Quick Update: Glenda and Jun left Vietnam for the U.S. this morning. A taxi picked them up at my place at 5:30am – their flight left at 7:00am. So they’re in the air and on their way home right now.
They came back into HCMC yesterday afternoon about 3:30 or so, and we just hung out for a while then went out to dinner last night. They said they had a fun time and enjoyed Vietnam and Cambodia – but they are definitely looking forward to getting home to their 2-year-old son, whom they haven’t seen in 10 days!
I didn’t see very much of them while they were here – they did a lot of traveling and weren’t in HCMC very much – but I enjoyed seeing them!
Okay, who’s next?!?
I am very pleased to report that as of yesterday, I officially have a new job here in Vietnam. Starting February 18th, I will be teaching business law – and maybe some other business courses as well – at a local business school here in HCMC. The school is the Vietnam branch of a foreign business school, and is a very reputable school with an amazingly nice, modern campus. The job also pays very well by Vietnam standards, and will be more than enough to cover my monthly living expenses here as well as the few monthly expenses I still have back in the U.S. – so I will no longer have to watch my savings account dwindle on a month-to-month basis!
The bottom line is, assuming the job works out and my contract is re-upped, I can basically stay in Vietnam as long as I want to now! Also, I will now always be able to put on my resume that I was a business law professor in HCMC, Vietnam, which I just think sounds kind of cool:
I am very excited about the job. The biggest stressor I’ve had since I’ve been Vietnam has been the possibility that I would simply run out of money and have to return to the U.S. before I was ready to. (For those who don’t know already, for the past six months I’ve been working with my friend Tim here and helping him out with his existing import/export businesses, but that was just a temporary deal until I was able to find something else more permanent – and while paid enough to cover my expenses here, it was not enough to cover those plus my expenses back in the U.S.)
Another good thing about the new job is, assuming my contract is picked up past after my first, probationary semester, they will provide international health insurance – which currently costs me about $1,000 a year, and they will also be helping me get a work visa – which is more permanent than the tourist visas I’ve been here on to date.
I have to admit that I am a little proud of myself that I was able to move somewhere like Vietnam and, within six or so months, find a good job that will enable me to both do something I think I will enjoy and stay in Vietnam as long as I want to!
In connection with the new job, I am going to go back through this blog and delete any posts that might be embarrassing or risque or whatever. Several times already people in Vietnam – including friends of friends here – have stumbled across my blog. And the last thing I want or need is to get in trouble with my new employer for something I wrote on this blog. I have exported all of the existing posts – including photos and comments, etc., to another, password-protected blog, so I will have them for future reference, but a lot of posts are going to disappear from this blog in the near future. (I think they will remain cached on Google for a while but won’t be on my current blog – and also I think they drop out of the Google cache at some point.)
The one unfortunate thing about the new gig is that it starts on February 18th – which is the week that my father was planning on visiting me in Vietnam. So we have had to cancel his trip for now and will reschedule it for later this year. He and I are both bummed out about that, because we were looking forward to it and had a great itinerary planned, etc., but there is really nothing to be done about it. This job will hopefully let me stay here long-term, so he can come visit me not only later this year, but hopefully in the future as well!
Sorry I haven’t posted much the last few days – there hasn’t been a whole lot to report as I have been sick with a bad cold and/or sinus infection. It has been kind of nasty, so I will spare everyone the details. Let’s just say I’ve been sick. I definitely get sick more frequently over here than I ever did in the U.S. I am in pretty good health, and usually only got sick in the U.S. a couple of times a year – and I think most of that was due to working in an office with hundreds of people in a relatively small, poorly-ventilated building.
Over here, however, it’s pretty obvious why one might get sick more frequently. First, it’s pretty dirty over here. Like I’ve mentioned before, if you notice in some of the photos on this blog that I have my pants legs rolled up, it’s not a fashion statement – it’s to keep the muck and grime from getting all over the bottom of my pants. There’s also a ton of pollution – and I think living and breathing that much pollution around the clock has got to suppress your immune system. Or something. Finally, there’s just 9 million people living in very dense conditions in a relatively small area. When you go to the pharmacy – remember, you can buy any pills you want here without a prescription – and you start to tell the “pharmacist” – which in my case today was what appeared to be about a 19 or 20-year-old Vietnamese girl who spoke no English – the pharmacist always starts nodding his or her head because they know what’s going around the city.
So anyway, after toughing it out with this cold/sinus infection for about 4 days now, I finally said forget it and went to the pharmacy. (I try to avoid taking the antibiotics as much as I can, but I think a lot of the germs/bacteria/whatever you catch over here are a lot more potent than the stuff you usually get in America. Even after a few days, you don’t really feel like it’s going away or that you’re getting over it.) Above is a photo of the pills they gave me – 4 pills 3 times a day for three days.
I always come back and look up all of the stuff on the internet: one pill is a strong antibiotic; one is something called “Imexfamily” – the only references to it I could find on the internet were in Vietnamese so I have no idea what it is – it looks like a Contac cold and flu pill from the U.S., so that’s what I’m going to hope it is; one is something called serratiopeptidase, which is an enzyme secreted by silkworms (!) and is used in Japan because it increases the efficacy of antibiotics; and one is a standard nasal decongestant, cough suppressant, etc. So the bottom line is I’m loading up.
Anyway, as a result of the above, I had a pretty slow weekend. I went to class Friday night, then came home, watched a movie and went to bed. Saturday I pretty much laid around all day – I watched about three movies. I did go to the gym to sit in the steam room and sauna for a little while to see if it would help my breathing – did not seem to. I went to bed fairly early Saturday night as well. Yesterday (Sunday), I got up and went to have breakfast at my favorite restaurant, An Lac Chay, then went to the gym. I laid out in the sun by the pool for an hour reading the book I’m currently reading – Decent Interval by Frank Snepp, which is an account of the fall of Saigon in 1975 and is very interesting – then I worked out for about an hour and a half. An hour on the cross-training elliptical machine and 30 minutes walking on the treadmill. Just trying to get active after lying around so much.
