I loved the narrow three story house tucked away at the end of the alley where we lived in Ho Chi Minh city,Vietnam. Three of my co-teachers and I shared this house, in one of the Northern Suburbs, far away from the touristy areas of the city. This was the perfect place to experience the culture as I did my shopping at the local fruit and veggie market, spent afternoons at the local coffee shops with my book and tried out all the local dishes sold in the area. Doing this forced me to learn Vietnamese as there weren’t a lot of people in the area who could speak or understand English.
The house where we lived was huge as each one of us had a massive on suite room and if you were lucky a small balcony. Downstairs we had a kitchen slash TV room and even a small living room which we used as a garage during the rainy season so that our bikes could stay dry. Going up the winding staircase my room was on the first floor with a small balcony, the ideal place to sit and chill on a hot summers night.
At the end of the alley there was a small Cau Dai pagoda so most evenings and even at 4am in the morning we would be greeted by gongs and the ohm-ming of the worshipers. The first night this happened I jumped up and thought someone was attacking us. It took a few weeks for me to got used to these gongs and ohms at 4am and before I could sleep through them.
During the summer months Ho Chi Minh city is hot, humid and even sticky, making having an air-conditioning unit in ones bedroom a necessity. Unfortunately mine broke down and they could only come and fix it later that week, so I had to find other ways of cooling down for the next couple of nights. That first night I had a cold shower and lay down on my bed with balcony doors open to cool down in the breeze. I had every intention of getting dressed and closing the doors before going to sleep, but unfortunately that didn’t happen.
Something woke me up in the early morning hours and as I sat up there was a small Vietnamese guy crouched next to my bed. As soon as he realized that I was awake he stood up holding my handbag and camera in one hand and my mobile phone in the other.
“You Ba&!?*d” I shouted as I got up and jumped onto this little unwanted night visitor. This caught him totally of guard and he didn’t know what to do.
I started hitting the guy, screaming at him to get out of my room and leave my stuff alone. I was definitely not going to let him get away with my things without putting up a fight. This little guy must have been just as scared as I was as he looked like he was trying to run for his life from this crazy, half naked woman attacking him.
I got him to drop my handbag and camera but he was stronger than me so pushed me off of him. Not one to give up, I jumped back up and continued to hit and scratch at this little Vietnamese visitor as he fought to get to the balcony. Pushing me away one last time, he made his getaway by jumping down from the balcony onto the street. He must have hurt himself in the landing and I was not one bit sorry about that.
He was hobbling down the alleyway as I stood on my balcony shouting some last departing remarks at him.
I did then realize that this must look quite a sight having this half naked foreigner standing on her balcony shouting in a strange language. So I calmly turned around, closed the balcony doors and got dressed before going down to make myself a cup of tea.