I leave work early on Monday to attempt to get this emergency cash which has gone from being an exciting adventure to a somewhat tedious. I ask my colleague if they can explain to the taxi driver where I want to go & assume after quite a long & drawn out conversation that this has been done. I think we have made it maybe 100 metres before the taxi driver turns to me saying something in Vietnamese. I have learnt quickly that this is pretty standard; I get in, say where you want to go, the driver appears to understand but what actually happens is that then I spend the trip directing using a mixture of broken Vietnamese & google maps. This journey was no different, except surprisingly I managed to navigate all the way there without any google map help. (And as a side note – apart from the time google maps tried to take me through a swamp & lake it has been pretty indispensable at helping me to get around)
I arrive at the bank go in, have no idea what I am supposed to do, thankfully a nice security man pulls a ticket out of a machine – like the kind you get on the deli counter in the supermarket, then rushes over offering it to me, whilst gesturing to sit down. I sit down with the other people waiting, there are screens that tell you which numbers are being served just like Argos I am thinking, when a woman walks in completely ignoring all of this orderly, organised, structured, somewhat British system and confidently bypasses the security guard & ticket, marching straight to the desk of her choice, with absolutely no challenge from anyone. I am sure I grumble out loud..
It takes a really long time before it gets to my number, I anxiously approach the counter & explain to the lady that I need to collect a Western Money transfer. She looks up at me & says ‘sorry’ not as a question just that one singular word – ‘sorry’ and I think oh God they don’t do it, why is she sorry, what is she sorry for, but before this has a chance to escalate to total meltdown status she has asked me for all my details.
2 forms, several photocopies and a series of questioning that would be satisfactory for the likes of MI5, and I have been ushered over to the cashier to collect my money. She comes over with me, it feels like she is keeping an eye and making sure it’s all proper and correct. Needless to say the man in front of me has drawn out what seems like BILLIONS of Dong and is counting every single note, still, I feel less anxious knowing I have made it through all of the tests and all I have to do is wait to collect my money. Soon enough it’s my turn, the machine counts out the money, she then hands it to me and asks me to count it again, I do. I put it in a bag inside a bag, and as I get up to leave she says ‘be careful….. thank you, have a nice day’ I suppose $500 of Dong is quite a lot of money to walking around with in a country where that is more than enough to survive on very comfortable for a month, I think…. and promptly walk straight into the glass door so hard that it rebounds me a good metre backwards across the bank to gasps of horror. I think I shake my head in the recoil, take a deep breathe and attempt the door again. After all of the excitement of the last few days, I am not going to let a door ruin my adventures, so I pull the handle this time, and I am FREE, free from the bank, with some money in my pocket, all of which I managed to sort out by myself with a little help from Jessica in Miami, Florida……
So the first thing you forget or perhaps underestimate is how used to having a car we all are. Yes there is a sort of romanticism around this ideal, much the same as not having a mobile phone, but I tell you what, you try buying everything you need so you can move into your new house, in a different country, whilst living only 10 minutes away in 1 day, without a car. It should be a lot easier than it actually is, it’s fucking intense! I think I had 3 round trips on foot between the serviced apartment and the house. Then a taxi to and from a bigger super market, then a taxi to and from the Vietnamese Ikea (yep even here as apparently NOONE ELSE SELLS CURTAINS – REMEMBER THE CURTAINS THAT I HAVE NONE OF) then a taxi to the house, and I was just going to abandon it all but I couldn’t do it. Brief stop for some Thai ‘fast food’….
So at 3am when the 2 pairs of curtains I had managed to buy were up, the bedding was on my bed, there were a couple of bits in the fridge and I had got out some essentials ready for day 1, I put the giant backpack back on and walked down the rainy tree lined street and across the bridge rewarding myself with a kit kat ice cream, to get a couple of hours shut eye before I walked back to the house to be collected by the bus for my first day at work in this new world of mine….
I really wanted to capture the moment when he turned round and gave me a big toothless grin and thumbs up for getting it to work but he was too fast!!!
Anyway… So I rearrange my luggage, putting what I really need in one case for the apartment.
The driver had been outside the whole time unbeknown to me, parked quietly behind the hedge. At 4:30pm he moved the car forward so I could see it. He drove me over to the Crescent, helped me out with my case and waved me off, I go to the reception where I am told there is no reservation for me, I suppose I don’t really feel surprised, just tired & I want a shower. A phone call to the admin manager reveals I had been dropped at the wrong place; (the crescent is sprawling, almost Vegas-esque in its size) I am then escorted through a maze of dark corridors – the lights only come on at 5pm, past the gym, which I am dying to try out, to a lady with a walkie talkie who takes over from security and insists on dragging my case down the hall and into the lobby. They take my passport, check me in, escort me to my room and there I am.
It’s a funny feeling, I suppose you could become overwhelmed if you allow yourself to, especially when you are exhausted from traveling and the general sleep deprivation the last 12 months or so has provided. I try to make a list, I realise I am too tired to even be able to do this. I can’t work out what to do. Washing. Yes something nice and normal. I put the washing on and walk down to the supermarket, I want to cook and collapse on the sofa, shower and sleep in whichever order happens first.
I speak to my beloveds to let them know I am there and safe, I try to watch the Mens Derby but I am too tired, I am soon fast asleep.
It rained in the night, it’s still cloudy and grey, it’s Sunday and I am on a mission, I need to be able to live in this house by Monday. I write a series of lists, work out the amount of times I need to go back and forth, where I think I need to go, what I need to buy. It’s going to be a challenge. I get the first load of stuff into JJ’s giant backpack, put on an outfit more appropriate to CrossFit, but I am thinking – moisture wicking, and man it’s hot already. I try to leave the reception, this in itself causes bedlam as I am carrying many things. Many not heavy things for a half mile walk I should add. I do the wavy no thanks I’m fine hand and face and march out determined.
I am sure I slump visibly when I get out of sight of the reception, maybe from the enormity of what’s to come, maybe because I am genuinely pretty bloody tired…Gladiators ready…..