Often times photos, especially travel photos, romanticize locations and lifestyles. I am 100% guilty of doing this also, which is why I wanted to write a real, normal account of a day in my life, living abroad and teaching English in Hanoi!
Lets recount last Tuesday.
The light seeps into our bedroom, slicing the curtains in half with a single beam. Small dust particles dance and float in the air which is illuminated. My partner is up, he’s catching up on the news on his phone. I sleepily roll over hiding from the beam of light.
“Reilajdklfjladsjfhhjjjhhhhh” Construction next door starts, despite the fact that it’s only 8:30 in the morning!
We collectively groan, can’t escape the constant renovations of a city growing as fast as Hanoi is.
Time for coffee. I have some fresh grounds from a local coffee shop in the freezer. I put some hot water on and wash my face. Then make some oatmeal and the coffee and sit down at our little white kitchen table, I open my computer.
There are a myriad of different small tasks that pair perfectly with the coffee – responding to emails, recording stats, updating goals and writing new blog posts!
As the coffee starts to wake up all my drowsy brain cells, I start typing away.
After about two hours of work on Miles of Smiles, I feel restless! Time to get some exercise. I grab my keys and take the lift five floors down to the garage of our apartment building.
The smell of incense surrounds me as I step out of the elevator. It’s the first of the month so the small shrine in the corner is adorned with fresh pink lilies, a new stick of burning incense, a fresh watermelon, some cigarettes and a whole pomelo. Not sure why but that little thing always makes me smile!
I hop on my motorbike and roll out on to our little alley. The houses are tall and packed tightly together, blocking the sun, casting fragmented shadows. The house directly opposite has its doors open, only the ornate cast iron gate separate me and the curious grandpa who is always sitting in the living room.
He immediately springs up and just smiles at me through the gate. I wave hello and he waves back. As part of the daily ritual he will reach his hand through the bars of the gate, initiating a zealous high-five! We speak through our smiles, the Vietnamese we both say is lost on each other. I putter down the lane.
The smell of boiling fish sauce hits my face!
At the start of our alley there are two small food stands parallel to each other casting different smells, like spells into the empty space between them. The marinading air sometimes smells absolutely delicious, other times less so…
I nod and smile at the grandmas selling fruit and the young mother serving Bun Cha. Then I’m off!
After a quick gym session my stomach rumbles. I get back on my bike, weaving through the traffic of Hanoi. Beeps, honks, yells, chatter, it all is blurred as my thoughts take over!
Have to plan my lesson for tonight. Oh gosh, did I mark those tests? Yes I did, nice! I wonder what I should have for lunch!?
I decide on some fried rice and roll up to my favorite spot. A large wok on an open flame is full of rice, corn and carrots. The man making the rice, flips the batch effortlessly than reaches into a cooler and pulls out a handful more of rice. No one is wearing gloves. Can’t think too much about the sanitation…
Back home with a full belly, I get a shower, throw on some work clothes then I’m off again! I work at an English language center about 30 minutes away.
I park my bike in the buildings garage, the usually grumpy parking attendant men reluctantly smile as I try and pronounce their names and say good afternoon!
Up six floors to our centers maze of classrooms, and children. Tiny, cute, little people run up and down the corridors while the teaching assistants chase after them. At five thirty on-the-dot a small army of teachers with baskets full of crayons, pens and papers in hand file out and greet our classes.
Today I have one of my favorite classes! It’s a pretty high level “juniors” class. A couple of students poke their head out of the class and see me walking down the hall. Then, 14 ten-year olds start a bellowing-ly loud chorus of ‘Ms. Kelsey!!’ ‘Teeechhha is comingggg!!’ and scatter back to their seats like a small colony of uncoordinated ants.
I toss off my shoes and enter the class. This unit is about astronauts and space travel! It’s a good time, can’t make it through the class without the obligatory comments on appearance. My favorite is ‘you have a big butt’ to which I say something like ‘yes because I love pizza!’
Sometimes the girls comment on my nose. How it’s beautiful and they want one just like it. Breaks my heart, they are only 10. I just respond I say ‘no no, yours is beautiful!!!’ They blush.
After the 2 hour class I grab dinner, then home!
Everyday is different but this is a pretty typical account of an average day. I love living abroad, I love the ordinary details of life here. Some days I will write more, others I’ll spend in a cafe, sometimes I’ll take a walk instead of going to the gym, or sometimes we will take a road trip and explore somewhere new in Vietnam.
I hope that this gives you a little bit of insight into the day and what it’s like to live abroad!
Curious about teaching in Vietnam or in other countries? Check out some of my other articles about teaching English here!
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