on the floor taking a nap. I like the way they take charge of their napping. I used to nap in the bathroom at Seattle Central between work and school until Jaci had a big fit about it, but now I hope she can see that I was practicing cross-cultural understanding for my future.
Yeah, so the school isn't finished...I'm trying to upload pictures of an unfinished floor and my classroom, but the blog won't allow them...the picture of the construction zone is great because two men are napping in it. Oh, and it's funny- every time I leave my room, security locks my door, and since I don't have a key, this gets a little bit tiresome. But they are so nice and smile so much there is absolutely no way you can get annoyed with them.
Tonight Katherine, Tarn and I have beer, lemongrass clams and fried squid with onions out on the sidewalk sitting at one of the ubiquitous plastic tables with tiny plastic chairs. The three of us began looking for three single apartments, but now we are looking for a house with three bedrooms. I guess it makes sense, doesn't it? The houses here are built straight up, so we should each have an entire floor to ourselves and share a kitchen and a "lounge" area. We feel we are getting closer to what we want, but finding a place is a tough thing to do in this city. The picture to the right is looking out a window of a potential apartment from earlier today. I just love all of the colors. So often, Vietnam reminds me of Mexico.
Well, back to dinner at the plastic table and chairs: Right in front of us near the road and just inches from the army of motorbikes, a girl is sauteeing chicken feet and whole fish on a grill over hot coals for the restaurant inside. The clam broth is so delicious, I eat what's left like soup. The whole meal costs about $8, including beer. Tarn, having spent the last year in China, agrees with me that Vietnam seems very expensive compared with China.
Tonight he tells a story about walking around Tiananmen square with an Olympic ribbon tied around his mouth during the opening ceremonies. Nothing happened, to his disappointment, except for some confused staring. I wasn't clear what he was demonstrating against...but Tarn is such a low key New Zealander, I find the image to be quite amusing, and his story reminds me of an article written by Nicholas Kristof- op ed columnist for the NYTimes- about applying for a permit to demonstrate during the Olympics. He goes through the application procedures and finds that no one actually gets the permit, but he says at least it is a step in the right direction. Here's the article by Kristof if you're interested:
Since I return to the hotel so "early" I decide to walk next door and get a $10 full-body one hour massage (great but no cousin Lisa or Tari). I'm surprised I don't see Cynthia there.
So, now a word for my #1 fan: Ahem, I think my brother is trying to edge you out. I realize you are in school full-time and have two kids and that you just moved, but I hate to see you lose your spot. My brother is pretty quick.


Angie said...

Guess I'm first this time!

I'm so glad you are finally able to enjoy real food. The clams sound delectable.

Thanks for all of your posts. I love being able to "experience" Vietnam with you.

Miss you!

Linda Fitz said...

I am already addicted to your blog and learning more about Vietnam every day. I guess I need to try out the food. I'll be reading every day!

The Norris Clan said...

Umm... yeah... about that pesky brother of yours! He is on his computer all day, you know. BUT, I will be keeping a watchful eye out now that you have taken notice of my delayed response. Really, it's just that I want to savor every word of your blog before I formulate my response.... ok. I am being lazy, it's the last of my summer, and there is NO excuse. PLEASE don't demote me... I promise I'll do better.

Brian... back off :-)

marjie said...

Well, Linda Fitz, so great to see your name here!!

#1 Fan- I will not rush into any demotions!