First 1/2 of April in Saigon

April has been good so far. In the first week of April, I hung out with Trinh and her mother. We all went to practice Yoga together, which made me sore for days. Since Trinh got a new job, I have been hanging out with Anthony and Thanh more since they have much more free time.

The seasons passed with Dry to Rainy, like an eager guest knocking on our roofs the Rain arrived in Saigon. They say the first rain of the season is hazardous because the vapors carry away the toxins of the dry season. That is also why they say that the smell of the first rain is addicting.

My new medicines are a bit intense. Initially they sapped my energy and made me depressed. I decided to supplement them with healthier eating and exercise. I’ll have to adjust my diet long term to no coffee, alcohol, and spicy food. On the plus side, this diet will save me a bunch of money when I return to the States. I also have irritable bowel syndrome; which is both common and chronic. The most effective change will be my gradual attempt to become a slower eater. A bad habit that has finally caught up to me.

I have a small chance of developing serious stomach complications later in life. I’m actually glad to know this because I will be vigilant about my future health. This slight medical issue has helped me recognize the vast opportunities I won’t have when my health goes. In a way this has invigorated me to live now, while I am still healthy. Not a bad life lesson from eight months of diarrhea.

Put simply, life is time on Earth. Health decides the duration, and happiness defines its quality.

Another one of my students father’s died. This was the father of my main man Huy. He is the 2nd boy in his class to lose a father in two weeks. My manager was upset because Huy’s sister is his main student, and she just got accepted to study in the States, but her dream might be deferred.

I’ve been out to the cafes with Anthony and Thanh lately. Thanh and I went to visit Trinh at her job and then we went to get massages at the place that Phuoc introduced to me. One night Trinh, Thanh, and I walked around Little Japan together. It was super fun investigating Little Japan, which turned out to be even bigger and nicer than I thought. Looking in the pleasant glow of the orange streetlights was almost as magical as walking through Beacon Hill at nighttime. Walking around the city with those two reminded me of my great walks with Brandon.

I’ve also been playing Chinese Chess with my motorbike driver. I have a motorbike driver who is at my beck and call, although he cannot speak English, or I Vietnamese, we are able to communicate through Chinese Chess. Chinese Chess is similar to Indian chess, that is the game you call just Chess, but it has a cannon, elephant, a river and two fortresses on the board. It also has “guard pieces” and a strange rule about the kings never making a line of sight. However, it lacks a Queen, the notion of a powerful woman.

My newest co-worker is from the Mekong Delta. That is the rural heart land of the South. She says charmingly honest things like, “My husband is ugly and poor, but loves me very much”. She also told my manager in her hiring interview, “My husband told me not to tell you, that I’m getting married soon because then you will have to eventually pay for my maternity leave”. My manager hired her immediately because her honesty is impregnable.

The family, our co-teachers, and I went to her wedding. The event was a two-hour drinking party with music and Vietnamese foods. The guests were very kind and attentive to me. I tried my best to pour their beers and be attentive in return. The event had some dancers, confetti, and a strobe light. The party began with the two families drinking some wines together on stage before the rest of the drinking began. The event was in a modern wedding hall that was having five other weddings in the other rooms. The only tradition that was new for me was the gifting of money in red envelopes as we entered. I had not experienced that before.

The next two weeks will continue like this until the 40th Liberation of the South Day. Marking the 40th year since the war ended in 1975. There will be a big military parade in front of the former Southern Palace. I will likely not see the parade in person. Since I plan to go to the North with my holiday.

Saigon was renamed Ho Chi Minh City after the war ended as a propaganda move. However, the French area of the city is still referred to as Saigon by the locals. Referring to the city as Saigon outside of Saigon, is a political statement for a Vietnamese, but means nothing coming from my foreign mouth. Oddly, the international airport code remains SGN. A little reminder of the optional bounce back to Saigon should circumstances change.

I submitted my final visa extension and I am preparing for the last two months. I never missed a place before I left, but I know I will miss Saigon and Ms. Saigon.

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