And then it was Spring time and the dark, grey Winter days slipped away and a new hope was beginning to dawn.
It was always too hot there, no matter how light her clothes were or how she plonked herself under the air conditioner-she could never cool down. And yet the life there enthralled her daily as she passed by her neighbours and the children all playing and shouting her hello's. It seemed like she had entered into a new realm of culture, a new world- a world very far removed from the one she grew up in.
The morning ritual begins and she would make her first and only hot coffee of the day-the following coffees would be iced and sickly sweet. She would leave her privileged house share-a huge house with a big, black gold rimmed gate and go out onto the alley, which was long since awake. She would need to brace herself for the head turning, the hello's, the instant hustle and bustle-2 steps away from her house. Sometimes she wasn't in the mood and wished she could just blend in like everyone else but most of the time, it felt energizing and alive.
And then the motorcycle men that all wait at the top of the alley. Who would it be today? The knarly handed, pock face man who had a face that she didn't trust but he seemed to be loyal to her, so she would take him again. But he made her feel uneasy. She would try not to look at his distorted hand, it looked or seemed broken and yet here he was driving her on his motorbike, weaving in and out of the relentless traffic. The honking, the dusty street, the teenagers cycling, the face masks, the shops with loud techno music. She would experience all of these, observing the life that vibrantly played out before her eyes. No morning was the same. She would always see or experience something new.
She would get used to the way her driver sped along the street, although some mornings she wished he would slow down. She would always notice the people outside the eye and ear hospital and how they over spilled on to the street. The smell as she passed the canal, the putrid overpowering nauseating smell of shit. She would always have to breathe in for that part of the journey and exhale a good distance away but the smell usually lingered. What made it bearable was the infused smell of incense from the pagoda, which was situated on the canal.
Finally, she would arrive at the centre where she worked. She would pass the two street vendors who she grew to love and always looked forward to seeing them -there was always laughter and pinching and smiling. She would order her egg roll- a fried egg with coriander, pickled carrots, chilli and soy sauce all in a fresh baguette. She would smile as they talked to her entirely in Vietnamese, pointing at her porcelain white skin and then pointing at their much darker tone. This interaction almost happened daily.
The children were all milling around too, running towards her smiling, hugging her as she walked into her remarkable place of work. Sometimes she would have 3, 4 or 5 children all embracing her or other times just one and she would run or skip inside the playground. One of the teachers from the school would always skip over to her upon seeing her and grab her and welcome her with 2 sniffs on either side of her face-like the French do, but with a sniff instead of a kiss. It took her a long time to figure this strangely affectionate custom but it was one she learned to relish.
She would walk up the steps and would begin to look forward to her much needed hit from the air conditioning. Children would mill pass her and she would high five them. She would start her day knowing how lucky she was to be having her life fulfilled and enriched on a daily basis.
Back home and as the pink Irish sky dims into another chilly Spring night, she is brought back to those days where life blustered and the pace quickened and smiled remembering it all as if it were a dream.