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Published: December 19th 2021
In 2010 I was still teaching at the American International School in HCMC. Here is the Xmas letter I sent out to friends:
Dear Overseas Friend(s)
When I sent out my 2009 Xmas encyclical, I was struggling to cope with a deranged boss. Well, he jumped ship last February, before they could sack him, and was replaced by a kindergarten-trained German lady with no previous experience of running a High School. She is a workaholic but directs her energy into some pretty useless channels and is too egotistical to seek advice. However, she is passably competent, which means I am probably saddled with her for as long as I remain at AIS (American International School) – which may be a long long time.
My attempts to find employment at another, better, school in Saigon have, for a second year running, come to naught. Maybe my cv needs an overhaul. Perhaps I am being too honest when I write that my one remaining ambition in life is “to settle down with a beautiful young Vietnamese noodle heiress.” More probably, I am disadvantaged by my age (a venerable 59 this month) and by not being one half of a teaching couple. The Saigon school I had high hopes of – SSIS – told me they were only interested in teaching couples. So, I’d better add “qualified teacher” to my ideal lady’s list of attributes.
Saigon continues to be a comfortable and exciting place to live in. Not that I ever do anything exciting; my life runs, more or less, on well-oiled tramlines. On Mondays I go for a drink and an Indian meal with a friend. On Tuesdays I go for an Indian meal and a drink with another friend and then play 9-ball pool. On Wednesdays I go for a drink and an Indian meal with completely different friends. On Thursdays I visit the Czech Brewery with yet more friends. On Fridays I greet my girlfriend, Thuy, who has travelled by bus from the boondocks of An Giang province, and we spend a quiet weekend together (no Indian food, no beer, no pool and no friends).
My travels this year have been unremarkable, except for last July’s visit to the Palawan archipelago in the Philippines. It’s a natural paradise and very quiet. I spent my time on the beach and in the water. Highly recommended.
On the culture front, I read one outstanding book – The Last Great Fight, a study of Mike Tyson’s first defeat, in 1989, at the hands of James Buster Douglas. Movie of the year was Avatar. Musical discovery of the year was Skin Deep by Buddy Guy, who, at 72, plays the blues with the freshness and energy of a 20-year-old.
On the writing front, I earned £60 from the Guardian Weekly for my Vietnam piece The Purple Marks of Belonging. As usual, they did a hatchet job on my finely honed masterpiece. If you fancy reading it, just google ‘Kevin Mulqueen Guardian Weekly’.
By far my greatest achievement of 2010 was taking Thuy’s extended family – 27 of them (she has 7 sisters) – in two private buses to Dalat. These poor country folk had never been anywhere in their lives and, out of all the places on Earth, most wanted to visit the Vietnamese hill-station of Dalat. So I took them there for three nights. Dalat is at altitude, and these people had never been above the sea level of their native Mekong Delta. The cool temperature meant that every day became an orgy of pullover- and glove-buying. We visited the beauty spots, rode the cable-car, ate, drank and made merry. (I’ve attached a group photo, taken outside the last Emperor of Vietnam’s summer palace. Thuy is third from the left at the back.)
Speaking of merry, I wish you all CHUC MUNG GIANG SINH (Merry Xmas)!
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