28 August, 2006

Warning: a venting session

[deleted due to wise comments from friends]

[undeleted because the King's stinking son fired me, and thank you for bringing up such a painful memory. Why don't you just give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it? We're closed!]

When Saigon is good, it is very very good. But when it sucks, it sucks hard. I'm not sure how to feel about these 13+ hour days. I mean, I've only had 3 so far. I guess I'm used to separating my home life from my work life and there being equal time spent on both. And after all that time of complaining about that separateness, and pining away as you've all heard me do about my wish for a summer-camp like life where work and living are one and the same, I finally was given exactly that. I knew when I came over that I was being brought here to be a nanny, which I knew was kinda like maid, but no toilet scrubbing, just cleaning as it pertains to the kids. I guess I just didn't really internalize how much of the day this job would take up. I know I need to adjust and be okay with the fact that I arrive at 6:30 am and am lucky to leave by 7:30pm, because it's not really like I have that much to do anyway, and lots of people work those hours. They;re okay with me not going with them on the weekends anymore, because I need time off (unless it's a weekend when they have guests over, and then, I guess I'm going). Also, I can eat their food which is a huge plus, and I'm sure that I can escape more once I get the schedule down pat.


If I may outline the day I had today:
6:00, wake up and get dressed in something that won't get sweaty too soon (ha)
6:15 meet Ong Tu outside for my motorbike ride to work (the kids' house)
6:30-7:30 wake up kids, get them ready for school, feed them breakfast
7:30, meet driver downstairs for drive to school
8:00- kids start school
8:00 till I'm done: I go back to the house for cleaning duties (today I finished unpacking the boxes from their move, just lots of toys and art stuff, etc, tomorrow I iron the kids clothes)
1:30 meet driver downstairs to go wait at school to pick up kids (it's a traffic thing)
2:30 kids are actually let out of school
2:45-4:15 I am supposed to speed two tired kids through a bath, a snack, and their homework before
4:30-5:30 it varies between Chinese tutoring, tennis, and piano
6:00- we're home again. If their Mom is home by then, she is supposed to start preparing dinner, if not, I will do it.
Then I can go home, depending on if I want to stay for dinner tonight.

This averages out to be about $4.50 an hour.

But the thing is, it's not actually too bad because during the day I can stay at their house, read a magazine (in Vietnamese) or watch TV (in Vietnamese). Or I can go navigate my way through the streets and fulfill any errand I desire to do (so far I have not had to do any errands for the family, thank the almighty god). I can't tell, but I think the Mom might be getting frustrated at me for not knowing my way around yet. This is going to sound very bad, but here's the truth: unless a Vietnamese word is written down for me, I can't tell what the hell word it is! I have no idea if the sound I'm supposed to repeat starts with a Q, an "Ng" or a B, which can all sound the same. I cannot remember a sound. But I can remember a spelling. I think I'm going to start carrying a pen & paper around with me so that when I am taught a word I can have at least a fighting chance of remembering it. Ok, I'm venting now. I brought excersize clothes to the house with me today, thinking I might go on a jog, but I couldn't figure out how to lock their fancy keypad door from the outside so I jogged around the living room to cheesy Vietnamese pop. Then I rinsed my clothes out and hung them on the line, and at dinner the Mom says, "you know, you can do your laundry at your house." I know it wasn't snotty, she actually thought I didn't know that there is indeed a bucket and a line on my roof, and was trying to be helpful, but still, I was miffed. It's ok for me to iron your kids' clothes which are just going to be worn by kids but not for me to hang something on the line?

I have to stop myself from venting too hard, so let's focus on the good things: I think I'm starting to have a small, temporary effect on the kids' behavior. They have a habit, espcailly the boy, of deliberately ingnoring what adults say. Like, looking right at you and doing it anyway. So I've been working on stopping everything at that point, getting the full attention, and asking with genuine concern if they can hear me or not, and if so, then why didn't they respond. It usually creates a guilty-puppy expression and a change of behavior. So hey, we'll keep working on it. Today I gave them the first of the presents I brought them (temporary tattoos and maple syrup from VT) and asked them what they thought I should get in return. They looked suprised and started to list possesions of theirs and I stopped them and said, "you know, I don't want you to give me anything, I want my present to be good behavior for the whole Chinese lesson" and by god, they were awesome. I could tell they were really struggling, though. And at dinner tonight, they both wanted to sit next to me and when I left they gave me lots of hugs. Hoorah.

Another wonderful thing: I have been expressing the fact that my favorite Vietnamese food is fresh rice paper spring rolls, and so today Bich made a special trip to the market (the lower class one by my house, the first one I went to) and bought all the ingredients, and she and I both prepared it for dinner. Yum and a half. I stuffed myself because normally she tells me that I don't eat very much (huh???). Yum.

And another good thing is that she really does help me get around. I know that there is only so much one can do to help a foreigner get around, and then you just have to learn for yourself. Well, today I learned a lot. For the first time, I demanded my correct change from a taxi driver (they'll start by handing you a lot less, and then you have to ask specifically for each bill).

Oops, one more not so great thing. Today I was having a very pleasant chat with one of the maids, a young man who looks about 15 but is actually 30. He looked nice, clean cut, well-fed, and we had one of the best bi-lingual conversations I've had yet. I was just thinking "I wish I could talk to most Vietnamese this way" when one of the kids comes and whispers in my ear, "grandma says stop talking to him. you tell him too much." They are worried they'll be robbed or I'll be kidnapped or something if we talk to the help. Today the kids made a big show of hiding their hands when they punched in the key code to their apartment because the driver was standing around. I would have been insulted if I were him. Doesn't this guy spend his whole day driving their asses around? But maybe they know something I don't know. Maybe if you're nice to the hired help here, they'll rob you. The kids said it happened once, and a maid took their mom's jewelry. I mean, it's a big city. I wouldn't be suprised. But then again, the kids also were adamant that sugar bugs live on your teeth and if you don;t brush your teeth the sugar bugs, which look like tiny black spiders, will build their home in your teeth (I told them they were talking about cavities and they almost ripped me a new one. "NO! SUGAR BUGS!")


But hey, what can I say. I like them. I like the money I'll get at the end of the month. I live living on the cheap. I like that soon I'll have Kenny with me (and life will be 100x better). This is really not too bad.

p.s. either monsoon season started today, or someone dropped an ocean over the city. I hope the latter.

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