Tuesday, December 16, 2008

friends or friends-ters?

Are we actually friends or just friends-ters?

Every couple of months, I get around to checking my friendster account-- to get an update on some people, to look at pictures that friends have been bugging me to check out, and to check if there are some accounts which have no longer have a place in my life (e.g. accounts like gorgeous people, drunken fairies, and so on) and therefore should be deleted.

With friends, no matter how callous I may look or actually be --- in truth, I'm a sucker. Forget me for a couple of years, ignore me (I'll do the same), don't greet me for major holidays (e.g. my birthday)... It all goes down the drain once you contact me.

By the way, to be clear, friends are people who:
1. I've actually had a conversation with -- not small talk
2. Were halfway decent to me during my weird years (i.e. all my life)

When does friendship actually stop? A cheesy message says Friendship is like “sms” bcoz it comes & stays inside Ur Inbox until U delete it. But is it really as easy as that? It's there but maybe instead of growing... you're growing apart. I admit, there are so many levels in being friends. In my world, I have:
1. practically family --- no matter what, you love them. no questions asked. time apart (almost) doesn't matter.
2. close friends --- they mean a lot and have shared a big chunk of my life (and I don't mean in years)
3. buddies --- pals who you can share SOME thoughts with
4. casual friends --

***note to Phy: This isn't the draft I was telling you about. I'm still unsatisfied with that one. This one kinda came out of I don't know what... :P

P.S. just posting it now... can't remember why I started this topic. lol

Twilight should have stayed in the dark

I wonder how movies would be if I wasn't so fond of reading books.... would I enjoy screen adaptations more. P.S. I Love You was different from the book, so was The Notebook. The Lord of the Rings was way too long for everything to be translated onscreen.But they were good films. Twilight, on the other hand, pretty much had the scenes from the book --- mapped out quite differently, but, still there --- BUT it sucked. I'll be kind (and believe me I'm often the opposite) and say that it just kinda sucked. As opposed to majorly sucked. But hello.I never thought I'd say this, but a little more cinematic license wouldn't have hurt. Haha, never thought I'd say that. There was a time when I hated my sister for saying that movies are entitled to cinematic license. But now, I realize that for a screen adaptation to actually work they should stick to the heart of the story and play around with the scenes and stuff. Yes, it's fun to see and hear scenes that you've only imagined while reading the book but movies are different from books. they are visual and in my opinion, people should read books when they want to imagine and they should watch movies when they want to see. not just watch a movie so they can see what they imagine. watching Twilight, i felt like i kept on filling in the blanks instead enjoying myself. it reminded me of watching the first two installments of Harry Potter. by the 3rd one (thank god for Christopher Columbus), I could actually sit back and enjoy the film. considering that book three was my favorite, the movie had a lot to live up to. But instead of criticizing (ok, i did criticize it negatively, BUT just a little)i appreciated it as a movie and figured that as long as they stuck to what the book was supposed to be about, it was good. It didn't need a play by play reenactment of the book scenes... that would've been crazy. That's what makes or breaks screen adaptations stick too much to the story and you get glimpses of what the story's supposed to be about. but if you take some liberties, and I mean some, you end up staying true to the story OR at least, end up with a good film. Some adaptations don't have 7 chances you know...

oh well, I'll never know the answer... 24 years is too long for someone to break a habit. reading is more than a hobby for me

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Stuck in a Rut

I'm stuck... It's like I have writer's block. I have 10 drafts for my blog(s) that I just can't finish. Some are so rough, I don't want to look at them again. I've got a million thoughts running through my head but they won't come together coherently. Everything I write sucks. Aargh!

Back Again....

I've had a multiply site for some time but I've mainly used it for showing pictures to my friends and family. I was thinking that I should just quit using blogspot and continue posting my blogs there but I keep having problems accessing it so here I am again...

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Cambodia Trip

I went on a trip with my sister months ago and I’ve never really gotten around to writing about it. Anyway, since I’m still lazy to do anything about it, just take a look at the photos on my multiply site: http://babyanj.multiply.com/photos/album/30/vietnam-cambodia_roadtrip

***On Tet holiday, I’m planning a trip with a couple of friends. We might do a Cambodia-Thailand trip for 2 weeks or if we’re short on money, a week-long Siem Reap trip or something like it would do. I like Cambodia (they speak English, yey) and I’m looking forward to going back.***

On Harry Potter and Rereading Books

Seeing the fifth movie on HBO made me realize how much I enjoyed reading Harry Potter books. Because of that, I decided to reread the whole series and make it last for as long as I could. Instead of going through it as quickly as I usually do, I try to take breaks and stop after several chapters or so.

For people who like reading, would you agree that rereading books are like visiting old friends? Like people I rarely see, I miss almost all the books I’ve read (and believe me, there are a lot of them out there) and I always look forward to reading them again.

