Village Voice

Amy Salmon's E-Mail from Vietman (Part 2)

I have gotten a Vietnamese sim card for my phone (kept the same battered exterior, but they glued it up a little for me so it’s in slightly better shape) but I just realized that I didn't write down the phone number.  Oops.  The woman I'm staying with (who owns the guest house) has it in her phone, though, so I'll get it from her and send it along.

 I've decided to stay at this place; it's really nice and the owners make everything about HCMC very easy.  It's owned by a couple, and they are both fluent in French; educated here during the colonial period.  The wife took me out on her motorbike to handle the phone thing last night and gave me a little tour of some of the highlights of old Saigon, including the Cathedrale Notre Dame de Saigon (with similar elements to its larger cousin, Notre Dame de Paris) and the Catholic school where she learned both French and English. 

Turns out she started speaking French at about the same time as I did, and she learned some of the same French songs.  So we were driving along the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh City singing "Sur le pont d'Avignon" and "Alouette" and just cracking up.  We also agreed that "Alouette" is really quite the sadistic song and not really fit for consumption for young kids -- it's all about plucking and killing some poor innocent bird for no apparent reason other than to have a song about it.  Pretty surreal experience to discover we had that in common, and a whole lot of fun.  I told her that I'd enjoyed teaching English to kids that were about the same age as I was when I started learning French.  Maybe they'll remember me -- and some of the songs I taught them -- the way I remember "Alouette" and my first grade teacher, Madame Lorenz.  It's fun to imagine one of my kids growing up and telling someone that their last year in Anuban they learned to sing "C is For Cookie" and "Deep and Wide" from Ajarn Amy, and that it was a fun introduction to the language.  You never know.

 I suspected that Tu (the wife) spoke French the first night I was here from the accent I heard in her English, and just took a shot and asked her, in French, if she spoke French.  Her face just lit up and she started chattering away, in French of course.  Fortunately my French has stayed in remarkably good shape, so I can keep up.  And it's getting better again by the day; since she's more comfortable in French than English, she uses it most of the time with me.  I love that.  It's like a little reward for choosing to come to Vietnam rather than going through with my original plans for France.  I hoped that I'd get a chance to speak French occasionally, but this is more than I expected.  

I'm even getting to eat baguettes in the morning again, and other times as well, which is just heaven for me.  They're good, too; much closer to the ones served in France itself than any others I've had since, even in ostensibly French restaurants.  Yesterday for lunch I had a Croque Monsieur!  It wasn't what I'd call authentic, but it was still pretty good, and you'd never find one in Thailand, I'll guarantee you that.  There are little carts selling French bread of all types all over the place.  They're smaller, but they have a similar construction to the coffee-and-muffin carts and hot dog trucks that you see all over New York City.  Except here, there's usually a little Vietnamese woman standing beside it in her traditional conical hat, or sitting beside it behind the other thing she's peddling, lottery tickets or cigarettes.  It's a sight to see. 

I'll try and write some more this weekend, and get out and take some pictures.  I've got to stop now and do some things for class tomorrow...this is much more fun, but that's got a due date!

Love you, Amy

or, if you prefer, Mademoiselle Saigon, Your Foreign Correspondent :)   

Editor’s note:  Amy Salmon returned to Chiang Mai, Thailand, after stopovers in Malaysia, Laos, and Cambodia.

This just in:  Amy is on the move again!  She has accepted a teaching position in a school just outside Seoul, South Korea.  She is in the process of moving this week to Seoul and will be teaching English to Korean children.  Amy enjoyed her time in Thailand and especially the Thai people, but the oppressive heat and humidity and her desire to live in and experience a different culture prompted her to seek a new teaching opportunity in Korea.  Stay tuned as she continues her Asian travels. 

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