Last week was one of the harder weeks for me in Vietnam; I’ve been missing home and not feeling my greatest. With that being said, this weekend was much needed. Our original plan was to spend the weekend away on a short trip, but I’m so thankful those plans changed. Saturday ended up being a low-key day in Hanoi; it seemed like forever since I’d had one of those, and Sunday we went on a day trip by motorbike to the country and mountainside an hour and a half north of Hanoi.
Saturday morning I ran some errands around Hanoi and realized just how much I’ve learned and gotten to know the city. I can tell if my taxi driver is going the right way, estimate the cost of cab fairs, and know how to do little things that are different from home but commonplace here (like getting a plastic bag stapled over your purse before shopping at some stores). Saturday afternoon we (Martha, Elizabeth, and I) went to work at Joma, a cafe that has become one of my favorite places in Hanoi, because it reminds me of home (Bread Co/Panera specifically). For the evening, we enjoyed some street food with friends. In between, I got to relax in my room and connect with home. It was just the Saturday I needed.
Sunday, we explored the countryside and mountains with Elizabeth’s cousin Sarah and some of her students. We went everywhere by motorbike, and though I was rather sore and stiff by the end of the day, it was fun to rock my face mask (to block gas fumes) and exhilarating to feel the wind on my skin. Fall has come to Hanoi, not in the sense of leave changing colors, the need for sweaters, and pumpkin spice lattes, but the weather has cooled off some (the 80s during the day is better than the 90s) and the humidity has decreased, making the weather perfect for our day long adventure.
We began our trip at Dai Lai Lake and took a boat to an island in its center. The lake was nestled in the countryside with the mountainside surrounding it, a picture of peace and beauty. We enjoyed a picnic and walking around a bit and then headed on our motorbikes to Tam Dao, a small mountain community and former French resort. Our motorbikes struggled a bit to get up the mountain, but the stunning views at the top were breathtaking and the mountain breeze was a refreshing change from polluted city air. There was also a church at the top of the mountain, which was a rare site and comforting reminder of Who’s by my side each step of this journey in Vietnam. After enjoying the beautiful panorama of mountain views, we headed back down the mountain and back to Hanoi.
Upon returning to Hanoi, I spent the rest of the evening reflecting and came across a beautiful song that spoke to me as I experience a facet of emotions here and consider the future that lies ahead when I return to the States:
In plenty and wanting, in sorrow and fear
You are my portion I know you are near.
When I can’t feel your presence and my future’s unknown,
You are my portion I’m never alone.
And I don’t have to wonder if you are good;
I don’t have to question your heart…
I have joy, joy unspeakable joy, I find peace even in suffering
You’re the hope that I cling to and I chose trust you
When my heart’s full of questions or the answer is clear,
You are my promise; I know you are near.
-Unspeakable Joy, Vertical Church Band