22 September 2005

Autumnal Equinox

Today is the Autumnal Equinox. Good things happen. I just talked to a realtor and may have found an affordable apartment, right in the center of town. After I hung up, I looked at the clock; it was 6:23pm, exactly the beginning of the equinox! And then I checked the address of the realtor’s office, and it was the first place I’d gone to last Friday. The place where the sick guy was hacking all over me, was rude, and swore he had nothing under $600. This should prove interesting. At least it has given me a glimmer of hope. I would like to move out on October 1, and time is getting short.

Earlier in the day, I went out to Phu My Hung, or District 7. It is the new development of HCMC. Through the city, over the river, and straight into American living. It was SCARY! There aren’t even any Vietnamese living out there.

Mostly, I saw row after row of massive housing blocks and deserted streets, with the occasional group of Korean or Japanese housewives, some with young children in tow. (One lady was carrying her baby and I noted that she had outfitted him with knee pads.)

I was shown three apartments, all affordable, and almost brand new. The first was actually the only one that I would have considered – lots of light and a pleasant interior design. However, the three buildings under construction right below the living room and bedroom windows knocked that one out of contention.

It’s a real dilemma; District 7 would be close to work, but what is the point of coming to Vietnam to live away from the city and the people in a totally prefabricated lifestyle? Then again, if it is the only thing available….. Or at least that was my thinking until that last phone call. I doubt anything in my price range in District 1, where I want to live, will be as nice, so I am setting my expectations quite low for tomorrow’s trip into the depths of HCMC apartments.

If I haven’t mentioned it before, apartments are not readily available in Vietnam. Most people rent the typical, tall narrow house, and I could get one for $300. But what am I going to do in a three story house all by myself? Also, I would not feel safe. Other than a house, you can rent a room in one of these houses, but that would mean all my present dissatisfaction plus who knows what other creeps. Apartments that are available have been built for the foreigners with handsome housing allowances, not the English teacher on a restricted budget. I still contend that my apartment is out there waiting for me to find it.

After my trip to the nether regions of Saigon, I had to stop off downtown for nourishment. I went back to this little café that has the best pastries. I’d been there the other day and had spoken briefly to the manager about where to buy a cell phone. He was a very nice looking guy, very helpful, and I swore he had a French accent.

Today, after I finished stuffing myself with a food and cake, and a doggy bag of apple strudel, I again spoke to the manager. After a few sentences I asked why he had a French accent. He said, (and you will have to use your imagination for the accent because I refuse to write in accent), “You can tell I have a French accent?” It was enough to make one offer sexual favors just to hear a few more words.

Turns out he and his family moved to France form Vietnam when he was 16. He is here for two months working in his cousin’s café. I told him my story of woe re the apartment hunt, and he offered all sorts of suggestions. Then he wrote down his email so that I could send him mine, and he would write if he heard of anything. I looked at his last name. But this is French? Did you change your name when your family moved there? “No, my grandfather was French.” Ah-hah! That explained the really pretty features. I had thought it was just that accent, but it was also genetics.

After that, it really was time to get back to the compound. I walked in and could smell the smoke from the kitchen. I knew from prior experience that it was barbeque night. Swear to god, I walk into the kitchen and there are coals on top of the stove, cooking away. After they get hot, they go into a hibachi. And yes, this is all done inside! The stair well was so thick with smoke I could barely see the stairs. I jumped in my room, slammed my door, opened the windows and cranked up the a/c. Aren’t there always warnings about barbequing indoors?

I'm up again too late, and that 5:15 alarm comes way too early. There are suppossed to be pics to go along with this posting, but my camera/laptop are not cooperating, so you get the post office.