Thursday, February 10, 2011

Leaving Vietnam

Celine and I have decided it is time to finish our adventure in Vietnam. We are going to leave at the end of February; so a few weeks to go. After a short trip to France to see Celine's family we are going to settle in Bangkok for a year. We thought it was about time for something different as we have well overstayed our original "one year in Vietnam" plan. We plan to teach English in Thailand as we did in Hanoi.

To quote a cliche, time has flown. I can't believe how quickly our year and half stay has gone. It does not seem long ago that Celine and I jumped out of the taxi on a scorching hot day; bamboozled and out of place with all the unusual craziness happening all around us. We were wide eyed and lost on our first day. I remember us saying to each other how foreign we were to this place and how little we knew. We arrived with our bags and a hotel room for a few nights. That was the extent of our knowledge. We didn't know any of the language and had no idea how to get around. We understood little of the culture and with the exception of one contact, knew no one. We were completely new to everything which was nerve wracking but exciting. Of course there were frustrating, anxious and sometimes scary moments but that was part of the learning experience.

It took us a few weeks to warm into Hanoi but we were able to find a place to live, get jobs and start to make some contacts. We soon started getting around on motorbikes and got familiar with many types of Vietnamese food. We travelled throughout Hanoi and later on, the rest of the country. Celine, more than me, learnt the language but we can now both communicate with the locals. We have made some good friends, both Vietnamese and foreigners, over our stay in Vietnam. We both have a detailed understanding of the Vietnamese culture. We achieved this by trying to get involved with Vietnamese people and their customs from the very beginning. We are still learning new things everyday, our recent Tet holiday a perfect example, but I can leave feeling I have come a long way.

We both have very fond memories of our time here and we will use the next few weeks to reflect on that while catching up with many of the friends we have made. Importantly, we have learnt to live, work and play with a culture very different to ours. At times there have been culture clashes but in general we have been able to adapt to the Vietnamese way. There are parts of the Vietnamese culture that I will never understand but that is to be expected. There are also parts that I think are great and my culture could learn a lot from. Regardless of my opinions I am just happy to be able to take so much away from my experience here. Living abroad is such a great concept and opens your eyes to the world.

Both Celine and I are looking forward to Thailand. We know a little more about Thailand than we did about Vietnam but we will still, I am sure, be lost and confused on arrival. I am looking forward to comparing the two cultures and learning about a different group of people all over again. Only a few weeks to go.........Excited!

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