Not dealing with paperwork while living in foreign countries is very near the top of my list of reasons why I should return to live in Canada.
Fingers and toes crossed that I will be able to get a criminal record check here in Vietnam, a criminal record check in Canada sorted while I’m still living here, send my original degree to my father in Canada without it getting lost, gather up the twenty or so other little bits I need to figure out, get everything processed and sent off to the school by the end of May, and not lose my mind in the process. Oh, and I can take 10 days out the equation because I’ll be in Phu Quoc and Cambodia, which I should be looking forward to, but just feels like a shittily timed inconvenience right now.
Please do enjoy my whining.
Da Nang essentially has only one shop that I ever bother to go shopping in, but boy is it good. It’s as if someone has taken all the clothes and shoes and bags and accessories for women, men and children that you could buy in any major shopping district of a big city and squished it all into one rectangular 500 square foot space. Everything is shoved onto racks: the dress rack, the blouse rack, the rompers rack, etc., and there’s just scarcely enough room between them for you to move around another person if the two of you get really friendly. The fitting rooms are dingy cubicles with a row of hooks and a fan blowing over you so you don’t sweat all over the clothes. It may be unpretentious, but every time I go there I wind up leaving with at least one or two “must have” items, and my favorite part of all is the outrageously low prices. Today for about 30 Canadian dollars I bought a couple of patterned tank tops to help me cope with Cambodia’s heat, a perfectly fitted three-quarter length sleeve slinky office-type dress, and a functional, many-pocketed over the shoulder purse, also for the trip. Quite pleased with myself.
Now have gone to celebrate at a nearby funky youth cafe to have a whipped cream topped mint matcha ice blended drink while listening to Justin Bieber et al blaring. I can think of worse ways to spend Sunday afternoon.
Visa application process has started, or not even really, and already I want to tear my hair out. Between the UK, Japan, Vietnam and Korea, Korea is definitely the worst. Forgot how much fun this will be.
To console myself I bought a frilly matching sleepwear set at the supermarket this morning, so I’m just going to live in that for the rest of the weekend while piling sand over my head.
My Kobo just froze for the first time and I had to resort to watching an excruciatingly long how-to video made by a nine year-old to figure out how to fix it (stick a paper clip in the hole at the bottom). Definitely one of those oh shit, I’m so much older than I thought I was moments.
On Wednesday evening I was marveling to my friend about how I haven’t been properly sick more than once in nearly two years since I left London, so it’s hardly surprising that I woke up at 3 am on Thursday with a doozy of a sinus cold. My entire class has been passing one around, so I really shouldn’t have tempted fate like that.
It was a very long day at work. My nasal passages are a gurgling brook, and my head is boulder-heavy. I don’t bear head colds with grace and quiet acceptance. Instead I self-pityingly trudged my way through the day and came home to eat chips and drink pop (my sickness comfort treats from when I was a kid). I attempted to escape early into sleep, but all that got me was some half-asleep nightmares about the horrible news of yesterday, and continued throbbing from my sinuses.
I gave up on sleep after a couple of hours and decided the situation called for Chef’s mum’s favorite cold remedy: a home sauna. I boiled a big pot of water with garlic, ginger, lemon grass and lemon tossed in, then sat naked in front of it with a sheet draped over myself and slowly released the lid and inhaled the steam until I had rivers of sweat streaming out of every pore. One of the many reasons I can be glad to have known Chef is having been introduced to this remedy. Whether it cures or not, it certainly delivers immediate comfort at the time. A sauna and a good dose of cold and sinus medicine, and now maybe I’ll actually get to sleep tonight. If only all the world’s problems could be so easily soothed.
reading a foreign language: yeah
writing in a foreign language: ok
listening to a foreign language: wait
speaking in a foreign language: fuck
Scientific breakdown of my language acquisition capabilities.
Nearing the top of my Things I’ll Miss About Vietnam list is eating locally grown mango or passionfruit every day for breakfast. After nearly a year this still feels totally luxurious, like I’m starting every day at a holiday resort.
After taking Vietnamese lessons twice a week since October, I’m now at the point where I can glacially respond to simple, easy questions (if my teacher also speaks really slowly and says everything twice that is), and have an extremely short and basic conversation. Up until about a month ago I couldn’t do any of that, but suddenly it felt like everything I’d been learning was beginning to fall into place and allowing me to halfway function in this language. I still have about zero practice in my daily life, but that’s still my own fault for not pushing myself to converse more. Despite this though, I’m kind of a tiny bit proud of myself for even getting this far in a language I was starting to worry was actually just impossible for me to learn.
Buut, I stopped lessons with my teacher two weeks ago. I’d had a plan to try and change teachers as my last one was often ridiculously unprofessional, and her teaching style was a lot of grilling me on vocab in a way I could do alone for free. However, now that I’m leaving in three months I’m not sure what to do. Should I start Vietnamese lessons again with a new teacher to solidify what I’ve learned? Or should I scrap it altogether and start studying Korean again in preparation for my move? I can see benefits to both, but I’m so indecisive!
Update: it looks like (as in I guess I really am) moving to Bundang in August. This has been a fast and difficult decision, but I think (I hope—can you sense the uncertainty here?) it will be the right one. As soon as Chef flipped the switch I had thoughts of escape from my life here, and my inner voice shouted “go back to where you were last happiest”. Of all the cities I’ve lived in, Seoul has remained my favourite, so I decided to put out some light feelers to some international schools there. I emailed about four and two got back to me which led to interviews and two job offers, one in Seocho-gu and one in Bundang. I’ve decided to go with the latter, as they’re teaching an entirely Canadian curriculum, which is what I trained in. I’ll be teaching grade 7 homeroom, including math, which terrifies me a little, but I have high hopes. It will be a butt load of work I know, but I think teaching a curriculum I know with Canadian administrators and staff will be worth it. They seem to be marketing the school as a way for Korean kids to opt out of Korea’s intense education system and be educated in Canada while still be able to stay at home with their families, which actually seems like a pretty worthy goal. Sure, this is still an option that only exists for the wealthy, but I knew a mom who sent her son to Canada and chose to live everyday missing him instead of sending him to school for free in Korea. Education is kind of insane everywhere these days, I don’t really think there exists a perfect school, public or private.
I am pretty heartbroken to be leaving Vietnam, but also can’t wait to get away from it. I believe this is known as bittersweet. As usual I’ve made some amazing friends and had some great experiences here. I will miss the mountains and the sea and the palm trees and the sweet strong coffees and fresh delicious food to be had everywhere. However, I will not miss feeling always like death is around the corner, and driving home with tense muscles every day trying to stay alert on the bike. My new school will be a ten minute walk from my apartment. Another big reason to move is that Da Nang is, as my co-worker put it, “no place for a single white female.” This place is manland like no other, but not in the a good way. I’m sure things in Hanoi or Saigon are better, but if I think the traffic is scary here it’s jokes compared to those places. Nope, I’m excited to return to a city life with access to subways, art, music, parks and entertainment. And four seasons! Yes, I’m quite looking forward to doing autumn again, even if it means I have to put up with winter.
Anyway, now to enjoy my last three months in Da Nang to the fullest!