Hanoi has plenty to offer – nice pools, great temples and pagodas, and above all lively streets and alleys.
But what really makes up Hanoi are the people here. The friendliness, helpfulness and openness outshine everything else.
As I walked through the streets yesterday I saw some men absorbed in their Chinese chess. Bashfully I approached, to learn more about it. It wasn’t a minute, before I was accepted into their circle and invited for a drink, despite cautious hints at my upcoming lessons. They even generously shared their food, and it was not easy, to “be allowed” to break free from the group after a few bites and only two drinks.
Quite inevitably the question arose in me, just when and how this form of sincere friendliness was lost in our latitudes.
What’s particularly pleasant, is the warmth and spontaneity, with which the willingness to help is shown. “I’m sure you have a lot of other things to do”, I sometimes tried to restrain the zest for action by ways of modesty, but I often heard a hearty “We’re family” in response. This sentence is also representative of the implicitness, with which others are helped here, representing above all the notion of being “one of them”, hence part of this “family”.
Of course, these positive experiences also inspire my thirst as a teacher in dealing with my students, who are very committed and motivated to participate in my lessons. I asked my students today, whether they would like to tell me about their dreams and life goals. They willingly sought to convey their wishes to me in English. And what they spoke of, left a deep impression on me.
One student told me about how he wants to be a good technician after graduation to start a family with two children and to maybe be able to buy a car (unattainable for many) some day. Another student aspires to be an artist and told me how he wants to earn money with his engineering degree to finally be able to also pursue his passion. “And if it’s your passion, you will succeed,” he timidly added, and I’m happy for him that he is so motivated and has dreams and goals for his life.
Most touching were two students who told me of their poor home village and the farmers there, who work so hard and yet earn so little money.
“My study is not important, it’s necessary. I want to earn money to improve my hometown”, they tell me about their wishes.
On the way home I am overcome by the desire to help people far more than only with a few lessons, for in the face of poverty and low price levels in Vietnam any help is very useful and the sense of wanting to support the people is even greater, when you meet children. Often they will hail you with a friendly “Hello”, waving and rejoicing when you give them some attention.
To help this arising and upcoming generation is now my set goal. My departure from Hanoi in two weeks should therefore be the launch of a follow-up project, under which I, respectively the Verein für Soziale Gerechtigkeit (Association for Social Equity) together with a partner here in Vietnam will afford a classroom actually deserving of that designation to at least a few of children in rural areas.
I hope it succeeds, for …
“We are family!”