vietnam

Exploring and Making Friends

After a lot of thought, I decided to go back to USA in October. I told my boss and coworkers that I’ll be leaving then, so it’s official!

It wasn’t an easy decision to make for a number of reasons, and I’m still a little conflicted about it to be honest. But life is full of tough decisions and there’s no right or wrong way to do things. I’m just trying to do what’s best for me! I’ve been isolated, unhappy, and terribly hot, so why not have a change of scenery?  Hopefully I’ll be able to look back on my time traveling in Korea and Vietnam as a bright and meaningful experience.

Since I know I’ll be leaving soon, I’ve been trying to make the most of my time here (in between intense study sessions for the LSAT that is!).


What are you doing here?

“What are you doing here?”

It’s a question a lot of Vietnamese people probably want to ask me (or actually are asking me and I just can’t understand it) as they see me, a twenty-two year old white American female, browsing casually through the grocery store or studying for my LSAT in a cafe.  Listening to music, sweating profusely in the heat. And alone. Always, always alone.

Tonight, my new coworker “Pierre,” a French guy masquerading as an American so he can teach English as a native speaker, invited “Curly,” my other coworker, to come with him to check out some local real estate and then grab dinner. I overheard this conversation and decided to invite myself. Figured it’d be nice to get to know my coworkers, and they are certainly a strange pair.


I’m sick :(

I went into work this afternoon and had to leave in the middle of my last class because I felt like I literally couldn’t stand up. It was pretty embarrassing. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s missing work because of illness. I always feel like no one will believe me that I’m actually sick.

Especially since the day before I told my boss I’d like less work hours. My contract is for 25-35 hours per week, and for the past month I’ve had just about 35.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in Vietnam, 35 hours of teaching is considered a lot a lot, especially given the fact that I’m only getting $1000 USD per month. Yesterday I had five classes for a total of eight and a half hours, spanning from 7:30AM to 8:30PM.  So it’s possible that my long work hours have caused me to fall ill, and not infected food or mosquito bites!


The Lonely Foreigner

I do not like living in Qui Nhon.

The English is at a really low level. Vietnamese is a tonal language, so even when I do memorize a few words and phrases, no one understands what I’m trying to say because I can’t get the tones right. Ordering food is virtually impossible. Literally everything I’ve eaten so far has made me sick. I may never not have diarrhea again.  Locals overcharge me. I work splits six days a week. The school is infested with rats. I experience strange spells of lightheadedness. I am living out of a suitcase. The beach is right next to my hotel room, but the weather is so scorching and humid that I can’t enjoy it. Indoors, airconditioning is sparse. People stare at me wherever I go. Teenagers come up to me for pictures. Parents push their children towards me and I am compelled to have uncomfortable, phony conversations with them, consisting mainly of “How are you today?” “I’m five.”


Sneaky Selfies, Karma, and Loneliness

Right now I’m sitting in a place called Cafe Sunrise. As I type this, there is an elderly gentleman with a gold watch on sits in front of me. He’s in sunglasses smoking a cigarette. I caught him taking selfies, and thought oh how cute.  Then I looked closer, and noticed that his selfies were carefully composed to feature me typing on my computer in the background of every shot. 

 

why obsessed

 

I eventually decided to just go up to him and strike a pose.


Allergies

I have allergies. Symptoms include: horrendously itchy nose, runny-stuffy nose, watery puppydog eyes, wet cough, headache, misery. Does anyong have any advice about allergies? No idea how to find out what’s causing them exactly, or how to stop this torture.

 


My 1st Day Teaching in Vietnam

It’s so hot here. So hot. So jungly. Me and my heat rashes are definitely going through an adjustment period!

 

My morning walk...gorgeous but fucking hot as fuck
My morning walk…gorgeous but fucking hot as fuck

 

My first day of teaching was yesterday…..

 


My First 24 Hours in Vietnam: Oversized Baggage, Cheap Meatballs, and One Very Sticky Used Condom

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday morning and spent the day wandering aimlessly around District 1, which is a maze of street food, mopeds, and foreigners.

So. Many. Foreigners. Women in flowy skirts wandering in droves with backpacks. Men with dreads and rose tattoos. Couples giving each other the silent treatment over coconut milk and pho. European families in SAIGON shirts ushering their disgruntled offspring to the next trinket shop.  Ugly middle aged men flanked by gorgeous local girls.  Everyone’s hot. Everyone’s on vacation, everyone’s pawing at somebody.

It seemed like the city itself was sweating gloriously along with us, and for the first time since I’ve left the United States, I felt truly happy.


