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Trip Start Aug 04, 2009
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Flag of Vietnam  , Ha Nội,
Sunday, January 10, 2010

When I was living in Covington I never thought I'd get used to the rumbling of the trains across the street and then suddenly one day I realized how soothing it had become and missed it when I went out of town for anything. When I first arrived here in Hanoi I was looking for apartments near the the train tracks but never found it. Then when I found an apartment here I thought I'd never get used to the barking of arguing dogs late at night and the crazy early crowing of roosters, yes I said roosters plural. Well I don't notice those 3am roosters anymore and the dogs are becoming less noticeable but I don't think I missed them as much as I did the trains. While back in Covington for those 9 days over the Christmas holidays the trains soothed me to sleep once again every night...zzzzzzz.
Well I'm back in Hanoi and I heard those arguing dogs tonight but found some comfort in their familiarity once again - it reminded me that I was back home in Vietnam.
While on the 3 planes coming back to Hanoi I got to catch up on a few movies that I'd considered seeing at one time or another: Surrogates (Bruce Willis & Ving Rhames), Amalfi (very good foreign flick), 2 minutes too many of Zombieland with Woody Harrelson, MJ's 'This Is It', the so-so 'Love Happens' w/ the Jennifer Aniston and a "light" comedy/drama about a guy with Aspergers - 'Adam'.  I would recommend any of them depending on your personal tastes and only Zombieland to Cliff and Surrogates to someone that didn't mind a silly sci-fi/drama that fails miserably at trying to be a Blade Runner remake.
Once I got home that night, I fell asleep at about 3 am and woke at noon in a delusional state of mind. I saw 12:04 on the clock and for a few moments thought the clock stopped during the night but once I saw how light it was (and heard the construction going on outside) I realized it was in fact four minutes after twelve noon. Not wanting to lose a vacation day, I jumped up, showered, dressed, found a xeom and was promptly at work by 1:00. I'm sure the Blonde Espresso from Bean Haus in the espresso pot from Charlotte didn't hurt my hastened state.
Tuesday when I called I was actually quite disappointed to find that the motorbike rental didn't have any bikes of my choice. ( but they were putting an all points bulletin out on one for me and assured me they'd have one by weeks end. I have put Julie's first aid kit in hiding so I won't think about the need to maybe use its contents, although I have a nearly hidden scar as a constant reminder to not take my mind off what lies on the road if not watched at all times.
I put in a solid 4 hours of work (No I don't have proof in photos, Jeremy) but I did work hard on plans for next week and sites to help the teachers with their lessons. It was great to touch base with the Vietnamese teachers and hear about where they went on holiday. I was the only expat teacher back at work so it was very quiet. Through conversations I discovered that several Vn teachers went to Hue. This was the capital of Vietnam around 1744 and from the photos they showed me it looks like a fantastic place. It has definitely climbed into my top 5 spots to see soon. My favorite photo was of statues of soldiers and horses that in their lined up fashion look like a huge chess set.

Tuesday night I didn't sleep at all, not even a short 15 minute power nap. So needless to say most of Wednesday I felt like those poor chaps from Zombieland, slow moving and eyes half open, but minus the blood thirsty hunger. In fact I was too tired to think about food and as the day wore on I was happy to not fall asleep while standing. 
Wednesday and Thursday went well esp. since I am sleeping again. Thursday afternoon I got a call from the motorbike rental guy who told me they found a bike for me and it would be delivered Friday afternoon. 
That night (Thursday) one of my Vn friends invited me to dinner at the most famous Pho restaurants in Hanoi - Pho Suong. Without her assistance I'd never found it on my own. Its tucked down a sleepy side street that has almost no traffic and the alleyway opening is very narrow and dark. It sits between a travel agency and a motorbike rental shop. Now that I have been raving about the lady that in my opinion makes the best Pho in Hanoi, teachers and Vn friends have been taking me to their favorite Pho restaurant. In every case their Pho restaurants have come up short on flavor. But I can honestly say this was very good Pho. Maybe even tied with my neighborhood Pho restaurant. Afterwards we walked around the area and I saw several foods I had not seen before and I chose to try one - Banh Troi. (These Vietnam dumplings are a mixture of sticky rice and regular rice. The dumplings stuffing is a bean puree. Sprinkles of toasted black sesame seeds are on the top of the dumplings. Ginger flavors the syrup. The dish was served warm.) There's two to a bowl and I didn't think about photographing them until I'd already eaten one. Next time I will photo them both before eating because they are stuffed with two different things one is black (don't know what it was, but good) and the other white with a coconut puree.

