***This blog is more serious and somber then previous posts / future posts will be***
My first full week in Vietnam has been an exercise in turbulent adjustment to a new place, a new culture, and a new mode of being. The job search is tedious and not particularly fruitful at the moment, as the Lunar New Year (known in Vietnam as Tet) quickly approaches, and not many places are hiring teachers until after the holiday passes.
The past week was spent getting to know the winding packed streets of Tay Ho, with a couple ventures out into the even more chaotic parts of the city. It was also spent trying new foods, such as snails, tofu, various fish, and several dishes which I’m not quite sure of the content, along with finding refuge in several Western restaurants I would opt for when the thought of more noodles made me shiver.
Life is different in Hanoi (duh). In America, people like to say life moves super fast in places like New York, or moves slower down in the South, or marches backwards in our nations capital. In Hanoi, life moves at whichever pace you please (except for the streets, life moves a million miles per hour when in traffic). If you want to take a relaxing stroll and spend a full day casually exploring Tay Ho, the Old Quarter, or any of the dozens of beautiful temples which speckle the city, that is an option. Or you can elect to go into the heart of the Old City, or frequent the massive markets where dozens of vendors zealously display the goods they have for sale. You can sit quietly at night along the bank of Tay Ho and watch the lights of the city dance across the water, or you can trek to the source of the lights and find a wild night filled with the most aggressive house music you will ever hear.
I am in the midst of discovering and adjusting to a new place, but also a new way of being. It’s no secret that I loved Tulane and everyone there, along with my friends from high school, and of course my family (and above all else my dogs), and I had grown accustomed to always having someone to hang out with. Friends to go out and do anything with, or to sit around and do nothing with. Unsurprisingly I have not yet found such a constant community in Vietnam, but moreover I am realizing that I shouldn’t strive for that same dynamic. I need to become more independent, comfortable with going to a new place on my own and confident that I will be able to have a good time, whether I meet new people and make new friends at any given place. This adjustment is more difficult to make than the lack of chicken nuggets, although just barely.
This is not to say I have not been having my share of fun in Vietnam. I have made friends, met some great people, and done some very interesting things. I have indulged in the ubiquitous presence of fifty cent beers. I went and saw live music on Saturday night, and plan to do so several times this upcoming week too. I witnessed a people rejoice in the victory of Vietnam’s U-23 soccer team over Iraq. I have been making memories, learning lessons, and enjoying myself fully.
This upcoming week looks to be a good one. My friend Quentin arrives in Hanoi this evening and will be here through Tuesday, and I am extremely excited to see a familiar face. I also look forward to waking up at 3 this (morning? evening?) to watch the Patriots compete in the AFC Championship game. I know Tom Brady’s hand has been injured this week, but worry not, for I visited a Buddhist temple yesterday and prayed for his wellbeing. The many-armed God Avalokiteśvara assured me that Tom Brady would be alright, and that God knows hands.
I soldier forward in Hanoi with a new understanding of the challenges I face, but excited for said challenge nonetheless.
Below you will find this week’s Vlog. I assure you all that I am having more fun than the reflection at the end would suggest. The narration contains my thoughts and realizations about the full difficulty of the task I have undertaken on this voyage.