HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, October 22, 2010

I'm Finally a Working Stiff

I finally started teaching at an actual school last night, but before I get to that I'd like to recommend some books. I've gotten back into the habit of ripping through a book every few days, and I'm suggesting three that I finished in the past two weeks:

 1) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, by Jared Diamond - A fascinating study of past societies, such as the Mayans and Easter Islanders, that failed, modern societies, such as China and Australia, that face major environmental challenges, and societies that have succeeded in difficult parts of the world, such as Iceland. Diamond examines the lessons we can learn from them all and the challenges we face in sustaining modern life. The subject is complex, but Diamond's writing style is highly readable and he has a good sense of humor. Not as gloomy as the title may sound.

 2) The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright - A stunningly well-written and well-researched history of the ideas, men, and events that led to the creaton of al-Qaeda, modern terrorism, and 9/11. Eye-opening, even for someone like me, who has done a fair bit of reading on the interplay between Islam, the Middle East, and American foreign policy. Definitely not light reading, but essential reading.

 3) The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga - A creatively structured novel about the life of a servant in modern India that, luckily, lacks any of the starry-eyed naivete so common in accounts of this complex, fascinating, and very poor country. Hilarious at times, brutal at others, it packs a hell of a punch.

My first class last night went pretty well, for the most part. The students were obviously shy in front of a new teacher, and I was also a little nervous because the class is a preparation for the TOEIC test, an important international English test, which isn't what I trained for. I also feel like it's my job to make sure the students (who are mostly around my age) do well on this test, so I'm putting some pressure on myself to perform. I have the class until February, so my goal now is to establish a rapport with the students so that the next few months are as enjoyable as possible. This weekend I start my classes with kids, ranging from ages 5 or 6 to pre-teens. I'm looking forward to having some fun with the kids, although they will undoubtedly be a handful at times.

Outside of work, I've been getting a lesson in what kind of injuries I can expect to get here. The day I rented my motorbike I fell over in the middle of traffic when I swerved to avoid someone who cut me off. Amazingly, no one else hit me, and the only bodily harm I suffered was a cut on my left ankle. This was healing well until I was cut off again the other night and I was almost forced into a car. I got so close that one of its tires actually rolled against my ankle, re-opening the scab that had formed. A common injury here is a burn mark on one of your calves from the exhaust pipes on motos. I know to dismount a moto on the left, since the scaldingly hot pipe is on the right, but after parking mine in a line of bikes the other day I forgot that getting off on the left puts you right next to the exhaust of the bike parked next to you. So I smoothly stepped off my bike... and right onto the one next to me. Luckily I jumped back so quickly that the burn mark isn't very noticeable. I mentioned previously that I started playing soccer. It's been great fun, but I may not have any skin left on my knees after a few weeks of this. The only athletic shoes I have are two years old and have lost any semblance of traction. During Tuesday's game I tried to pivot but ended up slipping and scraping open my right knee and bruising the rest of my leg. Yesterday I tried to stop on a dime and turn, only to end up falling and taking out a nice bit of skin on my left knee while simultaneously catching a shoe to the chin. Not one of my finer moments. As a result, my legs are now starting to look like those of a leper.
Sorry for the ugly picture, by the way. Anyways I'm sure I'll look like an idiot limping through my classes this weekend. Maybe my students will just think it's another weird thing Americans do.

One last thing. I had my first experience of driving during a monsoon last night on my way home from work. It was not a very pleasant 15 minutes. Sure, the rain cooled you off, but having big raindrops smashing into your eyes at a closing speed of 40 mph (or something like that) isn't my idea of a good feeling. At least it kept the traffic calmer. Now, I'm off to do some lesson planning.


  1. it's just a pick up game, tuesday and thursday at 1pm at the field by the movie theatre on nguyen du in district 1.