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.

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