Knee-Deep in ‘Nam … Back to Reality

Here I am, six weeks into my whirlwind chapter that is Hanoi, Vietnam and I actually can’t believe how quickly the time is passing. It feels like just yesterday that I walked through the door of the Vietnamese Community Volunteering (VCV) apartment, sweaty as ever and exhausted from a rigorous 32 hours of travel.

Greeted by a handful of unfamiliar, smiling faces and a bowl of steaming hot noodles, I almost immediately felt at home. Little did I know that this group of friendly strangers that welcomed me that hot, sticky evening would blossom into some seriously wonderful relationships.

After only 24 hours at VCV, I was thrown in to teach my first English lesson. So at 17:25 on October 7, I timidly hopped on the back of one of the Vietnamese volunteer’s motorbikes and experienced my very first journey through the city.

Hung, the 23-year-old Vietnamese volunteer that I bear-hugged out of fear and excitement the entire 45-minute ride to class, quickly became one of my closest friends in Hanoi. That first motorbike ride bonded us… the adrenaline that coursed through me as we zipped through Hanoi’s City Center was truly an experience unlike any other. One could even say it was love at first scoot.

We pulled up to the building on a side street in Van Phu and after snapping a quick selfie on the back of Hung’s bike (my “pics or it didn’t happen” mentality got the best of me), I walked into a lobby full of screaming young Vietnamese students. There was a “Merry Christmas” sign hanging above the front desk and lockers that lined the wall where teachers could keep their belongings and helmets.

The teaching assistant that night was Ms. Linh, the kids were an ornery crew of 10-year-olds, and I was a bag of nerves (and had also prepared the wrong lesson – classic…). I remember being half-way through and turning to Ms. Linh to ask how I was doing. She replied with a smile and a simple, “You’re perfect”. I don’t know if she just said that to comfort me in my time of need or if she actually meant it, but I have to say that that first class left me feeling a sort of euphoria and energy I hadn’t in so long.

. . .

Fast forward 8 months and here I am back in southern California receiving my official Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate. I recently accepted a position to work with foreign exchange students as a summer school ESL teacher through an awesome global education company. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d end up here or pursuing the realm of education. I thank Vietnam, VCV, and my wonderful students for that.

Vietnam easily stole my ever-wandering, restless heart. The food, the atmosphere, the people, the students, everything – it is a truly tantalizing culture in the most indescribable and visceral way. Thank you again, Vietnam, for wrapping me up in all your beautiful chaos – I’ll be back someday.


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