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Posted by on Nov 13, 2015 | 4 comments

We’re Back

Back in Hai Phong.

After months of travel, seeing family and friends and then welcoming groups of people to see some of “our” Viet Nam, we are now back into the routine of living life as an expat.

It was a little surreal getting on my bicycle, riding to the market and trying once again to barter my way into a good vegetable price. Ôi trời ơi, can we handle this for another year?

I felt really strong leaving the USA knowing that our time here is halfway done and we will start the process of moving back sometime next year. It was easy to feel good about being on the other side, (of the world) while surrounded by friends and family, but now it is just us once again. Reality is setting in. My good intentions about diving back into English classes, volunteering my time and trying to deepen my connections to the wonderful people I have met here are limping along slowly as I look at the photos of my granddaughters from my visit with them and the weekly photo updates from my daughter showing off her beautiful belly as she grows my grandson.

Oh – well, things move on. I came home to see the new house which is being built right across the little alley that runs to our home. The alley is only about 5 feet wide, just barely room for the motorbike to pass. That being said I do sometimes see one the of small taxis going down to the cul-du-sac (if you can call it that) which is the end of our street in our new home. I was only in this house about one month before I returned to Seattle, so it is still pretty new to me.

hai phong cons

Our house on the right, new construction on the left.

We had our first guests to our new house right after we returned. It was much different then the spacious apartment I was able to let them use before. This time we borrowed mattresses which were placed on the floor. The cooler temperatures heated up so my brother-in-law and his wife had to move their mattress into the air conditioned living room floor for the 2 nights they slept here.  I wanted them to get a real feel of what life is like for us in Viet Nam – and they did. The second morning of their visit the construction started at 5 am, with lots of banging and heavy equipment as well as the voices of the 20 or so workers that started that day.  Luckily for them they headed off of Saigon, while my husband and I sat around and watched the construction for most of the day.

When I finally opened the drapes to look outside, this is what I saw.

When I finally opened the drapes to look outside, this is what I saw.

My motto is “things are different here” which they are. It is much easier to just accept the differences and try not to change things. This is not my country, nor is it up to me to try to enforce my values and beliefs. I had the hardest lesson of all this week.

I have heard that accidents are the number one cause of death in Viet Nam. Not too surprising when you see the motorbikes, bicycles, cars and trucks all trying to squeeze onto the too small roads. Motorbikes are the hardest hit. We recently saw a young woman lying on the side walk, unconscious. A victim of a hit and run, a driver swerved into her knocking her bike over and her head hit the pavement hard. Yesterday was the hardest though. I was biking through the most dangerous roundabout in Hai Phong during lunch time. The same time as all of the children are heading home from school for lunch. The roundabout is dangerous because it is the main arterial for the trucks. Few stop when the light is red, so the onslaught of bicycles and motorbikes have to “swim” their way through the truck traffic. One motorcycle driver was not lucky. He must of been sideswiped by another motorbike or car and fell over in front of truck. It is a sight I will never forget, and one I hope to never see again.

I have seen accidents in the US before that are really bad and you know that there had been a loss of life. What is different here is that they didn’t cover the body, and this poor young man was there for everyone, including the many school children, to view. As I was stopped at the accident I could see the police bringing up a woman to the body, my heart fell as I realized this was most likely his mother, or perhaps a family member to ID him.

Life is different here. Today I am thankful for the respect we give to the deceased  and the respect we give to the many motorists that are passing by when we cover the body. Those poor children who rode by and were stopped at the scene as I was, must of shared my nightmares. Since this happened on Veterans Day I couldn’t help but think of all of our service men and women who have seen too many similar sights.   You have to cope, but it sure isn’t easy.

Drive slowly my friends and children. Getting there a few moments earlier isn’t worth the risk. Save money and forget that second drink.  Value what you have.

Peace and love from Hai Phong, Viet Nam.


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  1. Love you Dawn. I pray for your and John’s safety every night, sometimes during the day too. Thank you for the most thoughtful letter.

    • Thanks for reading! Love you Mom.

  2. Thanks, Dawn, for giving us an idea of what it is like for you in Viet Nam. Such a thoughtful, non-judgmental view. I’m sorry you (and the children and others) have had to witness the tragedies of motorized life there. I hope you’ll continue to share your thoughts. It reminds me to be grateful for what I have.

    • Thanks Rochelle for you comment. Living here makes me thankful everyday for all we have in the US. We are very lucky!

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