Natasha's Vietnam Challenge
Natasha's Vietnam Challenge
I’ve never been bitten by the travelling bug. For someone like me, who favours fluffy blankets and a good book (and constant access to Wi-Fi signal!) over the great outdoors, embarking on a two week trip to Vietnam was somewhat of a change of pace. I knew it was going to be a challenge, but I figured that after such a great year a challenge was just what I needed. As APUK’s biggest uncontested introvert, spending a fortnight with my colleagues was, I feared, perhaps one of the biggest challenges I would ever face, especially considering most of them are boisterous extroverts! Ironically, it was probably the easiest part about the whole trip.
I’ve babbled, sometimes incoherently in my excitement, to anyone that will listen about the wonderful things I saw, did, experienced and felt in Vietnam, and it would be all too easy to do that again, but for the purpose of this blog I’m going to list some of the biggest challenges I faced.
The build project for the community of Sa Nai in Mai Chau was definitely the most physically taxing portion of the trip. At 5’3 and 7st wet through I’m not the best candidate for hard labour, but there wasn’t a chance I was going to sit idly by and let my colleagues have all the fun. Everything was done by hand – from mixing cement to moving bricks from one spot to another – and while this would have been hard at home, it was even harder in thirty degree heat! With a bit of hard graft and a lot of teamwork, the project seemed to fly by in spite of the almost unbearable weather. It definitely felt like an accomplishment come completion, and handing over the build to the community leader at the end was a very humbling and extraordinary experience.
Meanwhile, in the evenings, we were spending our time in a local homestay, living amongst the locals and eating local cuisine. While the homestay itself was lovely, and the people so welcoming and kind, I did find myself missing home comforts considerably. But while the showers were never quite hot enough, and the beds (or should I say mattresses on the floor!) were a little on the firm side, the experience in itself did serve to remind me how good we have it at home. It’s so easy to take for granted the luxuries we have become accustomed to these days, but the people of Mai Chau seemed perfectly content with what they had. Let’s just say that I’ll be thinking a little harder these days about the things I take for granted.
Following our build project we made our way across Vietnam to Ninh Binh, and then eventually found ourselves in the beautiful Halong Bay. While the prospect of spending a night on a boat doesn’t make me queasy with the mere thought of motion sickness, I’ve never been a fan of the ocean. As beautiful as it can be, it still terrifies me. The idea of not being able to see clearly what is beneath me – and in the ocean there are definitely a fair few things under your feet! – is not a pleasant one for me. So when the offer of a kayaking trip around the bay came up I was nervous to say the least. Luckily for me, I had Sharrona sat right behind me in our kayak the whole time, guiding me on what to do and encouraging me the whole way – even if she did attempt to drive my face into an outcrop of rock at least once! Aside from a brief moment of panic at the site of a school of fish swimming underneath us, the experience was wonderful, with views you’d never get the chance to see any other way.
On our last night in Vietnam, one more evening in the bustling city of Hanoi, I was sad to be leaving.
I can’t thank my colleagues enough for the amazing time I had, and for looking out for a socially-inept, anxious introvert the whole way through. I’ve come away from this trip having learned and confirmed a fair few things about myself and the world around me – and on top of that, my list of places I want to see has now trebled in size! World – I’m coming to get you.
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