05 August 2005

First 30 Hours

I flew through immigration and customs. Thankfully, several different people were very kind helping me load trunks on to and off of carts and x-ray machines. I stepped out through the airport doors to be greeted by throngs off folks, standing behind barricades, looking for their friends or family members. It took a minute or so of scanning the placards held up in the crowd before I found my name. Then it was a short drive to what will be my new home for the next 6 months or so.

The house is narrow and tall; my room is 4 flights up, which I like except for those times when I have 3000 lbs of luggage. I dragged up one suitcase and the lovely people here assured me that they would get some big men to cart the rest of it up later in the day.

By 5pm I was ready to hibernate for a good few days, but had been invited out to dinner by the young woman who had met me at the airport and also worked at the language school. Was I ever glad I went. I haven’t had much Vietnamese food in my life, and everything I ate was a new taste sensation. All the dishes, tofu, fish, shrimp, egg-rolls, had completely different flavors from each other, and were different from anything I had ever eaten before.

That was Thursday night, and during dinner, my companion mentioned that I would start teaching on Monday. Monday? The 8th? Wasn’t I specifically here a week early so that I could prepare for the 15th? Apparently not. I’ve been in this business too long to even worry about such things.

Back at the house, I took another shower – (yes, it is hot and humid and I love it, but I also hose-off as often as possible). I heard some banging around on the staircase, and a few minutes later, a knock on my door. I opened to find the middle-aged lady who lives on the floor below me. Next to her were 2 of my 70lb trunks. I was mortified. Here I was saying that they were too heavy to drag up, which they were, and she brought up both! She left the third one for the boys to get later.

Before I went to bed I checked my email. (the head of the school is currently in the US). He was very pleased that I’d arrived safely and told me that this week I would be introduced to the teaching center and the high school so I would be ready for next week. Also this week I would go out to eat with some of his family. Also this week I would meet with another teaching coordinator. “This Week”? It was already Thursday night. I decided to forget about it until the next morning when I was to go to the teaching center at 9am.

At 8:45 I was downstairs ready to go to my orientation at the office.
“I am sorry”, said the assistant director, “but we have a problem. One of our teachers just walked out of the high school and we don’t have any one to teach the 9:15 class”. I thought I knew what this meant, but then again it could have been a misunderstanding due to language differences. It wasn’t. 5 minutes later I was in the car with the driver and the office coordinator, on my way to teach an hour and a half class of high school students, with no resources whatsoever. Just me and the chalk board. As I said before, I’ve been doing this too long to NOT expect the insane, so just went with it. Both teacher and students survived. I think I will be teaching there starting on Monday but, again, I can’t seem to get a clear answer as to hours, levels, times, days.

Oh, the picture – I will elucidate all of you on the traffic situation in a later posting.

Time for another shower.