The Second Adventure Begins

I arrived in the bustling city of Hanoi three days ago with my 50+ kilograms of luggage in tow. No problems whatsoever — got my temporary visa, found a well dressed Vietnamese man with my name on a welcome board and he drove me to my hotel in a very clean and shiny black Vios. The staff at The Little Hanoi Hotel are amazingly helpful and incredibly friendly, and I felt very awful for the one fairly skinny man who had to carry all my luggage up all the flights of stairs to my room at the very top floor.

Day 1

My flight departed Kuala Lumpur at 7:00am, and I reached Hanoi at around 9:00am in a different time zone (one hour behind). I slept for a few hours and woke up to run some errands — changed money to local currency, got a SIM card, bought some adaptors, and bought some toiletries. I also had a very late lunch at a nice little cafe with really good food and excellent coffee.

Day 2

Since the only accommodation provided in my new contract is one week paid accommodation at a hotel upon arrival, I decided to get started on looking for my new home for the next year. I took a taxi to meet with an agent and upon reaching my destination, asked the driver how much I owed him. He pointed to the meter, which said 60.0 and he said, “six hundred.” Being just my second day in the country and still not used to all the zeroes and conversion of the VND, I took out 600,000.00 and asked him if it was correct, to which he replied, “yes.” I was in a bit of a rush since the agent was waiting, so I handed him the money and got out of the taxi.

After viewing some apartments and as I was on my way back to the hotel, I thought about the fare I paid and had a feeling that it had been way too much. I took out my currency converter and discovered that I had paid around PHP1,250.00 or RM111.00 to the driver, which basically made it the most expensive taxi ride I had ever taken in my life.

Upon reaching the hotel, I told the ladies at reception what I had done and the look of shock on their faces confirmed that I had not paid the correct amount — but I already knew that since I had just paid the second taxi driver VND40,000.00. So they called the taxi company (as they had been the ones to call the taxi for me that morning to begin with) and attempted to locate the driver. After an hour or so, they called to tell me that they had contacted the driver and had gotten my money back for me and explained that the taxi driver couldn’t understand or speak English and therefore had no idea why I had handed him so much money.

Day 3

Viewed more apartments. It’s fairly easy to find available apartments for rent in Hanoi, but choosing the right one at the right price and committing to it for an extended period of time is no easy task, especially when you’re doing it covered in sweat that’s literally dripping from your face.

Hopefully, I will have a new home by next week and I can get settled in properly so that it will be one less thing to worry about. Next thing to take care of is all the paperwork that needs to be done for the visa and work permit and, of course, starting the new job and teaching young learners.

The Trouble With Stuff Is…

That I have too much of it. I don’t particularly enjoy shopping, but as far back as I can remember, I have always had a habit of buying little things — stationery, figurines, home decor — and they are never necessities or even useful possessions, but I buy them because they’re pretty and/or amusing in some way. But I don’t need any of these things.

I never buy big expensive things for myself because I tell myself that I don’t need to be excessive. However, what I’ve come to realise after all the days of packing over the last week is that I buy a lot of little inexpensive things. Somehow, it feels like that’s worse because I end up with more stuff that I don’t need instead of just one big expensive thing that I don’t need.

Packing has always been stressful for me because I cannot seem to differentiate between necessity and want. I am too sentimental for my own good. Many times, I look at something I own and I know that I don’t need it, but I reason with myself that it may be useful for something at some point, so it’s probably a good idea to keep it. So I basically end up keeping everything.

It would be easy to blame my parents, being the hoarders that they are — sorry, mom and dad, but you know it’s true — but it’s really not their fault that I am this way. Sure, they may have suggested to keep things rather than throw them away, but it’s always been my decision. In preparation for this move, I’ve given a lot of things away to other fellow hoarders and it actually feels really good to get rid of things.

Last night, I was looking at all my stuff and I just wanted to cry because there was just so much of it and I knew that there was absolutely no way that I was going to fit it into the luggage weight limit. Frankly, it’s ridiculous that my material possessions have such an effect on me. The other problem is that I am a master at procrastination and I admittedly left the sorting out and packing stuff to the last minute — I gave myself a week, when I really should have given myself a month since I clearly underestimated how much stuff I had.

