There is actually a giant turtle in Hồ Hoàn Kiếm lake!
As I was writing the first draft of this, the scariest thing happened. The Vietnamese Mafia (no joke) tried to kill a man outside the internet café I am sitting in. It really shook up, as this is my local area and I did not think something like that would happen here. All the Vietnamese people ran inside to hide and told me to as well. Completely crazy.
Last weekend, me and my friend Georgie were walking back home around the lake (the quickest way back to mine). It was pretty late and everywhere was deserted. The Vietnamese have a legend about a giant turtle in the lake and believe it’s good luck to see them. The last sighted giant turtle was in 2005. More info about the turtle.
Georgie had actually seen the giant turtle that is rumored to live in the lake the day before, and I was saying how amazing that was. She had only noticed because there were hundreds of people surrounding the lake. As I was telling her how awesome it was, part of the lake very close to us started bubbling and huge ripples went out across the lake. Me and Georgie got on our knees at the bank, clutching each other, staring completely shocked at the water. As we watched, the turtle’s huge head emerged onto the surface of the water. A second later it was gone.
We could still see the ripples moving under the water and then it came up again, this time even closer to us! You could see the outline of its huge body perfectly beneath the water. Such a majestic creature – slow and silent. It was at least a meter long; probably more (I’m bad at guessing measurements). Then it disappeared again, this time for good. It was the most magical experience for both of us. We were both shaking with excitement but it was actually quite scary as well. Kind of like something out of Godzilla – with the huge ripples (usually the lake is perfectly still). A completely incredible experience. Unfortunately, I did not have my camera, however I think I’m glad of that because I just got to enjoy the moment, rather than stressing about photographic evidence. I look at the lake so differently now that I know there is that huge creature in it. I do not know how it survives with all the pollution, or why there are so few sightings. I feel so privileged to have seen something that not even Vietnamese people get to in their life time!
I can’t believe I only have four more weeks of teaching left and that I will be leaving Vietnam soon. It has become my second home. I love my teaching now as well, so I will miss all my kids. I am so glad that Rhodri got to see a couple of my classes while he was here. Teaching was something I thought I would never be able to do or feel natural about. I think I become a completely different person in front of my classes – I have to. The kids are so great, especially when we are doing acting or singing. Rhodri gave me the ideas for acting (ooh yeah -Ed). It’s so much fun – I need to film some of my classes doing it before I leave. The kids appreciate us so much as well and it’s an amazing feeling walking into a class with all the kids screaming with happiness. We are very much celebrities to the kids. I won’t miss the constant “Me! Me! Meee!” you get when you play games though. The kids sound like the seagulls out of Finding Nemo! I refuse to pick them if they say me now. One day they will learn.