I arrived in Hanoi 2 years ago from the Philippines with one main goal: work and save as much money as possible. With a bit of luck, a few great opportunities and some hard work I've managed to pass my $20k goal and am happy to report a budget of world conquest proportions and hope not to need to work again for 2-3 years.
After arriving I got right to it and picked up work teaching young children at a language center through Dogi, my good friend and long time pool rival from Saigon. I loved the kids and ended up working there part time for the whole 2 years. Shortly after that I met Chi, my sunshine in a cloudy Hanoi, while she was working at a shoe shop near my house. I returned several times to buy house slippers until she agreed to give me her phone number. Chi was 24 and a divorced mother of 1. She was extremely considerate, funny, and selfless, always willing to help anyone and everyone. And so after being in Hanoi for only a couple of months I had went from being an aimless road vagrant to having a 'normal' life with an apartment, job and a girlfriend. Quite an adjustment!
My biggest break came when I landed a job teaching IELTS and Presentation skills at the University of Science and Technology in Hanoi. The courses where seasonal and the pay was far better than any work I had had up to that point. I had an opportunity to be very creative in choosing the content for the courses and to meet, teach and influence so many bright kids. It was here teaching 18-20 year olds that I really developed a love and passion for teaching and so decided to stay in Hanoi for a second year.
In the second year I lived in a great house and developed some friendships that I hope will continue far into the future. At this point my Vietnamese was pretty functional so Chi and I bought 10 desks, a white board and a projector and opened classes in our living room for other expats who wanted to learn Vietnamese. We did weekly classes for a few different levels and focused on bringing a modern style of teaching (Lots of games, fluency and listening activities and a “no English” rule ) to a Vietnamese classroom. I took on the role of Chi's assistant and tried to help her with methodology and logistics. Every class we ate awesome food and drank lots of beer, but the best thing about the classes was that we met so many cool people from all over the western world!
Hanoi can be quite a beautiful city with lots of trees and lakes, but during my second year here I did begin to develop a frustration with Hanoi and the attitudes of a lot of the people here. The traffic here is notoriously bad and lawless, which doesn't bother me that much aside from the younger guys (aka young buffalos) who fly around laying on their horns weaving in and out of traffic like maniacs. I have a hard time controlling my emotions when I feel that someone is putting people in danger just to be a douche bag and I've had several arguments in the street and even punched a kid in the face once for knocking an old lady off of her motorbike while driving drunk. A portion of the people here have a very hard, cold, Chinese-like attitude (this is mildly ironic because they hate the Chinese) which I find very different from the rest of the country, and not so appealing. When I left Saigon I was very sad and said heartfelt goodbyes to all of my neighbors and all the neighborhood people I saw from day to day and I really felt a connection having spent time living among them. I wish I could say the same for Hanoi.
All in all Hanoi has been a great place for me to bear down and continue funding my travels. Also, both my sister and brother were able to visit me here which was so amazing. Sitting here writing this I feel sad and as though I'm permanently closing a long chapter in my life, but at the same time extremely excited about the road ahead through Asia, India, Africa and beyond!