Today (Saturday) I had my first official driving lesson and felt good about driving. By the end of my first "class" my confidence had returned but I still have much to learn before getting out on the big bad streets of Hanoi *alone, so to speak. (alone with 6 million motorbikes is what makes them big and bad).

School is back in tomorrow and the next entry will have an entry about my classes and teaching, photos of the students formally known as the terrible first graders and many other exciting forms of proof that I do teach sometimes. With that said I may as well stir the pot and tell you we have a 2 week break in a few weeks from now for the Tet holiday.(Tet is the abbreviation of Tet Nguyen Dan which means the first morning of the first day of the new period. Tet marks the beginning of a new year on the lunar calendar, and the beginning of Spring and is a huge celebration lasting three days) I am going to the Sapa mountains for a few days  just before it begins and then I'm off to Thailand for a week but first... I will teach for 3 weeks.

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tbray on

There is never a dull moment for you. Glad that your KY trip was fun filled.
Happy New Year in VN and try to get some teaching time.teehee

jcarle on

I think "solid four hours of work" is hilarious! Are teachers government employees over there?

mrcwoodsman on

A solid four hours on a holiday is good - when's the last time you worked when you didnt have to - no we arent govt workers - they work alot longer hours than anyone else and for a great deal less pay.
Thanks for mixing the pot Jeremy ;-)

Tho on

This is Hoan Kiem lake not Hoam Kiem.
Cuộc hành trình của bạn thật thú vị.
Mong bạn chia sẻ nhiều hơn về đất nước con người nơi mà bạn ghé tham.
my mai:

kwai_chang on

"In fact I was too tired to think about food"--that might be a first for all your entries, if not your entire life. I'm sure you've more than made up for it in the days that have followed. And you're going to wish you had watched more than two minutes of Zombieland when the zombies start busting out of the ground! Zombie attacks are more common on the first day of spring because the ground is much softer. They are called Tet Zombies. Not many people know this, but the historic Tet Offensive was actually about a zombie uprising. True. It had nothing to do with Communism. And VN zombies are pretty keen on pho-eating American tourist-teacher types. Watch your back. And brains.

jcarle on

I don't know Kwai Chang....but awesome information.....although Mark may not sleep well come Spring!

Mark on

I am so glad my family and friends are concerned for my well being - I will look over my shoulder at all times for zombies that look hungry during Spring esp when I'm in the mountains where I bet the zombies are more prevalent.

kwai_chang on

Zombies are not necessarily more prevalent in the mountainous areas, but they do tend to emerge a little stronger due to the fact that the soil is much more shallow, and, thus, are not buried as deeply. But they also may not be as hungry, either, since they don't have to expend as much energy digging out. But make no mistake, ALL zombies are hungry whether they "look hungry" or not. Please don't wait until they are close enough to decide whether or not they "look hungry." Just assume that they are and keep running. Zombies that try not to look hungry are simply trying to lull you into a false sense of complacency so they can eat your brains. The one advantage you will have being in the mountains is that zombies move slowly and the uphill grades tend to slow down them even more. Unfortunately, mountains only go so high, and you will have to start downhill sooner or later. But look on the bright side--if you manage to survive the Tet zombies, I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time in Thailand. As you're running for your life, just keep thinking "Bangkok!" "Bangkok!"

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