Some books aren’t like that. Sometimes when you read books for the umpteenth time, you realize that they aren’t worth your time. They don’t provide as much enjoyment as they used to and you become conscious of the fact they aren’t very well written in the first place. I can’t remember how many times I’ve read this particular series but I hope I never get tired of it.

I was never as crazed about him or the series as much as others were and still are. I don’t think that it’s the best story(ies) I’ve ever read. However, I each time I read the books, I feel like I’m meeting the characters all over again and being told of their stories and included in their everyday life. I think this is a feeling that I’d like to have with the books that I will read in the future. I know it’s a big thing to expect but I hope that it does happen.

***Right now, I’m on Prisoner of Azkaban, which is one of my favorites in the series. Hello, Sirius!***

8 Reasons for 8 Months (and Counting)

I’ve been in Viet Nam for about 8 months now and I can say that I’m still enjoying it. I’m still a part time teacher at an English school and tutoring whenever I can. It’s probably not the best arrangement and some of my friends have been asking me why I’m still here since I’m not earning a lot of money anyway… So why…

I guess these are the reasons:
1. I’m not here for the money… If money was my prime reason for working, I should’ve studied something else like nursing.
2. I’m lazy. I’m good at English and I enjoy it. It’s the easiest way to earn money while being lazy(wait a minute, I was also doing that back at PS).
3. Coming here is preparing my parents my future travels to other countries. This is fairly near and they know who I’m with.
4. Like I always tell the students, “I want to try to live and work in a different country”
5. It’s cheap to live in Viet Nam. My expenses each month amount to about $100 or so. That includes rent, bills & food. I ride a bicycle to work.
6. I finally learned how to ride a bicycle and this is a good place to enjoy doing that. Pollution in Vung Tau is almost nada compared to Makati.
7. I’m learning to love vegetables here. They’re humongous and cheap. Fruits aren’t that bad either.
8. Never say no to a chance to travel and learn a new culture and (a bit) language.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Yet Another Update

After my previous post, I noticed that I have neglected my blog for almost a month. Thea's laptop crashed about two weeks ago, and before that, it wasn't working all that great either. In a day I probably thought of about a dozen things to post about, but when I did get some proper computer time, my mind would tend to wander off and that would be the end of it.

Anyway, just to give my readers an update (as if there's a lot of them out there)...

1. I'm still working at NES as a part time teacher.
2. I'm home alone right now, for a week or maybe two. Or a month if the dreaded houseguest doesn't arrive. Hehe, I'm evil.
3. I wore a dress to NES' celebration of its 3rd year anniversary---which ends my quota of wearing a dress/skirt twice each year.

And again, I can't think of anything else. I guess my life sounds so boring huh, I dunno why. I'm rarely bored but when I put the things I do on paper, well, online in this case, it sounds so B-O-R-I-N-G. And why did I spell that out... Coz I dunno how else to fill up the space. Haha.

I'm enjoying my time alone right now, my solitude, so to speak. It's one of the things I really miss and I never quite know how to phrase it. I think people would find it rude, like I want them to go away or something, which is not really quite the same thing. I just need to be alone sometimes and be able to do things by myself for myself. The only thing that sucks about this arrangement is that the dog stays with me. I hate cleaning up after it. Oh well, one can't have everything...

Oh yeah, I mentioned that NES had a party recently. That was last Saturday, and we had a lotta fun. The party was well, short. I can't imagine a Filipino party that started on time and ended 3 hours later, but that's what it almost was. It was alright, though. They enjoyed playing party games they've never heard of (Newspaper Dance, Stop Dance, and Musical Chairs). They tried to dance the LA Walk (Thea's version), which I finally learned how to dance properly, and sang a few songs. Altogether, it was tame but not so bad. It ended at around half past nine so we (the foreign teachers) trooped over to a local girly bar named Chi-Chi's. Hehe. The girls and I have this twisted idea that we might enjoy watching the wild girls by going to the girly bars... but of course, they never show the good stuff when girls are present :( After a round of drinks we went to Vitamin C, that's a somewhat respectable girly bar. Had another round and met some of Jade and Art's friends and then we all went to Back Beach. We went to an almost deserted beach bar with a pretty Russian bartender. When we were the only ones on the bar, we girls (Thea, Laurice, Rizza and I) decided to dance on the bar top. After a while, Liana (the bartender) joined me, she was pretty good, too. And surprisingly, I ended up liking their draft beer. Art quit early but the rest of us went home at about 4 am. It was a good night out, I hope we do something like it again, soon.

So that's it for tonight. I gotta get up early (or at least, try to) coz I'm trying out this yoga class with Art at a nearby spa. Till next time!

