…two months without a blog post. Let’s just hastily make eye contact, vaguely enquire about one another’s health and then stare at an interesting piece of wall.
Nah! This is the internet, the realm of no social niceties. Let’s dive in.
I’m in two minds about what to write about in this post. I know that I tend to read travel blogs for escapism, jealousy and stunning photographs. However I read basically every other kind of online writing for funny, real, relatableness. So I’ve been procrastinating because I doubt that what I have to write is what you want to read.
It’s been hard to think of what to write the past couple of months because at times it’s been hard the past couple of months. That’s possibly not what you want to hear — you want me to say that I have basically transformed into the love child of Ms Honey from Mathilda and Ghandi. That everything is wonderful and when I’m not effortlessly teaching 50 children the correct pronunciation of ‘sheep’, I hop on a motorbike and have dinner in a rice field with a family of farmers, or climb mountains on uninhabited islands and volunteer at Monkey sanctuaries.
I don’t want to whinge, but by way of an explanation — my confidence took a dip, and when I was among the interns not offered a contract extension, I took it a little too personally and as evidence that I am a crap teacher, will always be a crap teacher, and since this was my last grasp at something approaching a career I will always be crap at everything and am destined to live out my days serving pints to UKIP voters. And being crap at it.
I am beginning to accept that every few months my brain is just going to do this to me, regardless of external circumstances.
Brain: Hey, you know how you’ve confronted multiple fears to do this really cool thing that you daydreamed about for, like millenia?/ been holding down a job?/ got really cool feedback on this poem you worked hard on?
Brain: YOU’RE A WASTE OF SPACE! HAHAHA!
Me: Getting real tired of your shit, Brain…
So there’s that.
Now I’m feeling more positive though, I’m going to make two lists; things I’m loving about living in Hanoi, and things I’m looking forward to experiencing again in England.
-Brightly coloured flowers, just everywhere…
-Yesterday our Vietnamese lesson was in a cat cafe. I love that I live in a city big enough that there are always new places to discover….
-…and that I can walk around to discover them. Attacks on women do seem to be increasing in parts of Hanoi, but our district is still ridiculously safe. I love that I can just pop out to the shops or a cafe at 10.30 and not worry about my safety.
– Cà phê sữa đá. That is all. (It isn’t all, sorry…that’s Vietnamese coffee, served iced with condensed milk)
-Being called beautiful. Not so much by men, cause it’s often accompanied by such blatant checking out that it feels squirmy, but women and children call you beautiful, too. It’s still awkward because I’m enourmous compared to Vietnamese women and I constantly have angry spots around my mouth (pollution? MSGs? Who knows!) but at least I can say ‘thank you, so are you!’ or ‘aaaw, thank you!’ and actually mean it. (Side note: I should compliment people more out loud. People can be lovely. They need to be told.)
-Teaching. My current job is pretty cushy, I’m aware of that — 40 minute lessons and weekends off, but even with more hours I think I’d enjoy the sense of working to actually help people in some way. Particularly when those people are adorable.
-Random temples. Every shop, business or home has a little shrine in it, where fruit and incense sticks are left as offerings. There are also temples squidged among the hotels and shops which make up daily life here; some are tiny, some are huge, but they’re all pretty beautiful. I feel like in Europe, we kind of gave up on building attractive churches a while ago, and a lot of churches are now pubs or something…that’s not a criticism of either religion or country, just an observation. It’s nice the way that temple life is kind of part of the nervous system of Hanoi and also the beauty, even when it’s faded, provides a little relief from the austere high rise buildings and the utilitarian houses…
-…although the architecture (and lack of/decay of it) here does fascinate me with its own kind of beauty.
-The other interns. I’m not one of the ones who is in the Bier Hoi every night and being super sociable, but their friendly faces and the fact that someone is usually pissed off about the same thing that’s pissed me off has kept me sane! On a more positive note, they are a lovely bunch of people; funny, smart and supportive, and I hope some of us will keep in touch after we’ve gone our separate ways. I know they’re all going to do interesting things with their lives, anyway.
-Mum, you’re not going to like this: Xe Oms. Xe Om means hugging bike/hug the driver, something like that, and it’s basically a motorcylce taxi. My bargaining skills aren’t up to much and I’m on a budget so I usually order them through Grab, (SE Asian Uber, although you can get Uber bikes, too) They are much, much cheaper than a taxi if you’re going somewhere on your own which was initially why I got them…but now I just enjoy the ride. A lot. I never love Hanoi more than when I’m sailing through it on the back of a motorbike (WHILST WEARING AN APPROPRIATE HELMET, MUM! LOVE YOU!!!)
-‘The ladies’. There’s a place on the street we live where everyone goes for fried rice, because it’s the best on our street, and a bakery everyone goes to for bánh mì and nice breads, because it’s the best bakery. The women who run the shops are referred to as ‘the rice lady’ and ‘the banh mi lady’ respectively, despite the fact that their whole families work in their shops, as in ‘I’m going to the rice lady for dinner.’ In fact, there’s a ‘lady’ for just about everything in Hanoi, and I will miss the way their icy reserve occasionally breaks into a gorgeous smile and the fact that they patiently serve 300 people at once, giving them all the correct change.
-On Monday one of my students asked me ‘Do you like cheese?’ literally right after ‘Hello’. As far as openers go, it’s more original than ‘how are you?’ :’)
-Also on Monday, I saw a pregnant lady wearing a smiley face t-shirt so that she had a big smile on her bump. This made me happy, I don’t know why.
-Actually needing a duvet.
-Beans on toast. You heard me.
-Cornflakes. You can get them here but they’re like £5 and many cheap and delicious breakfasts and snacks are available so it seems silly.
-Cuddles, and the people that give them. I could cuddle here but I’d rather cuddle people I know really, really well. I’m a bit funny about intimacy.
-Sooooo many people who I won’t cuddle physically, but whose presence soothes me anyway. Uni friends. Emma and Adel. Mouthy poets and various writer friends. Not to mention my literal family who I share DNA with.
-London and Nottingham.
-Walking in the Peak District.
-Baking, and having an oven.
-Libraries, particularly Bromley House and Derby Central.
-Potable drinking water. In fact, the general water and sanitation arrangements of the United Kingdom make me happy.
-Pedestrian crossings. I’m being cheeky now…
-My books, and the eternal possibility of buying more. Obviously there are bookshops here, but the only English language one I know of doesn’t have a massive poetry selection.
What do you miss about where? What do you love about where? Feel free to comment or message, as always.