After landing in Hanoi two weeks ago, today we finally saw the sun come out. I landed in the city on a breezy, dark night and headed to the Peace House, one of the dorms for Volunteers for Peace Vietnam. I had a growing concern when my driver was headed out of the city, into a place so unknown I had myself convinced I was beginning a horror movie. Thankfully, it was just my sleep deprived brain creating scenarios after the 40 hours of flying, lay overs and waits until I arrived at my destination.
I have spent the last 2 weeks hanging out with a bunch of the girls here, Team America consists of three girls going to the UW in the states, another girl from Canada, one from England and 2 Aussies.
We have spent our days overwhelmed with the joy of survival after crossing hectic lanes of traffic on foot, motorbike rides, and cab drivers that have no idea where we are going. Laughing about our mishaps, together we have buckled down the basics to survival in this country.
Spending lots of time touring the city, I reached the old quarter which was filled with street markets, handicraft vendors and countless streets of shops. The nightlife around Hoan Keim Lake was always thriving as well and it didn't take long where to figure out the good places were to hang out.
Last week Kayley and I headed to the Perfume Pagoda, a couple hours outside of the city. Here we boarded a small rowing boat, owned by locals and were rowed through the mountains for about an hour until we reached a docking point. Upon arrival we were able to wander through the street markets and up the mountain towards the top, when we then piled into a cable car and headed straight up. Once we reached the top we were able to trek a bit farther then down to a huge cave where many natives went to pray. Continuing on we explored the pagoda and all the buildings surrounding it before having lunch and rowing back to the village to catch the bus home. Being surrounded by mountains on the water was just breath taking.
I began teaching in one of the highschools in the city, it runs a gifted program out of the university. Many of these kids are about 15 years old and exhausted from the amount of time they spend in class and studying. Although they are aware how lucky they are of the opportunity the have, unlike many here. The pressure they are feeling to be successful is dragging many of their thoughts down. It's been an amazing experience working with them so far, since day one... the first period being thrown into the classes with no lesson plans or structure. Obviously their education systems don't run quite as controlled as they are back home because I haven't seen a teacher since. They just trust we are going to do something educationally proving with the classes of 35-44 kids.
It is definitly a different world here, there is no doubt about that. The varation in wealth and poverty stricken areas make little to no sense but somehow, like their roads and driving habits... they make it work. It's a bit odd being in a place where we attract so much attention all the time. Regardless of where I go, or what I am doing, it's like I have become a famous person. I am not sure I really enjoy this, but in time I feel like I will no longer notice it. They seem to be a very curious culture and aren't used to Westerners so they are constistantly inquiring about what and who we are.
I managed to find a place to live after here and will be moving in the beginning of March. It's a 5 story walk up that I will be sharing with 5 other expats from around the world in Dam Trau. It's a nice little housing village just off a main road that is very cute and is architechually influenced by the French. Although I am enjoying my time here at Peace House I am looking forward to a better bed and a cleaner room... and kitchen :)
Tomorrow we are off to Bat Trang to visit the pottery village and get messy throwing some dishes and tour through the shops.
That's all for now, I will update soon & if I ever figure out how to get my photos loaded I will start adding them on.