From Garlic Toast to Metacognition

My first guest has come and gone. Before moving to Vietnam, Facebook alerted me that Stephanie, a friend I waitressed with at Garfield’s, was moving to India. Obviously my deep and abiding love for India and my fond memories of carrying food-laden trays together prompted me to contact her and beg for visits in our new spots of the world. I was thrilled when she messaged me to say the end of September worked for her! She was to be my first international guest!

Of course, as her arrival date approached, I began to feel nervous. It had been 8ish years since we had been part of the Fab Four waitressing team. Sure, we had similar taste in books, loved to hang out in Chrissy’s hot tub after work, and could roll silverware together companionably. But, was that enough commonality to make a week long cohabitation a positive experience? It turns out, yes!

We ended up discovering that there is so much to talk about because we both love discussing teaching practices, food, books, women’s rights, people watching, and India. Though resuming friendship was a little awkward at first, soon it was as though we were educational soulmates. It was lovely to talk to someone with a similar outlook on life.

Steph arrived on a Saturday morning, and though I had planned to be there to meet her when she got off the plane, we had 3 Skype interviews with principal candidates scheduled. Two of those candidates were my favorites on paper, so I didn’t want to miss them. I did skip the third to make it there only an hour and a half behind schedule (ironically, there is a good chance that the interview I skipped was with a person who is likely to be my next boss, oops). I worried Steph would be bored at the less than thrilling SGN airport, but she said that she thoroughly enjoyed baby watching. We hopped back in the cab and headed back to my neighborhood for brunch at Scott&Bins with Gregor and Alison. Then we made it home to settle in and do some trip planning. The planning led us to district 1 in search of a tailor who could make Steph an ao dai. Then we wandered around, taught an impromptu English class in the park, drank yummy milk teas, got lost because I still can’t read maps, went to dinner, etc.

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At the tailor getting measured for her first ao dai. I loved the beautiful blue fabric she picked, but somehow never managed to get a picture of it.

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In a park with our impromptu students. We are wearing matching scarves that they presented as gifts for spending time with them. They were all adorable and so eager to practice their English skills.

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Wandering around D1. I really liked this street with its festive flag banners.

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We ended up at Propaganda for dinner. I attempted to navigate us there on my own, but when my hanger started to verge on belligerence, we hopped in a cab.

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After dinner, we weren’t quite ready to go home, so I decided to take Steph to a rooftop bar that has a view of the Cathedral and provides great space to chat. Unfortunately, the entrance to said bar is down this scary little alley. I am glad that Steph trusted me enough to follow along.

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Our rooftop selfie.

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Entrance to the bar. If you see this, you are in the right alley.

On Sunday, we went for a walk around my neighborhood. We ran into one of my students and her mother who told us about a flea market happening behind Crescent Mall, and we had a great time buying stationary and photo frames. Then we headed back to D1 to pick up Steph’s tailored ao dai, buy stamps at the post office, and pay for tickets we reserved for a show at the Opera House. The purchase of new stamps does mean that I can send more mail … as soon as I have time to write some. The storm that blew into town that afternoon was pretty vicious and caused lots of flooding, so we decided to head back home and go out for sushi at the really good sushi place. When we got home, we spent some time selecting photos and hanging up the frames that we bought on my bedroom wall.  Of course, in order to accomplish this, we had to rearrange all of the furniture.  Poor Steph didn’t know she would have to work so hard to be my guest.

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Some photos of the family are my first wall decoration in the new place.

I had to work all week, so Steph was mostly on her own to find entertainment.  On Monday, we booked her a tour of the Mekong Delta with Phuc, a guide that many of my coworkers have recommended. He picked her up on his motorbike as I left for school and brought her home around 6:30 that night.  She had a lovely time exploring a coconut plantation, visiting a pagoda, eating local foods, shopping at a market, etc. She actually didn’t tell me much about it and only showed me one photo because she wants me to get to experience it all for myself. I am eager to do so.

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Steph brought me a yummy treat of a sticky rice and bean mixture wrapped in a coconut leaf. Yahoo!

On Tuesday, Steph slept in and had a spa day before meeting me at work to go to my favorite restaurant, which everyone at school calls “The Goat” because apparently they serve goat curry.

Wednesday morning led Steph back into D1 to go to a cooking class, and afterwards she spent some time exploring and had another ao dai and dress made by the tailor since the first one turned out so well.  Then we met back at my house and went for dinner at the nearby Turkish restaurant. Steph had spent a couple of months living in Turkey, so she wowed the owner by ordering in Turkish. He spent the rest of the meal quizzing her on her language and knowledge of regional Turkish dishes. Thank goodness she earned me even more goodwill at one of my favorite regular spots.

Stephanie came to work with me on Thursday and was a good sport through all of my classes, meetings, and planning time.  I was not a super entertaining host, and neither of us got lunch that day because I had a meeting and it was storming too badly for her to leave school for a snack. Once the day was over, we got a snack at Wrap & Roll. Luckily Steph had learned what to do with all the leaves and noodles during her cooking class, so we ended up with delicious hand wrapped salad rolls.  Then we hopped in a cab to take us to the Opera House for the AO show. It is billed as a cultural show, and I knew that it would have music and dancing and some acrobatics from reviews of others. It was remarkable. The cast was extraordinarily talented and daring, the music was delightful, and there was beauty and humor throughout. I hope that I get to return again because people say it is never exactly the same again. Following the performance, we went for a beverage at The Cube and dinner at Au Parc.

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The set for the AO show.

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The front of the Opera house after the performance.

On Friday, Steph went into town to pick up the rest of her tailoring, have lunch at Au Parc since it was so delicious the night before, and say goodbye to a city that she learned to navigate and enjoy.  Then she came to meet me at school to get ready for our boat tour with a crew of my co-workers.

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Modeling the second of her ao dai. Gorgeous. I can’t believe that I didn’t make her put the blue one back on for a photo.

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Stepho and I outside the boat that we went on for a dinner cruise.

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Posing dramatically with Steph and Alison.

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Our boat at the dock after the cruise ended.

Upon the conclusion of the cruise, Steph and I excused ourselves from the crew that continued to party so that we could go home to pack and sleep in preparation for Steph’s early morning flight.  I did talk her into going for a night swim first since she hadn’t made it to my pool all week.  Then we watched some really important youtube videos (Bonquiqui and Substitute Teacher) and the final scenes of Pitch Perfect.

I woke up Saturday morning to say goodbye to my guest, and then though I planned to go to school to work out and grade essays, I succumbed to an amazing day of sleep instead. September and the beginning of October left no time for rest, but there were plenty of opportunities for fun.

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