I’m sitting in a café right now writing on my laptop and enjoying the warm mid-November weather in Hanoi. The windows are all open to the busy street noise of Hoan Kiem District’s Cathedral square and a throng of school children are playing noisily in the parking lot of St. Josephs Cathedral. It is Quarter past five and the traffic and constant honking of motorbikes and taxi’s is barely perceptible to me now after fourteen months in Hanoi.
I have never felt about anything the way I feel about Hanoi. I hate it so much some days that I want to explode venom and fury over all who surround me like Chuck Norris in “Braddock- Missing in Action part 1” Then there are days like today, where the simple beauty of this confounded place is almost more than I can stand. Things are very simple here, and I know no matter how I feel about this place on any given day, I will miss it for the rest of my life when I leave.
Taiwan was also a beautiful place full of wonder and excitement, but it didn’t hold a candle to Hanoi for the sheer mystique and comfortable confusion that is offered by Hanoi. It is so loud that it is like a frantic emotion that blankets the whole place. The people scream and yell in to their cell phones and at each other on the street, not out of anger but because that is just how it is here. The constant horn blasting by every vehicle on the road in the maddening irony of the uselessness of the horn, by way of it’s intended purpose, being used in this manner.
The people, so brash, rude and abrasive, yet in a completely innocent way, simply don’t know any better or are incapable of behaving any other way. They are so childlike in their comments and exclaimed noises as a big Westerner walks by, so annoying to me before, simply makes me smile now. Vietnam is their country and I am just a visitor here. These people in the North have sweat, bled, died and suffered for their beloved homeland. They fought off the American invasion in the 60’s and 70’s and claimed somewhat of a victory over the most powerful country in the world. This empty victory left them in a state of such destruction and absolute poverty that they would spend the next thirty years trying to recover. Now that they are just finally starting to stand on their own feet after the American War, as they call it, are submitting of their own free will to the force of the West on what they believe to be their terms.
To be here in Hanoi as they celebrate the 1000 anniversary of this city is truly something to behold and experience. The students that I teach are hungry for education outside of the system in Vietnam that spends the first two years of their university education focusing on Marxist and Leninist philosophy. I can see the change the future holds for Vietnam in their faces and wish I could be here to see it happen. But, I will leave before anything really significant happens here, looking on fondly from wherever I find myself, at this place that I will always consider a second home. I must say that living in Vietnam right now feels like truly living, and not just wiling away the days in the comfort of my Nova Scotia, succumbing to age and indifference. These are truly the days that I will look back upon from behind the cloudy eyes of an old man, and remember the time in my life when I felt the most alive.
I always had a distaste for the people that find religion or spiritual guidance in any form and then try and force it upon other people as though it would be as beneficial for all as it was for them. I would just like to say to anyone still reading this, that if you have not done it yet, get out of your home and move around this planet a little. Stretch your legs and experience something brand new. It will change you to your very core. I miss my friends and family more than I can adequately express here on this blog, but I feel like I belong here, right now. I have my good days and bad days in this country and today is definitely a good day. I will always be grateful to Hanoi for what it has done to change me.
Sorry if I got a little spirited, I am a little drunk. :)