Tuesday, August 24, 2010
Day 14 - Tropical Storm #1
So today marks the two week mark for my stay in Hanoi. I can't say that I love it yet, but I don't hate it either. I am finding my way and figuring out a life here. Yesterday my three colleagues and I decided to check out the Hanoi water park. Forecast looked good - 94 degrees and sunny. Lisa managed the map and we took a few different buses (3,000VND each - exchange rate is about 19,100VND per $1) and arrived at the water park...around the same time that the tropical storm arrived. Pouring rain, thunder, and lightning met us at the park. We made it to the ticket booth just in time for them to show us that the park was closed. Bummer. It looked pretty cool. Plus, there were pictures of Disney characters all over the place. Today, the rain continues, though there was sun in the early morning.
For the past two weeks, my job has been to explore Hanoi and adapt I suppose, so that when my 14 students arrive, I will be freaking out a bit less than them. 14 American students will arrive in Hanoi this Friday. Some will stay to study for the semester, some for the year. They will live with host families. I am sure that they will be amazing kids - I cannot imagine doing this as a teenager! Plus, my apartment is already acting as my sanctuary, my escape from the craziness of the city.
So much has happened in my first two weeks here, that I cannot even begin to describe each 'cultural experience'. Some have been great and entertaining, while others have been dismal and depressing, but all have been eye-opening. I have found a park to run in (which is empty from about 10am-4pm and ridiculous busy otherwise with people walking, jogging, doing aerobics, resting, cuddling, sleeping, all kinds of things!). I have found a Fivimart very close to my apartment that carries peanut butter, nutella, and granola - which are things that I have not been able to find and have been craving. I am really enjoying my colleagues - John, Ted, and Lisa. We have been exploring together and all seem to get along well.
The traffic and the food are the most jarring things that I noticed when I first arrived in Hanoi. Oh yeah, and the overwhelming humidity. Supposedly it gets quite nice (65 degrees or so) in the winter. Hanoians will wear pants and long sleeve shirts...which they do in the heat as well. I have gotten used to the traffic already. Beeps are constant, and they are not saying, 'what are you doing? Get out of my way' as they would in the States. They are saying 'I am going. I am here. If you do not move, I will hit you.'. Horns are about the person honking them, not about anyone else. They have even customized horns so that one hit will continue in a little horn song so that they don't have to tire themselves out honking it.
The food has been fun too. Unlike other tourists (uhh which there are zero of in Cau Giay where I am living near Vietnam National University), we are not being too careful about what we eat. Obviously, we are not drinking the water - no one does - but we are eating at all kinds of places. Street food has been our go-to. It is about 20,000VND for a huge plate of rice and then any mix of vegetables, meat, egg, tofu, or whatever else they are serving that night. Pho (beef noodle soup) is on every menu. Nem are spring rolls, which I actually have not seen a ton of...regardless, John, Ted, Lisa, and I are not going hungry!
My next post will describe some specific stories of things that have happened so far...but today I will post a few pictures as well.