I wake up, sweltering hot, sprawled across my double bed in the guest house. It’s insanely bright outside and the curtains are a helpful shade of yellow, which all but voids their purpose. I get up, retrieve my advent calender from the fridge, hop in the shower (not with the calender, that would be silly, not to mention soggy), get changed and rush out of my guest house, stopping briefly for a chat with the lovely lady that owns it. She doesn’t speak much English and my Vietnamese is thus far non existent, so it’s generally the same 4 line conversation every day, but I am very fond of her.
The walk to work involves being asked if I want to buy some sunglasses/books/cigarettes/bracelets/flowers/fans about 20 times (you buy book? sunglass vay cheap, I do good price for you). After this I dodge the xe-om drivers (Where you go miss? Wan-a ride???). I then weave in and out of street stalls and try my best to avoid the restaurateurs who attempt to entice me into their establishments with the well known technique of shoving a menu in my face whilst blocking my path (why, I wasn’t going to eat, but now you’ve assaulted my face with some laminated paper I think I’ll dine here!). I then walk past this one shop that sells fried, caramelised and battered insects, as well as laptops and bike helmets ( for the tech-savvy, safety conscious, hungry entomologist). This is all on the same street and takes a good 10 minutes. I then battle the roads, the bikes, the cars, taxis and buses. Eventually after 15 minutes I get to my work, buy a ca phe sua da (iced street coffee) for 8000 dong from the lady outside and make my way to the teachers room, a haven of air conditioning and free water (luxurious!).
I spend a few hours planning, procrastinating, printing, cutting, sticking, procrastinating, staring out the window, inventing fun grammar games (now that’s an oxymoron) and finally do a bit more procrastinating. My school has over 100 teachers and the teaching room can get pretty packed. When it comes to lesson time I stock my little box up with my materials for the little kids; huge dice, soft balls, hula hoops, a toy cat, anything really that I can possibly incorporate into teaching, say, prepositions or pronouns. For the teenagers it’s generally a music CD, worksheets, text book photo copies and the like. They don’t respond quite as well to ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’, nor do they appreciate giant crayons. Then I go to the room, greet the class and try to make the lesson as fun and interesting as I can. This is much easier with the younger kids than the teenagers who don’t really want to be there.
When the lessons are finished I go home, get changed and then meet everyone else for drinks and food. It’s a pretty good life really, lessons are hard work and planning can be stressful but I think it’s worth it. All the strange things already seem completely normal. It’s normal to step out of the way of someone crouched on the road peeling sugar cane or quail eggs. Buying a dried squid off a bike is perfectly acceptable, walking head first into traffic is a daily occurrence and thinking anything over 50,000 dong is expensive is the norm. I’m even used to the heat as well!