What’s life like after CELTA?
Friday is more like my Monday. It’s busy with two classes, cooking baon for the weekend, and the routinary house chores. But today is rather easy-going. I started off lazily at half past nine with the sun shining at its peak already. Growing up, I’m unlikely to get excited about summer. But as I get old, I appreciate the rays of the sun reflecting through my glass door. Sparrows literally chirping just by my window. On a 28-degrees like this I feel like hanging out in a cool café with someone special or make a short trip in the nearest beach. But life isn’t a walk in the park. It’s just a regular day in late March and I’ve got things to do. First, I spent a couple of silent moments looking out my balcony from the fourth floor of my apartment building. Up here, I watched the unhurried daily grind of the Vietnamese people below. A few chi or older women were still lounging in red plastic chairs drinking coffee.
I drank half glass of apple juice and decided to marinate the beef for some good old tapa.
I turned on the washer to get some bed sheets and pillowcases cleaned up by themselves. When I finished pounding the meat and soaking them in soy sauce, vinegar, garlic and sugar, it was almost time to prepare for work. Time is ever elusive.
It feels 32 degrees at half past noon when I walked to the bus stop armed by a black sunvisor and my new brolly with watermelon drawings—not very teacher like, I suppose. I work for a public school in District 5, which is just off the center of Ho Chi Minh City. The ride takes about 20-30 minutes but the waiting time for the bus sometimes takes longer than that. Today, everything was a breeze. Bus 14 has arrived in less than a minute and my class smoothly went by like the wind.
A two-hour class may seem long but it’s actually short when you like the class you’re teaching. When I moved in Vietnam three years ago, I started-off teaching three hours every weekdays and on Saturdays a good nine-hour with, of course, breaks in between. Then, with the help of my friend, who was also a teacher, I got another job in a public school for two hours a day, three times a week, which was great.
Xe-om or motorbike for hire is pretty much everywhere in Vietnam just as jeepney in Manila or tuktuk in Bangkok. But they’ve got a reputation for inscribing lifetime scars on your skin or worse leaving you with a dismembered leg. I’m just being modest. Motorbike accident in Vietnam is dubbed the hidden epidemic by the locals because the exact number of death toll each year is either inaccurate or left unreported.
Hence, the bus is my main friend to go around the city so to speak. And although it is far from the smell of Old Spice or Aqua Velva, it’s also far from a hospital visit. Not many foreigners take the bus to and fro work. I’m probably the only one of my kind or one in a few. The rest are, well, just in it for a one-time experience. I get oohs and aahs from my students everytime they learn I use the bus system. The locals with owned motorbikes, which comprised 80% of the population, hate it. One because it’s slow. Two because it’s bulky. It takes so much space in the narrow streets of District 3.
And although it’s slow, I still have missed my stop going home. I don’t regret it just like I did when I’m still new in Saigon getting lost and learning Google map. I must have been so into my smartphone reading. I know that bus 6 doesn’t stop directly at my street but then I thought of visiting my favorite park—Van Thanh—which is just two bus stops away anyway from the crowded neighborhood, where I live.
My evening class has ended last week and I’m hoping for more new classes come April. The number of hours are very much important here because the salary of foreign English teachers is hourly-based. Other teachers who are working for an international school have guaranteed salary of $2500/monthly but it means staying eight to nine hours in school from Mondays to Fridays.
I work for a language center and a public school with a handsome pay while enjoying lots of free time during weekdays. A trip to my favorite chill place is just the right thing to do because I’ve got the rest of the day by myself.
Van Thanh park has a poetic vibe into it that I love coming here every chance I get. Aside from the coconut trees, flowers and well-manicured lawns, there’s a lake full of koi and a seafood restaurant housed in nipa hut cottages right into it. In the middle of the huge park is a sprawling tennis court and a nice pool. I once have enjoyed a dip and it sets me back at $3.5 for an unlimited hours of swimming and use of facilities. It’s roughly the same rate I would pay for a hot spring trip in Laguna, which is a two-hour drive from the capital of the Philippines. The shower room in the park is surprisingly clean for a public pool that is mostly visited both by locals and foreigners. Vietnamese families with toddlers tend to go here during sundown.
When I got back home, my bedsheet has dried up and it’s time to cook tapa.