I went for my first run this morning. I had another pretty sleepless night, so when the sun rose, I decided to get out there. My goal was to run toward the neighborhood where I was thinking about renting my favorite apartment that I have seen. I looked at map before setting out, and I knew that I had to run south and over a bridge. The problem is that there about 3 bridges south of the hotel. I took them all during the course of the run, but I never did quite find the neighborhood. I did however find lots of construction, and somehow, I ended up trapped inside some construction fences. These fences were being guarded by a police officer, so I was about to turn around to find my way out, but he waved me on out of either kindness or a desire to be amused. Even though I took a bottle of water, I sweated out at least 4 bottles. Overall, running on the streets was fun and challenging. I will surely never get bored here, but I may end up with more scars on my knees from falling because I am looking at something more interesting than where I put my feet. I am hoping to take off again tomorrow.
After I showered, I went to breakfast where the topic of the day was housing. Many of the other new teachers have found places, but I decided against the place I had pretty much decided to take because the landlord would not negotiate rent or allow me to do an 11 month lease. I hadn’t really liked her when we met, and then since she was unwilling to budge on price even though I wasn’t asking for any changes or improvements (which is typical here), I decided to walk away. Unfortunately, it was the only apartment I had seen that I truly liked. It was however in the area of District 7 that is furtherest from the school. I was feeling bad about not finding a place, but Mark (my boss) and Pam (the patient, kind, and perfect teacher in charge of orientation) assured me that I have more time. I am not sure how much since we start work on Wednesday and I have to spend either Monday or Tuesday at the Consulate doing paperwork. Alas, I don’t think I will be homeless even if I am like a legendary veteran teacher who slept on friend’s couches for weeks before deciding on a place.
Then I looked at 7 more apartments. I didn’t like any of them. I did however like the courtyard of the one building, My Phouc, and I am going to look at other apartments in the building tomorrow. After I find a place, I will start posting pictures of places, but until then, I will keep you in suspense. The highlights of my morning were finding the world’s best smoothie shop across the street from my school and watching some cute kids splash in the rain. I am so excited that I will never have to buy a blender or smoothie ingredients for as long as I shall live it Vietnam because the most delicious treats ever are available for about $2 a pop.
After an unsuccessful apartment search, I headed out to dinner with 12 other teachers new and old. Elaine and Adam, the couple who have been living here for years and arranged the dinner took us to a traditional Vietnamese cafe where the staff often ends up in large groups. You order family style and share dishes. We ordered about 30 plates of food for the table and about 80 beers, and the total per person was $6. It was the best meal I have eaten in Vietnam (or possibly anywhere – no offense Mom; you fed me super well before I left). My favorite dishes were the morning glory greens, the cauliflower with carrots, and the prawns. We also had goat curry, deer curry, lemongrass tofu, rice with garlic, bread, etc. Then we were given watermelon and what tasted like a pear/apple hybrid for dessert. Dinner was amazing both for its taste and atmosphere, but also because it was another chance to realize that I really like my new co-workers. They are interesting, well-traveled, funny, and passionate people. I am so lucky to be a part of the group, and I think we will all manage to laugh our way through the next two years in no time.