Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Reasons I Love Hanoi

As I have been driving around the city recently, I've been making a mental checklist of the things that are truly, wonderfully Hanoi:

  • Driving home late at night on my motorbike when the roads are empty and the temperature has dropped. Juxtaposed to the busy-ness of the day, it's a thrilling freedom to drive the quiet empty streets.
  • Walking into bun cha smelling air-bubbles as it's being cooked before lunchtime.
  • Looking up and realizing the streets are lined with ancient trees, peacefully rooted in the chaos.
  • Being able to change the iTunes playlist at most of my favorite bars.
  • Running into people I know everywhere I go.
  • Stretching, bobbing women in aerobics classes en masse in the parks.
  • Constant valet parking.
  • The fact that none of the clothes fit me, so I never feel the desire to go shopping.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Day in the Life

A day filled with variety is something tremendously wonderful. Too often our days are filled with monotony - it's the one thing I dread most about leaving Asia and my current life here.

Today, I woke up and turned on my water heater. Then I went downstairs (two flights), and used the electric kettle to boil water. I've stockpiled organic coffee from the USA (ground for a french press). I put a tablespoon of coffee in my Bodum and turned on CNN in the living room for 15 minutes while it brewed.

I left my computer at the office last night, because I went straight to Gaelic football practice and it was raining. So after my shower, I threw a mini-mango (yes, those exist) and a banana in my messenger bag, put on a light down coat - it was high 60's today - and headed over there. On my motorbike.

Putting on a motorbike helmet feels so natural that sometimes I forget I'm wearing one. And a facemask - no joke, after 1.5 years here I notice every motorbike ride I take without one. Air pollution is the #1 reason I want to move back to a developed country - or a less developed one.

I worked on the 'stack' - read powerpoint - for a pitch that I'm finishing for tomorrow. Today being Thursday, I had a standing date for a long lunch with a friend of mine. Just so happens he's an ambassador, so he has a driver and a car. This means getting to see the bustle of the city from a peaceful, climate controlled environment - which is a completely different experience than 90% of my days. It's great.

We take an hour to go to the driving range (ok, not EVERY day is like this. just every once in a while), then have lunch at Don's (he named the restaurant that). I live with the managing editor of a local magazine, and she's constantly over at Don's for tastings and things, and she's introduced me to him. And my friend is a regular, so he meets us at the door.

At this point, I've already spoken 3 languages today (English, Vietnamese, and Spanish). Just for fun, we chat in Portuguese for a while at lunch too. And discuss the fact that he'd like to resume French lessons - I've just started.

After lunch, I'm dropped off a block from the office. I'm ducking into the tailor's to see if my dress, suit and jean skirt are ready yet. No - ngay may. I have to come back tomorrow. No problem.

I run one more errand - I've got 2 government manuals for first aid and their 911 dispatch system. I want to share them with some doctors in the US, so I find a copy shop that will scan them into .pdfs for me. Both'll be done by Saturday - great.

The pitch isn't going to get done before end of business, so I walk back slowly and stop to buy a birthday present for my housemate. I walk serenely down an entirely chaotic street. It's a learned skill. I pass a shoe store - and just to check - go in and ask if they carry women's shoes in a 41. Nope. Not a single one. Eh, it's what I expected, but I thought maybe there was a shot.

I tutor for a bit - we talk about gerunds and infinitives - and then it's off to the Old Quarter to find 'pan street'. I end up making a miserable purchase of 2 baking sheets which both leak in the corners (which I don't realize until later), and head home.

Watching Grey's Anatomy (season 5) on TV while I cook some dinner, I plop down on the couch and chat with a friend visiting from Thailand. And then it's back to work. I'll be up late working on this pitch; it'll need to be in by noon if the Red Cross director's going to have time to look at it before the weekend.