Friday, May 24, 2019

Vietnam (5): Personal Challenges

(*I started writing this on the 1st of May. It's taken me 3 weeks to write the second half. There's been a lot going on.*)

And now over a month has passed, and the (self-imposed) deadline has come and gone for another chapter in the Vietnam saga, and - in truth - I find myself at something of a loss on how to begin. 
I don't like to sound gloomy. I don't like to sound negative, or anything other than "sunshine-and-rainbows-and-butterflies!"
Conversely, I believe strongly in authenticity, for no good can ever come from lying to oneself.
So I waited. 

My soul has been uneasy, and this month has been a internal battle to focus on the good, to remain positive, and most importantly: to live in the NOW. 

I think this is a struggle which I've faced my whole life, though. I think it's one we all face. To not always be focused on the future, on the "what next?", on the "where to from here?" dilemma. To find peace in the current moment is profoundly difficult, and takes a great deal of mental strength and redirection whenever we stray off course. 
I am unspeakably lucky to have a partner who centres me when I need it, and this is something which I've noticed we do for each other when necessary. This relationship is unique for me though, because for the first time in my life I'm learning to trust the message, I'm really listening to and hearing the words, and I'm realigning myself and my attitude accordingly.

The flip-side of being in such a relationship, though, is that neither of us are really planners. We flow. We let the Universe lead us. Which is AMAZING when it's working, and life is calm, and your spirit is at peace.
But we're human. And humans have human emotions, and human thoughts, and human worries. 

I've peeled myself back from the brink of anxiety these past few weeks, because I was getting ahead of myself, and living in an uncertain future, and it was stressing me out. We weren't making money, then we weren't saving money, then we didn't know how long we could even stay, then we didn't know where we'd go to from here... So many questions, so much uncertainty.

But what a ridiculous statement that is to make: an "uncertain future". When is the future anything BUT uncertain?!?! We never know what's going to happen one second from now, no less a week or a month or a year from today! It's good to have an idea of where you want things to go, but I've never really been particularly good at THAT, either.

So: we're fiiiiiiiinally settling in here. 
It took a while. 
What we were NOT told before coming here (in several conversations about moving here that have since proved to be mis-informative and cavalier - but that's an entirely different matter that I shan't expound on further), was that the Lunar New Year began 3 weeks after we arrived. That's basically the equivalent of Christmas break in the Western world - the country shuts down for 3 weeks. No-one is hiring at the end of the year, no places are available for rent in this coastal town as they're taken up by holiday-makers, there is no money to be made, everything is winding down to the end of the year. 
So we were stuck in limbo for the first 3 weeks, then for another 3 weeks during the actual holiday, and only after that could we go about finding a place to stay and earning a living. So, in effect, our first 2 months here were something of an extended and entirely unplanned and unintended holiday. Thank goodness for savings. An unexpected payout from a providence fund that I didn't even know I'd been paying into for the past two years at my school in S.A. saved us.
(A handful of unforeseen financial setbacks happened just before we left home: Shaun's 6-month contract which was due to end in December was suddenly cut to a 3-month contract because the construction company ran out of funds, so he went unpaid for 3 months, his unemployment insurance got stuck/lost/buried in the black hole that is South African bureaucracy, his car gave out on him and he had to spend over 2000 US$ getting it running again,  I had to spend 1500 US$ at the dentist... 
Just... life, really.
But damn.)

Finding work here was not hard for me, because of my years of experience, and my teaching qualifications. But there are still only so many hours in a day that you CAN work here. You sell your hours, so you build up your own schedule as best you can, picking up work wherever you can to fill up the time.
It's all after-hours work though: English lessons for when the children are not at their regular schools. If you're lucky, you find an hour and a half 2 or 3 nights a week, the rest is full weekend shifts: 3 or 4 classes of an hour and a half each, Saturdays and Sundays. There are some kindergarten jobs where you work about an hour and a half every Monday to Friday at 8 a.m, but these are harder to come by, and are usually run really unprofessionally.

