Back In Vietnam – Happy Days!

Anyone who knows me well knows I adore adventures. I also like flying. Even better when they’re combined. I couldn’t move from Ohio to Dong Hoi, Vietnam without a boatload of adventures and an airplaneload of flights.

Adventure number 1 of flying back to Vietnam was packing. A lot of people asked what I was going to take with me to Vietnam. I had two full-sized suitcases with clothes, housewares, teaching supplies, my hiking backpack, and a collection of accoutrements my first time coming to Vietnam. “I’m living in a different place for a year! On the South China Sea! Of course I need three bath towels!” was something of my packing motto. This time, I packed one full sized suitcase with clothes, my backpacking backpack with teaching supplies, and that’s about it. Packed it about 12 hours before my parents and I left for Dayton International Airport. The international moving version WeightWatchers should study my technique – went from about 100 pounds of packing my first time to about 65 pounds of packing this time.

First stop: San Diego (after a layover in Chicago) to see friends!

This time of year, Ohio is cold. Talk about a bad time for me to have to go back to frosty-in-the-winter Ohio. So I made a brilliant health decision and spent the weekend in warm and sunny San Diego! I spent the weekend with my friend Karlee. Like any good friendship, Karlee’s and my story is long and complicated. We met as tour guides in the University Ambassador (UA) at Ohio State. She was one of two co-captains, the student coordinators of UA, so she was kind of my boss for a year. We also had similar majors, so we took lots of classes, studied, and gave tours together. Classic friendship story. She spent time teaching in France after graduating and gave me the idea to teach abroad after I graduated!

My friend Alex and his family were also in San Diego on vacation that weekend. I also met Alex through UA. Karlee was on the hiring team for both us, so it was something of a magical small world coincidence that the weekend I happen to move to Vietnam, Karlee and I made plans and Alex’s family was in San Diego. Buckeye love! We had a great lunch, told Alex’s family stories about our times at Ohio State (since we’re tour guides, we’re master storytellers), and had a great reunion.

My friend Hannah was also in San Diego that weekend! She lived in New Knoxville for a while, our parents worked together, I played high school soccer with her brother, and she’s a ballerina in Chino now.

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Hannah, Karlee, and I took a beach walk. Did my pants end up soaked? A little. The body scanner at the San Diego airport showed items around my ankles. The TSA agent made fun of me when he felt the sand and water at the bottom of my pant legs. Well deserved. 

It was a great last weekend in America. Quite the adventure to explore San Diego with friends.

On Sunday began the long flying adventure! San Diego to San Francisco to Taiwan to Hanoi only took around 30 hours. I’ve gotten pretty good at sitting tight for a while. I would say the flights were uneventful, but you know well enough that “uneventful” is not my style in the least. You also know well enough that me talking about The Ohio State University played into the events 🙂

From the time boarding the plane to the time landing in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, I had seven conversations with twelve people about Ohio State. I was wearing a Buckeye jacket and had a Buckeye water bottle. And I also still and will forever love talking about my alma mater. Buckle in, folks! These are exciting stories.

Talking about The Ohio State University

  1. On the flight from Dayton to Chicago, someone took my solo seat on the school bus sized plane we were riding. I took an open seat the aisle next to someone. My seat friend told me she’s interested in getting her Ph. D. Her follow up question to me asking where she earned her undergraduate degree was, with the expected tenacity and aim at cutting my huge ego you can imagine, “I’m guessing you when to Ohio State?”
  2. While loading the Chicago to San Diego flight, I heard, “O-H!” The man in the seat I was walking by was wearing a Block Oshirt! I replied “I-O!”, and we said in unison, “Go Bucks.”
  3. After landing in San Diego, the two men next to me started talking about the weather. Classic. I made a joke about how I was living in Vietnam until October and went from mid-80s daily temperatures to mid-30s daily temperatures when I came back home. They asked why I came back home. I told them I had some medical problems and spent my first night back in the U.S. in the Wexner Medical Center at The Ohio State University. I proudly took the opportunity to show them my Ohio State water mug.
  4. The couple in front of me, one wearing an Indiana University shirt, in the San Diego security line were talking about an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie but couldn’t remember the title. I chimed in with, “Total Recall. It’s cool. We can talk about the movie because I’m a Big Ten fan,” and I pointed to the Block O on my jacket.
  5. I had the window seat on the flight from San Diego to San Francisco. The passenger next to me turned on his TV and the Ohio State-Iowa basketball game was playing. I said “Go Bucks!” and showed him my mug and jacket. Then he told me to watch out because he’s from TSUN (acronym for “The State Up North”, which is what we sometimes call *ichigan, Ohio State’s biggest rival). But he had taught English in South Korea and was happy to hear I’m teaching English as well. I also talked with the aisle seat passenger about Ohio State. We all became friends.
  6. I was waiting in the San Francisco international ticket line beside someone wearing an Oregon sweatshirt and her daughter. After holding back for about 45 minutes, I eventually told them I was proud of myself for not bringing up the 2015 NCAA football championship, which Ohio State won (I went with a group of friends including Alex). They said they saw my jacket and were surprised I hadn’t said anything about it! I was so happy when the daughter said, “I see you went to The Ohio State University.” She properly included the definite article! The daughter graduated from Oregon the year before I graduated from Ohio State, so we talked about Ohio State’s and Oregon’s tour programs, our dislike for other football programs, and our traveling plans.
  7. I sat next to a couple from China on my San Francisco to Taipei, Taiwan flight. They asked me about my travel plans, my work, and other parts of my life. In this conversation, they asked from which University I graduated rather than me independently telling them I’m an Ohio State alumnus!

