Hello friends. This weekend I traveled to Cat Ba Island. I don't know exactly what I was looking for, but I think I found a tiny modicum of it there.
The ferry my students told me to take left from "Tuan Chau", a port unmentioned in the guide book and very very far away from town. I took the city bus as close as I could, then a motorcycle taxi right to the wharf. I made it just in time for the first ferry crossing and stood on top of the boat in the rain the whole way over. Luckily, I brought my super Vietnamese rain coat, and I lapped up every minute of it.
I realized in that moment that this really, is what makes me happy, my dearest friends. I don't know how many people still read this, because I'm sure I don't really exist anymore to most of you. I hope most people can understand the draw that the unknown and the unique has for me and I know anyone who really knows me would not take my lifestyle choice as a personal slight against themselves. Or even a slight against my own country.
There is just no other way for me to be as happy as this at the moment. Despite the whining and moaning I do. I know it's a lot and I apologize. I feel extremely fortunate to be able to choose this way of life right now.
Thirty or forty years ago, this would never ever be an option for a single lady. Thirty years ago, I'd still be married and probably have two and a half kids, two cars and a big TV with my weird jealous husband in the suburbs. My travel whims would only be indulged for two or three weeks per year at Club Med.
I am daily grateful for the strong support of my family and closest friends, my TESL classmates and other teachers I have met along the way. These are the people who truly respect and understand my drive and passion. Thank you.
I know this isn't the life everybody wants, but I'm so thankful for my people who respect my decision to make it happen for myself.
All this came to me while freezing and getting drenched in the biting wind and rain, as my ferry navigated the karst landscape in the emerald green waters of the most astounding scenery I've ever laid eyes upon in my life. Not even terrible rain could bring my spirits down on such an adventure.
And now, back to the story of Cat Ba Island. Fortunately, I saw a French couple who were also going my way when I got off the boat. So, instead of being hounded by taxi drivers at the wharf, I simply followed them onto their mini van to the cruise dock. The driver caught on and charged me about five bucks, which was well worth it of course, because we were at least thirty minutes away.
I just briefly skimmed the Lonely Planet while waiting for the ferry to arrive and I saw a hotel on its own personal island. Well. After this week of nonsense, that sounded amazing. I found the tourism office and asked them to check if the hotel had any rooms, but it didn't. Bummer.
My next choice was to find this "Cat Co 2" beach. There is also a "Cat Co 3" and "Cat Co 1" beach, which I found first. Both of them were quite full and annoying looking. Even in the rain. When I finally found beach two, it had been engulfed by a private resort since the guidebook was written. Although an effort was made to provide a separate public area, it was kind of gross. So, I went to the reception desk to ask if they had a room for me. Nope. Crap.
Well, I was starving, so I ate at the hotel restaurant, which was right on the beach and had passable seafood noodles with Vietnamese coffee.
This would've been a great place to come last weekend, but I'm sure it would've been packed anyway. Even with the annoying eighties soft rock ballads coming from the Beachside bar. Toni Braxton and all. So, hurray for the rain scaring people away.
It was kind of hard to believe that this little slice of paradise was only a total of four hours away from my door. Wow. One thing about this job is location. It's super easy to escape and find a place where no one will bother you (very much) and you can just chill. In related news, here's the update on my employment situation. If everything goes according to plan, I will be back in the Western hemisphere just after my thirty-third birthday.
So far, I've alienated everyone I work with except Hans, and my best friend Cheryl. She will be gone very soon, since she got fired in about the second week. This was a huge blow for me. Needless to say it'll be the first birthday probably spent alone and by myself boo hoo hoo. But I'm sure I can persuade Hans to come out with a couple bottles of Vietnamese wine or vodka, long story.
Right now, I have a tentative job waiting for me in Honduras. Initially I wanted to quit this one early and go to that one after the firing of Cheryl, the boat ride debacle described earlier and after my boss called me a child for refusing to carry this shitty laptop back and forth to school five km per day. Ugh.
When I handed in my resignation, my boss went berserk and she started flip flopping on everything she ever said to me.
"You're not getting your airfare reimbursed. You're not getting a bonus at the end." and then vice versa, the next day she claimed the opposite.
I didn't know what to believe anymore, so I just didn't tell her any of my plans after that. All the while, I had been updating my new boss on all these developments, and she was royally confused I'm sure.
I really and truly didn't think it would be that big a deal if I left, since they were firing people left and right, while simultaneously verbally abusing me.
In the end, I decided to stay and finish the contract. I'm taking a GINORMOUS pay cut in Santa Rosa, so I might as well save some cash before I'm living a life of poverty by Canadian standards. In Honduras though, they maintain I will be living "comfortably" and making two hundred dollars more than local teachers do. That's still only six hundred dollars a month, but hey, that's the going rate in South and Central America, I've heard.
Question: But Louise, isn't Honduras dangerous?
Answer: Yes I think so, BUT there have not been any tourists murdered in the country with the highest murder rate in the world AND otherwise hurting a foreigner is a HUGE taboo with severe jail time. So says David EJ Perez, El Salvadorian extraordinaire.
Question: So, do you feel safe then?
Answer: Yes, of course. I consider myself a pretty seasoned traveler and I have a supportive group at my new school who will help me make travel decisions before I leave. I will also be arming myself with the latest guide books and generally dressing like a bedraggled hippy on the weekends. Someone who wouldn't earn any muggers any profit whatsoever. I'm also contemplating getting a GASP cell phone but don't tell ANYONE. I mean it. It's going to have the embassy and the police programmed into it and THAT'S IT.
Question: Whatever happened to that guy in Korea?
Answer: Who, Dave? Dave's in Minot right now, fixing his big burly F-150 man mobile. So far, the plan is to spend Christmas in Syracuse and Niagara Falls together. If we don't hate each other after that, I'm going to follow him to Italy in June. Yes, you heard that right. Follow. But only for ninety days, max. Until my tourist visa runs out or we hate each other, whatever comes first.
Question: What's your verdict on Vietnam?
Answer: Vietnam sure is pretty. It would have been nice to stay here traveling around every few months, but alas it was not to be. If Miss Bossy Boss has to be an incompetent and disorganized nut case, then so be it. I feel like I was fed a fairy story to get my hopes up into putting up with all their crap they do around here.
Bottom line, once again I'm living my life in between fifty plans that fall apart and one that could possibly work. Tomorrow, I might have a new one, but for me it's the planning part that's so exhilarating. Maybe that sounds lame or even stressful to some of you, but I always feel like I'm putting a big puzzle together, juggling the people, places, money and experiences together until they resemble something coherent. Exhale. Whoah, I think I just articulated something I have never been able to before. Phew.
By the time I was done puking out everything in my brain into my notebook, the rain had stopped and I jumped into the ocean. It was that gross soupy temperature, even after all the rain, but I didn't care.
I put my dry clothes on and dozed off. Suddenly intense techno music and a crazy man on a microphone was screaming at some partiers on the public side of the beach. They were having a game of human foosball. Perfect. My nap was completely ruined, so I attempted to find a ride home.
Tuan Chau ferry
Phuong Long ferry
Cat Co 2
Tuan Chau ferry
Me vs. Cat Co beach two
Me on fast ferry to Haiphong
Me vs. Vietnamese coffee
Cat Co beach two party
Tuan Chau ferry terminal
Cat Ba Town
Me vs. seafood noodles
Me vs. flowers
Cat Co beach two
Me vs. steam bun hand delivered on the bus
Me on Cat Co two
Bus to town
Tuan Chau ferry