AS A REMINDER, I LEFT MY LIFE IN THE UK TO START A NEW LIFE IN VIETNAM. I’M A 40 YEAR OLD WOMAN WHO IS FEELING THE FEAR AND DOING IT ANYWAY
I’m currently sat writing in bed in my apartment
My bedroom is a smallish room containing only a king size bed and a large wooden wardrobe and laminate flooring. The bed, although big in size, could not be called a bed by Western standards, it’s rock hard, in fact I was surprised to find that it was even made of fabric when I first investigated it.
The windows of my bedroom display a faded Finding Nemo scene and there’s iron bars across. Most windows in Vietnamese apartments seem to have bars on, I can’t work out whether it’s to stop people coming in, or to stop people jumping out.
I have the window open slightly as it’s 30 degrees and sunshine outside. I can hear a father and son playing, major construction, motorbike horns in the distance, and cockerels screeching. It’s not an unpleasant experience, in fact I’m feeling very content, it’s amazing what sunshine can do to lift a mood.
Last week, as usual, involved some challenging experiences…
I was very close to cracking point, ‘get me out of here’ I thought, not necessarily home, in fact definitely not home, but just somewhere where things might be a little easier. Where would I go, what would I do – who knows?
Another dodgy taxi experience led me to walk home in the dark and pouring rain with rats and cockroaches on my tail. I also felt at breaking point with teaching English. What I’d thought would be a few hours a day is in fact far more with all of the admin that’s required, plus the amount of energy that involves teaching 4-6 years olds was proving too much for me.
Why am I here? I’ve come here to write, have a slower pace of life, yet I still don’t have any free time and I’m always exhausted.
Luckily there was a shift
As my confidence grew and I got to know the children more (ie. know their names) I found I could manage the classes/children much more effectively and I wasn’t so tired afterwards.
An unforeseen bonus of me having to walk home the other evening was that I got more of a feel for my surroundings and this has made me far more confident about going out and about on foot. Most things are actually walkable, it’s about 40 mins to work on foot, although it’s too hot to walk there in the daytime at the moment – but in a few weeks it should be fine.
Vinh Yen is a strange place
It’s very big, but very spread out and there are lots of unique little areas. I haven’t yet had chance to see any of the mountains but hopefully I will have a motorbike soon and this will open up my life here further and allow me to go exploring.
In the UK if you wanted to explore somewhere you’d just grab a rucksack and head out, that’s not really the case here, firstly because it’s so hot, and secondly how would you get back? Public transport seems to be on a par with Northern Rail – elusive, unreliable and filthy.
I think I also have to accept that I don’t feel 100% safe here as a woman or/and as a Westerner. I’m not saying that I’m not safe here, I’m saying that I don’t feel safe. Both taxi experiences have left me with an unsavoury taste in my mouth. There have been other bits and pieces too, on the whole with a feeling that I’m being taken advantage of. This probably isn’t really the case, as I’ve said in my previous posts Vietnamese people have showed me true warmth and kindness, yet these little occurrences on the contrary weigh heavily on me.
Also, one of the many reasons that I left my life in the UK was so that for perhaps the first time in my life I could be anonymous. For too long I’d felt the burden of living in a small town and longed to be free of it. Why I thought I’d be able to do that in Asia I’ll never know, I stick out like a sore thumb.
As soon as I set one foot outside eyes are on me. When I go into a supermarket people nudge and stare and talk, the children follow me around. Large groups of men drinking at the Bia Hoi shout ‘hello’ to me as I walk past. If I sit outside a cafe people drive past on their scooters and do a double take. Some people stare and laugh. It’s quite a pressurising experience although generally if I’m feeling quite good I’m OK with it, it will just take some getting used to I expect.
Anyway, I digress, let’s finish off what I was saying about my life here in general and my attitude towards it.
Getting over myself
Once I’d finished moaning to myself about all of the things that I’m not happy about here, accepted them and let them go, I realised that I could actually have the life that I had envisaged here, maybe not just yet, but further down the line.
For the first time since I’ve got here I’m starting to feel settled. I now know how to do all of the tricky things that I need – get water, top up my phone, buy food, get to work etc, so everything is easier. I’m also starting to make a few friends.
‘I absolutely love working with young children’ – is a sentence I never thought I’d hear myself say, yet it is true. I’d envisaged that I’d be working with older children here but most of my classes are Kindergarten (4-6). Young children are so innocent, trusting and open to everything in a way that teenagers and adults can never be – I get such pleasure from seeing their curiosity and enthusiasm and a great sense of satisfaction from seeing them learn.
My passion for journalism has reignited – there’s so many interesting and unusual stories here. I can’t wait to write/tell them, I just need to work out how and when.
I went to the English Club last Monday. It’s a club set up by some teachers at my centre. We meet once a week at a cafe and chat to Vietnamese people for a couple of hours, to improve their English and teach them about Western culture. Of course, we get to learn about Vietnamese culture also. Each week there’s a set topic and next week I’m facilitating a wellbeing discussion, I’m very excited about this.
Things on my mind this week
It’s now only 6 weeks until my beloved Holly is coming to stay with me. I miss her madly everyday, and I still cry sometimes. I just want to be in her wonderful company and energy, hug her and laugh with her again. I want to make her food, kiss her goodnight, discuss our dreams, share our favourite books, and slag off each others choice in box sets. I’m holding an image in my mind of her walking through the gates of Hanoi airport and it makes me smile.
I’ll have time off work when she’s here so I plan to show her Buddhist monasteries, old folk villages, national parks, traditional markets, the roaring city of Hanoi, massages and spas, vintage boutiques, coffee shops and as many vegan buffets as we can handle. It’s going to be AWESOME. I’m also looking forward to showing her the weird and wonderful routines of my new life here and introduce her to my new friends.
Also on my mind
Rishikesh, in North India is calling to me once again. I went last year on a work trip for Yoga Magazine. My dad lived there in the 70’s and talked a lot about it when we were growing up so I already felt a strong connection to it. When I arrived nothing could have prepared me for the magical beauty of the scene and the wonder that I felt – it was a magical kingdom, like those you see in illustrated fairytale books.
Last Christmas my Uncle Martin gave me a pile of old airmail letters that my dad had sent to him during his time living in Rishikesh. It was like a snapshot into my dad’s past, they discuss fast motorbikes and a new band on the scene called ‘The Who’. My dad also mentions some of the places where he stayed and some of the people that he knew. When I read this I immediately knew that I would go back someday and visit these places and perhaps even try and find some of the people – although it was 50 years ago!
I’m not sure when I will go, all I know is that I want to prioritise it and whilst I’m there I also want to do my Yoga Teacher Training. Not necessarily because I want to teach yoga (I’m not sure if I’d be a good fit for it or if I’d be any good at it) but just because I feel it’s the next step in my personal journey. It will be some time next year when I can arrange some time off.
If anyone has been to Rishikesh and can recommend a Hatha teacher training I would love to hear from you – there are over 100 to choose from in that area so it’s quite daunting.
Life is good.
I’m very lucky to be in Vietnam having this experience.
It takes far less energy to just accept things (that you cannot change) than it does to challenge them or feel resentful about them.
Much love and kindness to you all xxxxxx
P.S Sometimes I’m just walking down the street and I think ‘OK I’m living in Vietnam now, I’ve done it, I’m here… wow’. It’s quite surreal.Hey friends if you like my content please share it - Namaste