Back when I had been in Hanoi 4ish months, I met a someone and when we did the inevitable how long have you been here small talk she answered by saying “I don’t know, 10 months maybe?” I was a little surprised because I was hyper aware of how much time had passed. I couldn’t imagine ever being in her state of uncertainty. But here I am, having been here 9 months? 10? 8? I’ll count, October….. now it’s almost July wowowow. Nine full months in Hanoi and 10ish in Vietnam. Someone asked me recently how long, and I was little surprised to hear myself say “huh, 10 months? Maybe 9?” He said wow because it was his second week. I probably would have said the said thing if I was in his position.
I could hear in his voice that he thought 10 months was a long time and I’m starting to feel like it is. For better or worse I’ve spent a lot of time throughout these 10 months analyzing my experience. Is it “successful”? Am I happy? Was it a good choice? At different points it probably has been successful, unhappy, and a good choice. Maybe all three at once. Do I like that I’m constantly analyzing and judging my experiences? No. But what I have gained is the awareness that I’m doing it. On a good day I can redirect the thoughts with a simple, one day this will all be over and I will miss it, so let’s not write it off while I’m still in it. On a not so good day I think, maybe I should just leave.
Although the number of “How’s Vietnam?” text messages has waned, I’m still constantly (dreading) drafting a response in my head. How is it? Is it good? I can’t say that it’s bad, right? It’s not all bad, but it’s definitely not all good, how do I express this all in a little message??? I responded to one friend back in January with this “Life is chugging along here in Vietnam. I don’t love every minute but I’m starting to find pockets of joy and things I look forward to doing. So it’s not all bad.” This felt fair. She didn’t respond and I assumed my response was a little too grim. Man I hate texting.
I’m writing this from a quiet cafe tucked down an ally that I have be going to since I first arrived in Hanoi. I remember putting the address into the uber app, getting dropped off, and having not a clue where it was so I just walked away and found somewhere else to sit. I have memories of taking a cramped bus home from here during rush hour after spending hours sitting on the floor at their ground level tables. And today I drove my own bike here without needing any navigational assistance. The city is full of these types of memories and examples of growth. Almost everyday I have feelings of gratitude, mostly when I’m driving because there was a long period when I thought I would never be able to navigate the traffic.
Along with the feeling a gratitude, almost every day I experience a feeling of alone-ness. Not always loneliness but sometimes loneliness. At times the alone-ness is the dominating feeling, sometimes it’s gratitude. Today I feel okay with that. But I’m learning that tomorrow will feel different and the day after that will probably feel a different kind of different too. So the journey of letting go continues.