Last night I met my friend Thao for coffee at my new favorite cafe – Cafe Hi-End – then went home and crashed. Today I went to the pharmacy and now I’m at work and it’s 10:15am Monday morning here.
I have gotten a couple of emails from Glenda while she and Jun have been off gallivanting around Vietnam. They had a nice time in the Mekong Delta, then headed up to Hanoi. They did some exploring in and around Hanoi for a couple of days, then went out to Halong Bay, where they took a boat out into the bay and spent the night on the boat. Glenda said they had a good time and met some interesting people on their boat, but that the weather did not cooperate with them. It was apparently cold in Hanoi and at Halong Bay, so they weren’t able to go swimming in the bay. That’s a shame because when I did that trip back in 2001 it was fun to jump off of the top of the two-story boat into the water and swim at night. The water has phosphorescensce in it, so when you moved under the water you could see trails of golden lights under the water. Really cool.
Anyway, yesterday afternoon they caught a flight from Hanoi to Siem Reap, Cambodia and are checking out Angkor Wat today. They were going to get up early and get to the main temple by sunrise and then go all day long. I’m sure they’re having an interesting day. They fly back into HCMC tomorrow afternoon, and we’ll go out to dinner tomorrow night. They fly home to the U.S. on Wednesday morning. I’ll try to get some of their photos and post them as soon as I can.
Following my post re the Radiohead covers, my friend Wood pointed me to this video of Radiohead playing their entire new album – In Rainbows – live on New Year’s Eve 2007. If you think Radiohead is just a “studio band,” watch this video of them playing these songs live – you won’t think so anymore!
Now that we’ve gotten some of our equipment set up in our office showroom, a lot of the employees have started working out on the equipment in the afternoons after work. I’ve done it with them a couple of times – primarily the rowing machine and the stationary bike. It’s really convenient to have the gym right in the office – we can look out of the windows at all the poor suckers fighting rush hour traffic while we work out.
Here’s Huong on the recumbent bike:
Master Personal Trainer Vinh Ta flexing his assets:
Thuy gets in on the action:
Thuy’s son, Jimmy:
Vinh displays proper form on the rowing machine:
Tet, which is the big Vietnamese/Chinese Lunar New Year holiday, is coming up in February. I think the actual first day of the new year, which is the year of the rat – appropriate given Jun’s dinner last night! – but it’s basically a ten-day-long celebration from roughly February 2nd through the 12th. My school shuts down and we don’t have classes from February 4th through the 11th.
I had been thinking about staying in HCMC since I’ve never been here for Tet before – but everyone says that a lot of the Vietnamese leave the city to go back to their hometowns in the countryside for the Tet holiday, and the city kind of shuts down. Restaurants are closed, etc.
So now we are thinking about going to Bali, Indonesia for that week. It will be Tim and a friend of his and another couple, Randy and Tuyet – and me, the omnipresent fifth wheel! They are going to stay at the very nice Bali Hyatt resort. I am thinking about staying at the much less nice – but half-price and hopefully at least decent – Sukun Bali Cottages , which are near the Bali Hyatt on Sanur Beach.
As with anything in Vietnam, this is all kind of tentative right now and you never know for sure until everything is booked, but I will be very excited if it comes together and couldn’t wait to post about it! I’ve always wanted to go to Indonesia, and this would be a very nice, relaxing trip. Then my dad gets into Vietnam three days after I’d return – on the 15th – so I would have a pretty laid back couple of weeks in a row! Not that everyday life over here is not always fairly laid back anyway!
The internet (I don’t subscribe to the whole capitalized “Internet” thing – lowercase is fine for me) continues to amaze me. Just recently, I’ve wanted to chat/IM with two people who didn’t have a Gmail account and so couldn’t use Google Talk or the built-in Gmail chat application. In one case, Glenda and I were emailing back and forth about her and Jun’s itinerary, etc., and it would have been better to just chat in real time versus continuing to email back and forth. In that case, Glenda signed up for a Gmail account that she otherwise didn’t need and we chatted using Gmail. Another time, I wanted to chat/IM with my friend Frosty who lives in Beijing, China, but he didn’t have a Gmail account or other chat/IM account. So we just continued to email and didn’t chat.
Today I read about a free service called ChatMaker.net that lets you create chatrooms completely on the fly – you don’t even need to register to use the application. You just go to http://www.chatmaker.net, type in the name for your chatroom – i.e. “VietnamTrip” – email the URL it creates on the fly to whomever you want to chat with, and then hit “Go”.
It immediately creates a chatroom and you can start chatting/IMing away – no sign-in, no software to download, etc. Admittedly it is a simple chat/IM application and you can’t transfer files, etc., but for a quick, painless way to chat with someone in real time, it’s an awesome application! (I am aware of the Campfire business chat/IM application from 37 Signals – http://www.campfirenow.com – which does basically the same thing. But the free version of Campfire only lets you have a maximum of 4 simultaneous chatters and you also have to register and log-in – in which case you might as well just go ahead and get a Gmail account.)
This is probably my favorite photo that I’ve taken since I’ve been in Vietnam:
When Glenda and I were walking around town yesterday morning, we saw these construction workers taking their midday nap and I had to stop and take some photos. There were five guys – all sleeping in a very small area:
But the top photo is my favorite – the guy in the front just looks so content – big full belly and blissfully zonked out – and you can see the legs of at least two other people sleeping behind him.
I love Vietnam!