There were times of course when nothing happened, though it always felt like something was about to happen, or had just happened; times when he would not do much at all, except sit on his balcony, looking down the very Vietnamese lane at men knocking down and rebuilding a three storey house with amazing rapidity and very little equipment other than a winch, a wheelbarrow and a few sledge hammers – lean, dark skinned, sinewy men who seemed to be able work ten hours a day in sweltering heat with hardly a break, knocking down walls, swinging off scaffolding, no helmets or high viz vests for them; or looking down at the street food stall on the corner of the lane, with its never ending stream of locals pulling up on motorbikes, sitting down on small, red plastic stools, expertly shovelling noodles, vegetables, meat into their mouths with chopsticks; or looking across to the beach road, where, for several weeks, police cavalcades sped up and down, sirens blaring, in preparation for the arrival of APEC, and Trump and Merkel who would be ferried to the luxury resorts up the road, past hastily erected billboards which screened off the swathes of idle wasteland in case the illustrious got the wrong impression of this never resting country; or spending an hour and a half doing a lesson plan for an hour and a half hour lesson, wondering why he bothered because he was pretty sure most of the other teachers didn’t, and would the students notice the difference anyway, and why didn’t he just put on YouTube videos for an hour or more, the way he had heard some did, and you didn’t get paid for lesson planning anyway; or wondering what his mysterious landlady was up to, with her new born baby whose father was apparently Canadian, but was not on the scene, and she disappeared to Saigon and Phnom Penh on a regular basis, but he had to say, whenever anything needed fixing she got someone onto it and made sure they did a good job before she paid them and you wouldn’t want to mess with her; or going to LotteMart to do his weekly shop, jousting with the busloads of Koreans who filled up their trolleys with packets of nuts, biscuits, chocolates, pretzels, crisps and a million things in shiny plastic bags, and wheeled the trolley through the checkout to husband or wife waiting with an empty suitcase which they would then fill with their booty; or just wondering, what was he doing here, in this strange country, which was not a country for old men.
In between things happening
with amazing rapidity
Copyright Mike Hopkins 2018
Image: Mike Hopkins – Alley in Phu Quoc
(Some / most of these could be rightly described as “chopped up text”. But that’s how first drafts often look.)