French proud Mum and wife, restless explorer and doer freshly landed in Hanoi. One Attila in each arm, I am exploring the “kids friendly” corners of the region, while trying to keep some room for Me.
08AM. My Attilas are in school; Hubby at work.
For a split second, I am experiencing that awkward moment when I am not sure if I actually have free time or if I am just forgetting everything.
Just in case, I am running out of the house. With a local kid this time …
The specificity of Hanoi Kids
Hanoikids is a volunteer organization. You only have pay for the expenses during the tour such as admission fees, meals and drinks and transportation fees both for you and Hanoikids’ member(s). Your travel mate will even pick you up at your place.
My tour for the half day included a visit to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum and the Temple of Litterature. And a memorable coffee experience !
A chance to meet with specimen of the Viet Gen Z
I spent the morning with the lovely and very knowledgeable Hang (so much easier to write than to pronounce!). The Economics student is in her early 20s and already very professional.
She volunteers with Hanoi Kids to practice her English, and I can hardly believe she never left her country, as she is so fluent!
She knows everything about the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum but she is far from being boring. Hang has so many anecdotes to share and her pride for her country was contagious. She made me want to learn more, read more about this place that will be our home for the next 4 years. For us French so enclined to criticize our heritage, it was refreshing to listen to someone genuinely so respectful and proud of her roots.
More than a historical tour
We exchanged a lot about our cultures. She helped me understand some differences between the conservative Hanoi and the liberal South. “In our families in the North, we don’t spend money on leisure. We save. Our parents save for us, all their life. And we’ll save for our families. Studying is never an option, we believe in the value of merit and work. You know, there is a saying that life starts at 10PM in the South. At this time here, we are already fast asleep !”
What is Hanoian teenager interested in? “We do have our beliefs and worship our ancestors, but there is no such thing as a main religion in Vietnam. I believe we are more into tradition. My generation is thriving to run a business, so we are learning English and a third language – usually Japanese, Mandarin or Korean. I would love to work in Korea for a few years. But not to settle down. Vietnam is my home”.
As a mother, it reassures me to hear teenagers think like that. Of course our occidental kids are probably more independant and adaptable to other cultures. Still, this attachment to the roots is very meaningful to me.
Did you know about the feng shui elements of the altar?
Wood is the altar itself; Fire is the smoke from the burnt incense; Water is inside the vase; Metal is the candle holder and Earth is the ash inside the vase that holds the incense sticks.
Lesson of the day: Trust the locals but no need to behave like one
After 5 hours of walking under the dusty humidity and heat, all I was craving for was a coffee. I guess Hang read my mind as she offered to take me to Cong Caphe , a famous vintage like local café with memoralia of the war ( Totally instagrammable as my sister would say!)
“Vietnamese coffee is very strong you know”
I had been warned.
Yet I naively went for a black coffee with a little bit of milk, expecting my usual cappuccino. BIG mistake!
The coffee was delicious, probably the tastier I ve had for years. But so terribly strong that it didn’t take me long before I could feel my heart beat in my head and become dizzy and nauseous. For hours! Thanks god I had it in the morning, yet I still couldn’t sleep before 3 am!
Cong coffee should be renamed (Ding) Dong coffee .. Next time I want to play it like an Asian, I’ll go for the matcha muffin!
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