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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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.
- 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.