Hanoied Pt 2: The Fall Semester

I’m back in Hanoi– this time for a while. I’ve given up my apartment in Saigon, though I left a couple of bags in a cheap storage situation. The plan is to return there for biz or to live, but quite frankly it’s not definite. At this point, very little in my life is definite, and it’s getting on my nerves. I’m ready for all of this covid, lockdown, trade war, domestic fascism nonsense to be over. If this is the end of the world, then bring on the Fury Road soundtrack and let’s crank up the apocalypse action. This is dull.

I’ve been bouncing around a bit because the “homestay” (which is just the local version of an AirBNB residential rental) I had a CONFIRMED reservation with flaked out on me. They claim they tried to call me to triple-confirm, but couldn’t reach me (on my local phone) so they didn’t prepare the room. A 16 day reservation, and they just decided it was too much trouble.

Ever since VN closed the borders I’ve been noticing a change in the attitude towards foreigners here. It’s like the ones still here don’t belong and should leave. No hostility or animosity — we’re just too much trouble. Even at the university, the “elite track” that is supposed to have Western professors is mostly being taught by locals. None of the students want to work overseas, and interest in Western models or cases is extremely limited. Again — no negativity, but they just feel it would be a lot of work for little payoff. Like asking an American to leave NY or SF and spend 2 years in Copenhagen or Panama City. They just wouldn’t be excited about leaving someplace familiar that probably has more opportunity. The West is losing the culture war here.

So after the crappy homestay stranded me, I took refuge in a Japanese business hotel on Dai Co Viet St, right near Union Park — which is the neighborhood I like. It’s on the edge of Hai Ba Trung district. The Parkside Sunline is a typical Japanese business hotel — moderately priced, clean, polite. Service was typically hit or miss, like many Japanese businesses run by locals in Asia. They design the product according to Japanese standards, but the locals can’t/won’t maintain it. My room had a beautiful bedside clock — an elegant analog throwback that would have been charming if it worked. It didn’t. Breakfast was included — but the first day the restaurant was closed because the chef didn’t show up. After two days I switched to a former French colonial place – the Halais – on the other side of the park. I’m here for 3 nights, which should be enough time to arrange something longer term. I’m going to see a weird little “student apartment ” (small, no kitchen) near the park. It wouldn’t be my first choice, but it is cheap, the owner seems nice, and it’s conveniently located. I’m going to take another look at it this afternoon.

My housing dilemma mirrors my larger challenge — do I spend the money and energy to put down roots and think about the long term, or do I conserve funds and keep my options open in light of Covid uncertainty? As of right now, I don’t have a valid visa (the 3 month extension I got in June is up next week. Everyone says I’ll be able to roll it over again, but who really knows? Meanwhile, the foreign-oriented businesses and networks (like realtors) have pretty much shut down. I put a notice up in the Hanoi Expats Facebook group that I was looking for a place to live. Last year I wouldn’t have been able to follow up on all the responses — this time there were 4 – 2 of which were wildly inappropriate.

So I think the bottom line is that I will proceed as though I am building towards a permanent base, but this is a transition phase that could end quickly. If my visa extension isn’t approved for the entire 3 months, or if the virus shuts the school or I get quarantined – then all my plans are out the window. But if I can tough this out until January (when borders are supposed to reopen), then I should be able to get back on track.

But what that track will be is the subject of my next post. Until then— Andrew Out.

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