- Tastebuds: This spaghetti tastes so bland. How can I make it taste better? I don't even have any cheese.
- Brain: that's obvious. Stir fry it with an egg, then douse it in hot sauce and mayonnaise.
- Tastebuds: Brain, this is so much nicer. You are a genius.
- Brain: I know. You're welcome.
Adorable moment of the day: watching my six year old Aussie student who just moved here a couple of months ago trying her damndest today at lunch to master chopsticks. She’s been making do with a spoon up to now, but this week I’ve noticed her making surreptitious attempts to figure out how these chopstick thingies work. Today she really went for it, attempting and failing about five times to pick up a little piece of meat and refusing to give up until she had that food in her mouth, thank you very much. She finally got it after cheating a little to position the food with her fingers before clamping it with the chopsticks, but her smile as she munched on that bit of chicken was honestly heartwarming. Even at six she’s old enough to feel self conscious about not being able to do something basic like that when all the other kids can, but she did not let that get in the way of trying to learn. Life lessons here, people. Every day I get to watch kids learning like this, in and out of the classroom—how lucky am I?
Time for a little self-indulgent moan about how hopeless I feel right now about learning Vietnamese.
I’m feeling especially discouraged because I know my paralyzing shyness about speaking to anyone is ensuring that I cannot progress. Beyond thank you and hello, the only speaking practice I get is with my tutor who I see twice a week. and occasionally I practice with Chef on Skype. Beyond my daily thank you’s and hello’s the nearest I’ve come to having a conversation in Vietnamese is when Chef’s pushy aunt once asked me how old I was and I miraculously understood her and could give a halting reply that she also understood. Such communication! Oh, and one other time when it was raining and my banh mi lady commented that it was raining a lot and I understood and nodded and almost said “hai” as if I were still in Tokyo, but caught myself and just kept nodding instead. If I’m counting that as a conversation it just shows where my communication level is right now. Essentially non-verbal. This despite supposedly learning a whole battery of phrases like “do you want to go see a movie tonight?” or “the weather is beautiful today”. Supposedly learning, because even when I diligently memorize these phrases, and can falteringly say them during my lesson, if we ever go back to review old lessons like we did today, it becomes painfully obvious that I haven’t actually learned very much.
The solution is of course to grow a pair and just start speaking more, but I don’t think it’s realistic to expect I’ll suddenly become a Chatty Cathy with everyone I meet when even in English I’m not inclined to chat up random sales people etc. So maybe I’ll aim lower instead: I will try to at least to make a comment about the weather to one of our building security guards. They’re good-natured guys, so I’m sure I won’t dissolve from embarrassment if I try just once? Maybe not.
My other moan is that I wish Vietnam had better films and TV so I could practice listening at least. And by better I mean more things to watch starring the handsome men folks. I mean, we all know why everyone is dubbing all those K-dramas into the local languages. There are many interesting Vietnamese short and feature length films out there, but I feel they are just not delivering in the masculine eye candy department, I am sorry. A plea to Vietnam’s filmmakers, please sort this out. I will be much more motivated to tune in and practice listening if I can watch Lee Min Ho types prancing around my screen.
I skipped post work drinks tonight in favour of binge eating pizza and watching television in my sweatpants and I don’t regret it at all. I only wish I knew people here who I could indulge in the sloth lifestyle with. Going out to bars and restaurants is all very nice, but sometimes (mostly) I just want to flop around in stretchy clothes.
One of my students got really sick today. She wet her pants profusely in music class, was unresponsive and nearly delirious and had a fever of 39. We ended up taking her in the school car to the hospital where her mom met us, and it was all very scary and uncertain. Where we over-reacting by rushing to hospital? Under-reacting and not rushing fast enough? She was fine in the end but what if there had been a real emergency? As it was the built up stress of the situation sent me into mini-shock when we finally left the hospital and I had one of those pulsating near faint-inducing headaches when we headed back to the car. I’m not built for crises. I felt pretty stupid and useless during the whole thing, worried that every decision I was making was the wrong one. My poor little student was so good though, even when they took her blood at the hospital. I was so proud of her. Her poor mom handled the whole thing very calmly too—I wouldn’t be happy about getting a phone call from a slightly panicked teacher.
It was not the greatest way to end a long busy week. It’s been a couple of rough weeks actually, but only three to go until the Christmas hols. Now to go to sleep for a zillion hours, that is if the karaoke party across the block doesn’t keep me awake all night. They’re actually pretty good but me oh my it’s loud.