Saturday, April 6, 2013

Let's be honest.

(WARNING - extensive self-involved text to follow)

The decision to move to Vietnam couldn't have been more different to my move to Spain in 2009. I moved to Spain a few months after I finished my undergraduate degree and I had been counting down days, planning, dreaming, and driving everyone nuts about it for close to a year. The third year of my degree was all about history essays and researching everything I could about my future life in Spain. My Mother took me to Europe for four months when I was seven years old and ever since then I've had a love for the continent; I've been back twice for prolonged periods. I moved to Spain to be in Spain. To eat Spanish food. To hear Spanish spoken around me. To travel the country and see the landscapes. Teaching was just a way to live abroad, albiet a mostly enjoyable means to an end.

My decision to move back to Australia was influenced by a variety of ideas and incidents. Although I returned earlier than I had expected to I don't regret it at all. It was time to grow up and focus on a career and I am completely satisfied with the decision to become a qualified teacher. I wrote my History thesis and got my teaching qualification and to my surprise, I was feeling quite settled in Melbourne. I kept thinking I would get a job in a local school, save some money, and then possibly consider moving back overseas in the future.

I couldn't find a job. I applied and applied and heard nothing. I knew it wasn't due to my own shortcomings. There is a major shortage of teaching jobs in Australia right now, in both primary and secondary sectors, and the jobs which do exist are mostly contracts for a year at most. Difficult to find work and once you have it there's little security. Regardless of the fact that my failure to find a job wasn't a personal failure it still felt like shit. I started applying for everything, half-heartedly, and not expecting that anything would come up. Four days later I'd been offered a job in Hanoi.

Now, here's my dirty little secret. I've never been interested in travelling in Asia. Never. Not in the slightest. Not China, not Japan, not Thailand, and yeah, not Vietnam. Many of my friends have been to Asian countries and loved them, but I've always been about Europe, Europe, Europe, and occasional yearnings to see South America.

I've always found it fascinating that different people are interested in different places. What makes two Australians with similar backgrounds, socio-economic status, educational opportunities, and careers so interested in totally different countries and cultures? I feel an affinity to Melbourne and to many of the European countries I've visited but to Hanoi? Definitely not.

I don't love this city. I'm still trying to work out whether I even like it. When it comes down to it, I came here for a job not for any personal desire to live here. If I'd been offered a job in Melbourne at the same time I would have taken it. I have met a few other new expats here and they're mostly ESL teachers who have travelled here before, loved it, chucked caution to the wind and moved here. When they ask me why I'm here I feel like the biggest scum bag in the world when I say I came for a job. I feel like it's shameful to admit that I'm in this country just to earn money and improve my career prospects while they're struggling to find teaching hours in a country they love. I know that if some douchebag had told me they didn't even really care that  much for Spain, while I was desperately looking for a job, I would have been most unimpressed.

So I am trying really hard to make some kind of connection with the country. I have some travels planned for June which will take me along the coast and hopefully seeing some of the county will spark something between me and Vietnam. I've been venturing out on the weekends and trying to meet new people. I'm trying not to become bitter about the 9 hour power outages or the fact that I can't go a week without eating something which makes me violently ill.

All this said, I love my job and I am glad I am here. I just wish Vietnam inspired me like Spain does.

Learning to love life in Vietnam. Coming soon.

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