The end of first chapter of the sequelPosted: December 16, 2009
I’ve always found trips to and from Hanoi’s Noi Bai airport especially poignant.
I’ve a hunch that it’s because you’re travelling by car – something I so rarely do here. Instead of being in the middle of the motorbike crush you’re behind glass in an air-conned bubble. You are no longer part of the view.
While the musical accompaniment to most trips is the normal icky Vinapop there always seems to be something emotive playing just as I leave Hanoi. I find myself once again looking afresh on Hanoi and thinking just how remarkable it is.
It seems strange to be returning home for Christmas after under four months in Hanoi. It dawns on me that during this time I haven’t once set foot out of the city – nor had the desire to. I’ve been lucky that the weather has cooled. Perhaps if it had been summer I’d have fled to the coast or the mountains but instead I’ve been happy just to enjoy it.
Putting aside just how lucky I feel to live in such an incredible place, my time since my return has been beautifully unremarkable. I’ve settled. I’ve the apartment, the motorbike, the job. I’ve even met someone special.
Alongside that there has been a dawning that settling means working to safeguard what you have. It means earning enough money so it continues to be sustainable. This isn’t a volunteer post. It’s not a backpacking trip. This is life. Financially I can’t supplement it. Legally I can’t be in fear of having to leave it.
A return to journalism has worked well and freelance work has fallen at my feet without having to chase it. As it stands I’d like to reach a point where freelancing will soon cover the rent and my day job cash is then left for a more comfortable existence. Not that I am currently struggling too much.
Ultimately though I’d still like a “proper” job. I’d love to be a press officer for a local NGO. But my days of “stipends” and “volunteer allowances” are over. Recently an NGO contacted me offering me paid work. I said yes. Later they contacted me again suggesting I could volunteer instead. This time I said no.
There are no doubts that Vietnam is changing with me. Maybe this is “get serious” time for both of us. Neither of us are as naive as we once were . Perhaps though we both need to be careful how much we change.
Because there are days when I still well up here. The slightest thing can trigger it. I’ll catch myself remembering where I am and how incredibly lucky I feel to live in amongst this city. The lip quivers and the tears flow. It’s down to pure happiness and being humbled by just how good life can be.
Because hatching plans for my return, while still in Cameroon, I lay under my mosquito net at nights and tried to imagine what my life could and should be like here.
If I am honest it is already outstripping my hopes. If I now want more, it’s not about ugly ambition or greed. I hope. It’s about guaranteeing my future here.
I’m still in love with this city and this country. I think we’ve both lost a little bit of innocence but perhaps that needed to happen.
Just maybe, at 38, I am finally growing up. In simply being here I have found something worth working for. And I am very very happy.
Happy Christmas people.
*Pics taken from a Hanoi at Christmas photos walk. Set here.