I’m a review reader, I love to hear what other people have to say about their experiences in a place. I enjoy the pictures and the stories and peoples points of view. However, I’m never captivated by a review and a photo can be altered to change its reality. I’m always open minded so I can be left to form my own experiences and opinions. I had read the reviews for Loc Phat Hoi An Garden Villa and they were nothing short of impressive with all but raving appraisals. I was excited to meet the family I would be living with for the next month and I couldn’t wait to see the garden. I had no idea just how special this place is, until I arrived.
As I walked down the cobble stone entry I felt like I had entered a spa because of its calm and tranquility. I already felt relaxed. The stone walls create an intimacy that blankets you in the most welcoming way. I was greeted by two beautiful Vietnamese woman with the most friendly smiles. One introduced herself and already I felt like I was in the comforts of a home. I was ushered to sit down, drop my bags and was given a cold glass of fresh passion fruit juice. As I sat and enjoyed my juice I was taken aback at just how quiet it was. I must have only taken fifteen steps from the busy Cua Dai street, how was it so quiet back here? The calming music of a Buddhist shrine was soothingly singing a song of prayer in the background and I could hear the cool breeze rustling through the large palms that were woven throughout the garden. I was jostled from my peaceful trance by my lovely new Vietnamese friend as she grabbed one of my bags and showed me into my room. She was sweet enough to point out the AC, because it’s bloody hot here and she had so kindly come and turned it on while I had sat in the garden. I thanked her and wanted to hug her because she was so genuinely adorable, and her smile made me feel like we had been friends forever. She quickly became one of my favorites in the following days.
I settled in and took a look around. Two cold bottles of water had been left for me, which is very thoughtful. It’s those little things that tickle me. The room was tastefully decorated in a modern fashion with black shelving and tiled floors throughout. The walls were painted a light yellow color that made me feel happy and bright. I was delighted to see that each of the light fixtures was covered with a lantern in true Hoi An style. The ensuite bathroom and shower were functional and updated with all needed toiletries. The room boasted huge windows that allow ample amounts of light throughout the entire day. At night the thick curtains offered me all the privacy I needed. The room had a king size bed, which made me the happiest I have been in a very long time. All I could think about was rolling around on the bed, because I’ve been sleeping on uncomfortable twin beds in dorms for too long now. I could absolutely get used to this.
I unpacked some of my things and didn’t really know what to do with myself. It was a little past noon and I was hoping I didn’t miss lunch with the family. I didn’t know if I was supposed to go find out what time lunch was or if they would come get me. I wasn’t starving and I’m no good at being pushy or assertive. So, I decided I would just enjoy my space until further notice. Honestly, I was just loving the bed and the AC. I was so excited when one of the girls came to get me for lunch. I followed her to the restaurant like a kindergartener following a teacher to recess.
Something I love and admire about the Vietnamese culture is that they eat family style. They set all the food in the middle of the table and then they feast. Anytime someone goes to fill the rice in their bowl they fill everyone’s at the table as well. They are so thoughtful and kind and always make sure that I have more than enough to eat. The younger girls speak a tiny bit of English, but the older women don’t speak any. I have loved every meal I have had the privilege of sharing with these woman. Even though I don’t understand their language, I love to just listen and watch them talk. I’m delighted by their expressions and laughter. Sometimes I catch them staring at me, so I look back at them, and they just giggle. I know it’s because they want to ask me questions to get to know me, but they don’t know how. Or maybe they’re making fun of me, who knows. It makes my heart full because they are the sweetest and most genuine people.
After lunch that day, I went back to my room, simply for lack of better things to do. I hadn’t been given any instructions or work at this point and wasn’t really sure what I should be doing with myself. I took some photos because I knew I could use them to build the social media sights. I also logged onto their websites to see what they had going on and read some more reviews. I started reading a few social media books for new and fresh ideas, while jotting notes about how to grow their social sights. By late afternoon I had to get out, so I made a decision to head into the city center to get some dinner. As I was leaving, I got a message from Rocky, the owner, asking if I could teach the girls English, right now.
So here’s the thing guys, I’ve never taught English before. Don’t worry I was completely honest and upfront about this in my interview. Brendan, who interviewed me, said not a problem, and that he would show me the ropes. In my head, I’m thinking that means there’s some kind of curriculum, and It’s easy and straight forward. I had a meeting the following day with Brendan so he could go over this with me. Apparently, there was a lack of communication. But if you know me, then you know I’m always up for a challenge. So I headed out to teach English with no experience, no supplies, no curriculum, no lesson plan and zero clues as to what I was doing. Mind you, the last time I was in a classroom myself was 15 years ago.
So, I’m sure you can guess that it didn’t go well. I was completely embarrassed and unprepared, but I just rolled with it. I used my google translator on my phone to ask the girls what they were most interested in learning. I didn’t know any of their skill levels or how much English they actually knew. How am I supposed to put together a lesson if I don’t even know where their skill levels are? I have no info as to what the last volunteer taught them. I got nothing. Literally. Class lasted about ten minutes with conversations via google translator and I promised to put together a lesson plan for next time. At least now I knew some of their interests and what they wanted to learn about. I can work with that. I think.
I ran out of there as fast as I could. Honestly, I was freaking out a bit, because I don’t know how to teach English. I thought there would be a teachers guide. I had no idea I would be completely winging it. It was essential that I go clear my head. I didn’t want to be disappointed by this opportunity, I needed to change my mindset. I walked all the way down to old town which took a good twenty minutes and gave me time to reflect. I found a little restaurant on the water and ordered a beer and a pizza. I wanted to be celebrating not freaking out. Side note, I was very excited to have pizza and be able to take the leftovers home for breakfast, because now I had a mini fridge in my room. I’m a simple kind of person.
