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this world is wild at heart and weird on top Below are 10 entries, after skipping 10 most recent ones in the "teverde" journal:

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April 21st, 2005
02:37 pm

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I'm going to miss living on the cusp of the 1960's. I sometimes feel like I'm in a strange time warp over here, and I like it. I teach a bunch of 20 year olds and about half of them seem like really keen, earnest second graders. They aim to please. They're nice to their teachers, they giggle, and there's just something really cute in an innocent way about them. Concepts of women having real jobs, people being gay, living together without being married... it's just all so taboo and new here. The streets are alive and everyone knows and gossips about everyone else- it's like how I imagine a 1950's neighborhood. I think it's the streetlife I'm going to miss the most. I wish people hung out and lived out on the streets this much back home. A nice little roadside cafe with lawn chairs facing the road, maybe a movie playing inside, why don't they do this in other places? Watching people is fun. Everything just seems so open. You sit on a motorbike, not in a car, eat outside facing the street so you can people watch at the same time, and can pretty much buy anything from people walking around. And you don't have to dress up either- jammies are fine. I wonder when it will all change. Will ho chi minh city ever become like a western city where the open air markets are replaced by indoor shopping centers with fixed prices, outside cafes become indoors with air conditioning, the government bans people from selling noodles and eggs and snacks on the street corners... it would be a shame, but you can see it happening in some ways already. My students tell me of the old markets that used to be where the oh so creatively named 'tax center' and 'saigon tourist plaza' mundane shopping centers have gone up. Every time I see a new building torn down, I hope it's not replaced by a tacky impression of a western style cafe or store. Oh beloved pham ngu lao... there's now a Lotteria where we used to eat pancakes at 3 in the morning, where strange old men would sing lullabies, and traveling strangers would jam out to johnny cash. I guess that's all still there, but a shiny new fast food joint (with awesome shrimp burgers tho) just doesn't seem right in that ghetto.

Current Mood: pensivepensive

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February 5th, 2005
10:30 pm

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This tet thing is getting expensive. I still can't quite place my finger on what goes on though. It's kind of subtle, but not so. Suddenly trees and plants and regular packaged sugar cookies take on some special significance. And who knew the photocopy girl at work who won't look you in the eye normally and looks somewhat disturbed would be gleefully laughing and smiling as she is blindfolded and carrying balloons in a wicker basket on her head. They love their tet games here. We didn't do the pepsi regurgitation one though that I did last year, even though I thought Nhan and I did a pretty good tag team performance at it. This year's games involved something with being blindfolded in teams and dancing with an apple stuck to your head. Sometimes I really click with this culture. Seriously.

Other than that, everything is closing up and things are doubling in price. Even the girls at the manicure corner of the market are charging nearly double. I still went today though. I love sitting there watching everyone. There's the prostitute ones already dressed for work, the sweet girls that sit next to me and talk, the odd male japanese tourist getting his eyebrows razored.. How did this culture get so good at designing nails and shaping eyebrows? I need to go to beauty school here. Maybe I'll do that. It almost seems like an innate knack they have for it here. I've never met so many people who want to razor-shape my eyebrows, or maybe that's just a polite hint.

Went down to the orphanage today and brought some lucky money for the kids. I always leave that place on the verge of tears, don't know why. Well I guess I do, but it should't make me so emotional. They at least didn't experience a tsunami and are in a much better position than many other orphans in the world. It was a funny scene after we gave them the red envelopes and a piece of chocolate. The little ones were on the floor already covered in chocolate and looking at the money like they'd never seen it before, possible that they haven't. They're all so sweet and ernest, even the ones with that mischevous gleam in their eye. Some of them looked surprised and sincerely happy to get a red lucky money envelope and were flipping it over looking at the colors, and some of the older ones were looking at it bittersweetly, kind of like it was nice but made them sad at the same time. Same way I feel sometimes. One of my favorites Vy is always so quiet and shy and kind of off by herself a lot of the time even though you can kind of see her wanting to take part in things. She seems like she wants to talk to you, but is too shy, and doesn't speak English of course. She just stood next to me today and grabbed my hand and just kept squeezing it. She kept squeezing my hand harder and then let go and wouldn't make eye contact again. I guess you always relate to kids that remind you of yourself at that age. She's one of the slightly older ones and sometimes I just really wish I could adopt these kids. Some of the kids are going to visit their relatives in the country during Tet week. Their families must be pretty hard up I guess to have the kids living in an orphange just scraping by. Their families are probably scraping by too, or their parents alcoholic or abusive and then they did right by not having their kid around I guess. Or maybe it's 'the shame' of being divorced or single with kids. Walking down the street is pretty much a humbling experience here. And seeing Anh Kiet, who is blind and taking care of 35 kids is pretty much one of the most amazing people I've met.

Current Mood: okayokay

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January 7th, 2005
01:41 pm

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Only in vietnam will I walk into a classroom and find my students flirting with each other and listening to air supply.

Current Mood: groggygroggy

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November 19th, 2004
12:58 pm

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teacher's day tomorrow
hope for fake prada!

