Riding Vietnam Day 154: From Teacher to Pupil

I came to some agreement to join Dave and a Canadian named Roman for the first leg of my journey up north since we were all planning on leaving the same day. Today also meant that I would have to sadly say goodbye to Philipp the German who began his motorbike journey today. I once again took on the role of a lazy bum by secluding myself to the Bat Cave. Sure I could have went to the Cu Chi Tunnels, which I heard were a tourist ploy at this point lost of their original meaning from the Vietnam War, seen a couple pagodas in Chinatown, or a unique religion based within a short ride of HCMC but I did not feel deprived. I had to catch up on my blog so I was content to get into my meditative state uhmming away as I typed away at the invisible keys. Later on, I held true to my promise of going back to the park to talk with locals now with my cheat sheet notepad in hand. I sat there on the wooden bench like Forest Gump with the trees casting a dark welcoming shadow upon me while I waited anticipating the arrival of a friendly pupil. Eventually, a girl and a boy approached me asking to talk and I said sure as if what took so long. I shared my background and status here in Saigon to cover the usual shtick before talking practicing some Vietnamese. They took me to task with my pronunciation since I was apparently butchering their language but then again most would with a language containing so many tones and awkward mouth expressions to form a single syllable. With each syllable they pointed upwards or downwards to direct me like a conductor as to how I should hit that specific syllabic note. One word the girl found particularly hilarious. When I tried to say chili sauce, the broken English looks like ‘toong uhhh^’ which when I attempted the proclamation she thought I sounded like a certain sexual sound. From then on that became an inside joke when I was required to make any similarly odd tonal sound in a word. I had been practicing Vietnamese with some apps. Most were sound and made applicable sense but one had an interesting phrase in the section called flirting that I could not help but to divulge to them. Along with ‘I can teach you a few moves’ and ‘you are very pretty’, the app developers thought it would be a good idea to know how to say ‘so, are you going to give me your number, or am I going to have to stalk you?’ This only confused to the point of opening up a can of worms to which I needed to explain what stalking and creepy was. I wonder what a passerby would have thought if they encountered such a conversation cutting through the airwaves. Anyways, we moved on to a school project of hers that involved writing about her background and goals all in English. She needed help correcting her written English so I took on the role of my sister as the grammar master to make the necessary changes. She had the general idea but I still needed to move this word and that around to bring some flow and connection with her story. When she tried explaining farming and the methods her family used to do so, it was comical display in trying to decipher what was happening to this pig or that and the random pot of rice porridge. Sometimes I comically shook my head as if what the hell is going on here but I wanted to make sure I could complete to help her out. Later on, more joined my cult of followers to hear us speak English and participate as well. One very impeccable English speaking Vietnamese stunned me by his prowess but had a unique feature to his accent. Having been taught by an Irishman the language of English, he sounded like he was born and raised in Dublin. Sorry Ireland and all the Irish, I think we may need to outlaw you as English speaking teachers because I could not help smirking with each word he spoke since the comedic possibility of an Asian Irishman is endless. Eventually I showed them my Vietnamese “cheat sheet” to which the one smart ass girl (love her all the same) questioned why most of the words in the notepad dealt with food. ‘Honey’, at the end of the day that is what matters most when communicating a new language. We went through the entire alphabet which probably only confused me more but I am glad they didn’t let me off easy. If I have any hope of learning the basics I can’t be given praise for bad pronunciations. My jaw and my mouth got a real workout attempting the various tones that simply do not exist in the English language. I think they got joy out of being the expert of something when they are usually the student when discussing the English language. I was a novelty in that way, a certain curiosity. I left them nightfall after covering so much my head is still spinning. The rest of the night wasn’t much at all except for some more time in the hood of the Bat Cave, a happy hour beer, and a lap down Bui Vien and the nightly activities of the nearby park. Tomorrow I will finally see someone from back home for the first time in five months when my cousin Josh arrives to the country.  


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