If You Don’t Have Anything Good to Say about My Country, Just…

A couple of weeks ago, I was hurt, guilty, furious. I was hurt because of the offensive things said about my country over dinner with other 외국인 (foreigners); guilty because I just sat there speechless, pretending that I wasn’t listening, and I didn’t even try to refute their crude remarks. I was furious because of their insensitivity and my silence. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything to defend my country and my fellow Filipinos, when in fact, I always speak my mind. Maybe I kept mum because, I didn’t want to cause a hullabaloo. Once I start talking, there’s no stopping me until everybody listens and understands my point. In college, I was a debate queen, and until now, on several occasions, I don’t mind debating with someone who thinks he knows EVERYTHING about where I come from… well, except that day. Maybe another reason for my silence is that some of what they were saying is true.

“The Philippines is incredible! People here are so wonderful. They don’t realize that. There’s this kind of warmth I see everywhere! I notice it in the street vendor who can’t give you anything but a warm smile and a lot of love.” ~~~ Vin Diesel

 

“The Philippines is incredible! People here are so wonderful. They don’t realize that. There’s this kind of warmth I see everywhere! I notice it in the street vendor who can’t give you anything but a warm smile and a lot of love.” ~~~ Vin Diesel

 

 

 

 

Yes, the Philippines is not a rich country, but to say that the country is “so poor that people beg for money everywhere” is a mere exaggeration. One of the tactless foreigners said that even taxi drivers beg for money. It’s called asking for a tip, not begging. In the Philippines, it is common courtesy to give a tip to show appreciation for good service. We Filipinos usually tip taxi drivers. Foreigners do that, too. The kind ones even tip tricycle drivers. An American friend who visited the Philippines for the first time gave a tricycle driver 400 php for a tip. That’s almost 10 USD! The fare cost only 100 php (2.37 USD). The driver was giving her back 400 php for the 500 bill that she gave, but my friend told him to keep the change. I told her it was too much. She smiled and said that she doesn’t mind giving big tips to those who deserve it. That day, no tricycle driver wanted to drive us to where we were headed, because it was raining cats and dogs and the road going to our destination was flooded, but one tricycle driver took pity on us, cold and dripping wet from the rain.

You don’t have to give a big tip to a taxi or tricycle driver (20 to 50 php is enough), but at least have the courtesy and the heart to give a tip to someone who was of service to you, someone whose job is (probably) more taxing than yours.

Most foreigners who visit my country don’t need to be told that giving a tip is not the same as giving alms, because they take time to learn some Filipino customs before going to the Philippines, and isn’t tipping also a custom in the US?

In South Korea, tipping is not customary and is considered demeaning at times; however, my husband, who is Korean, and most of the Koreans I know don’t mind giving a tip when they go to the Philippines, and I’ve never heard them complain about it.

The foreigners went on and on about how poverty-stricken the Philippines is. They also talked aboutVietnam, being worse. I started wondering why the heck they go to other countries if they only criticize. When people travel, what is their main purpose? Isn’t it to discover, learn about other countries’ culture? to enjoy, to relax, to have wonderful memories to share with friends back home? I’m pretty sure that what these foreigners experienced in my country (or in Vietnam) wasn’t all that bad, but they made it sound as if they have been to the most abominable place in this world. Anywhere you go, even in the richest countries, there will always be poor people, people who beg for food or for a penny, people with no homes, people who need help. Should you criticize them? One of the foreigners was telling the others about “dirty street kids” following and annoying her because she is “a foreigner”. She is not being followed, because the kids think she is a celebrity; she is being followed, because the kids are hoping that she would give them coins that can buy them lunch or dinner, maybe their first meal of the day.

For almost 10 minutes of disparaging conversation about the Philippines (and Vietnam), they didn’t even consider how I and my fellow Filipina companion would feel… or maybe, they forgot that there were Filipinos present during that time. Even if there weren’t Filipinos (or Vietnamese) present, should they have talked like that about other countries in front of other foreigners?

When I started writing this post, I thought of naming all the good things about the Philippines that I can think of and have observed living there for 29 years… but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I invite you to visit the Philippines, travel around the country, get to know its people, discover its culture and if you want, you can even learn the national language. I’m sure that if you do all these things and free your mind from prejudice, you will have wonderful things to say about the Philippines. Who knows, you may even fall in love with my country, like the other foreigners who have stayed there or who keep coming back?

 


Queer Links from the Week

Keith from Seoulistic. I assume he's straight, but that doesn't stop me from thinking he certainly is eye candy
PinkNews: South Korea: Court grants Ugandan lesbian refugee status after family killed due to her sexuality

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