Big Question Marks

Friday, March 6, 2009

Trapped by Twinkle Lights

So, you'll never guess where the last two weeks of travels have taken us-- Saigon, and more Saigon! Aside from our three-day jaunt down to the Mekong Delta last week (which was a fantastic time), we've pretty much been stationary in Vietnam's biggest city. There's a certain pull to the place that we're having trouble putting our fingers on: during the daytime, it often feels like just any other city, exciting enough and different, but just another place where the goings-on of everyday life happen. There's some sort of switch that happens as soon as the workday is over: around 4:30pm, the streets are crammed with motorbikes (good luck crossing by foot!), the sun starts to dip lower, and as soon as it's nearly dark, HCMC's lit up with a billion neon signs and there are strings of twinkle lights everywhere... and that's when we fall in love with the place all over again. Or maybe is it just the slight change in temperature that does it?!

We've been flirting with the idea of staying in HCMC, landing English teaching jobs (or better yet, media and web jobs, if they're out there), getting motorbikes of our own, learning Vietnamese, and settling into expat life here. We even got going on our resumes and started making contact with the English-teaching world... but after more than a week of flip-flopping between staying and making a go of things, or continuing our leisurely travels, it seems fate is pointing us in the way of the holiday. Contrary to the impressions we had before, it's NOT as simple to slide into a decent English-teaching job here without getting a TESOL type certificate (something we're not prepared to fork over a lot of our savings for, at least while in Vietnam-- ie. $800-$1200 USD a person!). We've met a good bunch of English teachers who are loving the life in HCMC, but right now there aren't many classes going (the Tet new year celebrations have just finished= not so much spare $ to go around for English school) and people are lucky if they get 10 hours a week! And then there's all the set-up of starting anew... something we know so well from our various homes in Australia. Our hearts just weren't totally in it. And then, on the morning we were about to start printing resumes and getting serious about the job hunt-- OUR AUSTRALIAN TAX RETURN APPEARED! Now if that's not fate, we don't know what is. So it looks like we'll be taking the travelling option once again, and see what happens...

Not that we haven't immensely enjoyed relaxing and really getting to know Saigon! We have found the BEST coffee--in a suitably dim and ancient-looking coffeeshop which feels like we've stepped into 1970s Saigon; ridden cyclos, those bicycle-cart thingies; observed the after-work routine of kicking around a shuttlecock in the park; sampled much random food (OK, there's been quite a bit of eating involved!); and have explored street after street. [Check out our new photos!] On Saturday we'll head north to Dalat, a charming mountain town about six hours from the city, and then onward north to explore this amazing country...