Musings, Travel Log

One Last Time

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Long Bien Bridge and Banana Island below

“This is the last time you will be performing this play, probably for the rest of your lives. After all those rehearsals, doing it over and over again,  going scene by scene, for just 30 minutes on that stage…one last time.”

A pep talk from our director that was more grounding than lifting our spirits, but it hit me hard and sank in. Two months of 2+ rehearsals a week, couple hours each, then almost everyday, hours stretched; all for a “Silly Shakespeare Short” rendition of The Tempest. To think of where we started 8 weeks ago– barely knowing each other, barely knowing the script, and morphing each scene into the final interpretation– it’s kind of special all that came out.

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Toil

Then there’s what the director calls “postpartum” after the last fadeout and final bow, when the set gets broken down and the cast say their goodbyes. What do I do nowAll that time and energy pushing for something and then suddenly the weight is gone. Did all that even happen? Thankfully there are pictures to prove it did.

 

Poetically, that dovetails into my last few days in Hanoi–and abroad–before flying back to the States. bitter.sweet. surreal. Now every xe om ride feels like ‘the last time’ I’ll fly through these streets and sights, so I peel my eyes open and crane my neck every which way. Because as much as I want to come back to Vietnam and Hanoi, I truly don’t know if or when it will ever happen. And it certainly won’t the same experience as I’ve had these 12 weeks living in my Ba Dinh bubble with a rooted work schedule. If I come back, it will likely be leisure based, which is entirely different from actually living in a place. The street I’ve lived on constantly shifts to a different one each time I look a little higher or a little closer around. Twelve weeks sounds shorter than three months, and time does a funny dance with memories where yesterday feels like weeks ago but has it already been months since I moved in in September?

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Not only the sights, but obviously the people I’ve met along the way. Soaking in hot tea, toiling away at backstage ‘refugee camp’, a drink after, a smoke, over hot pot, cruising the bay, countless rides to rehearsal, arm-in-arm in Old Quarter, lunch around the office table. Good, great, bad, meh; and it continues to amaze me how we wouldn’t have met under any other circumstances (yes, platitudes platitudes, but that doesn’t mean the sentiments aren’t real).

 

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One of the many nooks and crannies of backpacker haven, Old Quarter

Of course, as I’m writing this, D reminds me:
“Ah that’s wonderful (that I’m blue)! Doesn’t that mean that you had a good time while abroad, and that’s why good byes are so so hard?”

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Pho cocktail. Sums it all up.

Okay, enough of the syrupy stuff. It’s been a ride, Vietnam, and em yêu anh* for it.

 

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Giang Vo Lake after work

 

*If you couldn’t guess, “I love you.”

 

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Travel Log

And Now for Something Completely Different…

Hoan Kiem Lake at night

Hoan Kiem Lake at night

Hanoi, Vietnam–

I think I’ve taken the familiarity I had with Bangladesh for granted– being able to speak and read language enough to get my bearings, and blending in with the masses. Now? Now I have a full appreciation for the struggles my other fellow expats encountered in Dhaka. Despite the Roman characters, I am utterly lost reading Vietnamese signs and can hardly pick out a word of what’s being spoken as there is very little English shared between me and the locals. Now I get to be giggled at while butchering the few foreign phrases I know. Honestly, it gets tiring: constantly trying to explain via charades and not being understood, trying to understand others through facial expressions and pointing around.

Roadside barbershop

Roadside barbershop

It could be easier, but I wouldn’t trade my (brief) experience so far. I got to explore more familiar territory and witness the nuances of my heritage culture. And now I get to plunge into new waters to see how well I can navigate when left on my own. Each experience lets me appreciate the other and I can’t help but to constantly compare/contrast the two cities: rickshaws are traded for motor bikes (they will be missed), there are more women out and about, stores are still stacked one on top of another while concreteglass buildings share air with fading older facades reminiscent of Old Dhaka, and there are still people coming out of the woodwork from every crevice. Also, the rains seemed to have left Bangladesh and met me here in Hanoi, because I am talking sheets pouring down.

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15 minutes of leapfrog to get through every intersection

Aside: While I sorely miss riding colorful, body-jarring rickshaws, I must say I am feeling the zippy motorbikes. Zooming through narrow alleyways, I feel like I’m in an action movie as we whiz, zigzag, and swerve through neon signs and under touching balconies. Currently 60/40 in favor of getting my own bike.

Cheers to another 2.5 months of getting lost.

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