Monday, September 30, 2013

What is This 'Rainy Season' You Speak Of?

Honestly, it's not as rainy as I expected to find - it's not like we're getting monsoons every day, all day. Lately they seem to come around 4pm, but there are no rules (just like Saigon traffic, weather here does what it wants, when it wants, for however long it feels like it, and damn the consequences!) - when it rains, it rains. Sometimes it sprinkles. Sometimes it's a total downpour, sheets of rain, look-out-or-it'll-bruise-you stuff. And all of it is fun - the wind and rain are making me miss Chicago a little less.

September has been much rainier than June, and it's been lovely - except for all those times I'm caught on my bike two blocks from home in a crazy-ass downpour. And even those are ok - usually it's so hot that to get soaking wet at 40km/hr is actually a little refreshing! Only when I'm going home though - I hate showing up to work looking like a soaking wet cat.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Book Review: Dispossessed in Vietnam

The other day I picked up Ursula K Le Guin's science fiction masterpiece The Dispossessed. It was the only novel of her Hainish cycle that I'd never read (for shame!!), although it's been on my radar for years. My friend Misty warned me after I was a few pages into it that her copy was seriously underlined (she's a great highlighter of quotes) and that I was going to enjoy it.

I loved it much more than I could have anticipated. In fact, at many points during the second half of the novel, I literally found myself thinking, "This book is about ME!," like some teenage girl finding her first pop-music love. In this case it was clear I'd stumbled upon exactly the book I needed at this moment in time. As I finished the final exhilarating chapters, I was already composing this post in my head: what would become the first entry in my One Person Book Club. If you like reading, go ahead and join me, and come back to this post later! If not, read on for my reactions, thoughts, and analysis of the themes and characters. Or don't, I'm not your mom. But I do hope you find this interesting and relevant. I know I did.

Read on!... and on!... and on! (It's a long one, folks!):

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Park Life: Công Viên 23 Tháng 9

The lily pond in Công Viên 23 Tháng 9, surrounded by an isolating and deeply relaxing grove of palm trees.

Today I want to take you on a tour of the park where I meet several of my clients, as well as my own personal Vietnamese tutor. On concrete benches beneath the shade of palm trees, in a section far away from the mosquitos that live in the pond, I learn and teach languages. Coupled with a ca phe da (iced coffee), banh mi, and folders full of language notes, my students and I learn languages together in the morning heat.

Leslie Knope would be proud! This repurposed park is today a thriving civic hub, one that I visit at least three times a week.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ho Chi Mix City: September 2013

It's been a whirlwind couple months here in Vietnam!

I haven't had a lot of time to listen to music, what with all the commuting, learning, teaching, and socializing I've been doing. It's a strange thing, and I'm used to much more alone time than I've been getting. I can tell I'm a little run down and I'm planning on easing up on things for a little bit to even out and find stable footing again.

In the meantime, here's my latest mixtape creation reflecting my time and experiences here. We kick it off with my favorite Black Grape song, get into Muddy Waters, Jimmy Eat World, Nina Simone, The Beatles, Fun., Supertramp, and end with a great little Doris Day song, among several other great artists and tunes. Tunes to teach to!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

New 'hood: Ward 2, District 3

A roundabout with public art that I pass every morning
on my way to District 6. Chunky, blocky... everything
you would expect from socialist art. It's still nice.
In Chicago, you tell others a little about yourselves by saying what neighborhood you live in. This is due in part to the extreme hyper-localization that happens in Chicago - ethnic groups tend to clump together, and if you're lucky enough to live in a neighborhood with a solid identity, it will tell other Chicagoans what restaurants you prefer, what kind of neighbors you like, where you hang out, what your social concerns are, and more. It's an interesting and unique way of communicating more about yourself, while granting a more or less permanent aspect to your identity. If you want to live with like minded people, you find them, and then you interact with them in those spaces. It's very simple. While it's true the entire city is your playground, you can still count on knowing that where you live is just as important as how and why you live. It is a very easy way of building community in a relatively small town of 2.8 million.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Our First Dinner Party

It was a dinner party in the loosest sense of the term - but definitely a party where we served food, so I'm not going to be too picky about semantics! Possibly the most fun I've had at my own house since we moved in.

One of the greatest surprises about my new roommates (all but one has left the house, and the last one is leaving on Sunday night) is that there is a cooking enthusiast among them - HOORAY!! Finally, all the dreams I had for utilizing my kitchen will hopefully be coming true!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Nurture Trumps Nature

Look at those big brown eyes... and the skin
sores all over his neck. Awwww.
As I'm writing this, I'm desperately trying to make a mental list of all the good things about fostering a rescue kitten, but really all I want to do is kick him out of my room so I can go back to being a writer for half an hour and not a human climbing tree where he jumps from clingable surface to clingable surface, pretending he's a tiger or a gecko, or whatever goes on in his brain.

Humph. Well. I guess it comes with the territory.

One month ago I finally gave up my search for a snake to foster adopt (you'd think that would be easy here!), and began inquiring about kittens. In District 2 there is a veterinary hospital and animal rescue that I'd been in contact with and they had a little mangy cat come in that needed some special TLC. I told them I'd come in on Friday and we'd go from there.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

What Is Happening in This Video?

Seriously, if someone could let me know, that would be awesome.

It's not like they were even very well coordinated, and the leaders - were they the leaders? - weren't really that great, either. I just have no idea.

Saturday morning in Asia, y'all:

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Teaching: One Month Down, Eight to Go

All Vietnamese class art is this terrible. It must be traditional, because
if it's not it's an international humanitarian crime.
I mentioned in my last post that I get pretty damn sweaty in the classroom - jumping back and forth, working with kids, and patrolling the narrow aisles leaves me damp and exhausted at the end of it. I'm also covered in all different colors of chalk dust pretty much all the time - I look like a refugee from the Indian holiday of Holi on some days, with yellow, green, blue, red, and white powder on my shirt, all over my pants, and smeared on my face when I lift my glasses to wipe off my brow with the sleeve of my shirt.