HCMC Dining Guide

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Day In the Life

I wake up around 7:30, about an hour before my alarm is set to go off. Upon opening the blinds in my room I see that the weather hasn't improved at all. It's still overcast, and a soupy mix of haze, smog and moisture that has been hanging around for days reduces visibility to a few miles. I head to the kitchen and slap a piece of processed cheese on a slice of white bread and start watching the Saints - Packers game on my computer through NFL Game Pass. I've successfully avoided finding out who won (the game took place in the middle of the night here), and I'm hoping the Saints can get their first win of the season.

Just before 9, the time I start work, I log onto Yahoo Messenger and wait for the translators to send me stories. It's a Monday, so I know there won't be many and I focus on the game. It's a close one.

A bowl of Corn Flakes completes my breakfast, and a couple of stories to edit trickle in. I pause the game and take care of them. The Saints end up losing after missing a field goal with a couple of minutes remaining. Bummer.

I edit a couple more stories while chatting with a friend on Gmail. It's already raining outside, and it has become obvious that this will be yet another dismal day in a growing string of such days.

Lunchtime rolls around and I finish leftovers from the dinner I ordered in the previous night. When there's nothing to edit I check up on my fantasy football team (this week will be a win!) and browse The Atlantic's website. Just before 1 I get a last-minute story to work on, and after taking care of it I'm done for the day.

Amazingly there is a patch of blue sky outside, but I still can't see the sun. It's probably been 10-12 days since it has been visible. I need to go to the grocery store but I'm hesitant to leave the apartment because the weather can change in an instant. Lately I've been finding any excuse possible to stay inside, and this tendency has only been exacerbated thanks to the return of many of my favorite TV shows (How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Treme, Homeland, New Girl, etc.) and the release of new albums from a few of my favorite bands (Muse, Sigur Ros, The Killers, etc.). All of this multimedia combined with the ability to download anything through torrents means I don't have to get up from my chair to be fully entertained for hours. And if I get bored with that I can fire up my Kindle and read, or maybe study some Vietnamese.

So instead of going to get food for the empty fridge I dick around until 2:30, when I decide to head to the magazine office and hopefully pick up my salary, since it's the beginning of the month. It's gotten very dark out, and I just know I'll get dumped on at some point.

I head to the far side of District 1, losing my patience with bad drivers and giving the finger to a van driver in front of the American consulate for being a douche. I get to the office and the young woman who usually gives out the salary isn't there. I'm told to come back the next day. "What time?" "I don't know." A 20 minute drive for nothing. Fantastic.

I then head towards the Tuoi Tre office in Phu Nhuan District. A minute or two into the drive a few raindrops splatter into me. It's time to play the poncho game, where I try to figure out whether I should pull over and go through the effort of pulling on my dirty, smelly poncho or continue on and hope the rain doesn't get any worse. After two blocks I go for the former and pull to the side. I made the right decision, as by the time I start driving again it's pouring. Within seconds there are pools of standing water all over the roads.

The traffic light at Hai Ba Trung and Nguyen Dinh Chieu is out, so the intersection is a complete free for all. After sitting behind a van for a minute I'm on the go again. As usual I'm mostly soaked even with the poncho on - it really only protects my torso and upper legs. I get to the newspaper office and collect my pay from the week before last. I'm also supposed to be meeting someone who is doing a group project on the local LBGT community for her university. She wants me to give survey questions to some of my western friends. She's supposed to give me the survey copies at 3:30 but, big surprise, she doesn't show up until 4. Being on time isn't a known concept here. While I wait I listen to the new Muse album in the lobby while the downpour continues and frequent thunder barrels across the sky.

I finally get the surveys and head back down Hai Ba Trung to downtown, where I get some greenbacks for rent at a foreign exchange bureau. I head home. The rain has eased somewhat, but it's still miserable out. My street is submerged in several inches of water, and by the time I walk in the door to my apartment I'm cold, wet, and annoyed.

Fortunately it's Monday, which means I have a night full of athletics ahead of me...assuming the goddamn rain stops. I kill a couple of hours before deciding on dinner. I had planned to get some hu tieu from down the street to save money, since I lazily order in far too often, but it still looks shitty out and I don't feel like getting my feet all dirty so I have a burger delivered instead. So much for saving money.

A couple of weeks ago I joined a netball league out in District 2. Games are held every Monday evening, and even though I had never played (or even heard of) the sport until a month or two ago, I've taken to it quickly. I was supposed to have a game at 8, but around 6:30 I get a text saying it's called off due to the weather. Ugh.

The other weekly Monday night event is dodgeball, and I was really hoping that it wouldn't be cancelled. Held every Monday and Wednesday, the group attracts a wide variety of both locals and foreigners, and is a great way to meet people while getting in some solid exercise. I'm one of the best players, and the two hours of dodgeball two times a week are two of my most-anticipated outings every week.

I finish my burger while watching There Will Be Blood on HBO and head down to the parking garage around 7:50. I thought it had stopped raining, but there is still a steady drizzle going on. Seriously, wtf weather. I head to the court where we play in District 3, expecting it to be cancelled but seriously hoping it's still on. When I arrive there's no one there and the lights are off. People gradually filter in and, thankfully, we end up starting in the light rain. I really need this release after a frustrating day, and I gleefully hurl balls at guys and girls alike as the moisture finally fades away.

Afterwards a few people head to a typical quan for beers and I decide to join them. I need some social interaction, and after almost a week without having a drink I figure I deserve a beer or two. We hang out for a bit and I leave at midnight, taking the expressway home, a drive that leaves me freezing in a shirt wet from sweat and rain. On the high-speed road a group of teenagers is playing a game of soccer across three lanes. Brilliant. I hit the 24-hour convenience store near my building for milk and orange juice, take a shower, and start to relax. I'm guessing the weather will still be garbage the next day.


  1. You're in Phuc Thinh, right? Curious to hear about the fire yesterday. Sounds like it was possibly near my old apartment. Were you home at the time?

    1. I was thinking of doing a short post on that. I left right as it got chaotic - was around 7:45 when the power went out and loads of fire trucks started arriving. Smoke was pouring out of Block C and there was a massive crowd of gawkers. I had to carry my bicycle all the way down Cao Dat because the street was closed and full of emergency personnel. Wouldn't have been able to get out on a moto. I have a friend in that tower and he just told me it was a faulty electrical box, they still don't have power. There's no cable or internet in the whole complex.

  2. I feel kind of sad to read "Being on time isn't a known concept here" and somethings similar to that about my country. Have to say it is not always so. May be many people you have met made you feel so, but I myself and some friends come up with the other way. We come on time, talk nicely but some foreigners come late, send msg to friends or log in to internet for chit chat without caring how we feel. It is true there are many bad habits to Vietnamese (I have some, too - nobody is perfect); but that does not mean everything. We sometimes feel hurt because the "foreigners" have been treat well but then look at us like lower-class (I don't imply you do, just give some thoughts, though).
    Anyway, nice blog. I think I am going to be one of frequent reader of your blog.

    1. Thanks for the comment - obviously I didn't mean that EVERY Vietnamese person is always late - that's the problem with generalizations. Most of the time I've met up with locals they have been on time, but I've had several experiences where someone has come very late (or the opposite, very early) without giving a reason or an apology. Of course this isn't just a problem here, so I apologize for making it sound like a Vietnamese flaw. It just seems that time is viewed differently here than back in the U.S.

      I do hope you continue reading, and let me know what you think!