Asia · Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City part 5

After my flight back from Phu Quoc on Monday, I was bundled into a taxi with an Asian man (I think he was Chinese) and got dropped off at PH3. It was nice to be back somewhere so familiar and to catch up with everyone after the weekend. First jobs were lunch, unpack (boring) and smoothie time. Then at 4pm me and Michelle made our way to Thanh Da for the evening class. It was pretty much the same as always! In the evening I didn’t feel too good so I had some dinner and an early night… Quite an uneventful day really.

On Tuesday morning I got up at 6am to do my washing (I had tried to do it on Monday but the washing machine was always full) and although I wasn’t scheduled to have a class, I wanted to go and say goodbye to the local class I was teaching (up until last week) and give them their little gifts. After class they gave me a hat with the the Vietnam flag on as a ‘thank you’ gift, which was very sweet of them. On the way home I got a smoothie then went back to PH3 and had lunch. I then had a little nap and was having something to eat before I left for VAA at 2.40pm when at 2.30pm I was told the class was cancelled because of exams. So I decided to go into District 1 and have a wonder round Ben Thanh and to a couple of other places.

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I then went back to PH3 and at about 8pm we went to a karaoke bar. Steph’s boyfriend had come over from Canada for them to travel for 3 weeks and she had missed his birthday while she was here so it was a belated birthday celebration for him with party hats and cake. We were all enthusiastic even though we’d only met him two hours earlier. Karaoke was actually really fun this time: there was a better selection of English songs and there were about 15 of us so more people were up for singing (and dancing).

We then went to a club called Lush, which had ‘ladies night’. We got a taxi there from the karaoke bar and after 20 minutes of driving (and a rising metre) we were a bit suspicious because we knew that District 2 (where the karaoke bar was) and District 1 are next to each other (not as obvious as it sounds, even though many of the districts are numbered, there is no logical order to them). So we pulled the taxi over, climbed out and refused to pay the full amount (there were 8 of us so we thought 10,000VD (35p each) was more than enough. Becky Google mapped the directions the next morning and it should have taken about 5 minutes… The first time I’ve been ripped off but I don’t mind being ripped off 35p.

Despite the taxi, a few things that made the night epic: rocking beach shorts and flip flops we somehow managed to skip the queue and get VIP entry, drinks were free for ladies until 12am (and not rubbish drinks either, the rum we got was Bacardi and we got doubles), the club was RAMMED with people (equal numbers of Vietnamese and foreigners) and the DJ was amazing. We danced without stopping for 3 hours straight, it was such a good night. Towards the end of the night, a group of Vietnamese girls stood behind us and tried to copy how we were dancing so we all just ended up dancing together. It’s the first and last time I danced properly in HCMC… Just a shame we didn’t find the club sooner. We didn’t get ripped off on the way home (in fact it was the cheapest cab yet) and I was happy that the lady who makes baguettes (banh mi) was still open at 2am!

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Yesterday morning I got up at 7am (after only 4 hours sleep) to get ready for my final class at the boys orphanage. As soon as I arrived Sang, Son and Pho came up to me and gave me letters/drawings saying how sorry they were for upsetting me and for running away and apologising to me…It was very sweet and unexpected. I assume Mr. Linh must have told them how upset I was. I was just happy that they are safe. As far as I can make out from the story, Sang decided for some reason that he wanted to visit some relatives that live in a province quite far away from HCMC and had encouraged the other two to go along (I don’t imagine they needed much persuading, they’re very easily led). So they started to walk there. They met a lady who has them money and food (obviously they had nothing on them), which indirectly allowed them to continue. To be honest they were just lucky that she was good to them and didn’t try to hurt them (maybe I’m too cynical?).

On the night they were returned to the boys home, they had been found on the street by the police who took them back to the station and contacted Mr. Linh. We had quite a laid back lesson (I’m not sure how much learning went on) where we did a recap and played bingo. I then gave them the goody bags I had made up for them, which they really appreciated. Son was really sweet and didn’t put his down the whole time I was there. They also showered me with random gifts including marbles, a Christmas decoration, statues, oragami, a toy car etc etc. I didn’t want to take anything from them bit the local volunteer said it was ruder not to accept the gifts. They got out a globe and wanted to know where I was going next and how far away England is from Vietnam. We then just spent time taking photos and playing dominos and talking. I will really miss them. They have been through a lot but they’re such great boys. They have such big and diverse characters and they’re cheeky and cute. They’re also good at working and learning when they want to be. I have no doubt at least three of them will speak English really well in the future if they continue learning.

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As you can probably guess, I went back to PH3, had a quick lunch and then had an epic 3 hour nap. At 4pm, me and Michelle once again made our way to Thanh Da for my final class there. Although it was never my favourite class (I just think it’s so boring to learn from a textbook) the kids were always sweet and Ms. Nga was always friendly and chatty and very passionate about English. A few of the children made me goodbye letters, which was very sweet. I also got a certificate from the school with photos of me and the children and their names, which is a great memento. After class, two of the teachers took us for street food (bang trang tron and banh flan (on my request)) and smoothies, that was also very kind of them. That night I just chilled at the house.

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Today I had the girls orphanage in the morning… Was such a trek! It’s over 3 hours of travelling for a 1.5 hour class. The class itself was ok and the girls are very good students but the effort to get there puts a dampener on it. Also, it’s a 20 minutes walk to get there from the bus station and it’s the only district in HCMC where I just felt dirty walking through it: rubbish everywhere, horrible smells, really busy… Glad I don’t have to do that one again.

When we got back to PH3 I went and got banh mi and egg for the final time (no idea what they add to it to make it taste so good). I then packed up all my stuff and prepared for my final VAA lesson. At 2.30pm I walked to PH1 to meet Siglinde and get the bus with her, grabbing my last smoothie on the way. Just before we went into VAA we got cafe sua (ice coffee with milk)… I wanted to have all my favourite things on the last day! It was lucky we got there when we did because it started to POUR down as soon as we got into the building. Only my second rain in HCMC. I think it was trying to tell me it was angry for me leaving.

There were only 4 students in the class because of exams but we had a really good and interesting lesson on healthcare… Once again I’m so happy for the NHS. Because it was my last lesson they wanted to take me out for street food so we went and got fresh spring rolls and banh flan (definitely all my favourites on the last day). They were very sweet and said they would miss me… I’ll miss them too because they were my favourite class to plan for and I learnt just as much from them as they did from me.

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I didn’t want to do anything fancy for my last night so I just invited everyone for Pho. It was a really great, chilled out last night and I appreciated everyone coming. After we got che, which I hadn’t had before but is sweet soup with different flavours. We then went back to PH1 and chatted and hung out then we went back to PH3. At about 12am there was a power cut for about 20 minutes and all the fans went out, was so damn hot (only my second power cut too, HCMC was definitely angry with me haha). Then at 12.30am someone decided that it would be a good time to make a delivery of sand and rocks for the construction next door… WTF! Was so noisy!!

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