The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side... Not Really... But They're Interesting Anyway

As if I didn't have enough books (well, ebooks) to read, I've started reading several blogs apart from my usual list. Their stories are just well, engrossing. They remind me of unputdownable books that I can't bear to part with.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Killing Time

It's been a while since I've posted anything new. I haven't even written about my trip to Cambodia with my sister, or losing my job (one of them anyway), or joining a dance class. The last one's fairly recent so I guess I better start with that.

I have a lot of time these days and I've been itching to do yoga, so last Sunday, Thea and I walked to a nearby spa/exercise place. We found out that they have 2 yoga classes on Sunday and a ballroom dancing class three times a week. While I've had my share of dancing in school programs and the like, I've always had a difficult time learning dance steps. But I figured since I know Thea really wants to dance, I have a lot of time and it didn't cost much to enroll (especially coz she paid half of my fee), it wouldn't hurt to try it for a month. We asked the receptionist if the instructor spoke English and she told us that one of the two instructors could... Turns out we got the non-English speaking one. It's alright, though, the other students speaks a little English and we get by by shuffling along with them. The instructor is pretty good and makes you feel like you can dance well when he leads you. On the downside, he smells a little funky but I've smelled worse so it's no problem.

About losing my job, it wasn't that big a surprise. I was just a substitute at the preschool anyways, and I knew that once their relatives from the Philippines arrived (all the teachers are related to the owner), I'd be out of there. That was two weeks ago, and I miss the kids :P

These days I have a lot of time on my hands.

Last week I had 7 classes at the English school but this week I only got 3.

I read a lot and ride my bicycle around.

Sometimes I go out with students or friends but for the most part, I'm a bum.

And I don't like it.

But I don't want to work all week long at the English school either.


So I'm stuck.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Be Careful What You Wish For

Coz it just might come true... So they say and that's exactly what I felt about a week ago. You know how I've been going on about going crazy because I don't have enough things to read... Well, I saw this amazing bookshop in Cambodia and freaked. Amazing because I've been depraved (hehe) for so long and amazing because they have a lot of English titles available, original books, too (that's another story). Anyway, I freaked because I hadn't had much choice for so long, and when I faced with rows and rows of English language books, I had no idea what to do and which book to choose. My heart was pounding and I practically couldn't breath. I was such a loser, having a panic attack coz I couldn't choose. My sister and I left without buying a thing. Crazy, ain't it? You wish for something so much, and when you have it in front of you, you have no idea what to do.

I wonder what I'll do when I go to Powerbooks Greenbelt when I get home.

Finally Debt Free

Nice title huh.... I'm having doggie dreams just coz of it. It's great that I've finally been able to pay my sister and I've also given her my payment for my Citisavings Loan. That done, I can go back to focusing on my emergency fund and my Metrobank Savings Plan. Right now, my envelopes don't look so good, they're practically empty. But it's alright, Thea will be able to pay me back soon and I've got some "bonuses" coming up. I gotta take care of my visa soon but aside from that I don't think I have any big expenses coming up.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Sick or Homesick

Am I supposed to be homesick? I know I miss my family and friends. Yet I don't like to moon about people and things that I can't see or have. I chose to go to Viet Nam and live in another country. I know that I'll be away for a year or so. So why be sad and mope around?

People have asked me if I'm homesick, if I cry when it's gloomy or rainy, if I'm sad and want to go back to the Philippines. When I tell them that I'm not sad, I think half of them admire me and the other half think I'm a cold, unfeeling you-know-what. But I tell them that it's only been four months and not four years that I've been away. I miss the Philippines. I miss my family and my friends. That doesn't mean I need to cry about them and be sad. Does it?

"How many people are there in your family?"

Family. I don't want to go all melodramatic and try to explain the word but here in Viet Nam, the questions always go like this:
1. "What's your name?"
2. "How old are you?"
3. "Are you married?" or "Do you have a boyfriend?"
4. "How many people are there in your family"

Of all the questions they've asked me, I always find the fourth the most difficult. I can always say that I have one older sister but to say that my family consists of only four members stings...
I tried to explain it to a class once, I don't know how much they understood, though. I tried to explain that saying that my family consists of four members sounds like I'm lying, at least to myself. You see, my relatives on my mother side have always been close. True, there have been rifts from time to time among members, but generally, we see each other regularly and include each other in our ups and downs. I remember summers and other vacations spent at my aunts' houses and my cousins who also stayed at our house for days and even months. We have always shuffled in and out of each other's lives. Furthermore, I have friends who I consider as family. No blood ties us, but I can never deny the link or my relationship to them.

The problem is, answering the question this way causes confusion. Either they don't understand enough English or they think that it's a very simple question to answer. Still, I persist in answering that both my parents are alive and together and that I have an older sister... my family, is way bigger and difficult to count.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Lost 2 Weeks

Yeah, yeah.... Lousy title :D But I couldn't think of anything else to call an update on the last two weeks, so there!

