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.