The past two days have been dreary and overcast and drizzly. Last night I was cold. This morning I was cold and I hopefully by drinking several cups of hot tea I’ll avoid getting sick. Furthermore, Buong has become decidedly super-hyper as soon as I want to go to bed and this detracts from my sleeping time. He has a schedule that goes something like this:
-Meow loudly if not let into the bedroom.
-Upon entering the bedroom, run around under the bed and chase things and play with dust for 5-10 minutes.
-Jump on the mosquito netting even though your graceful caregiver has left it untucked so you can get on the bed.
-Pull down the broken mosquito net pole, effectively rendering one corner of the bed useless for any mammals.
-Run around in circles on the bed; prance around and attack any part of your graceful caregivers body the moves slightly and pretend to be curious about the face of your graceful caregiver so that you have an excuse to tickle him with your whiskers.
-Fiercely and playfully attack your graceful caregivers hands or other extremities when he tries to move you away from his head and/or torso.
-Eventually lie still near your graceful caregivers head and/or shoulders so that when he wakes, you are prepared to immediately attack him further.
-Sleep most of the day to prepare for another exciting night.
Steven and I have decided on a kind of joint custody with Buong so that when we have been exhausted by his night-time antics for about a week or ten days, he can visit the other person’s room to give some relief to the initial person. It seems to be working okay for now, but I’ve never had a cat’s claw in my nose at 6 a.m. before.
I’ve decided that the time that I’m living in this country is going to be a time of adaptation. There are some who travel to new places and live there for the sole purpose of analyzing a new culture, society, country, etc., but I have decided recently that this is not me. It is not part of me nor will it ever really be. My time in college did not make me into a computer that analyses everything I see or experience. I am determined that my time here will leave me with many impressions and stories which I will talk about in the future, but for now, while I’m here, I’m not going to be staring at people walking down the street and wondering why their stride is different from mine. Adaptation, not analysis. It is better living to simply live and experience without critically thinking about the reasons why things are different in another part of the world. I’m not sure how I arrived at this frame of mind, but now I’m here and I like it. In all of the other places where I lived, I’ve done the same. Of course I was younger then, but I don’t see why it can’t be the same now. I’m not here as a cultural observer, or an anthropologist, I’m just here to teach, to live, to experience. To enjoy a book while reading it, and worry about the critical analysis later. Life would be painful if every sentence was unscrewed and turned around and every action was scrutinized with a piercing eye of investigation.
I caught a plane out of the hot afternoon in at the airport in Ho Chi Minh City and the sun faded in the west as the plane climbed. Eventually I saw two lights out past the left wing, but they weren’t moving–stars. I dozed a little uncontrollably and then they gave us airline food which I doused with chili sauce. As the nose of the plane began to tilt forward and the Russian pilots speaking Vietnamese told us to fasten our seat belts, I could see lighting flashing in the clouds below us. Then the plane was in it. We thrashed around for a few minutes (I never did hear the thunder crash, I only saw lighting) and then emerged under the clouds into a rainless night.
My boss was waiting for me at the door to the airport, and we quickly found a taxi and were headed to Hanoi. However, it was Independence day for Vietnam, and the roads were choked with motorbikes. Lowell and I had to get out of the taxi because they were not allowing cars into the center of the city. So we started walking, but soon after we started walking, the fireworks began to explode above the city. Then the roads, which were already choked with motorbikes and cars and bicycles, came to a complete standstill. Lowell and I walked on. There were “dead areas” where buildings blocked the view and therefore no people were there. But finally we came to a place where the people were packed so tightly that we couldn’t get through. We just stood there and saw the edges of the firework display and I found that I was blinking every time there was an explosion. We looked out above the crowd of people and both said we’d never seen anything like it. It really was amazing. People just stopped on the road. Not really saying anything, just listening to the bangs and watching the colors. Cars were stuck in amongst all the motorbikes like insects in amber. Eventually, the fireworks ended and Lowell and I had to wade through a large intersection which took about 10 minutes of getting around motorbikes and cars that weren’t really moving. And finally we were back at Ruth and Lowell’s house. It was a relief and I was tired and showered and hopped into bed.
The next morning was a trip out to Ha Long bay, about 3 hours of driving from Hanoi. I was sleeping for most of the drive or doing the small talk thing with the two new volunteers that will be working in Hanoi (one of them actually came on my first trip to Vietnam over two years ago). I awoke from my sleep to find that we had stopped for a break and some tourist trap and I hadn’t seen so many white people in one place for some time. I found myself standing to the edge of the area while our driver tried to get the van out of the parking lot. And eventually we arrived at the bay. We hopped on a boat and sailed off. It was an overcast day, and cool. The views were a little disappointing because of the haze in the distance, but the weather was wonderfully cool. We sailed around, walked through some caves, ate some amazing seafood and then headed back. Once again I was tired and went to bed early.