Anyway, I've updated my sidebar and I'm excited because I'll be able to pay my sister next month... That means a lot to me and will really help ease my mind a bit. You see, I obsess when I have debts, I'm always looking forward to the time when I'll be able to pay it off and I constantly compute when I'll have enough money for it.

I'm also happy because I have some savings and will be able to afford a ticket if I suddenly need to go back to the Philippines. I have a credit card but I don't want to use and abuse it :P

Thea and I are no longer going to tutor Sugar. It sucks because the kid is so darn nice and fun to be with. We live near them now and it's so convenient to pop in and visit them but it's awkward... Her mom said that they're going to Hanoi for vacation and they're not sure if they'll have her tutored again when they come back. Anyway, that's also one source of income less, which of course, sucks.

Moon is always busy so we don't see her much. She did drop in 2 Sundays ago and we had fun chatting with her. (note: I still owe her eight 2-hour lessons)

I now have 11 kids under my wing at the Kiddie Group. They range from 2 years 10 months to 4 years 10 months. They're crazy and active. Good thing I have wonderful helpers, Ruben and Ang. I dunno what I'd do without them... Hang myself, probably. Hehe.

It's a good thing it's summer vacation at the moment so I'll be getting about 10 classes per month with NES. It's a big help considering that I'm now making less than I used to. I still don't want to become a full time teacher there...

We're still keeping a tight grip on our finances, but, we're eating better than we used to. Living a stone's throw away from the supermarket is good because we don't own a refrigerator. Thea shops daily and we're not going way beyond budget. We still have a bit for snacks and such. Thanks to my aunt, who gave us some money, we can afford to eat out this month and buy little things for the house. Our old landlord also lent us a small television. Maybe we can scrape a bit of cash to buy a DVD player... Oh well, first things first.

And my favorite is.... I'm getting better at riding a bicycle. At least, I think so.


I've been so lazy this past week to go online, check my mail, visit PTC sites and update this blog. Every time I turned on the laptop, I ended up reading an e-book, one after the other. I got so lazy and addicted to reading again that my laundry piled up! I have a teensy weensy excuse, though. I did get sick last Friday, it was probably food poisoning. Anyway, good thing I bounced back and I was even able to go to work on Saturday afternoon. I was a bit weak, but otherwise, okay.

Anyway, to get rid of that lazy streak and to get rid of whatever plagued me, I've been going to work by bicycle again. (note: For 4 days last week, I hitched a ride with a fellow Filipina and her charge who lives in the same apartment complex as I do.) I've also made a dent on my pile of laundry, I think I'll be able to finish the rest by tomorrow. Yey!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quick Update

It's my third month here in Vietnam. We've moved to a new house nearer the center of the city which means no more expensive taxi rides. Yey! I'm way better at riding a bike than I was before and I can now manage to join people on the roundabout.

My job(s):
1. I work 5 days a week at a small international preschool . I handle the 3 to 5year olds.
2. I help at the baby group on Saturdays.
3. I work part time at the Natural English School, they give me 1-4 classes every week.
4. I tutor Sugar (11 year old girl) with Thea 3 days a week.
5. I tutor Truc (16 year old girl) once a week for two hours, we just converse in English.
6. I tutor my friend Moon whenever she has free time.

I don't earn much from all these, but I'm surviving... and happy :D

I haven't set an amount for my emergency fund, but basically I'll be putting in 20% of any amount I receive or earn, except for the fee for tutoring Truc, which I'll be saving the full amount of. To date I owe $300 USD from my emergency fund, I'll be saving an additional $25 USD every month for that for 12 months to take care of that.

I'll also be putting aside $100 USD every month for 3 months for my visa renewal, Metrobank Easy Tuition Savings Plan and Citisavings loan.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

An Aimless Post

Living in a country where being financially successful makes you or breaks you has made me think about a lot of things. Being wealthy would be nice but in truth, I don't really need or want a lot of money. True, I'm looking forward to that day when I could say that I'm financially free but I'm in no hurry.

Right now, I'm nowhere near it. Yet I'm hoping that everything that I'm doing would lead up to it, or at least help me. I realize that my main problem is that I have no real idea of who or what I want to be. I want to be good and I want to be free, but either one's not a lot of help.

You see, I'm basically a floater who's getting by with the skills I've always had, or been good at. What do I mean? I went to college and took a course where if I wouldn't shine, I would be average. I took AB Communications because it sounded interesting and fun. And it was. I did some OJTs at different places but I never took a risk afterwards and tried to practice it. Instead, I loafed around for a bit then loafed a bit more when I took a job at a call center. Okay, lemme get something straight. Working in a call center is no walk in the park, it's a real job with real responsibilities. I took my job seriously and did my best, or rather, I did what I was best at. I survived and while I didn't exactly go to the top of the ladder, I did get recognition for my work and got assigned some big responsibilities. But still, it never really demanded a big chunk of me. I guess it became my security blanket. So next thing I did was that I decided that I needed to get out, fast!

