Sunday, February 20, 2011

Saying Goodbye

It's been seven months since I left Vietnam and moved to Washington, D.C. My departure was quite unexpected, but as I have discovered time and time again, not all things work out exactly as planned and more often than not, there's usually a good reason. I left Vietnam the way I found it - by choosing without regret and trusting in the universe. I gained more than I could have hoped for from my experience, which I know has put me on a path I want to follow.

Mid-2009 - July 2010 in review:

I traveled through Cambodia, Laos and Thailand in August 2009.

My bff came for a visit.

Christmas 2009 and NYE 2010

The best holiday I've ever taken! The Philippine Islands with K.

My 32nd birthday in Hanoi.

A quick trip Stateside to visit friends and family.

The last motorbike adventure to the northernmost province, Ha Giang. (Which deserves way more photos than the few posted.)

Bye, bye VN...

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vietnam: Day 2-Present, Part VII: Fast Forward

Since I’ve gotten just a couple more than a few months behind in catching up to the present, I’ve decided to write a short summary of the past 5 months…

In January, I started teaching my first class at ILA…(Senior 3s)

The months of February and March were fairly uneventful. I was focused on getting into the flow of work, as well as, daily life in Hanoi.

April was my birthday—not a very exciting one this year…after all, what’s so great about turning 25 for the second time? And there was certainly no beating last year's birthday, which was a month-long event beginning in North America with an MJ themed party (and briefly attended by some of the local police)...

...and ending in South America with an Argentinean Asado!

I did, however, at least go out with a group of friends for a birthday dinner to one of my favorite restaurants. Uncle Ho was there...well, his portrait at least, which was given to me as a gift…

On the 25th, most of the expat community gathered at the American Club for the MAG Music Festival, which was a benefit concert to clean up land mines across Southeast Asia.

And a couple of weeks ago was one of the biggest national holiday weekends in Vietnam. On April 30th, 1975, the North Vietnamese Army invaded Saigon and finally ended the war. The following day, May 1st, was Labor Day. Many Vietnamese and local expats executed escape plans from Hanoi that had been months in the making. Tickets to anywhere were hard to come by if not booked at least a month in advance. And, tourists found themselves having to alter their travel plans or to take the far less desirable seats to work around the mass exodus from the city. The trains were so crowded people were bribing agents to allow them to sleep two per bunk and some were even sleeping in the corridors.

After my own drawn-out drama over arranging train tickets, I reached Sapa in the early morning hours of the 29th. The next morning, my friends and I had plans to trek Mount Fansipan, the highest mountain in Vietnam at 3,143m, which is often referred to as the “Rooftop of Indochina.” Unfortunately, in the end, a number of complications (illness, train tickets, and the weather) brought our group from 11 down to 2.

My new acquaintance (and now friend), Kim, and I reached the summit on the morning of the second day of the climb. The views weren’t spectacular due to the cloudy weather, but the journey was amazing. We trekked through rivers, muddy bamboo forests, and over steep and slippery rocks. We laughed and talked and loved every minute of being on the mountain. A dog we nicknamed, “Fansi,” joined us somewhere along the way, which reminded me of my day hikes in Vermont when I would borrow friends’ dogs to come along with me.

In addition to the Fansipan trek, I had a number of other adventures in Sapa including a couple of motorbike trips, exploring an ancient cave, and a 9km trek to the Red Dzao village of Ta Phin.

Adventures like this truly make me appreciate living in Vietnam and remind me of why I came in the first place. Like anywhere else in the world, it’s easy to become distracted by the daily grind and to lose sight of the bigger picture. Sapa was a well-timed, much needed vacation that renewed my energy and enthusiasm for life in Vietnam.