It’s 6:30am on a Friday morning. And
The first month this place felt suffocating. People stare at you (there aren’t any white people out where we live), it’s hard to walk on the footpath, for all the stalls that have been set up. It’s crowded. People are pushy, cut in, cut in front, and you have a sign on your forehead that says ‘RICH’, just by being white, so you’re always aware of where your wallet is.
But then you get a bit more comfortable. You get to know your way around the city more, understand a little of the people, why they do certain things, that they’re actually very polite in person, when they’re not queuing or trying to sell you something that is. Suffocating becomes something more like energy.
The food is fantastic. Not too crazy spicy, nothing too weird, if that’s what you want (although the bbq crickets are surprisingly ok). The dishes use a lot of fresh herbs, lime juice, and buckets of fish sauce. There are aisles of msg at the local supermarket. Chopsticks never leave your hands. My knife and fork techniques are definitely lacking now, judging by how many things I drop on tablecloths on the odd occasion I use them.
The street food, the literal translation being ‘dusty food’ is incredible. Among Hanoi’s claim to culinary fame, is Bun Cha, chunks of barbeque pork with a tangy soup, fresh greens and noodles; Pho Bo, a beef noodle soup, and Bun Bo, noodles with beef, peanuts, salad greens etc. Pho Cuon, fresh spring rolls, also deserve special mention, as close to my heart (and tummy). And you can have a hearty meal for around $1.20 NZ. If you feel like spending up on a meal ($4 or 5 should do) you can have delicious Indian banquet (go Foodshop 45), any other type of asian cuisine, or there are a variety of western cafes and restaurants.
However, there is no concept of ‘health and safety’. The traffic is insane. Yeah, there kinda is a system, something like ‘ebb and flow’. Lance has totally mastered Vietnamese traffic, and ducks and weaves now with the best of them and is very efficient at not making eye contact with the traffic police, and I must say we love our little motorbike – it’s gotta be one of the funner ways to get around. But there are also games of chicken being played out all over the place, sometimes with disastrous consequences, but surprisingly not as much as you’d think.
The electrical wiring would give an
So, to a lot of you out there, it’s possibly news that we are in
We’ve been doing a variety of promotional projects, advertising materials, editing, website materials, photography and making video clips of the various projects. We’re currently working with YWAM – their development wing. It’s been really cool to witness first hand these really innovative projects which involve the locals in projects, equip and educate, and which the locals then take over and perpetuate as YWAM steps back out. Check out ywamvietnam.org for more details, have a look at what they do from biogas projects, to cat and cow banks to early childhood education. If you’re interested in supporting a smaller group that have low overheads, and high impact in terms of local people having ownership and going on to perpetuate the projects, then we definitely recommend them. It’s also been priceless getting to meet and know the people who benefit, like working with some of the deaf Vietnamese and getting to know their stories. Having a face to put to a purpose makes all the difference.
We’ve also made some fantastic friends out here, and have been attending a very cool little church, which includes Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican etc services. Unfortunately, currently being in our last week at the moment, this is the sucky aspect of a three month stint.
Having been on the go for the preceding four months kinda sapped our interest in traveling around and about. So we haven’t done as much as we perhaps will wish we had. However, we have had some very cool day and weekend trips away, by ourselves and also to see a number of projects in action. These have included Mai Chau, for a relaxing weekend away…
Halong Bay (of course) … which needs no introduction…. I must say for those of you thinking of traveling here, Kangaroo Café did a very decent price for a gorgeous two day tour, staying in lovely rooms on the boat (best toilet I’ve had in
It’s been a crazy three months so far. Short term stints being what they are, particularly in third world countries, there are of course the frustrations of perhaps not quite the same concepts of efficiency, the websites they ask you to make, turn out to already exist, miscommunications, it takes time to get your work started and so on. There was also the three weeks of shingles, the serious lack of green spaces, and oh not being able to buy pants because everyone is size 0 and not even the mannequins can do their zippers up. But, all in all, its been an invaluable experience, getting to stretch your comfort zone, getting to know another culture more, seeing aid work, working well, first hand, doing some of the more random things you will ever do, and just generally learning to get over yourself. Would totally recommend it to anyone! Not quite sure what our next steps hold, so stay tuned… feeling quite virtuous however to finally have caught up to ourselves blogwise!