Current Mood: hopefulhopeful

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November 15th, 2004
05:59 pm

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I’m pretty sure I had the most humbling moment of my life this past weekend. Went to an orphanage with L. and there were 35 kids, some having polio, all run by a sister and her blind brother. The place wasn’t even big enough for all 35 kids to be there at the same time, except at night when they pushed all the furniture away and slept on mats in the center of the floor. They're all self-reliant, physically and emotionally. when a 5 year old kicked another kid on the street, instead of running to someone like most kids, he just screamed, yelled and picked himself up. They learn early on how to defend and stand up for themselves, cause if they don’t, they get lost. To make it even more surreal, all the little boys looked like little Chinese warriors with shaved heads except for a little tuft of hair at the front cause they had all just been extras in a period film a few weeks ago. A bunch of little hard-ass, self-determined and stylin warriors. None of them are ever alone- there’s no room. They’re never alone, but always on their own. The baby who they just call ‘baby’ is about a year and a half- he never learned to crawl, but has just started to take his first steps. Never crawled, but is starting to walk now. Just went from lying there to walking, almost symbolic of all of their lives. They get by with the help of some volunteers and funds, but they fund themselves mostly by recycling plastic bags and metal found in trash and on the streets. 5 million dong a month in recycling! Some people don’t realize that vn has the most incredible recycling program- anything thrown out by someone is picked up and used by someone else. (The rest seems to get thrown into the open sewer in d.10) Amazing place. It was 6 pm and they were getting ready for dinner- the 3 year olds had just come home and were all chewing on plastic or something and the 5 year olds were throwing plastic snakes around. Madly chaotic (cannot imagine being blind AND taking care of 35 kids!), but some semblance of order and belonging. Yet the government wants to shut them down in a few months cause of overcrowding, but aren’t going to bring the kids to another orphanage.. socialism ideals at work. depressing in a way, but uplifting melancholy as I see it.

Then proceeded to have a 'family' night- let's just say nobody's gonna be playing settlers again for a long time until L. and L. promise not to fight over stealing wheat and throw streets around the room. Then watched Joy Luck Club on movie channel- always makes a me cry. Those damn chinese moms n' daughers.

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November 9th, 2004
12:12 pm

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Goodmoring, I'm your lazy student, here. Are you ok, teacher? You didn't come to classes yesterday or you get sick? .... uhm, I hope you're fine. see ya soon. :)

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October 26th, 2004
11:46 am

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Oh those mormons
So I may not be a huge fan of organized religion, particularly those based on dubious gold plates, but I am now a fan of mormon monday family night, landmo style (ex-communicated for flirting with girls on his mission) .. Apparently you sing songs, learn a lesson, play a game and offer truly inspirational thoughts, best done at local open air streetside seafood restaurants. L. taught us to always use a condom, we sang uplifting monkeys tunes, played a (quite fun) drinking game involving naming shades of green, and I got to offer an inspirational thought taken from a beegees song (I've been in Asia too long, but am not ashamed that I enjoy the occasional beegees): 'tis only morning and you've still to live your day.' N. tried to top that with 'tis only night and you've still yet to sleep, but that just didn't make sense. monday nights have a whole new aura.

Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished

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October 22nd, 2004
03:45 pm

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My day
I've been spending my day reading sentences like these:

"Women are considered weakness, so they are not allowed to work outside and be the breast-feeding."

"If a woman drink and smoke a lot or do everything like a man, she will become a man, not a woman"

Current Mood: dirtydirty

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October 1st, 2004
02:13 pm

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man, those few weeks in the states have really messed up my eating habits. I keep hearing a little voice every time I eat whispering: low carb...low carb...low carb. That's all I eat, carbs. Maybe with a few vegetables or fish sprinkled on, and lots of pizza. And I've been really into guns n' roses lately. REally want to get my hands back on Use Your Illusion II actually. Can't remember what that one really long song was that I used to like, think it was track 11. Will find out. ho hum..... been feeling homesick for the states lately. Something doesn't feel right right now, but can't quite place it. I feel like a star trek character on the only episode I've ever seen and actually paid attention: where they lose their memory and have to rely on intuition to figure out why they're where they are and doing certain things.

oh uh oh uh oh stop me... L. keeps barking at me. yap, yap, yap... He's the coordinator/terminator. Made like 5 students cry today.

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September 20th, 2004
01:21 pm

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same same but different
yep. to quote everyone in this part of the world, same same but different. O Midge, why did you have to leave? It's just no fun browsing personal ads on the net without you and your magnifying glass. And sometimes I just want to lie on your psychiatric mattress and talk. But alas, it is gone. No more. The impermanence of life and especially life overseas I suppose. I'm back in the land of ghetto-fantastic manicures, loud screeching sounds of doors opening at wee hours of the morning, and just plain chaos with some kind of underlying order. It felt so normal before I left, but it's taking a little getting used to again. Some things have gone, some have stayed, and some are new. Apparently there's a new restaurant on Van Lung that has a man-made cave and hill. So much has changed. Well not really.

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