I Could Get Used to This

I’ve been in Vietnam for almost a month and there are some things that I already know I’ll miss when I leave.

  • Feeling like a rock star.  In every class, the students stand and greet me as I enter the room, often with screams and applause.  They occasionally applaud at the end of the lesson. My future students should take note of this!  Oh, and I sometimes get little gifts just for showing up to class (a bottle of water, cake, a Vietnamese specialty food).  One class sang a song for me, another recited a poem. Here are my college students at the end of class.

  • Also in class, I am handed a microphone and stand on a raised platform in front of the chalkboard, feeling like I should start singing or dancing.  
  • The kindness of strangers.  There are so many examples, but here’s one.  Yesterday, I stopped in one of the hundreds of cafes lining every street in Hanoi and ordered cà phê sữa đá (iced milk coffee).  Even though I’ve practiced the phrase for weeks, the waitress still had trouble understanding me and called another customer over to help.  Din speaks pretty good English, got me my coffee, and sat down to chat.  During the next three hours, I learned about his family (wife and two children), was taken out to lunch with his business partner, and received an invitation to his home.  He was open and sincere while just wanting to practice English.  I learned that his grandfather died in the American war, that he hopes to see a two-party system in Vietnam, and that he holds no resentment towards the US.  I also answered many of the usual questions (How old are you?  Who will you vote for?  Why aren’t you married?) and we shared pictures of our families.  Encounters like this happen frequently.  Vietnamese people are curious about Americans, follow US news and politics, and want to share their lives and beautiful country with visitors.  

    This couple dined with me when they saw empty seats at my table. They helped me identify what I was eating and gave great restaurant recommendations.

    This couple dined with me when they saw empty seats at my table. They helped me identify what I was eating and gave great restaurant recommendations.

  • The walk to school.  I pass through two markets during the short walk.  One of them pops up out of nowhere each morning and disappears by lunch time.  Every day I see something new.  Soon, I will gather up the courage to bring my camera and document it for a separate post.  

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    There’s always motorbikes squeezing by.

  • Cheap meals.  I could eat at a different restaurant or street stall every day in my neighborhood, and still not get to them all during my time here.  Nothing costs more than a few dollars, nothing has made me sick, and it’s all delicious.
  • Maid service and laundry service, three times a week, included in my rent.  What else can I say?
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    7:00 am

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    5:00 pm

  • Uber.  Yes, there’s Uber in Vietnam.  It’s cheap and easy, can be paid directly to my credit card, and I don’t need to speak Vietnamese to explain where I’m going – it’s all on the app.  I can order a car or motorbike – there are advantages and disadvantages to both, but so far I’ve stuck with the cars.  screenshot_2016-09-25-14-07-14
  • Time for lunch.  There are no 25-minute lunches here.  The least I’ve had is an hour, but I usually have a two-hour break at lunch time.  

There are things I am still getting used to, but they are small in comparison to the advantages of living in Hanoi.

Comments (18):

  1. Monica Schnee

    September 28, 2016 at 11:52

    So great to read your blog and so different from Seoul! We do share one amazing thing and that is the kindness of strangers. Generosity abounds both here and in Vietnam – so does curiosity. I can get used to this too! Like your laundry situation! Love your post.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 05:58

      Thanks, Monica. I think we’ll experience culture shock when we return to the States.

      Reply
  2. LInda Wight

    September 28, 2016 at 12:26

    HI Tim, Wow enjoyed blog, glad teaching going well and meeting interesting people and enjoying the kindness of strangers. Stay well, love Linda

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:00

      Wish I had time to write more. I’m still amazed at how nice everyone is.

      Reply
  3. Millie

    September 28, 2016 at 13:57

    Happy to read your blog and get a glimpse into what your day is like. Keep up the good work✌&❤️Millie

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:01

      Thanks. No two days are the same, but that makes it interesting.

      Reply
  4. Paula Agins

    September 28, 2016 at 15:24

    What an experience! No one stood up and greeted me today or brought me gifts 🙂 I love reading your experiences. Looking forward to the next one. Stay safe.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:02

      I think we need to train our students to adopt some of these habits!

      Reply
  5. Lori

    September 28, 2016 at 16:53

    This is fabulous! I shared with some of our students today!!!!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:04

      Thanks, Lori. Student life is very tough here . . . I’m working on a post about it now.

      Reply
  6. Elaine T

    September 28, 2016 at 17:23

    This is so exciting to read!! Wow! What an amazing experience! I love seeing the students. I bet the food is amazing. I’m soooooo jealous!! So glad you are enjoying yourself. Sounds wonderful!!!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:07

      Well, there are challenges, but this is definitely a nice break from the routine. More student photos coming soon.

      Reply
  7. Noreen Elliott

    September 28, 2016 at 20:27

    Please post the video when you start singing and dancing on the raised platform in front of your class. I’m sure your polite students will clap. Glad to hear you are having such an awesome time!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:09

      Well, I am representing my country here, so I don’t want to scare everyone away.

      Reply
  8. Diane Weisman

    September 28, 2016 at 21:25

    It sounds like you have adapted quite well to the new surroundings and culture. I have always heard that the Vietnamese are war and welcoming people. Enjoy the adventure.

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:11

      They definitely are, and they are proud of it. Hopefully I can bring some of that home with me.

      Reply
  9. anne

    September 29, 2016 at 21:51

    Amazing! love the clip of the class!

    Reply
    • Tim Flanagan

      October 6, 2016 at 06:11

      The greetings were not as enthusiastic this week. Maybe they’re getting used to me.

      Reply

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