Like most good flights, life thoughts occupied the flights. One of the most exciting thoughts was how excited I am to be in Vietnam. How happy I am with the decision to come back. I tossed around words like thrilled, excited, relaxed, exhilarated. All those thoughts have proved themselves in my first week back!

Landing in Hanoi was great. I knew how to exchange my money and get a SIM card. It was relaxing and grand. I felt like an old pro.

About an hour after landing, I took a trip to Bac Giang, Vietnam to visit three teachers I met at Orientation last August!

Mark, Adrienne, and Michaela took me to their favorite restaurants, showed me Bac Giang, and took me on more adventures.

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The full chicken wing Adrienne ordered for me at her favorite restaurant.

After two days with them, I bussed back to Hanoi to catch a bus to Dong Hoi.

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Michaela and Adrienne seeing me off at the bus station. An adorable story of the three of us: the first picture we took together was a selfie in Hanoi. The last picture was a selfie in Bac Giang. We’re exciting folks.

Like any good adventure though, my time in Hanoi didn’t go exactly as planned. I expected the bus to leave at 11AM, getting me to Dong Hoi around 9PM. Nope! The bus wasn’t scheduled to leave until 6PM, so I had a casual six hours to stroll around Hanoi on my own.

I had to start by getting a bowl of noodle soup called pho, one of my favorite foods here.

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So beautiful!
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I had to nostalgically snap a picture of Hotel 24, which is where I spent the nights of my first week in Hanoi last August.I had to nostalgically snap a picture of Hotel 24, which is where I spent the nights of my first week in Hanoi last August.
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Am I embarrassed that I took a picture of myself in a Lacoste store? Eh. Yeah. I probably should be.

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I met a friendly man while I was taking my self-guided walking tour who showed me some highlights of Hanoi before I hopped on the bus.

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A huge bottle of old King Cobra wine on display at The Snake Farm.
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Chilling with some king cobras at The Snake Farm.

 

 

 

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A great view of Hanoi on Long Biên Bridge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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My tour guide!

Finally, after an adventurous and hastily planned afternoon in Hanoi, I arrived back in Dong Hoi. Four of the bus passengers groggily rolled out of our bus beds and unloaded our luggage around 3:30AM. I had a hotel set up, but the three others were travelers who couldn’t check into their room until later in the morning. The four of us became quick friends. I invited them to hang out in my hotel for a few hours speaking in German and swapping stories until about 6:30AM when we got coffee and they started their time exploring Dong Hoi.

Seeing old friends my first five days back in Dong Hoi have been incredible. Like good friendships, it feels almost like I never left (okay, I promise the sappy stuff is going to come to a grinding halt soon! I’m new to this whole having lots of emotions thing. I’ll snap back to the joking around most of the time and ejecting sassy wit every chance I have. Or, in most cases, make up for myself.).

I also started at AsemLink, my English center. In my last teaching experience, I was teaching adults. This round, I’ll be working with classes of all ages.

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A picture of one of the classes I was shadowing. Happy to say that 9 of 10 were hyped about the picture! One student wasn’t having it, but no worries. We’re still friends.
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A picture of me a student drew for fun. Very impressed by her rendering of my boat shoes! 

To start classes, the teacher whose class I’m shadowing has me introduce myself and has the students as me any questions they want. Marriage, hometown, what I think about Vietnam, age, music preferences, and dozens of other topics are on the table. It’s a lot of fun. I’m trying to get them into The Rolling Stones.

I’ve also made new friends in AsemLink. The teachers and I have spent a lot of time together this week, including yesterday evening when we celebrated International Women’s Day together. We started with a game of soccer. Something I can add to my list of life achievements: playing a soccer game barefoot, in chinos, and in a button down shirt. Also did that in the volleyball game we played after the soccer game. Hoping to pick up the nickname Huck, which my grandfather had for roaming around shoeless most of the time. Since we share a first, middle, and surname, I think sharing a nickname is the next step (hahaha get it? Step? Because the nickname is based on how we walk? No need to tell me how clever I am).

After the games, we had a delicious dinner together.

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One of the five dishes we all had together: seafood hotpot. Raw squid, clams, tofu, fish,beef, and shrimp put at our pleasure in pot of boiling broth.
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Great group of new friends.

More happy days. I write this at Tree Hugger Cafe, about to head to AsemLink to shadow more classes. I take my roaming adventures from leaving Ohio in February to now as a sign of how tremendous my upcoming adventures will be.

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4 thoughts on “Back In Vietnam – Happy Days!

  1. I love that you visited friends all along the way. I also love how God put a personal tour guide in your path. Both are great examples of redeeming the time.
    Grasshopper you learned much on packing as you headed back…traveling light….or at least lighter. So tell me, why do you have to get a SIM card when you get there?
    Who knew you would need to pull out your German skills in Vietnam? I recognized everything on the plate barring the tofu…I guessed right though. 🙂
    Thanks for taking the time to post once again on your journeys and time abroad. I look forward to reading more and seeing how God is working in your life. Remember to reflect back on how He has blessed you each day from the least to the greatest.
    Much love to you!

    Like

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