"I think it is some underdeveloped, non-industrialized island where the sun is present a vast majority of days and people fish, gather fruit, and take care of their neighbors. A place where the notion of consumerism and working your life away isn't quite as rampant."
A-Net, you are a genius. Yes, it's true, it's not Norway, Brian and Cecilie - although there are many reasons for Norwegians to be happy - and someday, Mungo, I truly hope it is Iraq. But The Happiest People live the place I will be in just a few days, thanks to my friend Alice who has given me this happy country for my birthday:
I bought a (pirated copy of the) Lonely Planet the other day and have been reading all about it. No wonder people there are so happy...the book also says, "Filipinos love to eat - so much so that you would be excused for thinking that's all Filipinos ever do." Typically, it seems, they eat five meals a day. Five Filipino meals a day from Tuesday through Sunday, to me, will definitely equal happiness.
Alice, my Audrey Hepburn friend, has also given me a tour guide to go along with my country birthday present. His name is Edge ("Scrambled Edge" is his full name), and he is a DJ/music producer here in Saigon, but he is from the Philippines...they hatched this plan when Alice was trying to figure out what to get me for my birthday. Edge goes home all the time, and happens to be shooting a music video in Manila the week of my visit. Read on and you will find out how I am indirectly responsible for Alice meeting Edge and, therefore, for my own happiness this upcoming week:
A long, long time ago, I told you that I was "helping" Alice with The American International School's spring production of "The Wizard of Oz." Well, this is one production that I wish I could fly you all here to see: it's no little high school play, let me tell you. Because the person who is directing it is the Diva Alice Audrey Hepburn from Off -Broadway in New York.
To give you a little taste of what is to come (I will be writing much more about this later), she has renamed it "Dorothy and the King of Darkness." It has two parallel story lines: one with mostly middle schoolers - all of the munchkins are my sixth graders - in full, vivid color out front, and one with high school dancers behind a screen doing provocative, thematic-to-the-play "shadow dance" to music such as dark, brooding Tom Waits. (!)
I went to a dance rehearsal after school the other day and was blown away by the combination of their raw talent and Alice's choreography and artistry - they are basically hip hop kids with the opportunity of a lifetime. I've written it here before, but I will write it again: Alice is an amazing talent. And, well, Edge happens to know every artist in Saigon and has introduced her to all of them.
So. One Vietnamese costume designer named Ivy has sketched all of the costumes (you really, truly will not believe how edgy and cool and adorable they are, stay tuned, you will see them) and Ivy has EIGHT seamstresses working on them. Ivy told me the other night that the most difficult costume to make is the Lion's.
And. Alice's set designer is from France.
And. She toured all of the theaters in the city and found one that reminds her of New York, kind of small, but it's OK, because "Dorothy and the King of Darkness" will run for three nights.
And. None of it has been OK'd by the upper powers yet, but that's OK, because it's Audrey Alice the Down to Earth Diva, and it is going to happen.
Oh, and how it ties to me: well, the first time Edge met Alice, he called her "Audrey Hepburn." Apparently, I am the only other person to call her that, and she claims she might have ignored him if not for me. Turns out he is a very, very nice guy and has become a great friend of Alice's.
Here's what has been going through my mind lately (as we still suffer in the heat):
In August, I clicked on an odd little Craigslist posting that said little more than "Teach in Viet Nam" No one else was hired through Craigslist at this school, and some of the people in charge of hiring don't think anything was ever posted there. So maybe it was in some other reality that I clicked on it, sent my resume in half-heartedly, and suddenly found myself living in a castle with cooking friends and hair washes and massages and trips to treehouses and temples and meeting friends who buy me countries for my birthday.
Definitely a Year Filled with Lots of Happiness.