13 September, 2006

Small adventures in a Big city

Wow! Being out on my own in Saigon is possibly even better than being employed in Saigon. Of course, I say this now, having been free as a bird for only a few days (I'm sure the novelty will wear off when I can no longer afford my .63 bowls of noodles in the morning). But the goal is to not let that happen, and as it stands now, I've..

-had a job interview today at one of the "factory schools." Tons of students, high teacher turnover rate, you get the drift. This one only pays $13-$15 an hour for someone with my qualifications (meaning a degree but no TEFL) and I could start tomorrow if I liked. But I'm going to wait and keep my options open for a few more days, because..

-I have an interview at one of the fancy shmancy International schools on Friday! It's an American curriculum school, which I'm hoping will work in my favor. Obviously I don't want to be a full-time classroom teacher, or else I'd still be at Pisgah, so I'm hoping for a part-time support position like subbing or running an after-school activity. We'll see...

-today I rode my bike back to Le Thanh Ton, aka the "ghetto" (more details in a sec), to get copies made of my cute little fliers and see if there were any more Room For Rent signs that I missed yesterday. I stepped into an Internet cafe and almost ran smack into a tall Brit who was hanging up a sign advertising apartments and houses for rent! Turns out he's a real estate agent slash travelling artist and I gave him the stats on what I am looking for and he said he'd give me a call if he finds anything. While we were talking, a young woman about my age walked up to us and...

-she is a teacher at a university that is in need of teachers, because of a sudden influx of students! The poor teachers are working double shifts (she was on her way to work at that moment) and so I said, "well, honey, I am here to help you solve that problem." I've just emailed her my CV (no one says resume here) and she's going to pass it on to her boss.

-An unknown English school has asked me for an interview tomorrow, but I can't remember when I emailed them my info. So I wrote back saying, where are you located and what exactly is the name of your school again? Hopefully they won't think I'm daft.

-Meeting up with a Vermonter named Joe tonight to see his house, which from friends' descriptions would make an awesome place to live: perfect location, cool housemates, high-speed Internet... he's not sure when a room will be opening up but I'm gonna go check it out anyway. Cross your fingers for me.

Ok, finally I can tell you about the ghetto. It's actually extremely clean and cute (well, by my new Saigon standards, anyway). Just alleyway after alleyway (hem after hem) of side by side, stretched tall apartment buildings, some with beautiful little balconies, others with more of a modern, glassed in feel, others still bordering on slummy. In almost every other house there's a room for rent sign. Why do I feel like I'm typing all this for the second time? Oh yeah, cause I told Kenny all this in an email. Hold on, time saving device in effect... here's a slice of that email, with lovey dovey stuff cut out.

Ok, get ready because this is going to be a looong email! Simply because I am stuck in a Japanese internet cafe and the skies are falling apart-- buckets and buckets of rain with no signs of stopping.

I am here in the "ghetto" (lovingly referred to by that name by all the Westerners who live here). Located incredibly close to the center of everything, it is a world away from the backpacker district, which is loud and touristy and full of scuzzy looking hippies and skeeze-balls. This is where you go if you're going to be living in Saigon for a few years or so. When Nicky lost her tourism job and didn't want to go back home to NZ, she let a new friend lead her to the ghetto and found a sweet little room where she ended up living for almost a year (then she met Minh and they went house shopping). It is a series of sweet, sunny little alleyways where almost every other house has a "room for rent" sign hanging up and they are all very skinny and very tall houses, with maze-like stairs and passageways inside. So while we were out today going up and down the countless flights of stairs that almost every guesthouse seems to have, she got the idea to call her friend Joe who I guess lives in a house with his girlfriend very nearby to the ghetto-- but in a real house--and who rents out rooms to other people who are passing through more slowly than your average tourist. So we call Joe, who turns out to be from Vermont! Yes, he actually has a room opening up this next week, or so he is almost sure (he needs to get the facts from the person who is moving out). I sat on my bike on the side of Nguyen Tat To (the street that connects Nicky's street to the rest of the world) and told this Vermonter that I was hoping that since his house has all the things we are looking for (kitchen, windows, high speed internet, bike parking, close to stuff) that this roommate would decide to move elsewhere and that I would be moving in very very soon. He laughed and said to think positive thoughts. Lovely, lovely! We're going to be meeting up tomorrow and he said that maybe by then he would know about the room. So cross your fingers, babe, because this might just be good enough to work!

