I’m not doing a particularly good job of updating my blog because as it turns out I have become incredibly busy! I’ve gone from teaching 4 classes per week to teaching 9 classes per week, and in so doing have begun to learn just how much work goes into teaching: coming up with a lesson plan (not to mention back-up ideas in case something doesn’t last as long as I expect it too and I need to find an activity to do on the fly) and daily or twice-daily coffee meetings with my students are both time-consuming and exhausting. Needless to say I’m garnering a profound appreciation for all of the teachers I’ve had in my life (and starting to think about which teachers planned their lessons and which teachers didn’t). Teaching has been great, but it is exhausting.
About two weeks ago I met a 24 year-old guy named Johnny while at dinner with a few colleagues from the English department. Almost immediately after meeting, Johnny invited me to spend the next day with him traveling into the Vietnamese countryside (that’s how things work here). Embracing my inner-adventurer, I agreed, and two days later the two of us (along with Johnny’s friend Donna) spent the day motorbiking around the Cambodia/Vietnam border, visiting pagodas, and hiking. Aside from the beauty of places we went, I was struck by Johnny’s friendliness and willingness to take a stranger exploring. We literally met one night, and then two days later spent an entire day together. Here are some pictures from that trip.
Last weekend I took a 5-hour bus and spent the weekend at a hostel in Ho Chi Minh City. I purposely chose to stay in a very cheap hostel because I wanted to conquer a multitude of fears: sleeping in a room with strangers, accidently sleeping in a bed with bed bugs, and being forced to make friends on the fly. I’m not exactly sure if my fears were overblown, but my experience in the hostel in HCMC could not have been more wonderful: the hostel was extremely clean (a week later I’ve seen no sign of bedbug), and I slowly grew accustomed to the sleeping situation. More importantly, though, I befriended two of the people who were in my dorm room (Jackie and Yasir) and we ultimately wound up spending quite a bit of time together: we went to the Vietnamese/American War Museum, the Cu Chi Tunnels (the tunnels used by the Vietcong during the war), Independence Palace, and the biggest market in the city. I don’t know what it is, but there is something wonderful about meeting other travelers: everybody is interesting in talking to everybody else, curiosity is encouraged, and being genuine feels natural because of the limited nature of the interaction. (Insofar as I can tell, people spend a maximum of three days together before going their separate ways.) I loved it. I know I was very fortunate to meet the people I met, but I really am eager to continue traveling in the hope of having a similar experience.
I really appreciated being in HCMC because HCMC allowed me to eat food other than Vietnamese food for the first time in a month (I had great Indian food and Greek food) and I was also able to speak English with not only other foreigners but also the local Vietnamese. That said, the big city also wore me down. Unlike how I feel in Long Xuyen, in HCMC I constantly had to be wary of getting ripped off (I did get ripped off numerous times) and I was aghast at the fact that everything cost 3 to 4 times as much as it did back ‘home.’ Being in HCMC was great, but I was ready to come back to Long Xuyen once the weekend was over.
Post by our teacher in Long Xuyen, Nick Schcolnik.
Original blog post from http://nicksexcellentadventures.wordpress.com/