On a cool July afternoon, I was fired. No warning or disciplinary meetings – just straight-up fired. As I embarked on the professional walk of shame back home I contemplated my fate as now completely unemployable, I mean, four jobs in a year doesn’t look too good on the CV. So, I packed up my little life and headed straight to my real home, Scotland.
My Godfather arrived a couple of weeks after my D-day with a plan. I hadn’t seen him in years and now almost by what seemed the grace of God, he had an alternative option to just sitting. Go to Vietnam. Teach English. Being a teacher is a noble profession there he said. You are underworked, overpaid and will be renting an apartment in the Kensington and Chelsea of Vietnam for what it cost to rent my shoebox of a room in that bleak little corner of Barons Court.
Now, I’m a sucker for a bargain. Long story short I’m now sitting in my apartment on the 10th floor of a high-rise block that skirts the edges of what is the great Ho Chi Minh City. Which, I can honestly say, makes London look like a quaint village.
The city sprawls. Around every corner is another side street snaking into the underbelly of the city. Shady ‘karaoke bars’ and ‘restaurants’ pepper the streets while mopeds tank down lawless roads, sometimes with 50 chickens attached to the back. I’ve seen literally everything that could possibly be carried on a scooter – the most bizarre being two huge sheets of glass at LEAST three meters high with a bloke (barely clinging on the back of the moped) propping them up. Another was a bike with about 70 pink helium balloons attached but I thought that was cute as it reminded me of that movie Up.
Although the culture shock is immense, you do just get stuck in. Within two months of arriving I had my own moped and was driving it down the highway to my schools. Yes, I have about 4 near-death experiences in a single journey and yes, I do need to separate casual and bribery money for the inevitable corrupt police shakedown- but it’s all just fun. You become part of the wave.
Teaching brings its own set of challenges. The company I work for supplies English teachers to state schools, which are generally very underfunded with huge classes and no air-con. Trying to engage with vast amounts of students with differing abilities and motivation is hard – but improvise, adapt and overcome. I’ve developed a disciplinary strategy of turning off all the fans off when the class gets too noisy. ‘You can’t do that, that’s like corporal punishment!!’ my friend cried – well, yes I can and it really works. Gets real hot real quick in that sweatbox. Don’t worry, I turn the fans back on when the class simmers down.
Socially, Vietnam is a dream. It’s full of people from all around the world and all walks of life who’ve had exactly the same epiphany as you. They are bored of the cookie-cutter lifestyle that working a nine-to-five brings and are seeking something different and more fulfilling. Teaching may not be everyone’s bag, but it can open the door to more opportunities in the future. My Godfather came out here with a TEFL degree and now he’s running a luxury resort on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City– see?
Life is great. I have enough money to eat out at least twice a day, I go to all the top bars where I can drink enough to drown a small whale and I can afford to regularly update my wardrobe with whatever I want. I STILL find it hard to spend all my money – and I’m getting paid pennies compared to some language schools. If you ever think about making a momentous life move to somewhere across the globe, id say do it. Book that one-way flight and have a gin and tonic on the plane.