The weekend is decidedly over, and we had our first day of full faculty in-service today. It was fun to meet the teachers who have been here awhile, and despite a whirlwind technology course in Moodle that left my head spinning, I feel really good about the start of school. The students don’t come until the 12th, so we have a few more days of meetings, trainings, planning, and preparing classrooms. It will be busy but great.
What is not so great is my ability to shop. Seriously. I am failing.
Because my apartment is “fully furnished,” it would seem that I need relatively little to make it livable, and that is true. However, to make it comfortable, I needed a few things, and I find stores here overwhelming. I have a few stories to illustrate my lack of success.
#1 – The electric kettle
I am feeling like I will do very little cooking for my first while here – partly because eating out is so cheap and delicious and partly because I feel lazy and unwilling to buy many kitchen wares. However, one concession that I was definitely going to make was an electric kettle! It seems so useful. If I wanted hot tea, this could provide it. If I was desperate enough to eat ramen, this could cook it. If I needed an extra boil to purify water for my nasal rinsing, this would be perfect. If I needed hot water and lemon to soothe my throat, done. Etc. So I picked up a kettle at Giant the other day. It was Philips brand, so I assume because this brand seems familiar and the price seems mid-range, that this kettle will be great. Buying the kettle was extremely strange. Everyone kept making me inspect the kettle, and they were all very concerned that I not lose my warranty card which they made me take to customer service to get date stamped after checking out. In all of this fuss, not once did I look at the cord to realize that it would fit in exactly zero of the outlets in my apartment or at school (where Clare and I were debating putting an extra kettle for the ginger tea station we want to start between our classrooms). So now, I have given myself an extra shopping trip to try to find the right kind of converter, or I have a completely useless kettle. With my language barrier, I won’t even contemplate trying to return this kettle to trade it in for one with a cord that I find useful.
#2 – The bathroom.
Somehow, I failed to notice that there was not a shower curtain rod in the master bathroom. Had I noticed, maybe I could have asked the landlord to install one. Since I didn’t, I decide that I can find a tension rod on my own and install it. All a good idea, except my installation was an abject failure. I couldn’t hold both sides in place while trying to make it tense, so it looks like I will have to invite a friend over before this happens. However, despite buying the tension rod, I have yet to find a shower curtain that doesn’t make me cringe. In fact, it is hard to find shower curtains at all. I guess since most showers have glass doors and are just stalls rather than tubs? So, to date I have found about 4 shower curtains. One was lime green, one was hot pink, one was hunter safety orange, and the other was the periodic table. I probably could have gotten by with one of these loudly colored but solid curtains if the tile in my bathroom weren’t such ugly and muted shades of green, yellow and orange. So, while I bought a temporary rug and some cabinets (which were delivered this afternoon rather than before my morning shower), I am still curtain-less. Of course, you would think that I would just shower in the guest bath, but because I haven’t yet bought a drying rack for my clothing, it was draped by wet laundry. So this morning, I just pointed the shower head away from the rest of the bathroom and attempted to keep most of the water in the tub. Such an adventure.
# 3 – THE STOOL
Yesterday, I opted not to go on the big shopping trip hosted by our orientation hosts. Since it was our last day before starting work, I decided to spend most of the day around the house with a quick trip to a store called Uma (which is like Ikea…sort of) and a stop at the school. I walked to Uma which is just past the school so that I could time the walk to school (32 minutes at a light stroll). When I got there, I didn’t really feel like shopping, but I knew that I wanted patio furniture, a shower curtain, and bathroom cabinets. I had a list of about 30 other things, but I figured that I can gather them over time since I didn’t much feel like shopping. I went upstairs to find the furniture that I wanted, and beside the patio furniture there were little stools that I thought could work as a vanity chair for me. So I snapped a photo of the stool that I liked along with my other photos, and I went to the kiosk downstairs to show the man my photos and how many of each item I wanted. He had a great computer system where he would type in a number and a picture of what I wanted appeared so that I could confirm. It was lovely. I paid and we set up delivery for this afternoon (a little over a day from the point of sale). I came home to meet the delivery men who apparently misinterpreted my address and were waiting for me on the 5th floor of the apartment. That got sorted with some phone calls from a woman who spoke English, and then they bring the furniture into my apartment. It is great, except the stool is the wrong color. Similar style, but not exactly what I order. I point this out because I am afraid they have mixed up my stool with someone else’s stool that they also need to deliver. I try to say that it is fine, and really I can keep any color stool, but they don’t really understand me. They only know that the stool is wrong now that I pointed to the picture of the stool I was supposed to get. So they call back the woman from the store who speaks English and I try to explain to her that even though the stool is not perfect, I would rather keep the stool than have to wait around for another delivery. I said that it would be great if the stool that I really wanted were just in the truck, but if not, no worries. Except this was no good because the stool they brought cost 490,000 dong and the stool that I ordered only cost 460,000 dong. This is a difference of $1.50 on a stool that cost roughly $23. Not a big deal, but I sort of found it outrageous that she was asking me to pay more money for a product that I liked less. So of course, we are hashing things out in English and then she is translating to the nice delivery men in Vietnamese, and I am just wishing that I had never pointed out that the stool was not my dream stool. In the end, the 2 men took back the wrong stool and brought me the correct stool about 2 hours later. This ordeal prevented me from going back into school, but in the end, I got this stool which doesn’t exactly fit under my vanity the way that I thought it would. I guess next time that I move, I should bring a tape measure.
Obviously these overly dramatic mini-crisis narratives are truly insignificant. Now that I have patio chairs, I can sit outside sipping tea or coffee that I buy outside my house since I lack the equipment to make it myself. And, now that I can sit outside whenever I want, life is about as good as it gets.
If only I weren’t filled with the desire to add plants and lanterns to my favorite spot… Will the shopping never end?