Life continues to move along in Hanoi. I am fully back in a routine, waking up and scurrying to the gym in the morning between bouts of rain, struggling at yoga and even back in the weight room finally. Afternoons remain long and devoid of much sustenance, as the all too frequent downpours make the outdoors an unpleasant place to be most days. I am back in a “save money” mode as the days until an armada of friends arrive dwindle. Within two weeks from today, seven friends will have arrived and we will be off on an adventure across Northern Vietnam. While I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about who is coming and how excited I am to see each person, I don’t think the gravity of the visit has hit me yet. I’ve been out here seeing a friend or two from home every now and again. Soon, I will be overwhelmed by a bevy of buddies.
While I looked into taking the squad towards central Vietnam to get a better survey of the country, the timing and pricing and logistics did not work out. I thought planning my trip with Cailin in June was intense, but that was just two people. Even conceptualizing getting seven people from Hanoi to central Vietnam, see all the stuff, and back in a five day period was overwhelming. We opted for a more leisurely northern excursion out of Hanoi when everyone arrives, taking us to Cat Ba and Ninh Binh. This will be my second time to Cat Ba and fifth to Ninh Binh – I feel as though going places I’ve been before with such a large group is best because I know what to expect from each location and what to do there. With this not on my mind, I can pay more attention to everyones enjoyment of the trip. Hopefully there won’t be too many surprises, and hopefully the rain holds off for the most part.
I can’t find the words to express adequately how unbelievable it feels to be in such a remote part of the world, so removed from everything and everyone at home, and to have such a group coming out. The times shared and memories made in the coming weeks will no doubt be among the best of this incredible year abroad. It means the world that these friends have decided that I was worth traveling across the globe to visit, or that Vietnam is worth it and they can put up with me.
I have kept myself busy in Hanoi. I have been reading more, though still not enough. I am currently working my way through Forrest Gump, and my favorite movie is quickly becoming one of my favorite books as well. I consume movies like a madman, especially when the rain gets very heavy. I have found a t-shirt producer in Hanoi who can print in full color for cheap, which has been extremely antithetical to my attempt to save money – but now I have a bunch of cool custom shirts. To anyone reading this blog, if there’s ever something (a picture, etc) you’ve wanted to put on a shirt, don’t hesitate to contact me.
Teaching has become routine at this point. The first several months of teaching were chaotic and varied drastically from day to day. Some days were fantastic and other days were terrible. With a couple of months under my belt, a couple of months getting to know the kids, and a couple of months figuring out that young children are more like dogs than anybody ever admits, most days are now easy and fun. I’ve got the timing of the classes worked out, I plan a lesson which should last around an hour and fifteen minutes (with time built in for Hangman, videos, etc), leaving the last portion of the class for “Music Chair”. If the kids are slow in learning the lesson or misbehave, it’s less time for Musical Chairs, and they know this. Whoever said money is the best motivator has not seen the passion Vietnamese children exhibit for Musical Chairs.
The children love Western music, but I would not consider their taste to be broad. Their favorite songs are “Havana” and “Shape of You”. I have introduced other songs, like “ABC” by the Jackson 5 or “September” by Earth Wind and Fire to positive reactions. One song I have insisted on all classes learning, and which the students I believe have truly come to enjoy, is the “YMCA”.
Rain in Hanoi is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. It comes on quickly out of no where – it can be a beautiful sunny day at 1pm and a chaotic monsoon by 1:05. Google is of no help to predict weather pattern. The rain comes down as though the sky were furious at the earth and was throwing itself down as hard as it can. There are few sights more ominous than dozens of Vietnamese motorcyclists pulled over to the side of the road frantically putting on their rain jackets as the day fades dark in the early afternoon. On days when it rains heavily, I have begun taking taxis to work as my track record on the motorbike is less than stellar. My parents have been kind enough to help shoulder this financial burden, though I think my mom was ecstatic at any thought of me driving around on the motorbike less, rain or not.
This is a bit of a boring and more muted blog because, though life is still largely exciting and challenging, the past couple weeks I will admit have been slow. The dog days of August are not isolated in the United States, they stretch worldwide. August is the international transpacific lazy Sunday of the year.
I don’t want to give the impression that I am a hermit – I still go to lunches and dinners and pubs with various friends I’ve made in Hanoi. I have been searching high and low for the best Mango Smoothie in Hanoi. I still am very fond of my housemates and meet new people quite often. I have developed an itch for board games (beyond Catan) I did not possess before this trip. I appreciate transient Hanoi friendships and the company they provide and the opportunities I have to interact with people whom, outside of this amazing journey I am on, I would’ve never had the occasion to know they exist.
I find it hard to believe sometimes that I’ve been out here for seven months now. Sometimes I feel as though I just arrived yesterday, other times I feel though I’ve been out here for half a lifetime.
As the date of my return home approaches ever so slowly, my mind begins to drift towards what the next step will be when I get back. I haven’t a clue. I imagined when I came out here that at some point my path forward would crystalize like a vision in a dream implanted by some divine angel. As of yet, no such luck. I am very excited to see my dogs though.
I wish I had more interesting things to write or a crazy story to tell, but alas, the rains, recuperation, and time of year have muted the adventure – if only for a couple weeks. No doubt once friends arrive the excitement level will shoot back up, the adventure will be in full swing once again.