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Posts Tagged ‘long bien’

heroine islandI’ve had a nice mellow day.  The sun made its second appearance of the month, disallowing me to indulge in any hangover behavior.   I went swimming with Jouke at the “Army Hotel,” which is either very poorly named or a luxury training camp (Give me 20…pina coladas, woo! Spring Break!).  It was refreshing to say the least. I’m starting to question my habit of spending the majority of my weekdays hungover.   Am I in college again?  Now that I think about it, I was better behaved in college.  Such is the teaching life if you let it be so.  I spent many nights this week drinking at various bars with other teachers.  One night, at Half Man Half Noodle (interpret that name as you will), my coworker Elana asked me and some drunk Swede, “What’s the meaning of life?”  I don’t remember why this was brought up, but surely there was a good reason.  The Swede grabbed his crotch and said “This – genes.”  Elana replied, “Jeans?”  I was squirming in my chair, “ooh ooh, call on me, call on me!”  If you’ve read last my blog, you know that I’ve already found the answer to this question that has plagued humanity for all of time.  I proudly and pompously professed, “There is no meaning.  Life is meaningless.”  The Swede’s eyes rolled into the back of his head, causing it to collapse into the wall while he searched for his drink. I think he was moved by my brilliance. Elana stared at me and said, “I can’t accept that.”  I deflated and failed to elaborate.  No, no…it’s way hippier than it sounds!  It means you can’t fuck up!  Upon further reflection, I do think you can fuck up.  Getting hooked on crack usually qualifies as fucking up.  We Americans collectively fucked up when we voted for Dubya.  Twice. You can make choices that may be better or worse for you in the long run, but what’s this about meaning?  You just live.  Ideally, you can and should do so as you like, and that’s the tricky part.

Moving along to the less philosophical chapter of this blog.  Mitchell and I recently went to what we now refer to as “Heroine Island.”  If you walk along Long Bien Bridge, you’ll find some stairs leading down to a peculiar 046island on the river.  It’s basically farmland with a little dirt trail and a few Vietnamese families living on it.  The thing that’s strange about the island is its location.  Picture an island with crops on it in the middle of New York City.  Yeah…weird.  And awesome.  Open spaces where you aren’t in danger of getting pummeled by motorbikes are a rarity in Hanoi.  So, we decided to explore a bit. I followed Mitchell under the bridge towards the water.  He was bouncing around like a kid until he said “oh, look down.”  We had been frolicking amongst a pile of hypodermic needles.  We tip-toed away, a little less enthusiastic about our paradise island.  After saying hello to a few of the locals upon whose land we were intruding, we ended up on a dried part of the river near some boats.  There were a bunch of discarded altars sticking out of the ground.  Altars and needles.  Apparently, when one’s ancestors either cease to be important or demand an upgrade in Earthly lodging, the Hanoians chuck their altars over the bridge.  So, we were walking in a surreal graveyard of sorts.  Despite the hazard of sharp objects, haunting, and AIDS, heroine island is well worth the trip due to its relative peace and randomness.  On another outing, Jouke and Charlie came across some naked 057men swimming in the river.  Mitchell and Ben made friends with a high junkie stumbling around who may have literally seen them as white devils.  This and more can all be yours on heroine island.

Not a whole lot has been going on as of late.  Going away parties are as common here as cd release parties are in Austin.  Who’s going away now?  Oh, ok…I’ll drink to that.  That’s a downside to living abroad of course.  Just when you think you might be getting to know someone, off they go.  A constant stream of newbies arrives to take their place, giving me seniority and higher status in the expat community.  It helps boost my cool quotient.  Oh, you’re still afraid to cross the street?  I remember those days, long ago.  You only know 5 Vietnamese words – I know 5 sentences.  You paid how much for those shoes?  Oh, well…er…I’m still overpaying for everything too.  The fluidity of the expat scene can be somewhat difficult.  It makes more sense to make Vietnamese friends.  However, making friends of a commonish background and language can feel daunting to me.  Throw in communication problems, cultural assumptions, etc, and the task can at times seem impossible, so while I have a few local friends, we have yet to make it to the stage of being “good” friends (i.e., feeling completely comfortable and talking about our lives on a more personal level).  This isn’t to say that I don’t like the Hanoians I’ve met. Quite the opposite. It’s rare to meet someone I don’t like or who gives me a bad feeling.  They’re fucking nice here.  Like nice nice. Some of the sweetest, most generous around. This is going to sound patronizing, but it’s really not meant to be, I’m just not articulate enough to put it a better way – you get the general feeling that there’s an inordinate number of people who radiate a sort of innocence.  I know one or two people like this back home (Hi Nicole!).  They simply seem genuinely kind and wholesome…like they’re not as self-serving, jaded, or cynical as the rest of us.  I actually cover my mouth when I curse in front of my 21 year old tutor.  I’d sooner tell my grandmother a dick joke.  I don’t think she’d judge me necessarily, but it’d embarrass her.  So, this presents yet another obstacle to the kindling of close friendships. It’s harder to feel comfortable and to stop editing my crass ways. But it’s also something that I’m sure I can get over.

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