Back Down the Rabbit Hole
I am experiencing that weird compression of time again. Last March I felt it returning to Toronto. Now I feel it again here. It's like I was just here, like I am just picking up exactly where I left off. A whole universe in waiting. Everything is still so fresh.
I spotted Viet through the glass in the arrivals hall at the airport. He had arrived early not having been able to sleep the night before. During the cab ride to town he brought me up to speed on all the group gossip and gave me the low-down on any new players I might meet. Viet dug into his pocket and handed me my old cell phone like it was the key to the city (which it probably is). It didn't take long for the txt msgs to be flying all directions. The network was activated. How many friends did I first see on a motobike? Cell phones and motobikes - the twin emblems of modern Vietnam?
Andrew has spent weeks fixing up his new house in time for the visit. It's large and very comfortable and tucked down an obscure alleyway in Bach Khoa, the bustling academic quarter, just a street over from where I stayed with him when I arrived last year.
The first day I was kept very busy and distracted from the preparations for my "surprise" party that evening. I was not supposed to notice the strange and random appearances of friends in Andrew's alleyway. Then I seriously disrupted their careful planning by insisting on a nap mid-day. More mysterious scurrying around. Post-nap Viet whisked me up to Truc Bach Lake for coffee, then abruptly found a reason to get us to Bach Khoa by 7pm. Finally when I was let back in the house and subtely led to open the kitchen door. About fifteen very familiar faces lay just beyond. In the process of getting reacquainted I drank copious amounts of red wine. This is not a recommended approach to dealing with serious jetlag and the inevitable onset of traveller's stomach, but I had the next day to think about that.
I certainly feel well cared for. In addition to Andrew and Viet's hospitality, Lam found me a motobike. It feels wonderful to be back on wheels. Thankfully my skills at negotiating Hanoi traffic are also still very fresh.
The boys have also made a point of giving me a bit of a Hanoi makeover. I guess I reverted to my nha que Western habits and needed a few points of correction. My gold hoop earring was attracting way too much attention so it's long gone. The cuffs of my jeans had to be unrolled. Happily though they approved of the cologne I was wearing (though I didn't tell them I only own the testers).
Some cities feel like a vast expanse of surfaces, extending outward; you get to know these cities by covering ground. This city feels contained but with infinite depth; you get to know it by burrowing in. Hanoi is like a huge rabbit warren. And now that I know this world and have my connections I feel like I can easily disappear into it. It's gratifying and it's good to be back.
Labels: Hanoi returning parties