HCMC Dining Guide

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


Last night I belatedly realized that Monday the 20th was my 100th day in Vietnam. So far I feel like those days have absolutely flown by. There are so many places in this region that I want to see, and I'm not sure how I'll be able to visit them all before I go home next August. There is the possibility that I'll come back, but that decision is still down the road a bit. It's amazing how quickly the weeks fly by. It often seems like I just finished my Sunday classes before the next weekend rolls around and I'm teaching my Saturday classes. Of course, these next two months will probably go by even faster, since I'm going to be having a lot of fun on trips to Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam's central coast, and Thailand. I also found out this week that I'll be having another friend from the U.S. visiting at some point, and I'm looking forward to that.

Anyways, in my 100 days here I've driven over 500 kilometers on a motorbike, eaten at well over 50 restaurants and food stalls, taught over 100 students, read 7 books, written 42 blog posts, taken 742 pictures, and turned down dozens of offers from moto drivers for hookers or pot. I've also fallen over on my moto twice, burned my leg on an exhaust pipe twice, had a moto break down on me once, and nearly gotten creamed by a taxi far too many times.

What you may or may not gather from these numbers is that I've become extremely comfortable here. The language barrier is definitely still frustrating, but I can only blame myself for being so terrible at learning languages. Outside of that area, though, Saigon has, for the most part, come to feel like my home. While I don't know (and can't pronounce) all of the street names, I know my way around large parts of the city. It takes some effort for me to get lost nowadays. Driving has largely become a routine event, since I do so much of it. I've actually started to fall into the bad driving habit I brought with me from back home: when I know exactly where I'm going, I often end up sort of zoning out, paying just enough attention to the road to make sure I don't hit anyone. This was best displayed one time when I was driving from Jackson, Mississippi to Mandeville, outside of New Orleans. It was dark out and I had the music blasting, and I ended up cruising past the I-12 interchange before realizing I was in Manchac, in the middle of the pitch-black stretch of road over Lake Pontchartrain. That was about a 15-mile loss of concentration. Now, I haven't done anything like that here, but on my way to work yesterday I realized that, outside of rush hour, driving has become rather effortless. I'm glad I picked up that skill quickly, because having a motorbike here is extremely convenient.

I have to admit I'm pretty amazed at how quickly I've adjusted to life here. Few things surprise me anymore, although some friends of mine getting robbed earlier this week certainly did. The longest time period I had ever spent abroad before this was three weeks, and that was in Europe, which is pretty easy to handle. Here I am in Vietnam, a country most Americans still associate with war and poverty, enjoying cosmopolitan Saigon, a city I will definitely miss when I leave. As I said in my previous post I am feeling homesick right now thanks to the holiday season, but that doesn't mean I don't feel at home here. Friends are definitely an important part of making a "home" out of a new city, and I've been fortunate to have made some great friends so far. I'm sure they will continue to help make my time here memorable as we move into 2011.

I think that's enough introspection for now, so I'd like to go ahead and wish everyone an early Merry Christmas! I leave for Kuala Lumpur Friday morning and I'm not bringing my computer, so I'll be "off the grid" for a few days, taking in yet another new experience. Enjoy your holiday, and I hope you have a great day with whomever you're celebrating it with! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, enjoy your usual Saturday! I'll be back with posts from my trip towards the end of next week.

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