It took my 2 1/2 years, but I finally resigned at the end of last year. I did some online writing and relaxed at home. I became a bum.

Then I left. I'm here in another country taking refuge in another skill that I've always had and been always good at --- English. So that's it. I dunno what I'm doing to my life. Haha. Aimless post of an aimless person.

Anyway, to get a little back in track or at least go somewhere near my financial freedom thingy... At this point, I'm doing my best to get rid of my debts. That's on top of my list. And then, I need to save and invest for God knows what while I contribute to my parents' finances. Maybe I'll think of a plan soon. Good luck to me :D

Thursday, May 15, 2008

The Day I Learned How to Ride a Bike

The new apartment we'll be moving into on Tuesday is just within walking distance to NES (the school where Thea and I teach). However, I realized that I would still need transportation after getting another job as a preschool teacher. With that in mind, I decided that I would rather buy a bicycle than rent a motorbike because of the additional expense every month. I tried to borrow from a friend but I couldn't handle a bike with a high seat.

I was pleasantly surprised when my friend Nguyet(Moon) arrived early this afternoon because she told me that I wouldn't see her till Friday. After our English lesson, she said that we could start looking for a bicycle. We drove around for a bit to look at some secondhand bicycle shops. The first bicycle shop had a nice bike that cost a little bit more than $50, it looked pretty new and the seat was low, but I decided to look at other shops first because I might be able to get a better deal. At the second bicycle shop, I saw some nice bikes. The really good ones cost about $75, but I found 2 possibilities. One was black, which would normally be my first choice, except Moon told me that it's from China and the seat wasn't all that stable. The second one's from Japan and looked okay. It's pink and black, which is one of my favorite combinations. The latter cost almost double the first one's price, but because Moon is Vietnamese, she was able to get a discount. So I got the second bike for 450.000 VND (just a little bit more than $25).

I wanted to get a taxi so I could bring it home, but Moon didn't want to hear any of it. She told me that she'd guide me while riding her motorbike. She told me that I could take it home by myself. It was painfully slow, but we managed... And then it rained! I don't mean a drizzle either. It was a full fledged downpour. Moon insisted that I wear her heavy duty raincoat and proceeded to escort me home. We sure got loads of strange looks. Moon was riding so slowly in the rain, and I was obviously learning how to ride a bike. People were calling out, "Why did you choose today to practice riding a bike?" In a country were virtually everyone knows how to ride a bike from childhood, watching me learn how to ride a bike at my "advanced" age was a novelty.

3 kilometers later and after several mishaps --- I hit a car (yes, I mean it and not the other way around), guttered the bike, almost hit some people --- we arrived at my house drenched to the bone. This is a day that I certainly would never forget. The day I learned how to ride a bike with my friend Moon.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Luck, Hard Work and a Tight Grip on Finances

This month is a big challenge for me and my cousin's GF. People have been very good to us and so far, the goals we've set for this month finally seem doable. I am now a part time teacher at the Natural English School. This week I only have 3 classes, and if that continues, I'm looking into a very small paycheck by next payday. It's not even enough for my 2 month share for our new house. :P At the moment, I have another job prospect in the works, but again, that will not be a full time job so it's very sketchy at this time. In two weeks, my cousin's GF and I are going to continue tutoring which will cover food expenses. I have taken on a student who will come to the house 4 times a week for private tutoring. It might be bad business, but since she also is a friend, I couldn't bear to ask her to pay a lot of money. I've heard that the standard rate is $5/hour, but I gave her quite a bargain. Anyway, it will still be a lot of help considering that two weeks ago, we had no idea how we'll be eating this month.

I am managing our finances this month and it is to be hoped that there won't be untoward incidences or surprise expenses. I'm expecting a tiny salary next month so I need to put away as much as I can this month. Unfortunately, our finances had to be pooled for this month so I couldn't put away the usual amount for my savings. Good thing, I'm still keeping a savings plan in the Philippines.

Luckily, there has been some changes with the way our money has to be spent. So we can finally allocate a small sum for food expenses. Whew!

$920 (how much we can spend) = 14.720.000 VND + 100.000 VND (borrowed from Sonny)
8.400.000 VND = rent new apartment
1.850.000 VND = for emergencies and for some essential stuff for the new apartment
1.400.000 VND = bills due this month plus some unpaid bills
1.350.000 VND = re-upholster sofa that the dog destroyed
1.170.000 VND = food and other expenses
650.000 VND = rent motorbike & two helmets
If things go as planned, my share in all the expenses would only be $350 which leaves me with some credit for July. :D I dunno how much I'll be earning by then so I have to put away as much as I can. Next month I'll be sending at least $200 to my sister. Gotta pay off my debts....
personal debts (shared with my cousin's GF) about $82 each
$100 = deposit for the new apartment (due in June)
630.000 VND = Nha Trang and Dalat trip (due in August)
400.000 VND = Sonny (due in June)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Trip to Ho Chi Minh City

