A Year In Review

This month marks my one year anniversary with Vietnam and wow has it been a wild year. I made amazing friends, traveled around south east Asia, gained wonderful new experiences, and learned a lot about myself and the world around me.

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In the beginning, when I first moved here, I essentially came with three other people, arrive all within a month of each other. And for the first 6 months of living in Vietnam, those people have given me unparalleled support to try new things and have pushed me to live outside my comfort zone. We were all stuck together; living in this city with no English capacity. We relied on each other and that’s what cultivated such strong relationships. These once strangers have become one of the main reasons I have profoundly loved my experiences so much. We call ourselves a family because we have become one. Sometimes it really isn’t about where in the world you go, but it’s more about who you had surrounded myself with.

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The bitter time came; one-by-one we all needed to say our farewells and take our leave in order to continue on our incredible adventures. The day when Raychel decided to leave me, I don’t know what happened, but I cried. It was eye opening to see how fond I have grown for these people, the center, and absolutely wonderful city. Then a month later, as I was leaving and headed off to the airport, I was crying as well. And not the type of crying where you look cute as you are seeing off some friends, the type of crying that is unexpected and takes over: can’t talk, can’t walk, all you are is a babbling idiot.  Over this year, I am so grateful having made everlasting friends that I adore and continue to connect with. Every person that I have connected with has all taught me something valuable.

Being in a new country, knowing that time is limited, there is an silent, yet strong urge to capitalize. And, for me, that means exploring as many new places as time (and money) allows. There are too many highlights to share and with so many incredible people. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to travel around the whole Vietnam & even more outside the country. I get nostalgic thinking about all the wonderful (and miserable) trips I had.

These last 12 months, I have been looking for any opportunity to travel and see more. Now, I’m looking through my photo albums and remembering all that I’ve seen: lanterns with Raychel, went hiking with Ngoc, cleansing temples with Sydney, endless meat sticks with Kyle, frigid waters with Mom, and squirt guns with Tammy. What amazing memories that will last a lifetime. These memories? I wouldn’t trade for anything. I realized that traveling is more about gaining experiences rather than taking photos of landmarks.

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Through thick and thin, teaching has made it possible for me to continue exploring. It has been a cornerstone and foundational throughout my time here in Vietnam. I couldn’t write a year in review without mentioning teaching. For me, teaching is a new experience and wildly different than what I thought it would be. I thought how hard could it be: I already know English. Boy was I wrong. I have a huge new found respect for teachers. Lesson planning and cutting things up for an hour only for a 10 minute activity. In the beginning and first classes, I remember how nervous I would be for every class and how I would stress about going up to present.

In hindsight, I clearly overthought the gravity of the situation. I believed that everything I that I said and did had a direct impact of student’s life. While I was right…  it ain’t that deep. I was too concerned with how the students thought of me and less concerned of how and what the students were learning. I started off teaching lessons that were teacher-based, now moving toward student-centered. What I realized over the past week is that I really do care about my students success and their growth with the English language. I take pride in being a teacher (which is hard because I am not properly trained to be one). I am happy to be a teacher for these next few months, but it’s not a job that I will be doing say 5 years from now.

Next for me? That is something that is still to be determined. I’m not sure what the future holds exactly, but I know one thing for sure is that I am still mobile and not ready to settle down yet. Maybe I’ll be a city near you next.

Cheers to another great year, wherever I am.
Perry

 

 

A Traveler’s Nightmare

This week, Raychel and I again decided to take a quick 2 day trip to explore the beautiful sights of a new city. Ninh Binh is a short 4 hour train ride from where I live. I thought it would be a quick and easy trip… I was wrong. Usually, when you go traveling you hope for the best but plan for the worst. In Ninh Binh, the worse came.

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As we got onto the train, the problems began. The scheduled time for arrival was 9:30am and the train conductors knock on your door to let you know you have arrived at your station. The train arrived at a station at 9:25 and I was slightly panicked because I didn’t know if this was the stop we got off. The train stated moving again and we decided to ask a stranger which way Ninh Binh was. “Ohh no,” he said and pointed in the opposite direction of the train “Ninh Binh.” Panic.

Train rolling along, Raychel and I sat for another 15 minutes discussing options: maybe lets just go all the way to Hanoi or get off at the next stop and wing it. The train stopped yet again and then the train conductor knocked on the door. “Ninh Binh,” he said. Surprised? Me too. We were just late…

The reason we chose to head to this city was, to be frank, a gorgeous picture we saw on Instagram. After further investigation, the city is known for its stunning views and intricate cave system. However, when we arrived, it nothing but clouds and rain. No beautiful sights to be seen.

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Again, we rented a motorbike as a means of travel and again, we ran into another problem. The motorbike wouldn’t start. It was extremely finicky and the ignition had to be pressed in the right way with a strong tug on the throttle. Finally, it started and we biked to our hotel… in the pouring rain… with cheap plastic ponchos. Needless to say we were wet and needed a hot shower. When we arrived, you guessed it, another problem.

The hotel was wet. Okay, I am being a bit dramatic, but the floor near the window and bathroom was wet. And that left everything else in the room damp. Do you know the feeling of your clothes when you dry it but its 10 minutes shy of being completely dry? Those were the blankets I slept on.

Even though I was under the weather (ba-dum-tss), we decided to roll with the punches and head back into the rain to explore the city. By this point, the rain was coming down so hard, it caused flash floods around the city. We rode around for about three hours in the rain to find an Instagram worthy photo. None to be found. We couldn’t even get to the “Mua Caves” because of the flooding.

Finally, we headed back to the hotel to take a break from the rain and regroup. It had already been such a long day and it was 3pm. We headed back out to find dinner and another problem struck. The motorbike had a flat back tire. I pushed the motorbike to a street corner where this older gentleman started tearing the bike apart. In the end he was just pulling out the tube and putting a patch on the tire. The long day turned into a super-long day.

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The next day was the saving grace. Sunshine. Warmth. Views. First we headed to see a pagoda of the city. And encountered another problem – actually more of a funny story. This time Raychel was captain of the bike. We got off so she could push the bike up a curb. She pulled the throttle a bit too hard, it ran into a wall and the bike fell over. She immediately looks up at me and says “Perry, I dropped the bike,” at which point I chuckled to myself. It fell on the opposite side where she was so all was good. Except maybe the scuff left on the bike.

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We again headed to the Mua Caves to see the city from a different perspective. When we arrived to the Caves, we left the motorbike on the side of the road in order to ride a paddle boat over to the flooded entrance. Then walked on a flooded walkway to the start of the hike. It was definitely an interesting experience. After all the problems that were encountered, the view was more than worth it. The only downside was that it went from cold to sweltering. I was literally dripping in sweat which meant mosquito bites.

Of course, it wouldn’t be travelers nightmare without another problem. As we were leaving and picking up our bike on the side of the road, I locked the keys inside the bike! Vietnamese motorbikes have a compartment under the seat so that you can store a backpack sized item while riding. We had a sweet french couple to help us out and finesse the seat to grab the key.

Let’s not forget, there’s always a big finish. To round out the problem ridden trip, the train back got cancelled due to flooding! But we headed to the train station without that knowledge and by some turn of fate, the train was rescheduled to run only 30 minutes later. Thinking this train would be only 4 hours back, we booked a seat. But heres the twist. The train took 13 hours to make its trip. 13 hours. It was parked for 8 hours because of the flooding.

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Overall, this trip was chock full of problems. But hey, that is part of the adventure of traveling.

Until next time,
Perry