Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Self Improvement

The place where I teach in the evenings has a deal with a gym down the block. We teach English to 5 of their employees, and we get 5 memberships. I went 3 times last week. I really like running on the treadmill because I don't have to dodge motorbikes. It would be nice if I could stand up straight in the locker room, but it doesn't cost me anything so I'm not complaining.
With the help of Ambassador Iroquois Dandelion , I've finally found a place to go for services. I've been going to a few different churches on Sundays and checking out this and that. I've liked a couple of the churches, but I've really been interested in practicing and learning more about Buddhism while I'm here. Unfortunately, most of the pagodas are really touristy, and local Buddhists don't have Sunday morning services. Everything revolves around the lunar calendar. Without speaking Vietnamese, and without even having a lunar calendar, I can't do much more than go to pagodas, take pictures, and be hassled about buying postcards like the other westerners.

But last week I started going to morning meditation at a zen place that has everything in English. They don't have anything going on on the weekends, and I can't go to any of the evening stuff because I'm teaching in the evenings, but I'm free on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings at 6:30 (who isn't, right?), so I can do that. There is also a reading group that's been on a break, but I plan to attend that when it starts up again.

It's in a neighborhood with some of the nicest architecture...
...and the biggest dead rat I've ever seen.I really wish there were something in that shot for scale. That thing was huge.

This is a good example of some of the different cultural norms here that still baffle me. The neighborhood is beautiful, but there is garbage in the streets, and there are tangled masses of wires overhead that don't seem to go anywhere. People will often hand me my change with both hands instead of just one, in order to be polite. But then they'll stick a finger into their nose up to the knuckle and root around like Bill Murray on a gopher hunt. Practical strangers strike up conversations and offer to show me around the city, but people will bump into you on their motorbikes and not even bother making eye contact, let alone saying "xin loi" (sorry). Still very odd to me. And I'm sure I'm doing weird and offensive things all the time too. I just don't know what they are yet.

Getting up so early for meditation has shown me a part of the city that I didn't know existed until now. There are probably a couple of hundred people in front of the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum before dawn each morning, getting their morning exercise. I think I only saw 2 runners in Hanoi before this last week, and now I know why. They're all done with their daily exercise before 7.

Through the house room mates, I got an invite to a Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday.

There was eating......simulated dancing......and simulated napping...
Thanksgiving is by far my favorite holiday. But I already had a great Thanksgiving in June, which included all of my favorite folks and food, thanks to Don and Jen. I even got to bite a toddler. So I wouldn't have felt like I was missing out, but it was still good to have a proper Thanksgiving closer to the actual day.

It did seem a little odd though. It's December now, and the forecast high today was 80˚ F.


rebar said...

>>I really wish there were something in that shot for scale. That thing was huge.

How big was the rat? In comparision to Olive...half her size?

Granted she's nearly 10 now, but...could she take the rat?

I'm suddenly very aware of how Olive (while still being very feisty and active) can no longer go toe-to-toe with some of the larger dogs in the hood.

Hell. She pulls a muscle if she jumps off the couch wrong.

Seth said...

I'm going to say that the rat was almost as big as Olive. At least 3/4 her size. About the size of a large meatloaf.

But I definitely think that Olive could have taken it. For one, she's tenacious. She'd win or die trying. And secondly, the rat was already dead. So yeah, my money would be on Olive.

Juji said...

I once met a RAT behind Washington Library. I said "Shoo!"
He didn't move. I gave him a head fake and he came toward me. I ran and he chased me. He was as big as a small calf. I swear. And why aren't you learning Vietnamese. How hard can it be. Saw Robin Hood the other night and it's the scene where he enters with a dead deer carcass and tosses it on the Sheriff of Nottingham's dinner plank and they squabble about the rights of the people and the Sheriff says: "You speak treason!" and Hood replies sardonically,
"Fluently." Easy peasy.

Happiness is O in the big job. I feel almost giddy sometimes when I wake up and realize the nightmare of the last 8 years is almost over.

Miss you,