Intercultural Adjustments: Hanoi Experience part 2

After a month of discovering many things of how my life would look like for the next remaining 8 and a half months I got quite acquainted. I decided that no matter how different and difficult it may be I was gonna learn how to live with it. I'm gonna try to enjoy each discovery despite the pain it may also bring me. I had it in my mind that I will fight till the end of this commitment no matter how challenging it may be. I knew it in my heart that the differences I saw weren't the only ones that will make it difficult for me.

I'm glad that despite the drive to give up and go home I continued and it is because of God's grace. Many times I have asked the question "Why?", "Why me?", "Why here?", "Why now?" but as the months progressed I begin to see the big picture of it all. I began to meet people who changed my perspective. I began to have encouragements and mentors who are willing to listen whenever I need to unwind at the end of the week. Though it was not right away that I was able to build relationships with these people.

I started with the motivation my director gave me, "There's no such thing as there's nothing to do. If you do not have something to do at the school, go out there and make friends." I am not much of a people person. I hardly approach new people to introduce myself. Especially when I don't know their language. The next question is "How do I establish rapport with these people?". Seeing I do not have anything to do that afternoon I decided to take a walk around the streets and see if I can meet new people. I was praying hard to God to help me meet people in His way because I don't know how I'll start. I was walking not too far down towards the main road when the lady at the laundry shop my friends wash their clothes at greeted me. So I said hello back and tried to continue walking when it dawned on me that they were the new friends I was praying for. They invited me to sit down, eat some fruits, and have a cup of tea. The tea was not very good but I didn't mind because I never thought they'd become my friends. They lady practiced her English and taught me some Vietnamese with the dictionary she has and by showing me different things and naming them. I had spent the time I needed to do something with and I am very blessed to have spent it meeting two new friends. I decided I'll start with them as my new friends.

The next few weeks I had a chance of meeting more friends from the Vietnamese church and from an English class for University students in Hanoi. We were asked to teach them for free. There was quite a few of them in the beginning and we were really trying to find out how to teach them. We started teaching them vocabulary words from the different stories we were reading. Then we began to invite some other students to join us. We became friends with these students who were desperate learners. We tried thinking of new things we could teach them and new ways to improve their English language.  We had conversational times and we invited them for a street dessert once. I also started joining the international church which is quite awesome. I was refreshed of finally understanding the messages and the songs of worship. I realized that I needed some place I could relate to outside my Vietnamese experience. I needed a place where I can find strength, support, encouragements, and new friends who share the same values and belief as I do. I met friends who came from different parts of the world who were very welcoming. I had a constant friend for some time until I met some other Filipinos like myself whom I got to meet with regularly.

Let's Talk About It: Hanoi Experience 1

My first months in Hanoi, Vietnam was not I would call amazing but it was one of the most shaping moments that made my stay for 9 and a half months awesome (if I may borrow the word). Everything is new--new type of bed--the hard one; new transportation situation--no jeepneys instead the city is full of motorbikes so if you are new you either ride the motorbike taxi or the car taxi (which makes your wallet empty most of the time); new language--of course English is rare and so if you don't know anything about their six tones language, sign language is probably the best way to communicate which is often not understood exactly how you want it; new people--everyone is a stranger in the beginning and the best person to talk to is yourself because surely you will understand; new food--almost every meal is eaten with rice noodles which lasts in your stomach for maybe two hours and then you are hungry again (if you know me I am more for rice or bread); new environment---walking in the streets seems to be walking in a very huge mall because almost every house is a shop as well; new kind of attention--it seems that it is not normal to see someone like me so as I walk in the streets people stare at me.

The easiest way to get adjusted to all these new things and way of life when you are in a foreign country is to have an open mind. When you have an open mind, no matter what differences you have with the people you meet you are willing to understand culture shocks and think through how you can work with the differences. In the beginning of these new things my mind is battling with all the differences and how to deal with them. I must admit it is easy to adjust to one or two differences but with these many I had to have the heart for learning from the Vietnamese people. God had to shape my heart and mind to be flexible to all these changes and learn how to live with it. The first two months were those of which I asked myself and God "Why am I here?" and those were the months that I have to be constantly reminded that I came for the people and for God. I love learning about culture but I never thought that I will have moments in my life where I would say "Ok, enough of new things. Please bring me back home." We all have the tendency to reject change especially if it is so evident that it brings us out of our comfortable place and breaks a lot of fragile things inside us. But then, it is in those changes that we are little by little brought into this world as more mature, more able, more prepared, and with more strength to face higher battles. It is in those moments where we learn that we have to depend on someone else besides ourselves. It is in those moments that we treasure the friends we discover who help us find strength to face the day. It is in those moments that we realize we need God to take control because we cannot do it.

The beginnings of staying in Hanoi, Vietnam were difficult days, and months but those were beginning of new things in my life that molded me into more than I can ever imagine I could be. As I tell you more about my experiences you will notice how my point of view of everything changed.