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"

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