I took a trip to Ho Chi Minh City with my sister, my cousin and his girlfriend 2 weeks ago. After two months in Viet Nam, it was the first time I went there for fun. We left Vung Tau at 4:30 in the morning, that was the first trip of Hoa Mai Transport & Travel Services for that day. The driver picked us up at our street at around 4:15. We arrived in HCMC about 2 hours later and lugging my sister's bags (she's going back to the Philippines the next day) along, we took a taxi to Yellow House Hotel at De Tham street. For $26 a night for the 4 of us it wasn't so bad. On the upside it's location is right near the center of the city, near the markets, etc.

After we checked in we walked to to Ben Thanh Market to kill some time before we could hit the PC stores. On the way there, we ate bahn mi (french bread with butter, pate and veggies) and drank some soya milk. Even early in the morning, the place was all hustle and bustle. Maybe it's all the coffee. It was before 8 in the morning but everybody was already fixing their stalls and selling their wares. My sister is the one wearing a green dress on the foreground. We tried to get a little shopping done before 8am.

After checking a couple of PC stores with enough choices and at the same time accepts credit cards, we found one at Bui Thi Xuan St. After an entertaining hour with the salesperson we finally left my cousin at the store. While they were assembling his PC, my sister, my cousin's GF, and I, went to Notre Dame Cathedral. We had a nice lunch at Pho24 near Ben Thanh Market, then went back to the hotel to take a nap till we could go to the War Remnants Museum.

We saw a lot of pictures taken during the controversial Vietnam War. It was all very heartbreaking and just when my sister was feeling so sad, she heard someone crying. A Western woman was sobbing while reading some passages explaining a photograph.
In my case, I still can't get over the Tiger Cages and the other tortures that they described quite graphically. It reminds me of the atrocities committed by the Japanese in the Philippines and the Nazis during World War II.
After visiting that museum, we went around the Night Market. My sister bought me "respectable" shoes and a cute beaded shoe wallet. It was a fun to window shop and relax while walking around the city. We ended the night nicely by eating some street food.
Not an eventful day by some standards but honestly, it was one of the best days I've had in a while.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Budget Plan for May

How do you budget when you don't have money? Teehee. As of the moment, we are on the negatives. We didn't want to, but we had no choice but to borrow money from an officemate just so we can go to work till Tuesday and leave some food for my cousin when we go to Nha Trang and Dalat. By the way, that trip is virtually free thanks to the Natural English School. We'll be going on that trip with about 20 or so people from April 30 to May 3. Unfortunately, there is a fee for entrance and the rides at Vinpearl Land, a cable car ride and one other thing. We've been given no choice but to go on that trip because we don't have anything to eat at the house, plus our seats and accomodation were reserved a long time ago.

Anyway, to start off, here's the list of bills and other things we need to pay for in the month of May:

  • 8,400,000 vnd - 3 months rent and deposit for the new apartment (1,600,00 vnd was paid in advance: borrowed $100 for this)
  • 2,500,000 vnd - 10 months payment for the internet (under contract)
  • 1,800,000 vnd - re-upholster sofa that the dog, er, destroyed
  • 600,000 vnd - rent a motorbike
  • 500,000 vnd - utilities
  • 200,000 vnd - taxi fare for one day
TOTAL= $862.50 (no budget allotted for food yet)
and the catch... we only have $880 to spend for all these payables and food allowance =)

The Current State of My Affairs

I started this blog thinking that it will feature only my financial progress (or decline). Little did I know that it would also become my diary and travel blog --without pictures it looks very boring so I'll post everything later. Anyway, to start off with the financial aspect, let me give an update:

Investments and Receivables:
Metrobank Easy Tuition Savings Plan: PhP100,000 (by February 2017 -- no witholding tax)
Prudentialife Education Refund: PhP39,000 (by October 2009)
Personal Loans: 300usd (by July 2008)

Debts and Payables:
Citibank Savings Loan: PhP13,602 (PhP2267 monthly until October 2008)
Metrobank Easy Tuition Savings Plan: PhP49,980 (33++ every 3 months until November 2011)
Personal Debt (eek! I hate this, gotta sell my videocamera soon): PhP2+++

100,000 VND (about PhP260) and some change in Philippine Peso.

Darn! My savings looked way lot better back in the Philippines. But hey, I can't be discouraged. I gotta continue with the financial plans I started to have back home. I arrived with a few hundred dollars at this country and I intend to leave with a more than that in my pocket (literally because I don't use a wallet). However, first things first.

