Whoah! Chill Out!
On my way home this evening, I had to stop at the ATM, the market and walk home in this sticky humidity for about 10 minutes – in my work clothes and heels. Yuck. Running these errands after work allowed me to get home by about 7pm. Not so bad. I was pretty happy.
As I headed down the ramp, turning the corner toward the main part of Lane 31, some motorbikes came up the ramp and I could hear a few behind me. I learned super quickly to stay to the outside of this 90 degree turn – I nearly got run over 3 times the first time I walked home on the inside of the turn.
As all the motorbikes met in the middle, a young kid without a helmet thought it a good idea to pass other bikers going up the ramp. The foreigner on the big motorcycle going down the ramp did me a favor by staying on his path and not swerving to miss the kid, nor to run over me. The kid’s biked smacked the side of the foreigner’s bike and then bounced off the side of another bike he was trying to pass. His bike hit the pavement, he sort of popped off the seat and managed not to get run over.
Everyone paused. The foreign guy looked at the kid and in a thick British accent yelled, “It serves you fucking right. (pause) It serves you fucking right.” And then he zoomed off. Smart of him to do before he really drew too much attention to himself. But there was no, “Are you OK?” or even an ‘”I’m sorry” on either side of the collision.
All I could think was – WOW. I really hope that I never get in an accident once I do actually get a motorbike. And on top of that, I really hope I never get that bitter and angry about life in Vietnam. The foreign dude had a super red face and was really, really pissed.
This week has been a tough week for me professionally. No doubt, life here requires a bit of grit. I am a bit overwhelmed at the moment with all that is on my plate. And I feel I don’t have a good balance between personal and professional life. I really don’t want to feel guilty during all the moments in my free time when I am not chained to my computer working. What has become the norm is that my time during the day is not my own. I spend FAR too much of it helping my staff figure out how to do their job, editing and proofing English, approving artwork and putting out fires. By the time the end of the day comes, I often feel I have accomplished nothing, and long to go home to peace and quiet, simply so I can actually cross of one item on my TO DO list!!! But we all know how that goes. You arrive home exhausted and spent, and very little of what you turn out in the evening is actually quality stuff. I long for a “do not disturb” sticker for my forehead. Even then, I think my staff would ignore it.
I am still traveling on a windy path trying to find my way here in Vietnam. I wrote to my friend Holly today:
I am also struggling with the fact that our local staff here are just not up to speed – to put it politely. I spend so much of my day being teacher, mentor and coach, that sometimes I feel like a kindergarten teacher instead of a Director, Sales & Marketing. The role of teacher is not foreign to me (obviously), but when they don’t know how to do something or a poor decision costs us business, it’s hard for me to accept this and not get upset. And “upset” is not an emotion which is OK to display in this culture. So I’m finding my way of how to get things done and how to steer the horse to water AND make it drink!!!
The Vietnamese, while they have many good qualities about them, lack some very basic skills which would help them better succeed in today’s modern business world. Their English is actually pretty good, but decision making, organization, professionalism, work ethic and others are lacking. Work ethic is a biggie. I think what gets me is that I end up spending numerous additional hours in the office or at home doing my own projects/work because in the regular working hours I am all too busy helping them do their job. And so when I get a “Where are we on the ABC project?” from my higher-ups, I get so frustrated, feel stressed out and allow myself to feel so inadequate. And that’s not a pleasant feeling! I have yet to feel like I am reaching my professional theme this year – Knock it Outta Da Park!
I am going to Bangkok this weekend for a health check and a shopping excursion. And a break. I need to get out of Hanoi on non-business related matters. Never mind that most of my shopping will be for work clothes, a business card holder and shoes suitable for the office. I’m spending time just for me, and it is important to replenish my enthusiasm from time to time.
There is no question that life in Hanoi, life is this complex and fascinating culture of Vietnam is much more of a challenge than I anticipated. There is simply no comparison between Japan and Vietnam. Two totally different animals. After nearly 8 months here, I would say it is about time that reality smacks me in the face and I allow myself to feel a bit of culture shock. I think I’ve avoided it quite nicely by hiding behind the “I’m new” motto. Now that I am in my good and sturdy home, now that the work has piled upon my desk, that I have made some friends and figured some things out about life here in this 999 year old city….I realize I have to buckle up and prepare myself for a very bumpy ride. Bumpy but rewarding.
The important thing to note is that I am sitting in the driver’s seat and I am ready for a super long road trip. I still don’t know what is in store, but I am ready. A bit shaken and in need of a good night’s sleep, but ready for more. I really want to find out where this journey will take me.
On the Bright Side,