It's been harder for Shaun. He's never done this before, and teaching is NOT easy. He's also competing with MANY (how did we all get here?) other inexperienced and unqualified South Africans - who aren't considered by some schools to even be native English speakers at all. 

So it's been a struggle since we got here, on several levels - not only in keeping financially afloat. Things keep changing, employers are fickle, promises aren't kept, you're told to wait a few weeks, and when the few weeks are up, the whole playing-field has changed. Work has been unstable since we arrived, which leaves one feeling at odds in a new life, in a new, foreign country.
Even for me, though: no sooner did my schedule settle down and fill out nicely, when suddenly the summer vacation began! My adults that I was teaching at the University are on summer break, that course is done. My Grade 3 English classes at the public school are done until the school reopens in September. I've lost half of my teaching hours in this past month. Just like that. Snap! 

Luckily, Shaun's started working at the language centre where I work on the weekends, and they love him there. His schedule's filling up, and we've both been promised some extra hours from them during the June-August summer school programme, as they create more classes for the kids who'll be on holiday. 
Luckily, too, it's not that expensive to live here. We're making it work.
But the constant ups and downs have been putting a strain on us individually. How very lucky we are that ours is a relationship built, ultimately, on respect - when the dust settles, we listen to each other, we hear each other, and we make adjustments. It's been an amazing experience for us both, and we often marvel in gratitude at how we're traversing the challenges of life here together. 

Our stress was further exacerbated by the sudden changes with regards visa regulations - we came here with the intention of staying for a year, maybe two - when suddenly we didn't know if we'd even be able to stay beyond our initial 3-month visa! No-one had any answers, no-one knew for sure. There were a few tense weeks when it felt like we might have to suddenly pack up all of our stuff and make a hasty return home to S.A - and who knows what we'd do there midway through the year! - or quickly think of somewhere else to move to. This only intensified the strained financial situation - flights might need to be bought, arrangements might need to be made, no time, no time, no time! 

It also affected our social lives, and our interactions with new friends. If you're suddenly faced with the prospect of having to leave in a matter of days, you're less inclined to go out and make friends with new people, to get to know the local expat community, to start laying down roots that you'll just have to rip out before the month is up. And we weren't really in the right frame of mind to make new friends: we were worried, overwhelmed, lost in limbo.
We decided instead to enjoy our time together alone while we had it: in our beautiful home overlooking the sea. We went walking on the beach, swimming in the ocean, shopping at the market, cooking meals and enjoying them together. We nested in our first ever home together, for as long as we would be able to, not knowing how long that would be.

But, as it turns out, we've been granted another 3 months here, and it seems we'll be able to keep renewing for a while yet. Fingers crossed!
So, finally, we've been able to exhale. To let our hair down, and ease into making a life here.
To relax into the adventure.

And the last few weeks have been wonderful. I've accepted that horrific karaoke music can and will invade my life from time to time, sometimes even at 6 a.m, either from neighbours or from nearby restaurants. I've accepted that the construction crews directly in front of our apartment building have 2 shifts and work throughout the night, smashing and banging and clanging and pouring cement at all hours. (Earplugs are my new best friends.) I've learned to live with it. I've changed my focus.
Instead, I've begun to watch the full moon rising over the sea , to enjoy the pink candyfloss sunsets, to marvel at how the sea changes colour every day...

We've been meeting some truly stellar people, forging warm and comfortable friendships, and relishing being invited to pool parties, get-togethers, Girls' Nights and Boys' Nights... 
With the luxury of time now, we're no longer living with an internal ticking clock. The pace of life has slowed, and that's a large factor in why we came here in the first place.

We've found our rhythm again, and now we get to enjoy the dance.

  Public holiday pool day fun!

Candyfloss sunsets from our balcony 

 Candyfloss sunsets from our balcony

Sunset strolls on the promenade

My Guy. xx

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