Little changes might seem barely noticeable, a droplet of water in a half-filled cup. This is a cliche so you know what I’ll say next: those droplets collectively fill up the cup, at some point overflowing it. Here are the little changes over time that aren’t so little anymore.
A couple of weeks ago, one of our beloved masons, Bling Mason, had to leave our worksite because of health complications. We nicknamed our new mason “Safari Mason”, after his safari hat. It was his first time working with foreign students, and it was our first time working with him. One of the things he taught us is “safaring” instead of “blinging” when we’re mixing concrete. Unlike “blinging” where we move the dry concrete on the outside into the water-filled hole on the inside, Safari uses a hoe or a shovel to make the hole larger. This is done by breaking a part of concrete near the hole, pushing it in to make a crevice, and letting the water fill it in. Actually, when we add water to concrete, the fluid mechanics are quite fascinating — for instance, you can see how water flow changes from turbulent to laminar as it fills in the hole. Nowadays we do a mix of safaring and blinging, normally safaring first and then blinging the dry outskirts.
Safari Mason has been communicating with us more at the worksite. Some of the things we say a lot at our worksite are “soupy soupy” and “poopy poopy”, both used to describe the texture of the concrete. For painting the walls, the concrete needs to be really wet to stick onto the wall against gravity. Therefore, “soupy soupy” is a great texture for that purpose. During one of the work days, Grant finally got Safari to say “soupy soupy”, and his next goal — yet to be achived — is to get him to say “poopy poopy”. Safari also said “Roy ok!” at the worksite once, and King Mason laughed really hard because “Roy” means “ok” (see “Do you even speak mason?”).
I can dedicate an entire blog post on coffee and smoothies, but I won’t go there. When I first had smoothies in Saigon, I pledged that I will drink as much smoothies as I can here because they’re fresh, delicious and cheap. Well, cheap is subjective. Smoothie in Saigon was under $2 which felt very cheap. Here in Quang Tri, a delicious mango or coconut smoothie is about 1 USD. My sense of money has changed. What felt cheap in Saigon now feel expensive after leaving in Quang Tri, in which the cost of living is significantly lower because Saigon is a crowded city. Getting a meal for $2 USD including a Coke or other drinks felt so cheap in Saigon (it’s actually quite hard to find a place that cheap there), but here it feels normal. I have gained a newfound gratitude for money here.
In fact, now that I’m back in Saigon, everything feels much more expensive. A smoothie in Quang Tri would cost 12,000 VND, here it is easily 30,000-40,000 VND. Even banh mi and other foods are much more expensive. Never have I thought that the day would come when I’d think paying $2 for a fresh, delicious smoothie would be expensive. Most concepts are relative, after all.
What else has changed? My phone has more music now, most of it EDM. I didn’t know that Vietnamese people loved EDM. Most of my students love EDM and listen to it a lot — when I asked what songs they wanted to perform for the culture show, almost all the songs they listed were EDM. I’ll write a separate post on the Culture Show and the Soccer Tournament, but it was refreshing in a way to find out the names of the songs that I have heard many times but didn’t necessarily know.
As I said, these are little changes. However, there is an entire series of changes that I will write more on: being loved by the community.