Sometimes I think the smartest thing is do nothing. I mean don’t rush everywhere; take the time to look at the beautiful things around us and try not to let small worries control our thoughts and actions. Fortunately, I find all of that easy enough to do in Vietnam!
Here in little old Hoi An it’s quite a lovely quiet time over the Lunar New Year holiday and if the weather is good, it’s great to just walk around the neighborhood, check out the neighbor’s ghastly New Year’s Eve decorations and thank your lucky stars that you didn’t decide to go with the same ornamentation style.
You’ll also get a good idea how much the neighbors spent on the kids’ presents by the snazzy clothes and ride-on miniature toy cars roaming the pavements. The part I find fascinating is when you can observe through the open doors a parent or two lying on the sofa channel-surfing.
I don’t know what it is with the Vietnamese but they seem incapable of watching an entire show or whole song unless they are working in a mini-mart where everyone is glued to the Korean or Indian soap operas.
If I head out to the beach, it’s the one time of the year that’s easier for meeting up with expats you haven’t seen for a while. Most expats here have families or projects to work on so I don’t see them that much, particularly as I hang out a lot in the local Vietnamese bars and cafés these days.
Around Tet much of the local eateries shut down while families are back in their hometowns, yet there are enough places open that you don’t notice the difference. What’s nice is the quietness of a half-deserted bar and the usual manic-paced Vietnamese music is blissfully muted.
Again, depending on the weather, most Vietnamese cafés have good views of rice fields or rivers, which adds to the ambiance of the chill-out experience. I think this is something a lot of tourists miss out on, probably due to the wariness of wandering into these places.
Solitude for me means more time to think, read, draw and dream up ideas for stuff. Whether I actually get around to completing my projects is another matter as I’m an expert procrastinator!
Sometimes life gets just a little too easy here and I struggle to get off my butt and do something. I must admit it’s great just to forget about the world and snuggle up in a warm bed on our central coast coolish winter days. Fortunately, my participation in some charity-related teaching keeps me grounded, especially when I see how tough life can be for the locals.
I’ve changed a lot over the years living here. I used to be more tolerant of the noisy Vietnamese chatter in coffee shops and the shouting down the phones. Nowadays I try to hide in quiet places, particularly in the mornings when my head is still waking up. Morning Zombie-ism has become a part of my daily routine… And much the same is true of the Tet holiday.
Living quietly over Tet includes catching up on family emails, visits to friends, meeting former students doing the Da Nang hometown thing and bumping into the other expats as we do the Lunar New Year’s Eve parties and Tet moments. I hope the beach will be great this time around although at the time of writing the central coast is still going through its gloomy, overcast pseudo winter.
I’ve still got a ton of reading to get through as well, however as I mostly read in bed, I end asleep well before I reach the end of the chapter I’m on. Oddly enough, I’m a very fast reader in airports and on planes.
Hopefully I’ll also get around to finishing some of my art work and upgrade some art lesson stuff I’m putting together for 2020 – it’s the year to paint!
Well, whichever way you choose to spend the Tet holiday – I hope it’s blissful, quiet, stress-relieving and fun. But please don’t jog along the highways, do yoga or head to the gym (if it’s open…) – be like the Vietnamese; hit the sofa and channel-surf all day long.
Happy Tet, everyone!