The train pulled in at around 7:00am – I don’t know when it was meant to arrive, but this was when it turned up. Loi was there waiting for us, and we split into two groups. Kate and Dale were straight off to the bus station for the next stage of their trip. The rest of us were dropped off at our respective hotels, email addresses exchanged.
While I checked my email and so forth, Andy crashed out for a few hours. After some thought, planning and price checking I booked a return flight to New Zealand on the day my visa expires – March 13th. It makes sense to get to NZ while Lou isn’t working (she was supposed to be starting now, but it looks like it’ll be a 2-month gap) as we can travel together and share costs. The plan’s to return the Sunday after all the World Cup group stage games. Not that I’m basing all my travel round football *cough*
Lunch was had at the City View Café (beef noodle soup) and we parted ways. I jumped on a motorcycle taxi bound for the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. Sadly, I got a driver who probably knew hte layout of Hanoi about as well as he knew Manhattan. After more than half an hour, I just got him to drop me somewhere random and walked off.
Two and a half hours later, I found where I was looking for without asking for directions once. I can be stubborn when I want to be.
Skye was there to meet me, along with 3 other members of staff and more children than I could count (mainly as they kept moving about). We planned some work for me over the next week or so, and watched a video about the Foundation. The kids joined in, pointing and yelling at themselves on the TV.
I’ll be honest, I felt a little out of my depth mainly as virtually none of the children speak English. However, the power of paper and pencil took hold when Skye did a portrait of one of the boys. When she was done, he indicated he wanted me to do one as well. Let’s just say he kept mine and left Skye’s on the table when he went home! A little girl also wanted a picture done, and one of the other boys drew one of me (which is how I realised how desparately I needed a shave) which he pinned on the noticeboard. The first boy’s younger brother presented me witha crayon drawing which would probably have a psychologist spinning in circles, but they read too much into everything. The picture is still in my pocket.
The heavens opened about an hour before I left but fortunately stopped before the end of their working day. One of the staff, Van (I’m guessing at the spelling), offered me a lift back to the hostel which I gratefully accepted. Until I remembered this would mean being on the back of a moped through Hanoi at rush hour.
“Are you scared?” he asked at one point.
“No – I trust you!” I lied back. I think my nose grew two inches.
At one point another bike pulled up level to us at about 20mph and the passenger on that one yelled to me “Hello? Want to buy some marijuana?”
I think someone must have made a big dope and heroin delivery to Hanoi that evening. Andy and I were offered either or both for sale by countless people that evening on the way to dinner (no surprises where we ate). While we were eating on the balcony, we could see one guy in the middle of a busy intersection handing out leaflets for a restaurant (we’d declined one ourselves on the way in). The thing is, some of the people who pulled up handed him something, he looked over his shoulder, reached into his back pocket and handed them something else with the leaflet. Possibly the most blatant drugs sales ever. Astounding.
After dinner, we wandered to Bia Hoi territory (the cheapest I’ve seen is 1500D, but it’s well out in the boondocks) where we necked a few drinkies at a bargain 2000D a glass. Back to the hostel after that for a handful of Halidas while watching the end of a film and some episodes of Family Guy before the Buffalo Bar closed at midnight.
I really should have gone to bed then, but there was a spare computer downstairs. I couldn’t resist. 2 hours of internet later, I finally snatched some Z’s.