Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I arrived at Prime, a private English-language school across town, by none other than motorbike taxi this evening. The man who drove me spoke not a word of English, but nodded in agreement (after I had written 21:00 on a piece of paper, then pointed to the middle of my chest) that he would come back to fetch me after my three hours of teaching were up. I smiled and made my way indoors.

Actually, there was no door to make my way into. The entrance to Prime is open, about twenty feet or so across, and a uniformed guard paces back and forth, not offering a smile but rather a curt nod of the head.


Once "inside", there is a closed-off glass room for the secretary of the school, located on my right. To my left, there is a tiny little kitchen with equally small tables and chairs. Two cute little girls sit side-by-side in ponytails, slurping their noodle soup and observing me with intense curiosity. I wave at them and make my way upstairs, already a few minutes late to class...

As I should have known, this means very little in Vietnam. No students had arrived yet, and wouldn't start filing in for another twenty minutes. Hearing my stomach rumble, I decided to jet down to the kitchen real quick and see what kind of snack I could procure...

I got a hearty noodle soup instead, just like my two little friends now sitting directly across from me. Accompanied with my new favorite beverage, Vietnamese green tea, I happily sat slurping my dinner with them.

And then, out of nowhere, BLACKNESS.

Even through the darkness, I could feel the heavy, unbroken gaze of both little girls upon me, and never did I once hear either of them shriek or cry out in terror. I just continued to hear slupring.

This was normal to them, but not normal for me. The guard quickly rushed over to the table and slammed a lit flashlight down, and the lady who had conjured up my soup lit a candle with the quickest of hands. Then, the assistant/secretary of Prime made her way over to me, and asked if everything was alright.

"Yeah", I said, turning my head back toward the open entryway, noticing that the whole street seemed to be out of power as well. "Not much you can do about it, I suppose?"

She nervously laughed at my inquiry and said not to worry, that this happens all the time.

(To be honest, I couldn't have been happier. I was tired as all hell and didn't feel much like teaching anymore.)

But ten minutes later, the lights went back on, and my students finally decided to show up. It was 6:15 p.m. when the first student rolled through the door.
The class that I teach is supposed to start at 5:45.

Looks like my propensity to show up at things "fashionably late" won't be much of a problem over here. Even if I'm tardy, I'm still the first one to arrive.

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