Then, there are books. I love my books. Unfortunately, I need to accept that I can no longer buy them because they’re heavy and bulky and a complete hassle to keep transporting. I’ve been reading e-books for the last few months and it’s actually not so bad. I’ve always preferred reading an actual book to reading a screen, but reading a screen is more convenient and practical for me right now.

If I plan on relocating every year, this is most definitely not going to work. I think that until such a time that I’ve settled down somewhere and have decided to make a place my home, I should really stop buying stuff. I need to seriously rethink my spending habits. Many times, when I buy something, I reason that it’s small and doesn’t really weigh anything. True, but it all adds up when you do it a hundred times.

My chosen reading material for the wait at the airport tomorrow is, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by¬†Marie Kondo, which, really, I should have started reading several months ago.¬†Hopefully, it will help me in getting rid of my bad habits and finally reform me into a minimalist in time for my new home.

Back to packing.

Slightly Homesick

With my time in Malaysia winding down and my departure date drawing nearer, I find myself thinking about a particular little mountain city with its beautiful pine trees and its wonderfully cool weather, and a part of me longs to be there. It may be because I haven’t been home in close to a year and I know that in less than a week, I will be in a completely foreign city on my own and it’s slightly terrifying, which is probably why I’m yearning for something familiar before I go off.

The life of an expat is an interesting one, as I’ve come to discover. Living abroad is something I’ve enjoyed — after the headache of sorting out all the necessary paperwork to legally reside and work, that is. Experiencing a different country and a different culture is rewarding in so many ways especially when it coincides with a job that one enjoys. However, on the other side of it is the homesickness.

I grew up in a close-knit family and I have a great relationship with my parents and siblings. Whenever I travel and see something beautiful or interesting, my first thought is almost always how I wish that my family were with me to see it. Likewise, they send me photos and tell me stories of things that I’m missing out on back home. Many times I wish to have been there with them to share in those moments, but I chose this life — I chose a career that would take me away from my home and my family because it isn’t possible to do what I do back home and make a decent living. If it were, maybe I wouldn’t have left. That’s not my reality, though.

I love my job. I honestly enjoy teaching and I know how rare it is to actually enjoy what you do for a living, so I know that I’m lucky. I love that my job enables me to travel and have experiences that I could never have back home. But sometimes, I miss my family.

On the upside, though, staying in the same region means that visits are always possible, albeit expensive. Keeping in touch nowadays is easy to do as well with all the technology, as long as you have mobile data or an Internet connection.

So it has its ups and downs, as with all things in life, but as long as the ups outweigh the downs, I know I can’t complain. Christmas is just a few months away, and if I’m lucky, I may be able to make a trip back home to see everyone I miss. Until then, a new adventure awaits.

Contract Completed

A year can seem like a really long time before it actually starts, but as I approach my one-year mark, it feels as though no time has passed at all. The past year has been such an amazing adventure with its euphoric highs and despondent lows. I’ve met so many wonderful people, I’ve grown as a teacher, I’ve experienced life as an expat, and I’m moving forward in both life and career.

A few months ago, I made the decision not to renew my contract at my current school in Malaysia. I dreaded the thought of having to go through the job search and application process again, but I felt that it was the right move despite feeling somewhat settled down and comfortable. I think that was the problem — I don’t want to settle yet. Right now, the opportunities are out there and I’d like to take advantage of it while I still can. There is a demand for ESL teachers, but the competition is tough, which makes it tempting to stay where you’re wanted, because the only way to get a foot in the door in many places now is to have a wide range of teaching experience and qualifications that I don’t really have yet. However, I decided to take a risk along with the stress it comes hand-in-hand with and hoped for the best.

After months of sending out my CV and filling out applications, I finally got a door to open and I’ll be relocating to another part of Asia in a few weeks’ time to start a new adventure. As always, it’s exciting and scary at the same time. It will be completely different. I’m trading in the university for a language centre, the adults for young learners, and the set schedule and time table for an irregular schedule and split-shifts. It will be a big change, but I’m ready for it. It’s the logical next step to advancing in my career.

Packing up and getting ready to move is the next challenge. I’ve acquired a lot of things in my year here and I’m not proud of it. I’m serious about cutting down to a minimalist lifestyle until such a time that I’ve actually settled down and am sure that moving to another country will not be likely. I feel I am too sentimental and would like to be less so, especially when it comes to material possessions. So tomorrow, I tackle this challenge. Wish me luck.