It always seems fun somehow to be getting ready to just go. Sometimes the going was across town like back in 2020 in Hanoi. I moved to another apartment in another district only a few miles distant.
Let me tell you moving in Hanoi is like shifting galaxies. My original apartment was in the wonderful and traditional Ba Dinh district. Hardly any expats (thank goodness), traditional markets all over. Small pho shops dotted my world then.
In the mornings I would walk to a pastry or banh mi shop and pick up some food to take to one of the Vietnamese coffee shops. These were small places often with tables outside where Vietnamese gathered to socialize, gossip, read the news on free WiFi or the local printed media.
I could sit with my food, drink a Vietnamese coffee. The owner would check on me and make sure I was happy. The food often took me awhile because I slowed down, found my cadence with the other customers, nodded at other regulars. But no expats or tourists. Ever. It made life this wonderful slow song. Often a policeman would stop and wave at me. We would exchange xin chao or hello and he would practice English. I told him it was okay or he would take me to jail. He laughed and told the owner. But what I want to leave you with is how slow and random Ba Dinh was.
I would move though to expat central because I wanted closer to Tay Ho or west lake. There were small cafes and pubs lining the lake where sunsets and people came together. The downside were the expats. So many. Some seeming so entitled. Others arrogant. But I persisted. Soon I met more people living on different floors of my place. As it turned out all Vietnamese and all spoke English. Van would tell me she asked whether a potential renter spoke English because uncle Mike needed to talk. If no English she dismissed them. Of course all this was a joke. But yet… I would meet friends to this day from that apartment complex. My friend Tom now living in Saigon but before we went for street food, talked travel, shared life’s sweet moments.
So what I hope to show is the going. The doing and being often quickly followed. I would just go every day for walks in Hanoi. It’s a magical and sometimes strange city to wander. Blind alleys going nowhere. Smiling kids touching my arm. Young Vietnamese women wanting their photos taken. The older man gently waving. I would persist with the going. Some thing I would then write a note on with the iPhone over a fruit tea from a shop originally in Taiwan. Each crafted or random note perhaps about some way of going.
Finally I found doing. This was the day to day expression of life to me. Not the long walks but short steps. How Hanoi just let me do. I could go and be and do. In Ba Dinh I found retired life to be this easy walk. Through small streets. Down alleys. Sometimes ending at the wonderful and unique Daily Dose coffee shop. There I was regaled with wonderful latte concoctions and delicious breads toasted just for me.
In Tay Ho more of the upscale and expat but Van would bring food for us and her son. Often from the Hue region. We would sit and talk and the expats dwindled away to this wondrous Vietnamese woman sitting next to me. This person who just took me into her family. Made sure I was happy. Helped me with crazy Vietnamese things. Made sure I could talk with the other guests.
It all stuck with me. As I left Vietnam I wondered if I would find things again like this. Definitely not in broken and badly bent America. But Mexico. Especially the Yucatán. There is this richness of going, doing and being but often with the realization none has to be done that day. Much like Cambodia getting my WiFi fixed once when the repairman asked me at 12pm what time the next day or so was good. I asked about later the same day and he probably thought “crazy barang” but only laughed and pointed out it was already after 12pm.
So WiFi waited. I did not. I just went to the corner bar and ordered a draft Angkor beer. I was crazy there too but I was buying beer.
So much for the being, going, and doing.