As I sat enjoying a gorgeous sunset, I chatted with a lovely French family sitting next to me and started to relax. I got this, I really do. This hurdle can’t get me down, and after dinner I was feeling much better. I got my leftover pizza to go and headed back to the homestay. I took the long route through the busy streets of Old Hoi An and took photos of all the beautifully lit lanterns. By the time I got back I was ready to call it a night. I headed to my room and was closing the curtains for the night and found a giant spider hanging out in my curtains. I tried not to freak out. It had disappeared somewhere and I just started pacing back and forth, reassuring myself that it was going to be ok. When I finally settled down, I took a shower and got ready for bed. I had almost forgotten about the spider, until I went to turn off the light, and there it was on the wall right next to the light switch. Almost as if it wanted to remind me it was still there.
I snapped a photo and sent it to the owner Rocky. I just wanted to know it wasn’t poisonous. He laughed via message and told me it was harmless. I situated my mosquito net more securely than necessary and used a pen to turn the light off. Then I tried desperately to think about my giant king size bed and nothing else.
The next day I received my schedule for work. It was 6 days of teaching, two classes a day, with random thrown in classes with the owners youngest when I was free. I really didn’t think I was hired as a full time English teacher, and that’s definitely not what was advertised or what was discussed in my interviews. But again, you give me a challenge, I’ll be damned if I don’t overcome it. So I got into full on English teacher mode. Thank god for Pinterest, life saver. Thanks Mom for the suggestion, you angel. However, I’m truly sorry to anyone who follows me on Pinterest (Dad that means you). I’m sure that was extremely annoying having me flood your feed with boring ESL pins. That’s unfortunate.
The next week I put in a lot of hours of work. Not because I had to, but because I wanted to be good. I didn’t want to be a bullshit teacher. I was reading, researching and note taking all day, everyday. It consumed all my time. I was doing two, sometimes three hours of teaching per day and then ten hours of research and planning. This was turning out to be way more work than I had signed up for. I wanted to take a job and settle down so I could work on my blog and start the process of monetizing it. However, at the end of my days I was brain fried and the last thing I wanted to do was blog. And where was all this content writing and social media work that I was excited about?
At the end of that week Brendan messaged me wanting to meet for a marketing meeting, but clearly I didn’t have time for that. I was drowning in the land of English teaching. He asked me to send him my schedule and I did. He said I wasn’t hired to be a full time English teacher (uh thank you). So he had a chat with Rocky and they took me down to 4 English classes per week. I felt like I could breath again. At our marketing meeting I was given my jobs of writing content, shooting photography, as well as growing the social media sights. Now I was getting excited!
After our meeting that night, I decided to go out. I hadn’t left the homestay in over a week and was starting to feel a little suffocated by my own space. Not to mention, I hadn’t had a drink in over a week, which is a record for me. I grabbed a bike from the homestay and headed out to find a beer and hopefully do a little blogging. On the same street as my homestay I found a little Cuban bar called Havana and headed inside. They played awesome music with Latin American flare, had a wide range of Western and Vietnamese food and cold beers were only 45 cents. You read that right! I also thought I was mistaken, but after returning several times, I now believe it.
This fantastic Cuban bar has become my main spot. I’m absolutely in love with the two Vietnamese guys that run the place. They don’t own it, but they are there everyday. They speak fantastic English, serve and bartend like they are in America, and since getting to know me, they almost always give me a free beer. The food isn’t the best, but their company makes me not care. In the last week I have gotten to know them very well. I want to kidnap them and bring them back to the States with me. Don’t be surprised if I come home with 17 new husbands.
I have found myself a regular at one coffee shop in particular. It is also on the same street as my homestay and offers fantastic WiFi, as well as AC. They serve amazing coconut coffees and in the morning they play EDM music and I’m known to sing along. Just a block down the road from the coffee shop is my favorite tea shop, where it can get pretty rowdy and they have a resident dog that likes to bark. They have AC, which is great, but I usually can’t get much work done here. I’m sure this has something to do with the barking dog. Does that bother anyone else? Thank god the dog is cute. Now I don’t go to work there, I just go for the tea and dog snuggles.
So before I wrap this up I want to tell you more about Charlotte. That’s my semi pet spider. We didn’t have a long relationship, it’s my fault not hers. I couldn’t kill her because I don’t have that kind of heart, plus she’s bigger than me. So I forgot about her, and I didn’t see her for a few days. Then one day I went to take a shower and there she was in the shower with me. She was staring at me, to the point where I was starting to feel self conscious. I kept picturing her jumping on me like a sexual predator. Anyways, I quickly finished my shower while talking to myself about this problem, cause who else am I supposed to talk to? I went to bed and the next morning she was gone from the shower. Not knowing where she is creeps me out even more. So, that morning I go to clean out my coffee grinds into my bag I keep them in (yes, I make my own coffee in my room), and there she is. I throw the bag, because she scares me, as she always does. She’s so intimidating and I don’t know how to deal with it. It was then that I made the decision to cut it off, once and for all. I tied the bag up, double knotted it and threw it in the garbage. I know this makes some of you angry, and for that I am sorry. Here’s my last photo of her in my shower. R.I.P. Charlotte.
SO, now you know why I’ve gone MIA. But, lucky you, I’ve got my series called Diaries of a Hoi An ex-pat coming your way in the next few weeks. I’ll be detailing some of my more exciting adventures through this beautiful town that I’m enjoying calling home.
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