05 August 2006

Back In Town

I have been back in Vietnam for three weeks, and I think I may just be back to normal. The plane flight isn’t so bad; it’s that time difference of 14 hours. Doing that twice, in three weeks, is brutal on the body. And then there’s the bizarre situation of leaving California at midnight on Tuesday, and arriving in Vietnam Thursday morning. I lost a day somewhere along the route.

I had the weekend to recover, then was thrown into two classes that were already halfway through, and was about the third teacher the students had had. After those classes finished, I was transferred to another class that had already seen five different teachers. I will continue with them three days a week, but on Monday will also get a new group. Damn, I’m tired just writing about it!

I must say that when I arrived in HCMC, it was like starting a whole new adventure, even though I was coming back to the place I had lived for a year. On the taxi ride back, I couldn’t quite believe the excitement I felt at being in an exotic country once again. It is always strange when I go from one country to the other. When in Vietnam, the US doesn’t really exist, and when in the US, no other country exists. It is the only way I can deal with the absolute differences. After a week or two in the US, it begins to feel, ‘normal’, and then it is time to go back, which is probably why it felt so exhilarating in the taxi ride to my apartment.

It was especially exciting to unpack the things I had brought back from the US. Mostly it was a lot of items that had been in storage for a few years, along with around sixty books. I now have a few shelves of books, and lots of artwork up. The homestead looks much more comfortable.

I have returned to my language studies, and even though I didn’t look at my Vietnamese language books while in California, my teacher was impressed that I hadn’t forgotten everything. I think she is just being nice. As always, I do fine in class but am still to hesitant to try out much of the language when out and about, and if I don’t start doing that, I am not going to progress past book one.

When my teacher was here the other day, she mentioned another of her students who was having difficulty writing one of the Vietnamese letters. The alphabet is the same except for the ‘d’, which can be written like we do, or with a cross through the stem, like you would cross a ‘t’. Crossed ‘d’, is pronounced ‘yah’, uncrossed, it is like ours. Apparently, this man told my teacher that he ‘feels sad’ when he has to cross a d, and so was refusing to do so. She tried to explain that he had to do it. They reached a compromise and now he only draws the cross until it intersects, but does not cross the letter. I figure he is crazy.

On to good news, it seems that all my documents have been accepted by the labor department and I will have a work permit in about a month. I duly filled out and handed in the reimbursement form, with all requisite receipts, to the HR people. The total, which included my friend’s paperwork, was over $400. I just got an email that said that they would have to do a direct deposit into my bank account, and could I please send them the information, and also please get an approval signature. I was, and am, confused. They have my bank info, as that is how I get paid every month. And why did I need an approval signature from a different department when it was HR that requested the documents? I have to go in Monday and sort it out.

I almost forgot to mention that before they sent the paperwork in, I had to get yet another health check. The last one I had was almost a year ago, and they are only valid for six months. After my last experience at a Vietnamese hospital, I opted to go to an expensive clinic, even though work will only pay for about half of it. I guess they think sending us to a germ infested, filthy, questionable results, local hospital is all we deserve. The fancy clinic, which caters to the foreign crowd, had me in and out in less than an hour. I pleaded with the Doc not to give me a chest x-ray, as I have already had enough in the past year. He asked where I had heard that x-rays were bad for you, and went on to say that if you got three or four a month for a year, maybe it could harm you. I asked if they were checking for TB, and he said yes. I asked why they didn’t do a skin test and was told that was reserved for people who have a positive x-ray. It was either submit myself to radiation, or no work permit. At least at this place they had me remove my clothing first before the x-ray.

Mostly, it has been work, sleep, clean the house and, of course, read. Those of you who have never been in a country where you can’t get books, have no idea how wonderful it is to come home and be able to choose a book from a big pile of good ones. So there I was last week, listening to the pouring rain, fully entrenched in a good read, when I glanced up at the wall by my front door. On the wall by the light, there must have been a thousand, tiny, gnat like insects! I had some windows open, but they are screened. The little things had gotten in under the door. As much as I hated to do it, I got out the Raid, which I keep for dire emergencies only, this being one. I really didn’t want to spray it indoors, but it was 11pm, and there seemed to be no other choice. Fortunately, I have lavender Raid, so it is not quite as noxious as the original scent. Still, I had to cover my nose and mouth, then lock myself in my room with the A/C blasting as well as the fan. The next night I made sure I stuffed towels at the bottom of the door. I found out later that they fly in from the rice fields during the rainy season to attack light bulbs in the city. They seem to have departed after a three day rampage, although I am still blocking the bottom of the door and constantly checking for intruders.

I have no new pictures to go with this writing, except one from a restaurant that I have recently found in town. One would think you were in some California, Mediterranean establishment. The food is pretty darn good, considering we are quite a ways from the Med. The décor and ambiance is exceptional. They have another room that looks like you are in a harem, but I didn’t take a picture.
I am going to check for insects and get back to my book.