The new road that runs past the middle school opened about six weeks ago, which came as a relief to many of us who "go the back way" to avoid 45 - minute traffic jam mornings. The back way was great, except for the three blocks we had to swim upstream on the sidewalk against the heavy morning commute. Now that the new road is open, we get to swim upstream on our own open river sidewalk. What a relief.
But the construction continues, and we never know what Challenge the sidewalk will meet us with each morning. There may be The New Pile of Gravel Challenge, or perhaps a bulldozer will be parked in the middle of it and we will get to try the One-foot Wide Path with a Two-foot Drop Challenge to go around it. Usually, I can take this all in stride; I feel very comfortable on my Honda Wave 150 in Saigon traffic and construction zones. So far, these Morning Motorbike Challenges have not been able to stump me (do I still need to add "while wearing heels?").
But this morning was a true test of my problem-solving aptitude. The "back road" that turns onto the "new road" (that turns into the now un-occupied sidewalk "open river") was completely torn up. Three bulldozers were busy tearing it up more, and three hoses stretched across the piles of dirt squirting water up into the air, creating a thick, messy Mud Pie Sprinkler Challenge. Motorbikes were still using this street - of course... the swarm just goes and goes, over and around everything. The thing that made me stop and consider whether I should proceed was a combination of what I was wearing (silk) and the fact that the woman in front of me got completely splattered with mud when one of the hoses went a little bit wild on her.
I looked to my right and spotted an alley, turned down there and was happy to find a new back way off of the already-back-way to the new road. Feeling very smart and successful, I then turned onto the gravel sidewalk and drove two of the three blocks to the school. That is when I encountered an 8 ft. hole in the middle of the sidewalk with a very narrow motorbike trail winding around it- providing no opportunity for driver error. I watched a colleague successfully attack this path in front of me, but I was gripped with fear. It was a Friday morning, after all, and I didn't feel like dropping into an 8 ft hole. So I turned around, made a perpendicular crossing of the sea of traffic on the new road (they all just go around you, trust them...), got into the opposite lane and drove a mile past the school, did a U-turn, and entered in the other "back way."
When my friend Steven and I discussed the morning's route to school, he said, "It was like Sarajevo..."
I returned to the sidewalk two hours later during my lunch to document it on film - but guess what: the hole was filled. No proof whatsoever of the Morning 8 Ft. Hole Challenge.
After school, however, we got to enter The Sidewalk Lake Challenge. Six inches of water greeted us then, as well as the Challenge of Negotiating Between Two Huge Trucks through Sand after we made it through the water challenge.
It's so much fun, getting to and out from this school.
If you're wondering what the school buses do, or what the taxis that drop off and pick up kids each day do, well... the guards have been spending a lot of time escorting kids up to the new road, over lakes and gravel hills to meet these larger vehicles. It's Saigon - here no one would think of complaining about this. You just go on and live.
I realized just today that the earthquake-like shaking of the school has stopped - the shaking was caused by digging construction really close to the school. But what continues is the power outages (I'm assuming these are caused by other digging close to the school). Yesterday we had three of them during our seventh period. I was in the middle of a lesson - projecting something on the screen - and it all went blank... three times. The generators started up and the power went back on within a minute after each outage. But when this happens three times in a fifty-minute period, it does become a bit invasive to a lesson, especially when you must re-boot your computer each time.
On the topic of my morning commute, I will show you my two favorite morning women: They sell glutinous rice balls filled with yellow mung bean paste. Some people get morning coffee from a drive-through, but I get to drive up, pay thirty cents and get three of these heavenly pillows from the most gracious women in Saigon (other than the most gracious women in my morning market...)
You know what, I think this is the best commute I have ever had.