Read and listen at the same time!
It’s been a couple of days that we have left District 1 to settle in our new apartment in Thao Dien, District 2. It’s with great pleasure that we packed our suitcases again on Sunday morning and that we left our very welcoming guesthouse to head towards our new home. But first we need to do the incoming inventory and to get our keys. We arrive, heavily loaded – we had quite forgotten how heavy our luggage was! – in the luxurious and overly air-conditioned lobby of our building as we wait for Ms. Liu. We notice two security guards who keep a close eye on who’s coming in and going out, and this 24/7. I don’t know why but I start feeling panicky all of a sudden. But fortunately the feeling won’t linger. As for Alex, he seems relaxed and content, while Anaïs single-mindedly keeps asking about the swimming pool.
After a few minutes, we walk together towards the apartment where we are welcomed by our smiling landlords. They converse in Vietnamese with Ms. Liu for a while and we don’t understand a single word but we assume they are making a list of all the furniture that’s included in the lease. We then take care of the practicalities: water, electricity and the precious wifi password. We get a special training in how to work the ceramic hob (classic and induction), the washing machine and the videophone. We finally receive our keys as well as a temporary magnetic card – we will soon receive our own cards with our prettiest selfie picture. These little babies grant us access to our side of the building (there are 2 sides, a bit like the Beauty and the Beast’s castle), as well as to the elevators: we must first scan the card and then press the floor where we want to go. Not many possibilities here: the floor on which we live or the 3rd floor where we can find the swimming pool, the gym an the playgrounds. If there’s one thing that’s for sure, it’s that it’s pretty safe here!
A few minutes later we are left ‘home’ alone. It feels quite strange to say it in this show flat where we feel like we are taking a stroll inside an Ikea store. Especially since virtually nobody has lived here before us, it is void of any energies, if you see what I mean. It’s our job to fill it with ours and to make it become our ‘home’. And this happens within seconds as Alex runs downstairs to the reception to book a tennis court while Anaïs and I break into a little happy dance.
Ok, great! So now, what do we do? It’s 1pm, so it’s time to eat, but where? At the Japanese restaurant in the Vincom Mega-mall of course! After a good meal, we are ready to go groceries shopping for some essentials such as a cooking pot, a frying pan, silverware, etc. But it’s so difficult for us to accept having to buy these things because we got rid of almost every material possession we had and it seems counter-productive. But I suppose a balance needs to be reached between buying nothing and purchasing compulsively loads of useless things we crave because they seemed so essential at a particular moment – you know, those things you use once or twice and then forget somewhere in your house until you realize how much you have that you don’t need at all… So we settled an agreement: we bought a wok, which can be used as a cooking pot and a frying pan; chopsticks, which are cheaper than silverware; but also three little forks for Anaïs who, although she’s made some serious progress, hasn’t mastered the art of using bamboo sticks to eat yet; a bucket that can also be used as a garbage can; garlic salt (more practical than buying garlic and salt separately)… You get the idea!
Yesterday, we even bought some baguettes. Apparently, the French influence has left this great heritage to Vietnam, hence the cheap price of 4500 VND (0,19$). And to think I stuffed myself with bread before leaving Brussels, thinking I’d never be able to eat any here. There’s even Babybel cheese, although comparatively so expensive (80.000 VND) that it’s displayed in a safe box with an anti-theft device. And another thing: in the fruits and vegetables section, you can help yourself with what you want (although I don’t know 80% of the encountered species), but you must separate each food in a different plastic bag, and then chaotically queue in front of a lady who will weigh your bags for you and label them with the price. Plastic is everywhere, and Saigon doesn’t really come off as being eco-friendly.
Gradually, the three of us empty our suitcases and choose a spot where to put our things. Of course we have way too much storage room, but we promise ourselves not to fill it as time goes by. Around 6pm, the sun sets as I’m cooking here for the first time: noodles with mushrooms, and it smells fantastic!
After a good night sleep in a so-comfortable bed, Anaïs rushes off into our bedroom, jumping up and down: let’s go the swimming pool! But we feel that our little girl is in desperate need of marks, limits and structure. We don’t want her to think that everything is allowed here despite the fact that we are much freer now than we used to. We decide to follow a routine: homeschooling in the morning, swimming pool at 11am, then lunch, nap time and after that a few activities in the late afternoon depending on the mood and the weather. She sulks a little bit at first, but as days go by she gets used to it and the edginess of the first days diminishes progressively. She is eager to make new friends though and I reassure her: the kids who she is playing with today will probably be back again tomorrow. And making friends takes time. She looks at me, pouting and says: And you? You don’t have friends either?’ My friends are in my heart, but there aren’t here yet. Perhaps one day…
A few days later, the structure has become a habit, the playmates have come back, confidence is built, as well as trust, and the tantrums have completely disappeared. Our daughter was naturally confused by the big change we are going through and she simply needed to be reassured. Homeschooling is going really well and her progress is already noticeable, but I’ll tell you more about that in another post.
We also needed structure, by the way. Alex is glad to have finally been able to install his drawing material, he started playing tennis again and found partners to play with: an Iranian man who’s been here for 8 months with his wife, and a Singaporean businessman who goes back home every week-end to see his wife and children. Alex also goes running on the treadmill at the gym quite regularly to keep fit in spite of all the delicious meals we eat. Because, folks, in case you haven’t noticed yet, Vietnamese food is dope!
As for me, I feel blessed by the Universe to be able to build the lifestyle that I dreamed of: yoga, meditation, homeschooling my daughter, personal and professional development, and I’m lucky to live in a new country where every little thing is exciting. A simple example of this: I did the laundry and hung the washing in the “laundry room”, which is more of a balcony in fact. It’s an awesome idea because the clothes aren’t in the way in the living room or in the bedroom: it dries on two metal bars hanging from the ceiling, which go up and down thanks to a handle. And since it’s pretty warm here, of course there is no need for a dryer. Another example is that I’ve finally found the vegetarian section at the supermarket, filled with foods I never knew even existed. I located them thanks to the word “chay”, which means vegetarian, vegan or vegetable, according to people’s mood. I’m also starting to say thank you (cam on) and hello (chao) in Vietnamese. With these three words, I can clearly survive here, don’t you think? Additionally, I’m cooking “local”, which is both unbelievable and delicious. Bye bye Brussel’s vegan Bolognese sauce, hello Saigon’s pho and fried noodles.
Now that our basic needs are fulfilled, and being a big fan of the Maps app, I have taken a look at the surrounding areas and I’ve noticed a few cafés and restaurants a few minutes away from here. There’s also a yoga studio with dancing classes for children, which seems like an excellent idea for Anais. So, next week, we will get some info from there and we will explore the world beyond our expat bubble, to get lost, like we did in D1, in the little alleys of Thao Dien. I’m growing with impatience, and I suppose you are too…
See you soon!