On the way to Hanoi

After a lovely five days in Hong Kong with two special friends from my Beijing days I am in the air flying to Hanoi. It has been a bit of a bumpy flight for the few minutes as we worked our way through heavy clouds. We are now flying over the clouds and there is beautiful blue below us with white puffs of clouds dotted here and there.

I always stress out about the checkin and last night and this morning was no exception. That was not needed as the taxi arrived on time. It was an interesting ride to the airport. A trip that should take about 40 minutes was accomplished in 25 minutes door to door. We literally flew across Hong Kong. I glanced at the speedometer now and then and it was between 140 – 160 kph. I decided that I would just concentrate on texting.

Check in was a breeze once they realized that I was just recording my flight fromToronto. The best part was I didn't have to pay for the overweight baggage again. On to the gate and finally on board the plane. It turns out that the row across from me was empty so I got a while row to myself.

Well, it is breakfast time so more of my journey later.

Breakfast was very edible though I chose the bacon and eggs over the breakfast dim sum. It also included slices of fried potatoes and baby green beans. All told, it have been very impressed with my transportation from Toronto to Hanoi by Cathay Pacific and Dragon Air.

We are about 40 minutes from outside of Hanoi. I wonder when the reality of what I am doing will Dawn on me. I do know it is good to be back in Asia.

25 minutes to landing in Hanoi.

Had a great landing and disembarkation was a breeze. Very organized. It took about 5 minutes to go through customs including waiting time. I handed in my passport through a 6″ opening. I could barely see over the counter. The officer stamped it and I was on my way. I have tell you after my struggles with American customs in Miami and the waiting time in Toronto it totally blows my mind how easy it is to enter a communist country.

Then on to get my luggage. It took a while as both suitcases were very heavy and were near the end when they came out. The Hanoi airport is older. It has one of those older baggage carousels. It is one of the black ones that winds it's way through a door then in a u-turn before turning right and back out another door before it comes back in again. They are actually easier to lift off luggage as there is no lip you have to lift over. Someone helped me with my luggage and I was off.

No one wanted to check my luggage and as I started towards the glass doors there was the lovely lady from HR with my sign and the vice principal waving with a big smile. So nice a welcome. The orange mini van arrived and in we piled for the 40 minute drive to the hotel. I chatted with Charles the whole time and learned a lot.

Initial impressions of Hanoi??? Very unique with all the narrow brightly painted houses three and four stories all jammed together in a wonderful fantasy. The highways seem to be very stark. It gave me the impression of Beijing when I arrived a decade ago. I will investigate that more.

My hotel is in the old city and is unique. There is a tired elegance about the hotel with its winding wooden staircases and small floors. My favourite part is a comfortable bed. I was expecting a hard mattress so I'm delighted. On the other hand my window view leaves a great deal to be desired. A cement wall!

Outside are the sounds of a busy city with the continuous beeping of the motor bikes. No problem.. All new sounds to get used to.

After a two hour nap I investigated the restaurant and love the Hanoi spring rolls. Went out on the patio where the sounds again captured my attention. I don't have my camera so tomorrow morning I will make sure I take it with me tomorrow morning for breakfast.

After I got back to my room there was a knock on the door and I met one of the other grade five teachers and his lovely Malaysian fiancée. She is a bit overwhelmed with the noise as she is from the farmlands outside of Kuala Lumpar. We are going to have lunch tomorrow and then go and look at apartments with them and a possible landlord.

Now the city has quieted down and even though it is only 7:40 I am going to go to sleep.

More later – my first ½ in Hanoi comes to an end. I have smile on my face.


Life is messy and still happens when you are away from home

This is one of those weeks that reminds me that there are consequences for choosing to to live internationally.  While there is so much that is positive about the experience of doing this and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything there are in all honesty, difficult times and reminders that I am not close at home. The consequences are when something happens at home and I am not able to attend.  Over the past nine years my sister has had to send me a number of emails to tell me that one of our family members have passed away. Friends have had to email and tell me about sudden deaths, car accidents etc. My Mom turned 88 this past Saturday(may 25th) and we are so excited and blessed to have her still with us.  Out of her five siblings the only still with us is  her oldest sister who is now 97 years old.  The rest left us while I was living elsewhere and not able to get home to be part of the family remembrances.  I miss those times of gathering together.

While I was still in Canada when my oldest great nephew, who just turned 12 last week, was born I was in China when his two younger brothers were born and when his little sister was born “into the arms of Jesus”. I have missed weddings, and births and funerals and celebrations of all sorts.  I often feel guilty when I am not there to be a support to my family during times of loss. I was not there to comfort my dear mother when her special friend Melle died suddenly two years ago.  Listening to a loved one weep over Skype is not how I wish it was but that is the reality.

What has brought on this reflection time?  Well, there are two events that happened in this last few days that bring it all home.  The first one was the death of the 16 year old daughter of the minister of my former church in Canada from cancer that she had battled for eight months.  While I didn’t know her personally I know so many of the people that loved her and I wanted to be there to share the celebration of her life with them and to offer comfort if possible.  The second happened this morning when I found out through Facebook that a friend of our family all my life passed away last evening.  I want to be there to share my memories of his life and how he influenced mine and yet that is not possible.  I am having to resort to words to the family though social media and trust that they understand what he meant to me.

