Riding Vietnam Day 153: My First Lesson as an English Language Teacher

The oddest display of sounds wrested me from my sleep in the early morning due to a continuous racket of what sounded like street alley grunge music to the tune of a drummer banging passionately against his trash can percussions. Eventually the sound subsided despite its lengthy performance to allow me a couple more hours of slumber. Today ended up being much of the same as yesterday with catching up on the blog in the none singular confines of the Bat Cave with Philip out and about on the town. I finally and officially removed myself from this inhabitance to get a little snack and awaken my eyes to the sunshine and the world around me. With a portioned bag of banh trang tron rice paper salad and my necessary chopsticks loaded up, I walked over to the park to a shady bench to eat my meal and enjoy the sights and sounds of the people around me playing the shuttlecock game called da cau in Vietnam or jianzi for the original Chinese term of the game and simply doing the afternoon stroll through the park. A Vietnamese girl and boy approached me and asked if they could sit down and talk with me to practice their English. Apparently this park is quite popular for Vietnamese students and young people to come to meet Westerners who can help with their English. They were awfully curious about me asking questions about my background including my education, family, and home as well as what has brought me to Vietnam and Saigon. I even practiced a little Vietnamese as well but I had regretfully forgotten my cheat sheet with all the phrases I had set out to practice. They did make me aware of some mistakes in my pronunciation which further accentuated how truly difficult of a language Vietnamese or any Asian language really can be to learn thanks to the many tones involved. They thought it was quite odd for me to want to learn their language especially since I wasn’t actively living here but since I would be spending a quite a bit of time here I thought it would be a great way to have a better appreciation for the country and to help me travel here more purposefully. Most people are quite satisfied with ‘thank you’ and ‘hello’ which is perfectly fine but I really wanted to undertake something more to be able to go into a smaller city market and order food and know what that food actually would turn out to be and not just consider it a mystery meat. Plus, I think the locals would get a kick out of my attempts. I would have probably tried to learn some more Burmese, Thai, and Khmer but with their written language looking like hieroglyphs it would have been a painstaking effort. More and more Vietnamese crowded around me on my chosen bench to get a listen in on the conversation and to introduce themselves as well. I thoroughly enjoyed challenging them with different words and speech while still talking slowly in a calm tone for them to understand my assortment of words. They were quite receptive to my suggestions for altering their pronunciation of words and vocabulary since they were so interested in expanding scope of the English language. I had to leave after a few hours talking with them since I made plans to meet up with Philipp and others but I definitely would like to come back again tomorrow to speak with them some more and hopefully expand my horizons into the Vietnamese language. Along with the happy hour beers, I joined Philip, Cassie (another Canadian), Nick from Philly, and Dave (a middle aged American) for some pho which I once again helped the group order. After enough pointing at the overhead food stall menu and the assortment of meats available, I found a way to communicate the need to get a couple bowls of mixed meat (signaled by a full overarching circle around the meat on display as well as two chicken bowls of pho. I went about catering to every accent of taste with lime for the sour, chilies for the spice, mung bean sprouts for crunch, and fish sauce for the funk. After that satisfying bowl of pho, we went to a rooftop sky bar overlooking Bui Vien backpacker street and stunning skyline view of HCMC altogether which unveiled its starry eyed collection of lights dotting the darkness as well as bold bouncing and booming colors from fellow but more rambunctious sky bars amidst other sections of the city. HCMC has the Western appeal with more catering to that lifestyle and the unmistakeable skyscrapers without selling itself out as an Asian country by still according to me sticking to its roots. It is chaos and culture molded in one. Amidst this high class atmosphere that I don’t remotely fit into, we chatted the night away with the usual humor and divided yet unified cultural references we all share.

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