Girl Meets World
By Ginny Tonkin staff blogger
Girl Meets World is a multimedia look at the sights, sounds, and insights of experiencing a different culture through teaching English as a foreign language.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: January 7th, 2011
The Good, the Bad, and the Disconnected

Happy 2011 from HCMC, Vietnam! 12 hours ahead of Erie, PA, I welcomed the New Year while most of folks were eating last lunch 2010.

Did I make a New Year’s Resolution? I tried. Honestly.

Crossing the street in Saigon is not for the faint of heart. Notice the tangle of power lines above the street.

Crossing the street in Saigon is not for the faint of heart. Notice the tangle of power lines above the street.

Here it wast: “Update GirlMeetsWorld on a more consistent basis.” I liked it. Settled in HCMC with a great job and new digs, I felt like it was time to reconnect Stateside with some good ole’ fashioned bloggin’. The problem? My Internet connection at home is, to use a polite term, spotty. A few days ago, we discovered it may have been a less-than-technical issue–we needed to pay the bill. But even afterwards, I thank my lucky stars whenever I actually get a signal. My new housemate, who’s been living in VN at this address for seven months now says that even though we have wifi, a good connection is, at best, 90% chance. C’est la vie, in HCMC.

ASIDE from that, life is fantastic–never boring, to say the least. The past month and a half has been filled with interviews, substitute teaching, job offers, new faces, new friends, bidding farewell to others, and finally… a permanent place to call home. I didn’t want to get a place until I knew where I’d be working, so I crashed at an awesome guest house for a month.

It’s a thrill to say these words–”I LOVE MY JOB.” Summer 2010 will be one I’ll never forget, working a creative job that I loved straight after college. Now halfway around the world, I’ve found the same thing in a very different profession. Teaching at an English Language Center at the top of District 1, my working day is filled variety. I teach teen classes, 7-8 year-old young learner classes, “tween”-agers, a corporate class in a high-rise down the street, and a smattering of ages at two local primary schools. It seemed like a lot my first week, but now that I’ve gotten into a ryhtmn, I feel like I could teach definately teach more classes. Good planning is clutch for good classes, and it’s easy to get sucked into hours of planning. But after a few classes under your belt, you find what works and trim what doesn’t.

It’s amazing the emotional security attained with a steady paycheck and a place to hang your hat. And now that I feel settled with both, I feel like a queen. I’m subletting in a Vietnamese-style house in a clean alley, just a block from the Center, one street away from a park, and a quick 10 minutes from a grocery. My roommates are an interesting cross-section of western society in HCMC: two other English teachers, working at competing centers, and a French girl, fresh from university, an engineer at a French telecommunications company. The other teachers in the house are Americans as well; there aren’t hard feelings in Saigon, just a drive to move forward.

It’s funny, yet truly astounding, the rate of progress here–just in the time I’ve been in Saigon, I’ve already seen buildings rise, stores open, and business flourish. My favorite new restaurant is the “Vegetarian Restaurant,” a vegetarian friendly supply and eatery just a five-minute walk from my house. A bowl of faux Bun Bo Hue, a popular beef dish from Central VN made with “chay” (veg) “meat?” 30.000 VND, or $1.50. Fabulous. But, construction is non-stop, and workers often live on the street under a tarp by the project. The downside to the constant scurry is the awful pollution. My coworkers constantly complain about getting sick because of it. It’s a sad truth, but a face mask is a necessity while on a motorbike and some wear one just walking down the street. Thankfully, my commute is a quick stroll, but the pollution makes prolonged periods in traffic less than enjoyable.

For better or worse, HCMC is on full-throttle forward, and I’m here, witness to this historic period of Vietnam’s growth.

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