Viet Nam doesn't really have much public transportation, locals rely on bicycles and motorbikes to get around. Buses are rare and have few local routes. Children are trained at an early age to ride bikes and it is a common sight to see a toddler loosely holding a parent's shirt while riding a motorbike. I had no knowledge of this when I set out for Viet Nam. I have heard that there are a lot of motorbikes on the streets but the concept of a lack of public transportation was far from my mind. Motorbike taxis cost about 2usd and regular taxi cabs cost about 4usd for 6 kilometers. Unfortunately for us, my cousin, his girlfriend, and I, are not allowed to ride a motorbike as per an agreement with my other cousin's ex-girlfriend. That was our downfall. Furthermore, the Vietnamese practice siesta --- like the Europeans. Filipinos are familiar with the concept, but it is virtually unheard of in our native country for shopowners, schools, and even some companies to have a brief shutdown for this reason. Because of that, the school were I work closes for 5 hours and resumes at 430pm. Therefore, we take a taxi 4 times a day for 6 days a week. For an average work month with 26 work days, we spend a minimum of 325usd per month excluding weekly trips to the market and other shops. By the way, the house rent costs 200usd and my salary is 500usd. My cousin's girlfriend also works but between the two of us, we can barely make ends meet. Anyway, to make the very long story short:
1. We're moving to a new apartment ASAP (May 20 at the earliest) : We need to pay 8,400,000 vnd (about PhP21,895.8761) by May 5 and pay Ms. Khanh $100 by June 5. That's 3 months rent plus 1 month deposit
2. We're left with no choice but to rent a motorbike for a month, that will cost about 600,000vnd (about PhP1,500) which is way cheaper than the cab fare

In a couple of days we've made some big decisions that will really have a big impact on our stay in this country. Time will tell if we've made good ones. The new apartment includes a contract for one year and will tie us to this province until the 20th of May next year. In addition to that, I have to learn how to ride a motorbike in case of emergencies (i.e. my cousin falling asleep and failing to pick us up).

There's more than a week to go before payday but we're on the verge of bankruptcy. Luckily, friends are around to feed us and we'll be able to get through next week.

I'll give an update in a few days once we've refigured out how to stretch our money for next month. By June, I'll have a better savings plan and I'll be able to send money home to reduce my debts and help my parents out.

*About work:
1. Beginning May I'll be with the Natural English School as a part time teacher only and will be making $12 per class (1.5 hours)
2. 3 times a week, Thea (my cousin's girlfriend and I) tutor a friend's daughter and make $6 each per session
3. I'll be in training for a teaching position at another EFL school - will update salary once I finish the teaching demo

Mumblings of a Deranged Bookwork

"Do you like books? Do you love books? Do you hate books? How many books do you like to read? Who do you like to read a book for? Where do you like to read?"

--- 2 months of teaching EFL classes have reduced my vocabulary and sentence construction to a bare minimum. In addition to that, my average of 40 books per month (excluding e-books and what nots) has become a mere 3.5 and that is only thanks to some abandoned English novels in a backpacker motel in Saigon and my sister, who accidentally left a novel she packed for the flight to and fro Vietnam. I constantly try to engage people in conversations regarding novels and the mention of books makes my heart flutter --- well, maybe that's an exageration --- but come on, 24 years of book addiction did not prepare me for book starvation in a country where a handful speaks and reads English and where the books are almost all translated to their native language.

It's a wonder that self control prevailed and prevented me from bringing out my credit card and purchasing all English language books in Saigon. I had to physically restrain myself from mauling a book peddler (I dunno if other countries have them but they are a constant in Viet Nam's old capital) and it was a good thing that I was broke because if my pockets hadn't been empty --- Oh dear!

I have e-books but they do not satisfy my need for the written word. Sounds like a lot of bull to a discriminating amateur to the world of bookworms --- but quite true in my case. And here ends my mumblings... (Kinda sounds like an epitaph "Here lies the body of Angela, We laid her here because she died of book starvation").

Late Nights

It's 2:46 in the morning right now... I've loved times like this since I was a kid. I remember late nights to early mornings when everybody in my house was asleep; I would wander around the house and look at every nook and cranny, fix and/or clean my room, read and organize my books, drink a ton of water or more often than not, eat something chocolatey. Those were the days (or nights, or whatever you want to call them)... Later on, the wee hours of the morning became my time for doing homework, writing term reports, surfing the internet, playing computer games, and against my mother's wishes, reading my beloved books.

Living in Viet Nam is fun and different but I miss times like this when I can pretend to be alone, wander around butt naked, and do a ton of stuff without other people around. Even when I lived with my sister in Makati, I would often have time alone because we usually had different schedules, or if we had a similar schedule I could always wait for her to fall asleep so I could do my rituals.

A lot of students ask me if I miss home. I do and I don't. Call me strange, but a big chunk of me just misses my quality time and late nights with dear little old me.

Friday, April 11, 2008


What is it with people who don't have the guts to say what they feel? I am okay with making mistakes, really. But it is not a problem as long as you don't tell me that it is.

