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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.

 

Adios Guate

Well, June 25th finally rolled around and I am on board the plane heading for Miami on my way home to Toronto for the summer. I will not be returning but am moving on to a new adventure for the next school year in Vietnam.

For some reason I have been extremely stressed about this flight. I think one of the reasons was probably because of the early start. I left for the airport at 4:30 AM after a sleepless night. At this point in time I have been awake for 24 hours and it will be close to another 12 before I am in able to crawl into a comfortable hotel bed. What is it about nice hotel rooms with their great sheets, soft pillows and black out curtains that are such a treat? Probably those things I just mentioned. 🙂 after having slept on a hard mattress for the past 2 years I am looking forward to the mattress.

Added to the early start was the large amount of luggage I was carrying or checking. Five pieces with a total weight of over 300 pounds. The cost was about what I had figured. Unfortunately, when I arrive in Miami I have to go and get those five pieces and recheck them through customs as I am going to Canada. Along with those five pieces I have my leather back pack that I bought in Beijing six years ago and a brand new carry on that at the moment is stuffed with clothes for tomorrow and two laptops. Moving my whole life is never easy, cheap or light.

 

I am extremely tired and will write another post about leaving Guate when I am more focused but I thought it was important to at least recognize the fact that I am in the air wending my way home. Tomorrow I will see my sister and other assorted family members. Hopefully, see how much the three boys have grown and check out my niece and nephew’s new house. Friday I will drive over and see Mom.

Other than seeing my family I am really looking forward to being in a country where I understand the language. In fact, after I am through customs in Miami I am heading for a bookstore to just walk around and read the titles and know I can buy a book that I will understand. I won’t buy anything as I do everything pretty well online and digital now but I love the fact that the option is there.

Well, that is about all for now. I am not feeling well and so did not eat the breakfast that was provided which is a shame as it is linen service as I am flying First Class, thanks to the school. Hopefully, I will feel better on the second leg of the trip so I can have lunch. I know it is airplane food but it is First Class.

One Hour Later:

We have landed in Miami but are sitting on the tarmack as the plane that is supposed to be gone from our slot is still sitting there. Doesn’t really matter to me as I have a four hour layover before boarding the flight to Toronto. Good news is that I am feeling much better than I did before.

Five hours later:

What an unbelievable, stressful and tiring couple of hours I had once I arrived. I was the first person off of the plane but wasn’t in any hurry as my flight didn’t leave for four hours. We walked and walked and finally arrived at Passport Control. All the Americans were sent to kiosks where they could go through themselves. The rest of us were sent to go through one at a time. I had good hope when it started because the lines were long but winding around quite quickly. I finally got in a short line to go through with an officer. I was 5th in line and it took over 30 minutes for me to get through. I am always surprised that when I go through and hand over my Canadian passport that I do. It have to fingerprinted or have my picture taken like everyone else. It may be that my picture and fingerprints are already on file. I don’t know.

After PC there was another long walk to get my luggage. What a flight to be carrying five suitcases. There was no one around to help as I lifted the heavy suitcases off and put two on the cart. I finally was able to get a Jan’s attention and he lifted the other three pieces on for me. Only problem was I now could not see over the pile of luggage. My cart looked like it was floating along without anyone pushing it. :). I could look around the left or the right but not over the top.

I slowly made my way to my next location was the luggage check. No one offered to help me but did provide guidance and encouragement as I slowly and carefully made my way along. The only person I bumped into was airport police officer but she was very good natured and told me I was doing a good job. I wish I could have got a picture but that would have involved finding my iPad or phone in my backpack that was underneath my carry on. I probably wouldn’t have been able to as I was in restricted area. I happily turned my luggage over to the two gentlemen who were tasked with the job of getting my luggage on the right conveyor belt to Toronto. They promised me they could do it without my help and sent me on my way.

Another check of my passport and ticket and yet another security check but this time we didn’t have to take out our electronics, take off shoes or belts. I hade it through collected my belongings and headed for my gate. It wasn’t very far in airport terms and so once I got close to the gate I stopped at The Irish Pub for a burger. Unfortunately, though my stomach was settled down I could only eat a few bites. It was fun being part of the group watching the Nigeria vs Argentina game. I then strolled through some of the stores on my way to the gate and did go through a bookstore as I had promised myself. It was nice. Two more hours and it was time to board. I was on my way HOME!!!!!

 

Much later:

Well, we had a good flight from Miami to Toronto but imagine our surprise when the captain announced that instead of landing in Toronto we were landing in Buffalo. There is a storm over Toronto and so we circled for while until we were low on gas so they sent us to Buffalo to get gas. We will fly back and continue to circle until we can land.

I am hanging in there but just barely. Right now everything seems like a huge task. Once we land and go through Customs then it is off to get the five pieces of luggage. I think I am going to get a Red Cap. I cannot see over the top of the suitcases when they are all on the cart and I don’t want to go to wherever the car rental is like that. Get there, get the car hopefully without problems and then drive to Brampton to the hotel.

Conclusion – three days later

I arrived and it was a breeze entering a country where you belong. Through the kiosks, turn in papers, hire a Red Cap who not only loaded my luggage with one arm but took we directly to the car rental place, waited while I got my car, loaded my luggage and sent me on my way. It was worth all the money I paid him as a tip. Checked into the hotel only 3 hours late and after going to get something to eat crawled into a comfortable bed, with pure white sheets and fell asleep – back in Canada finally.

So that is the story of my move from Guate to Canada. I am sure there will be more to come.