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Out with the old

Rather than fix the Old Dunger bike, I rented a new one at 1 million / month.

The prospect of turning up at school looking as if I got the wrong suburb didn’t appeal much. The school’s very upmarket.

The repair bill for the old bike came at about 1 million VND. That’s about the same as its retail value if it’s going.

I arranged to sell it as is for 500,000 vnd, but the buyer pulled out, leaving me with a white elephant. Learnings again.

Head down, arse up

Three weeks down, five to go.

Term now ends June 30, so it’s a case of making hay while the sun shines. The “Eagle”‘s monthly bowel movement is due June 7th after which I will feel a lot more secure.

I have two classes daily Grades 8 ( 13-14 years ) and 9. The younger students are eager, disciplined and easy to teach.

The older class is a battle with teenage hormones and several renegades running amuck among them. There’s a way wider range of English abilities. Three or four are maybe at the level of a good New Zealand 12 year old. Five or six are not far above New Entrant level.

Past July, the job isn’t assured, so I was pointedly told by the Head Teacher. The solution would be to sign up as a full-timer, which would mean more than 40 ‘office hours’ a week.

But that’s a bridge too far for me. And it seems, for the three other full-timers, who’re making noises of complaint about it.

The Head Teacher has told me that the school has been looking for two years for a 4th full-timer to tackle the brutal schedule.

Right now, I’m going to gamble that they won’t find one before August. In which case they’ll probably extend my contract at the ‘part-time’ mornings-only hours.

Laptop Blues

The laptop I bought in May 2019, just before leaving New Zealand, is unwell.

It may be terminal. I’ve been able to get by using flash drives, Linux, and the school’s machines. But revival attempts on the PC are taking up way too much of my time.

The worst upshot has been missing online classes with my favourite Japanese student. He’s an interesting guy, a native Japanese who’s lived in Thailand for 3 years, and supports himself as a sports writer. He’s been far and away my most consistent and loyal student. I regard him as a friend.

But his tolerance for me being forced to cancel classes won’t be unlimited.


I’ve become accustomed to the smaller living space, cheaper rent, and higher electric costs at the new digs, and plan to be here til July.

I’m also finding my way among the local roadside food stalls. So far I’ve found good, cheap, quality sellers of duck eggs, avocados, pork luncheon, and fresh greens. Still on the list are banh it, and seafood. I’ve learned that rather than ask uestions, the fastest way of identifying a mystery food is often just to buy a sample.

What a Difference

As the old song goes, what a difference a day makes.

Day 1, May 4, back at school and Murphy’s Law struck with a vengeance. I started thinking seriously about resigning. Day 2, and problems disappeared like Vietnamese puto cakes.

Day 1

The rolling train-wreck started the previous day when my laptop decided its number was up. The damned thing refused to boot into windows, and the Linux install gave me no WiFi. So, all told, next to useless.

The train-wreck continued when my bike died on the way to work. The smallest Mercy was that it happened at my planned Cafe stop. I quaffed my coffee, left the bike there and ‘taxied’ to work. On the pillion of a motorbike. Clutching as I was, a laptop, a backpack bag, and a 6-litre water bottle.

At work, I learned that, as feared, no aircon was allowed in classrooms. Nowhere in New Zealand even approaches that heat. It’s like Venus. Hot enough to begin a weight-loss programme by going outside for an hour.

On arriving home, a 15-minute bike-ride, I cranked up the aircon, flopped into a chair, and stayed inside for the rest of the day.

Day 2

School admin saw sense, and allowed aircon in classrooms. Without it, myself and foreign teachers from South Africa, the US, and Canada suffer so brutally that survival is uppermost in mind, and teaching ( almost ) nethermost. Ahh, the sweet relief of cool air!

I put a patch on the bike issue by renting another short-term. Taxi-ing to work each day while I fix the Old Dunger bike would be clumsy, and expensive. I was able to rent a good bike for 80k VND / day.

I discovered the laptop would at least boot into Linux.

And, students, perhaps picking up less of a scent of blood ( and sweat ) in their nostrils, seemed to go easier on me.

Day 3, May 6

After getting through my 3 hours’ worth of lesson, and home to Sweet Shelter, the Head Teacher asks me to take his Wednesday afternoon class May 13, for 90 minutes. It’s a vote of confidence from him, and I’m thinking it’d behoove me to be in his credit column.

Happy Birthday ( to me )

Happy birthday – here’s a power cut to celebrate…

It was the usual routine this morning – walk, coffee, work. Until, that is, the last was knocked out of the schedule by a random power cut at the apartment.

I’d just started an online lesson with my favourite, and regular, Japanese student when everything went West. The lesson, the fan, the fridge, my caffeine-fueled buoyant mood – all gone in a flash.

It means that I’ll likely suffer a penalty for a ‘cancelled’ online lesson. Something I can ill afford when margins are so slim. Also, fridge-stored food will suffer, possibly in the rubbish basket.

After it dawned on me what’d happened, I trudged down five flights of stairs to share my unhappiness with the ( wonderful ) hotel receptionist.

Via my phone, and Google Translate, I learned that the power would be restored at 11:00 a.m., two hours hence.

This isn’t rare here – whole suburbs go black. But at the last apartment, we were at least warned the previous day. It seems the current apartment manager(ess) doesn’t have the nous to keep up, or wasn’t told.


  • Prepare for the worst

    That is, have a backup plan. Examples? Power cut
    – ask apartments whether they have such thing as backup power supply. Use the dinky wee
    USB charger I have to power whatever I can. Internet down – Get some reliable phone data, ffs.

  • Remain calm, focus, execute

    That was the mantra I used in Thailand. One I need to revive as I start another full-time teaching stint.

  • Smile

    Whatever happens, don’t lose your rag. It’s a bad look, it won’t help, and it’ll earn oneself enemies. Half a world away ( 8665 km ) from home, I need all the friends I can get.