In Which We Slay the Hydra

1 Mar

Z takes aim with an M60, Cu Chi TunnelsWe have won the long division war!

Once Z started humming the theme tune to 2001 at volume, I knew we were going to be OK.

“My god,” I said. “Is that 2001?”

“Yes,” he said. “I feel like I’ve made a great accomplishment. And it’s not 2001. It’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

“Whatever,” I said. “It’s not far off the invention of fire.”

“I feel that way too,” he said, pen hovering over some tedious carrying operation. “Was it the invention of fire in 2001: A Space Odyssey?”

“I think so,” I said. “I think it was a lyrical flashback through human accomplishments, in particular the invention of fire.”

“Oh really?” he says, then begins a lengthy disquisition on precisely how they communicate the invention of fire in Spore, a favoured computer game, now left behind in the UK.

I zone out shortly after the man throws the stick until he begins explaining how when you get pairs of different species you have to “put them in a cage and make them kiss, and then they lay eggs” and my mind flips to the discussions around the storyboarding table which ended up with that piece of game play.

Anywise, lessons on the bus seem to work. As Z put it, “There’s no distractions, so we just have to get on with it.”

Drilling on times tables and long division hadn’t figured anywhere in any of my planning, or our pre-trip “bad things to expect and deal with when you get to them” chats.

Tummy upsets? Yes. Hideous bus journeys? Yes. Getting stuck in the middle of bloody nowhere and wanting to die? Oh yes. Homesickness? Indeedy. But, really, not long division. Or chanting.

Our travel schedule has needed to work around Skyping with Z’s dad, grandparents, friends and family on Sundays, and formal education on Monday, plus the vicissitudes of local transport.

Two sets of imaginary night buses later (Battambang to Ho Chi Minh City, which is advertised but rarely runs, and Ho Chi Minh City to Mui Ne, which someone we met was convinced existed but which drew blank stares all over town), and I am lying in bed marvelling at how light it is for before 6am, listening to the cocks crowing, and wondering at how folk in Saigon get up and about even earlier on a Sunday than they do in rural Cambodia.

Half an hour’s pleasant drowsiness later, and it dawns on me that the alarm has failed to go off, we have missed the morning bus, and project “educate in transit” has to begin forthwith, or we will be trying to do schoolwork by a pool.

What worked? Pen and paper. Start with three digits, no carrying, no remainders. Add in carrying. Progress up to four digits, chuck in correct placement of zeroes, and remainders. Wrap up with six digits so that we both know he’s really got it.

Oddly, I think the thing which really helped was getting him to dictate the solutions to me. Once he had to tell me where to put the answer, where to put the working, what to put in each column etc., he could do it himself just like clockwork.

Like clockwork, I guess.

So here we are, safely in Mui Ne, and I am genuinely very proud of him for persevering.

After Saigon, which was wonderful, vibrant, full of history, full of great people, full of great food, yet hectic as hell and so polluted the air makes your eyes weep, it’s lovely to be on the beach.

Mui Ne is a sort of fairy-lit ribbon, stretching out along the beach and the coast road. We’re staying at a place called Hai Yen, on the water, with a pool, palms, loungers, and all that jazz. Out of town there are white dunes you can toboggan down, using those plastic roll-ups kids use in Scandinavia, and red dunes with wild horses, a lotus pond, and something called the Fairy Stream.

I am really looking forward to it. And we’ll be doing our Vietnam War topic on the bus heading up to Hoi An.

His Skype mood messages proudly announces that he has “CONQURED LONG DIVISION! (party)”. Having slain the Hydra that is long division, I am not sure I am ready to tackle the Cerberus of spelling.

2 Responses to “In Which We Slay the Hydra”

  1. Caroline at 12:39 am #

    I read this while listening to the theme tune from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Hooray for conkering long divition!

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