Thursday, October 28, 2010

Constant Adventure!

It has been way too long since I have last written in my blog…and I really should not even be writing now with all the college recommendations, grades and comments that I need to write – deadlines approaching…but somehow my blog got higher priority. Procrastinate much?

Currently, I am in a bus. Two hours into an eight-hour bus trip to Sapa – small little packed bus with thirteen kids, four teachers, our director, a driver, and one other guy (maybe our tour guide? Maybe a random hitchhiker? No one was ever introduced…). My computer battery is dying quickly, but I did manage to write one rec. My ipod battery is also dying…and I did not bring a book because I have kindle on my ipod. So yeah, bad planning on my part. Already took a nap…guess I have lots of time to think.

It has been so long since my last post that I really cannot even begin to sum up everything that happened – the mundane or the crazy. Friday the marking period ended, so I have grades and comments to do, though very little direction comes from the director sometimes, so everything is a bit of a mystery…including the trip that we are on now. We are taking this bus to the mountains of Sapa – which I am hoping will be wonderful. It is supposed to be cool (weather-wise) – maybe even in the 60s! And there is supposed to be hiking! Finally we are getting out of the city and the smog and the noise and will hopefully be able to breathe some fresh air! We are spending four days in Sapa, and a night or two with host families. Then we come back to Hanoi, and a few hours later, leave for Ha Long Bay. We will spend the night on the boat and return the next day, though I hope we get a chance to relax and take in the scenery…

I am thinking I will have some time in the next week to update about these trips! The 1000 year anniversary (10/10/10 1000 nam Thang Long Ha Noi) of Hanoi was exciting. We marched in the military parade in front of millions of Vietnamese. Honestly more people than I think that I have ever seen in my life. The streets and buses were so crowded. There was one point when we were walking home from the parade (after walking a few miles in the parade we had to walk a bunch of miles back home because there were no cabs and the buses were paced) when I was literally surrounded by Vietnamese people and motorbikes. I was trying to cross the street (of unmoving motorbike and people walking traffic) and literally could not move. Even if I wanted to jump over a motorbike, I couldn’t – there was no space. I just stood there looking helpless – a blond head sticking up a good six inches over a sea of black heads. That night were the 1000 year celebration fireworks. Luckily, Ted and Lisa lived close to the stadium where the fireworks would be. There were supposed to be over 10 or more locations for fireworks, but unfortunately, during the kite festival (which I also went to), someone was smoking near where the fireworks were being stored and they exploded. There was a huge mushroom cloud and a few deaths…so they could only have fireworks at My Dinh stadium – one location instead of many. John (Englsih teacher) and I managed to get a bus mid-day to Ted and Lisa’s. They had already closed their street to traffic and people were already coming in droves – a good 5 hours pre-firework display. The display was awesome, and I am glad I got to see it from Ted and Lisa’s sixteenth floor apartment. As I was trying to sleep – at Ted and Lisa’s – I heard traffic, voices, and honking until at least 2am (fireworks were over at 10pm). The next day we heard reports that there were so many people in the streets and in the outdoor stadium that many were passing out due to lack of oxygen – there were so many people packed together that there was not enough air to go around!! Crazy!

I always said that I did not really want to be in a city. That is one of the reasons I decided not to attend Columbia this year. And here I am, more fully in a city than I could ever imagine. Being in this situation – living in a city, in a foreign country – in a developing country – is definitely challenging in many ways and also makes me question my beliefs and wants and needs and future. I am definitely having fun and learning a lot – but it is also exhausting. It is exhausting to be questioning everything and thinking about everything al the time. My battery is about to die, so I will have to put this on hold for now. Luckily I will have plenty of time to think during this next 6 hours on the bus…

Soooooo that bus ride was actually a good 12 hours. I have now just returned home from the night train from the mountains outside Sapa. We got on the train at 8pm and got into Hanoi at 4:30am. Sapa was pretty awesome. It was misty and cool the whole time, which was a nice change from the humidity of Hanoi, though today it is cool and cloudy in Hanoi as well. We saw a bunch of markets and different tribal groups. I loved all of the bright colors of the different tribal wear! Neon pink, green, blue, orange! The people were nice – they spoke better English than many in Hanoi. Vietnamese was not their first language, and some claimed to know English better than Vietnamese! There was one great woman named Pie who followed us around and guarded us from the other women selling things. She said, “You only buy from me”, but she was also really sweet. We had some good conversations. For one, she told me that I am way over the hill in Sapa. She said that no one wants to marry anyone over 20 years old. So basically I would be SOL if I lived in Sapa! She was 25 and had been married for 10 years and had two babies. She was cute and happy and walked 7km from her village with her big basket on her back full of things that she made to sell. Luckily for her, the kids and I all liked her, so she definitely made her day’s walk worth it.

Now I am back in my apartment for another few hours, doing laundry, eating snacks, maybe napping…before we get back in the bus to go to Ha Long Bay. Hopefully the sun will come out and we can have a nice relaxing time…who knows what the next hours will bring…everything is always a surprise and adventure!