January brought with it the winding down of teaching, only two weeks of it. It was a very strange feeling as we began to have the last of everything…
- Our last Phở.
- Our Last Vietnamese Coffee.
- Our last Bubble Tea (most amazing flavoured tea thing with squishy tapioca balls at the bottom).
- Our last gin and tonic night together.
It was really sad slowly saying goodbye and knowing we would probably never all be Hanoi together again! Hopefully there will be a reunion one day.
Towards the end we all got close to some of the Vietnamese waiters at Le Pub. We also got to know the manager who is a very cool Londoner called Matt – every time anyone had a birthday and every one of our ‘last nights’ he gave us a free stuff. Very sweet of him.
We went out with Tiếp, Tương and Long (which means Dragon!) quite a few times which was so much fun. However it resulted in unwanted drama involving Long declaring his love for me and giving me his scarf “to remember him by.” [Hmmm… -Ed] Oh dear.
Here seems a good place to write about Tết. It’s the celebration of the lunar calendar. The Vietnamese have lots of rituals that go on around this time. It mainly affected us because Hanoi got a lot busier with people visiting family. Traffic somehow got even scarier! On Tết eve (the Sunday before I left Hanoi) we went to see the fireworks over the lake. They were beautiful and I was very emotional because it was symbolically the end.
In the last month we also made friends with our hotel people. I have mentioned Mr. Sinh in particular, he always wanted us to come and drink with him – the Vietnamese drink a lot and a lot of really strong rice wine which they buy really cheaply. It was fun sitting around a table outside the hotel at night though – he would let me drink tea instead (sometimes) and eat dried watermelon seeds which I (and every Vietnamese person) am addicted to cracking open and eating. We also sat with them on Tết eve. I felt very privileged that they wanted us to be there. It was so sad when I left to start traveling – Mr. Sinh was crying as he said goodbye and gave me a massive bag of dried coconut!
9th of January.
We had a big weekend for Emily’s birthday – going out on the Friday and then Glenn and Craig threw her a party at theirs on the Saturday. It was fun and a good chance to say goodbye to some of the other gappers that were leaving. We got her an amazing iced cake and had a cake fight as mature 19 year olds do. She also got her tongue pierced for her birthday! A very eventful weekend.
I had the weirdest thing happen to me on the Friday of her birthday – we were talking to Matt (the owner of Le Pub) who was being interviewed for a magazine The Word so naturally we got talking to the guy interviewing him. Weirdest thing ever – the guy (Nick Ross who runs The Word a Saigon magazine) is Ms. Brophy’s cousin. Ms. Brophy was my chemistry teacher and our exam co-coordinator at school! Scariest woman ever but an amazing teacher. Apart from meeting a guy from Golders Green nothing else like that had happened!
The end of teaching…
…brought mixed emotions for me. A sort of relief that I had done it and that I could now travel and enjoy Vietnam but I was also so sad to say goodbye to my kids! They were lovely – I got lots of presents and pictures and cards from them. All my presents were so sweet but some of them were so impractical that I had to leave them behind. My school actaully got us engraved crystal paper weights that must have been about 1kg. Which we had to leave! The babies were the cutest because I did not tell them in advance that I was leaving so they would give me whatever they could to say goodbye. One of my cutest tiniest 5 years olds frantically rummaged in her bag and ran up to me holding out a piece of gauze strip like it was the most precious thing in the world!
I had also got to know my teachers well and taught with a few of them outside school at the kindergarten and private tutoring so it was sad saying goodbye to them. Two of them invited me to their homes for Tết but I did not have enough time to take up the offer which would have been lovely. Two of my teachers knitted me scarves – one bright yellow and the other bright green. I looked like the Big Bird in Sesame Street.
My saddest goodbye was with a little boy in one of my baby classes that has special needs. These sorts of things are not often recognized in Vietnam, he gets told off a lot for things that he cannot help. He drops his pencils and takes a lot longer to understand things than other children. He also can only colour in the colour orange(?). The Vietnamese teacher would shout at him and (as is acceptable in Vietnam) hit him. I would always spend longer with him making sure he understood and give him extra praise and encouragement. When I told the class I was leaving he burst into tears and got very angry with me. I did not know what I could do – at least his mum was there to comfort him and I gave them all lots of sweets to cheer them up.
Our school co-coordinator suddenly got friendly at the end as well (which seemed to be the trend with everyone). She invited Emily and I as well as Glenn and Craig (who also worked at our school) for lunch, but only me and Craig could make it. She took us to a very posh place and made sure we knew that only rich people could afford it (money seems to mean everything in Vietnam) it was a nice gesture.
Tuesday the 20th
Lucy arrived! It was lovely seeing her again – I had really missed her. It was a hard time to be a tourist in Hanoi because of Tết – everything was crazy before the 26th and then afterwards everything was dead. We still managed to have some nice day trips and we did a one night stay in Ha long bay. Unfortunately it was freezing and both Lucy and I got very ill. She still kyaked though – extremely brave.
My last Sunday at church…
…was lovely . I went out for lunch afterwards with Finja – one of the younger girls I had met at the church. We had a great time of fellowship – I got to know how she was converted and I talked about my conversion. We also talked about problems and we both had our bible out the whole time reading passages that helped us. It was such a blessing and so needed – God really answered my prayers.
On my last night in Hanoi is was Tương‘s birthday so we went to do Vietnamese karaoke. Lots of singing and dancing! Me and Emily had our last sing along to the Moulin Rouge love medley (our favourite!) [not my favourite – Ed].
I was very stressed packing my bag; of course I left it until the last hour before getting the bus down south. It really did feel like I was packing up my life. Very hard to fit everything in a backpack and very heavy. Being stressed added to the emotion of leaving Hanoi and all the Aussies. In classic Sibyl style I was extremely emotional. But really that is that only way it could have been!