A little background... I was asked to give an exam around 2 weeks ago. All I had to do was interview the students and check their essays. Then I could judge who should pass and go to the next level. I passed 3 out of 11 students, 2 of them are now working hard at the next level. I see them frequently. For the past few weeks I've been wondering which class the other one was attending.... I was surprised (unpleasantly!!!) today when I found out that she was still in the previous level. Apparently, she had FAILED and is again preparing to take the exam that from my knowledge, is the exam that she had already PASSED.

It's been almost 3 weeks but until now, nobody has mentioned that they made changes to the comments and grades that I gave out. I know I'm in a different country, I have a new job, and I suppose there are new rules. I know manners and professionalism is sorta out of their vocabulary, but where did good old-fashioned respect go to?

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

the title

I turned 24 this year, okay 6 if you want to nitpick (I'm a leaper by the way) and I live in Viet Nam. I couldn't think of a title but hey, I just moved to Vietnam 6 weeks ago. I'm a Filipina, though. And a leaper----born on February 29, 1984.

I've lived in the Philippines my whole life and never went out of the country until about a week before my birthday. After college, I loafed around for a bit then applied at a BPO, a call center in Makati City. Working for an American company was fun because I wasn't bound by the usual Filipino drama when it came to respecting your elders and all that. Don't get me wrong, I don't scrimp on the "po" and "opo" when it comes to addressing my betters and I certainly was raised in a typical Filipino household with the emphasis on manners and values. BUT addressing my superiors by their first name and talking to them casually is more my style because of my exposure to Western culture. Moreover, I could wear almost anything and get away with it. I'm a jeans/short pants and t-shirt kind of girl, and I'm comfortable wearing sandals. Dressing up is not my thing. It's fun but I like saving that for special occassions. Anyway, I lasted in that company for about 2 and a half years. It was great and I wouldn't have traded it for the world. But now I want something new. Someplace new. Europe would've been better, but I still have time to do that.

My cousin and his girlfriend left for Viet Nam around 6 months ago. I thought, hey, why don't I join them, too? It'll be a chance to spread my wings a bit and try living away from the nest. Not too far but not exactly walking distance either. I resigned from work on the last day of December. I didn't know when exactly I would be leaving but I wanted out. I firgured if I didn't leave then, I might never leave. For more than a month I lazed around not knowing what would come next. And oh yeah, my funds were dwindling. After a month though, I finally heard from my cousins (I think of my cousin's girlfriend and another cousin's ex as cousins) and they said I could come over as soon as I can get a ticket. My parents were a bit in shock. After all, they knew I was leaving, but there were no concrete plans. As far as they were concerned I could still change my mind and stay on. My dad was teary eyed when I told him that I had already bought a ticket and cried when they brought me to the airport. Funny thing is, my mom was probably excited at the thought that she might be able to visit me in a different country soon. My older sister was thinking the same thing, in fact, she'll be here in less than a week.

So there. February 21 of this year, I arrived in Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. It was both familiar and strange. Familiar because Vietnamese people don't look that much different from Filipinos and places didn't look too different. Strange because I have no idea what's written on the signs, on papers, and so on. For a bookworm like me, it's a very big change to be unable to read even a few words on street signs. I've been lost a lot of times in the Philippines but I've always been able to read signs or ask around. Alas, that's not the case in Viet Nam. Few people are able to read and talk in English, even broken English is rare.

Anyway, we went around the city for a bit at first because my cousin and his girlfriend wanted some chicken from Jollibee (a famous Filipino fastfood joint which apparently has made its way to Viet Nam). My other cousin's ex has been living in Vietnam for quite some time and was able to show us around. It took 2 more hours for us to reach Vung Tau. It's one of the beach cities of Viet Nam and is developed because of the oil companies that are situated around the city.

The next day I went for an interview at the Natural English School (a Vietnamese operated English as a Second Language School) and luckily, I got a post as a teacher. I've been teaching for a little more than a month and I have to admit that I'm enjoying it. At times it is tedious because of the hours and the methods that I have to use, but the actual part when I'm talking to students and imagining the light bulbs going on in their heads----priceless. Ryan was right when he said that I should try teaching. Being a know-it-all Hermione has it's advantages. :P

My birthday was uneventful, the way I like it :D Nobody made a big deal out of it because they had no idea. I just a pizza and two kinds of pasta from Good Morning Vietnam, is an authentic Italian restaurant, and celebrated (?) my birthday, which comes once every four years, with my cousin, his girlfriend, and another Filipina teacher.

Oh yeah, I've been here for more than a month but big bummer, I haven't been able to go swimming. The waves are humongous most of the time and I don't really have the time.

To wrap this long intro... Living in a different country for the first time is pretty cool. It has its ups and downs but then that's life.

note: title of the blog was "24 in Viet Nam and Other Stories"