I have and always will be something of a loner. Maybe its having brothers and sisters who are much older than me, so as a child they were pretty much making their way into the world, getting married and settling down, while I was playing ‘teacher’ with various stuffed animals. My parents had me late in life, my mother being 45 when she went into the doctors complaining of weight gain and feeling under the weather only to be told that she was indeed expecting. Of course I was an accident (a lovely surprise, as my mother will say). The doctors advised her to abort as having a child at her age – in those days, was just risky and opened up many possible health risks. My mother, already having 5 other kids under her wings decided against the doctors orders and thus added another sprog to her brood.
Growing up, I was a very quiet child. I could play alone for hours and hours without needing company from adults nor children. I would collect the figurines from kinder eggs to create armies which would entertain me for days. Stuffed animals would be marked on the ‘teachers’ register, with grades given to the best ‘students’. Art classes were held where I would hold the toys hand/paw and guide the crayon across the paper to create various images, and of course there was a competition for the best drawing. I look back and wonder how on earth I was able to entertain myself for so long, with these ‘make believe’ games. If I knew the answer perhaps it would certainly help me right now.
I decided to escape Hanoi and travel to Ha Long bay. I have gone from holding my breath and being constantly alert to the various sights, sounds, people and traffic to just sheer quietness. Ha Long bay is apparently sleeping. The sky is completely grey and with the thick fog the sea blends into the sky. It has gone passed the ‘romantic, dreamy mist’ state in which you can immerse yourself in the beauty to just not being able to see anything, never mind picturesque, rugged mountains. I already feel pity for the hoards of tourists that are getting off the bus only to be shuffled onto the cruise for a night of sightseeing where you will be hard pushed to see anything.
So now I find myself alone. My travel companion is waiting in Hanoi for my return where the offer of employment as teachers awaits us. I sat at a café where a herd of Chinese tourists chatted, comparing purchases of coffee and nuts. One by one they took the chairs around my table. All but the one I was sitting on. I felt my vulnerability levels peak, sticking out like a sore thumb with my blonde hair everywhere. I tried to immerse myself in a book but felt the eyes of the locals on me. I sneaked glances as a local man watched my every move, from drinking my coffee, opening and closing my book, paying the waiter and gathering my change. I quickly scuttled off to walk off the insecurity that had begun to brew. Throwing my hood up to ‘disappear’ I walked and found a secluded spot overlooking the sea. Looking at my watch I noticed that I had been ‘out and about’ for just over an hour and suddenly I felt the dread that comes with ‘what the hell am I going to do for 3 weeks here?!!’
A person who is bored is bored with themselves. I read that somewhere many years ago and at the time I could not have agreed more. I agree with it now and am trying to ‘pull myself together’. I walked the stretch of the bay, continually trying to calm the feelings of uncertainty that comes with the unknown. Then I remembered that I could entertain myself for hours on end when I was a child, not needing a single soul to entertain and reassure me. So really I should embrace the solitude, the misty landscape, the sleepy beachfront with the wide roads that are not cluttered with mopeds beeping their horns frantically and missing running over my toes by inches. As I looked out to sea in all its murky grey glory, I asked myself ‘Here? Or at your corner desk staring at the computer screen?’ Here….Definitely here.