As far as the other places on Le Thanh To (the ghetto's main street), there is a good place down at the end of an alley (quieter there) which would charge us $270/month and inside it feels kinda like being in an RV- miniature kitchen set, miniature bathroom, but not as small as our apartment was, and a big nice bed, tiny little balcony, and phone line internet (but almost everyone has offered to let us pay to put in ADSL- of course). That's the best one so far, but I've only been in 5 or so. I'm personally hoping for Joe's place because Nicky says houses are much cheaper, since rent for the whole house would only cost about $600-700 a month. Sweet. Plus we could have more friends. So we'll see.

As far as jobs go, Nicky showed me where the rich people's hotels are near here and said that I should make up new fliers (because my old ones have complex language and only say $15/hour) and put them up in these hotels and fluffy apartment buildings. Also, she knows the guy who works at Saigon Inside Out (the main english language magazine). I'm going to give him a call and tell him that I would be happy to take over a column or start a new one or write freelance or anything.


And it's true, I sent him a sample of my writing (thanks, CRW, for the help) and we'll see if that turns out to be anything good. Oh man, it's exciting, it's adventurous, and boy am I getting to ride my bike a lot! So glad I bought that thing. You can only learn so much street geography when you're a passive observer clinging to the sticky seat of some random guy's wheezing motorbike. Now don't you all want to come visit?

A few things that happened today that I wanted to blog about: today I got a little lost on my bike and ended up a lot closer to my house than I wanted to be, because I was on a flier mission. But I figured, oh well, I've been wanting to see the zoo and now is the perfect chance- it's in the middle of a school day, I'll have the whole place to myself. WRONG! I had a nice quiet little conversation with the ticket lady and turned around and all of a sudden I was in the middle of a screaming, grabbing, jabbering group of... go ahead, guess an zoo animal... nope, KIDS! Uniformed little dingbats who were pulling my hair, grabbing for my ticket, trying to pull my bike away from me, and the whole time shouting and waving peace signs dangerously close to my eyeballs. Chao, em I cried over and over, trying to appease them with Vietnamese, but all that did was feed the fire and now they were all yelling it back to me! Hello, kid! Hello kid! Aughh! I started saying NO loudly while pushing through them and trying to get to the place to park my bike. It's so hard to be mean to kids! But I was scared! Finally I had to put on my "Mommy will smack!" expression and just push their little hands away (not easy while trying to keep a grip on my bag, rain jacket, packet of photocopies, a huge water bottle and my dignity). All of a sudden, at some unheard signal, they all drifted away towards the exit, babbling away. Oy.

I walked through the zoo wishing I had a companion with me, because for the most part I was totally alone in the zoo. I took my time checking out the elephants and the monkeys, and then it was time to go. See flickr for pictures. Upon leaving I realized that in the midst of all that, I had lost the receipt to my bike and the parking lot attendants and I had a grand old time doing an award-winning pantomime entitled, "Yes, this is really my bike. You can call me if it's not. Please, please let me leave the zoo now."

Also, to end on a sad note, the mom has agreed to put the cost of my return ticket into my bank account and that I should be out of the house by Saturday morning, but I'm not to be home on Friday evening when the kids have their Chinese lesson, because she doesn't want them to see me. Of course, because then they'll realize that it was their own mom who is sending their new friend away. Sheesh. So I asked Mama, the sweet sweet lady who is also employed by the family, to sneak a present to the kids from me: just more stick-on tattoos, which they love and had somehow never seen before I arrived. It's the least they deserve, and I want them to know that they were good kids, that's not why they don't have a nanny anymore. Mama has promised that she will leave it on the kids' beds discretely. And if it pisses the mom off, well she can take the tattoos away. It's none of my business.

1 comment:

Alex said...

I was having a 'woe-is-me' Ms.Cranky Pants kind of day but somehow knowing that Jessica Kaufman can take on Siagon has made me feel much, much better. Now it's my turn to send out some CV's as you say ...

I'm on Flickr a lot.

Jessica K.. Get yours at bighugelabs.com/flickr