Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Love/ Hate Relationship

Not with Anthony, I just love him (awww!!). No, my love/ hate thing, and it swings dramatically, is with HANOI - City of my dreams, city of my nightmares.

First, my top HATES about Hanoi:

1. The 'unofficial curfew'. Ok, unlike in Communist Laos there is not an actual curfew of 11pm, but everything shuts then and if I wander around the dark, calm evening streets of Hanoi for ten minutes too long and get back to the Guest House at 11:10, say, I am greeted with a hmph and a look which says: Leilana, you are a bad, bad person and I can't believe you keep doing this to our poor, suffering family.

2. If you are walking on the footpath, and a motorbike jumps off the road, onto the footpath and you happen to be in the way - the driver gives YOU a dirty look, instead of the more traditional other way around.

3. Racist fellow teachers and travellers.

4. The Xe Om (motorbike drivers) constantly trying to rip me off with ridiculous fares, sometimes three times the proper fare and then looking pissed off when I pull them up on it.

5. The dead animals everywhere. On my street in the morning, there are baskets and baskets of bloody meat - including whole baby chickens.

Next, and more important, my top LOVES about this city:

1. The food, the food, the food. My favourite two things being: Banh Cuon, which is rice paper pancakes with dried, fried onion and dipping sauce. I eat it almost every day. My other favourite is a glass full of tropical fruit salad, with condensed milk, coconut milk and crushed ice. It's honestly the best dessert I have ever had. Also, I eat Mango like every day.

2. The aesthetic of Hanoi. Everything is so gorgeous and lovingly put together. The clothing boutiques are all like Stir and Belle Bird, but cuter and cheaper (ok, some are actually quite expensive). Houses are weird, narrow and tall. I live on the 5th floor and the guest house only has 8 rooms. Ordinary people, like Xe Om drivers and people working at stalls, dress impeccably in crisp, stylish clothes that make me think of Paris at the turn of the century. Old men especially, walk around in tailored pants, shirts, cute cardigans and leather loafers. I WISH I had a camera so bad.

3. The Xe Oms. Ok, most Xe Om drivers are jerks looking to make a grab and get a grope, but I have a few regulars who I LOVE and who (I think) undercharge me. I love whizzing around Hanoi on the back of a motorbike, I feel like the paragon of awesomeness. Especially because I am usually sitting sidesaddle (this takes some skill), with a cute 50s helmet, my little heels and a black minidress. I look AWESOME.

4. The Bia Hoi, and the Bia Hoi corner. Bia Hoi is a local microbrew beer made fresh every-day, it's only like 2-3% but it also costs: NZ 30 cents and is awesome. There are a few places around, but Bia Hoi corner (also known as International Corner) is where they congregate and you can sit and watch the madness.

5. The fact that just by walking up and down this street a hundred times I have somehow changed from "suspicion-inducing foreigner" to something like acquaintance. Now when people see me they laugh and smile, and introduce me to their babies. This is lovely. Also, the Xe Om drivers seem to be getting a clue and offering me more reasonable fares.

NB: Also, my adorable, hilarious, insane little students, especially my weekday ones. They are the cutest, weirdest little people to walk this earth. Today after class, this little boy who is 6 and hearing impaired, came into the staff room (which I don't think he's supposed to) and sat down beside me and silently held my hand for a few minutes, got up, and left.


gigi said...

I want a six year old hearing impaired boy to come silently hold my hand. Cute! Jealous.

Alex said...