So much of life relating to my family and friends happens when I am not there.  It is a reality to the life I have chosen.  If I could arrange life the way I want it to happen things would only happen in the summer when I am home but life is messy, not convenient and continues to go by day by day.

cross posted on Growth on the Journey

16 days of school left – reflections

Chicken Bus in Guatemala

Chicken Bus in Guatemala

Where has the time gone?  The last post written on this blog was August 30th.  I have thought often of writing about things that are happening and yet I never seem to get to the writing.  Not that I am not writing just not writing on this blog.  I have been working relatively semi consistently on my professional blog Teach Less! Learn More!.  In many ways it has been a frustrating year as I burned through so much money with the car I bought and a considerable case of culture shock.

I really did not think I was going to have culture shock as in my mind I was returning to my part of the world even though it was considerably south.  The culture shock came as I moved from China to Guatemala.  I suppose I should have been prepared as I had spent eight years in China and was very comfortable living there but I was not ready.  It has been difficult being dependant on people.  Everyone is wonderful and caring.  I love the warm culture that is Guatemala.  This is a term that came from a book entitled Foreign and Familiar that was recommended we read when I first arrived explaining the difference between a Latin Culture and what I would call the western culture of Canada, the northen part of the US, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand.  For those that are interested we are from a “cold” culture.  This does not mean temperature but in regards to how we relate to people. In the book it states that “hot-climate cultures are relationship based while cold- climate cultures are task oriented”.   In Latin America it is all about relationships.  It is a very “touchy feely” society and I enjoy the human contact that comes each day.  A hug from one of Guatemalan male coworkers is just a hug to connect and say “Hi”.  It is all good.

The problem is the shock from going from a country I was very comfortable in and was safe.  It was easy to walk out on the streets and grab a taxi and go where ever I wanted.  Never did I feel threatened or unsafe regardless of the time of day or night.  I was comfortable travelling by myself to various parts of China and other Asian countries.  It was easy to get around.  Of course, I stayed at good places but was always able to travel where I wanted to. Here there is not that freedom.  If I want a taxi to take me somewhere I have to order it in Spanish (don’t speak it), I have to have the address in Spanish and be able to answer a lot of questions (just take me to the address) :).  When I was driving I could get where I needed to go but parking was always an issue and let’s not even get into the fact that unless you have told your friends that you are coming to visit you will not be able to get into the compound.  You must get cleared by the security guards who only speak Spanish, of course.  It is a learning curve that I am slowly accepting and understanding.  I was used to how it worked in China and knew what I had to think about in order to get something acoomplished.  Here in Guatemala I am still learning that. You hear the expressions “This is Guatemala” as an explanation when things don’t get done in the time I think they should.  In China, we often said “This is China” which was the explanation when nothing made sense to my western culture reasoning.  I am sure when others travel to Canada they hear the same thing.  🙂

Chicken buses are not a safe way to travel though they are very interesting as they drive by painted all different colours, crammed to the top with people coughing out dark black smoke as they go by, the buses not the passengers. There is not train service not that I was a fan of the train in China at all (been there done that).  Having to share a soft sleeper (4 beds) with three Japanese men was my introduction to that form of travel.  I saw far too much of their red long underwear.  OK  I digress.

There was more English spoken or at least understood in China than Guatemala.  I am working on my spanish to a certain extent though.

On the other hand, Love the weather, my apartment and I love my job.  I love the campus, the people and the students.  It has been different being out of the classroom and in so many ways I feel as if I am still figuring out my job.  I guess I am…but it is intersting.

I fly out of Guatemala on June 21st for a wonderful 8 week vacation and when I come back I will not be a newbie anymore.  I am looking forward to that.  I have my goals set for this coming school year both personally and professionally. There will be a new cohort that will move me up from a first year.  That will be nice.

Over the summer I will spend time with family and friends.  I will have the opportunity to meet up with three friends I met in Beijing.  We are all around the world now.  One lives in Switzerland, one in Australia, one in Hong Kong and I am in Guatemala.  We are still friends though and I look forward to spending time with each of them.

What it comes down to even with the culture shock and the adjustments – Life is good and I am blessed.

Last Sunday

Today is my last Sunday in Beijing. The only reason I mention it is that I am now officially in countdown mode – last Sunday, last Monday…..and so it goes. I am doing a lot of

Outside view of Pearl Marketrunning around today and am on my way back from Hong Qiao Market where I picked up a pair of glasses I had ordered. A quick In and out. I don’t have any desire to stay though it used to be one of my favourite markets and I have spent a lot of money there over the years but it has now gone to a real tourist trap that features a McDonald’s and a Starbucks no less. That is not what shopping in Beijing is all about.

So now I am off to Yashow which is and always has been a tourist market. There is a sense of home there. I will go and get my last pedicure and massage from my favourite place there and say goodbyes.

Ya Show or YaXiu

Smog hangs over the city obscuring the tops of buildings and everything is grey. It is typical July weather – hot, smoggy and uninviting. Foreigners run around in as little coverage as we can and hopefully catch some rays while Chinese cover up every bit of skin so they can stay white – each culture has their own version of beauty.

July Smog in Beijing

Decade off to a good start

I have been 60 for a week and I am doing well.  One of the things that has surprised me is the difference in my attitude.  Usually a birthday gives you a new beginning of sorts but apparently turning to a new decade gives you a big new beginning.  When it hit me was this evening when I was working on my two blogs: this one which is my personal blog and my professional one Teach Less Learn More.  I realized that my professional blog was looking a bit dark, dramatic, but dark and so I went looking for a new theme and came up with something so unlike what I would have formerly chosen that it was a shock.  I love it.  The colours, the set up, the bright and airiness of the whole look.  I next decided to take a closer look at this one and figured it looked a bit boring and so again went looking for a theme and chose this one.  Again, totally different from what I would have previously considered.  HMMMMmmmm…. makes me wonder what else there will be around the corner.