Life has been hectic, but mostly happy since Christyn and Jason left. We are working 8 straight weeks without vacation (except weekends) and that is way too much city time for me. Luckily a couple of friends wanted to celebrate their birthdays at the beach this weekend, so now I have time to type on my phone as we take the bus home.
Notable events since my last post include my birthday, a visit from my friend Katie, the Dragon Dash on Easter, and this weekend’s trip to Mui Ne.
My birthday was so special even though it didn’t need to be. It seems that international teachers are determined to make birthdays special. The weekend before my bday while laying at the pool, Shelley and Ricki asked what I wanted to do. I told them nothing because it was too hot and miserable (I was grouchy) to feel like my winter birthday. So they hatched a brilliant plan to give me a winter birthday complete with my favorite things.
On my actual bday, Alison and Rebecca took me out for dinner after school which was so generous because report cards were due the following day, and socializing is not a priority at grading time – ask any teacher. It was lovely to not be alone on my big night, and I graded diligently all weekend and week leading up to my birthday so that I could afford an evening of fun. I loved all the Facebook messages, emails, phone calls, etc. that connected me to home on that day. I also got lots of amazing birthday cards from home (thanks snail mail senders!), a birthday dress from Aunt Barb, and an Easter basket from Diane Klena a few days after my birthday. It was nice that our unreliable mail system prolonged my special day for a couple of weeks!
In a lucky turn of events, my friend Katie who left Baltimore 6 years ago to become an international teacher in Dubai, found herself without plans for spring break, so she decided to come to Vietnam for 2 weeks! She arrived Friday the 27th, and because she is a perfect guest and a seasoned world traveler, she arrived just as I was finishing my last report card! I showed her my classroom, finished a few small tasks, and then took her to my apartment to drop off her stuff before whisking her away to Ricki’s for my party. At this point, she had been traveling for many hours, so she is a champ for hanging tough at the party.
My birthday party was great because the girls cranked the a.c. high enough that I was almost chilly. Then, they made delicious soups (chili and beer cheese) and hot chocolate! It was glorious. The plan was to play games, but we had so much fun chatting and dancing that we never got around to it. Friday (the night of the party) was actually Clare’s birthday, so I felt a little guilty about stealing her thunder, but luckily she had a bit of fun too. The whole experience made me feel so lucky to have made such fantastic friends in my 31st year of life, and I am sure that 32 will be filled with many hours of laughing with them!
Katie was only in Saigon for a couple of days before she flew to Da Lat, my favorite city in Vietnam so far, to spend a week at a yoga retreat. After celebrating my birthday, we spent Saturday being tourists around town and Sunday lazing around the pool and spa. We also ate a delicious seafood hot pot in my neighborhood. I consider this a successful weekend.
While Katie was in DaLat, I celebrated Easter in an odd way; I participated in Vietnam’s first obstacle race. A group of friends from work signed up early, and Elaine and I joined them late. I didn’t really know what to expect, and thank goodness or I might not have signed up. It was a lot of fun, but it was also a bit beyond my fitness and adventure level. I am definitely not an American Ninja Warrior, so I skipped a few of the obstacles that I knew would really only result in injury and embarrassment for me. Regardless, I was dirty and happy. We finished the morning with Easter brunch together and then Rita and I got massages and she taught me to ride a mountain bike to prepare for our upcoming Spring Break trip to Taiwan.
Katie returned later in the week, and I had a few more days to spend with her. I took a personal day from work on Friday to soak in her last day in the city, and friends met us in District 2 after work to join our celebration of togetherness. On Saturday, Rita taught us to paddle board on the river near school. It was so magical to have another friend visit, and I am feeling beyond lucky that I had 6 special guests this year! Good thing I did rent this enormous apartment. I can’t wait to have even more of you visit next year! My other co-workers are jealous of how popular our new class is with visitors!
Since Katie’s departure, I feel like I have been in an endless loop of going to work, working out, grading, eating, and sleeping. This weekend’s trip to the beach in Mui Ne was a welcome disruption to the monotony. My dear friend Rebecca is turning the big 40 over Spring Break and we will all be in various countries and unable to celebrate the special woman who does so much to bring us together. So, she invited some of us to the beach, and one invitee, actually had her birthday yesterday while we were sunbathing, playing bocce, and singing karaoke. It was really nice to have quality friend time where we limited talk of work pretty well and got to read and relax. Of course, I did take a few essays to grade, but I did all of my work with half of my body submerged in the pool, so it didn’t feel too much like work.
I am now safely back home and gearing up for my last week before Spring Break. Rita and I have planned an ambitious biking, hiking, and camping trip, and I am so excited to commune with nature for a week! We return to work on May 4th, the first day of AP testing, and the end is in sight! Our last day is June 12th, and I will land in Harrisburg around lunchtime on June 14th. Less than 2 months. This has been a pretty exciting first year abroad, and I can’t wait for some down time to reflect on my experiences. Hopefully my babble doesn’t drive any of you crazy!