Awake

It’s half-past five, and she’s beginning to rise.

The sun.

She’s so warm this morning.

The locals, shuffling across their sampans, are sorting through and organizing their fruits, snacks, drinks, and lottery tickets. I watch as the women adjust their nón lá to shield themselves from the waking sun. The men, squatting over the boats to brush their teeth, spit into the river. I hear, faintly, their phlegm smack against the waves.

Smoke rises from a collection of slightly larger vessels. It catches my eye. I look over, and my nostrils instantly meet the smell of grilled pork and shrimp.

Breakfast.

Hủ tiếu.

Cơm tấm.

Bánh mì.

“Hungry?” auntie asks.

“I’m okay, it’s too early to eat.”

“Chị ơi,” she shouts over me, raising herself from our boat. She stands, and our boat leans towards her side. “Cho 2 ly cà phê sữa!”

Peering down at me, she asks, “How about coffee?”

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My first month of teaching.

You’ve got your good days and your bad days.

As a teacher, though, you’ve got your worst days and your best days.

I’m four weeks into teaching, and there’s a lot to reflect on. I’ve saved most of the details for my personal journal, but there are a few things I’d like to share. I haven’t really had the worst of the worst nor the best of the best, but I’ve certainly gotten a taste.

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So, I’m finally here.

A little over two weeks ago, I completed my one-month, in-country orientation in Hà Nội. I bid farewell to the amazing friends I’ve made in my cohort, all of whom are the most inspiring, humorous people I’ve ever met (love y’all). After a month of being with each other, we were finally leaving, spreading across the country and moving into provinces we’ve never been to and/or heard about before.

For me, I was moving to Tây Ninh, a south-western province in Việt Nam. I’d be living about a few hours away from Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh (Ho Chi Minh City, or HCMC), where I still had plenty of my dad’s side of the family residing. And knowing that I was only one 2-hour bus ride away from them was reassuring for me.

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I’m sorry for raising my voice.

A couple of weekends ago, the Fulbright Program sponsored my cohort to a weekend getaway to Ninh Bình. It was honestly a nice break from the usual routine we all had going on: wake up (late) every morning for breakfast, spend a few hours learning Vietnamese, eat lunch for an hour, and spend the last few hours learning Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) lessons. During our little getaway, though, I was prompted—or rather, reminded—to think about the space I/we occupied (shout out to MJ!).

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