A Day in the Hanoi Work Life

5:00 AM Wake up to rooster crowing

5:01 AM Roll over and try to fall back asleep

6:40 AM Alarm goes off, hit snooze button

6:45 AM Alarm goes off, hit snooze button

6:50 AM Get out of bed and take ice cold shower (helps with trying to cope with the sweating caused by excessive heat and humidity)

7:10 AM Realize shower did no good as sweating commences again

7:15 AM Sit on terrace listening to rooster while putting on suntan lotion and checking email

7:30 AM Walk downstairs to have breakfast, which normally consists of two slices white bread with peanut butter, some fruit, two pieces Laughing Cow cheese spread, and instant coffee made with cold water.

7:55 AM Walk to the bus stop, being careful to avoid motorbikes driving on sidewalk and machete wielding sugar cane juice makers along the way.

8:05 AM – 8:20 AM Catch the bus. Stand between 50 of my closest, sweatiest friends and feel violated every time they grab, poke and prod as they try to get around me.

8:15 AM – 8:35 AM Get off the bus and walk to the office. On the way, make sure to:

  • Avoid walking between the crusty old guy squatting by the side of road waiting to fix flat tires and his air pump. We tried once, and he chased us down the sidewalk while cursing in Vietnamese (at least I assume he was cursing).
  • Not make eye contact with the mutant chickens caged in the public park. Seriously, these things look pissed off all the time; I think they’re bred for cock fighting or some other sinister plot to rule the world. If so, I wouldn’t want to get in the ring with any of these things.
  • Say hello and no thank you to motorbike taxi drivers who are always sitting down the street from the office (this is more of a formality now, as most of them no longer look up from their card games, bong smoking, or nap taking)
  • Say hello to the guys washing the rugs outside the karaoke bar
  • Say hello and wave as the shop owners’ kids run around us yelling “Hello!” “Goodbye!”

8:25 AM – 8:45 AM Arrive at work, making sure to take my shoes off upon entering the building (yes, I get to walk around work in my socks). At the moment, “work” mainly involves editing interview transcripts that have previously been translated from Vietnamese to English so that the results can be coded and analyzed. Sound interesting? Try reading essentially the same interview over and over again for 6 weeks. But, at least I know it’s for a good cause and I’m helping to complete a pretty major international aid project, Alive & Thrive (A&T). Plus, my roommate works there, too. So, I at least have another English speaker to hang out with. The funny thing is, the A&T project is working to promote and improve breastfeeding and early childhood nutrition to combat malnutrition and stunting. Why is that funny? Well, the job I left after getting burnt out was for an infant formula manufacturer which, of course, deals with infant and early childhood nutrition. Even on the other side of the world, I can’t get away from this stuff.

8:45 AM Check email for latest translation file to edit, log into Facebook, ensure air conditioning is on. Thought Facebook was blocked in Vietnam? Well, it is periodically. However, there are ways around that…

8:45 AM – 12:00 PM Edit translation file, fire up the music (Capital FM out of London is my choice) and start ridiculous Facebook chat discussions. With the 11 hour time difference between Vietnam and the Eastern US and Canada, when it’s daytime here, it’s nighttime there. So, I end up talking to all my roommates (yes, the same people I see in the morning and at night) on Facebook all day, everyday. It’s a kind of support group to help everyone make it through the day. Think spending time on Facebook at work is a cardinal sin (I’m looking at you corporate America)? I still get all my work done, and I could be napping, watching YouTube videos, or throwing darts (as many of my co-workers have done from time to time – okay, maybe I’ve done it, too).

12:00 PM – 12:30 PM Eat lunch with rest of office. The office is like one big, happy family – especially at lunch. They have a cook come in to make lunch for everyone, and we all sit around the table and eat a home cooked, family style Vietnamese meal. There’s a lot of Vietnamese spoken so I don’t really understand what’s going on all the time, but the food’s really good.

12:30 PM – 1:30 PM Drink tea with the guys from the office. After lunch the men in the office go out for iced tea. At least that’s the way it was before my roommate and I arrived. Since then, some of the women venture out with us every now and then. I guess we’ve been able to create a cultural experience for us and the Vietnamese. Kind of cool.

1:30 PM – 5:00 PM Edit second translation file of day. Continue ridiculous Facebook chat discussions from the morning. Continue listening to music. So, how ridiculous are these discussions? Well, we’ve gotten as serious as discussing theories about the beginning of time, but most everything reverts back to breast feeding (did you know men can breast feed, too?), breast milk (Did you know there are people who use breast milk as coffee creamer?), or some related topic.

5:00 PM Leave work and walk to bus stop. Making sure to:

  • Say hello and no thank you to the same motorbike taxi drivers.
  • Avoid getting run over as we walk in the middle of the street in rush hour traffic (all sidewalk space is normally used for motorbike parking)
  • Pick up any flowers that have discarded by the florist. With 12 girls living in the house, a guy’s got to do something to keep the place looking nice.

5:10 PM Arrive at the bus stop and wait. And wait. And wait.

5:30 PM Catch bus. Stand between my 50 closest friends and feel violated again.

5:40 PM Get off bus and walk home, making sure to:

  • Not get run over while crossing six lanes of rush hour traffic
  • Say hello and no thank you to the Pho street food vendors who always try to get us to stop in for dinner.
  • Say hello to the neighborhood kids out playing or riding their bikes down the street.

5:50 PM Arrive at the house. We’re normally one of the last ones home, which means there’s usually a welcoming committee of people in the common room either on the computer, watching TV, or simply waiting for dinner to be served.

6:00 PM Eat dinner. Speaking of dinner…


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