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"