Am I teaching in Vietnam? Or is Vietnam teaching me?
My name is Jordan Harkin. I am just an average guy from a small village in West Yorkshire and in 2019 I decided that I would finish off my year by jetting off to Vietnam for a year to teach English. I’m not sure why I made this seemingly crazy decision, but I’m glad that I did and, in this blog, I would like to share a short story of my time in Vietnam.
Why did the chicken cross the road?
I have been living here for 3 months so far and in that time, it is safe to say that a lot has happened, but one thing that stands out is the first time I saw the traffic in Ho Chi Minh City. Upon arriving in this strange city, one of my first observations was that the traffic is absolutely crazy. At any given time, whether it is day or night, there is a constant stream of motorbikes that flood the streets of the city. Not only this, but the drivers consistently and purposely disobey pretty much every traffic law that you can think of.
Driving on the wrong side of the road? Check. Driving on the sidewalk? Yep. Driving down a one-way street? Of course. Driving a tiny motorbike with a family of 5 squeezed on the back seat? Standard. Eating a bowl of cereal and facetiming a friend whilst driving down a busy highway? Classic! The inner Brit inside of me was shocked at this level of craziness, but I was also incredibly excited. It was as if the hectic roads were a symbol of the white-knuckle rollercoaster ride that living in Vietnam would become. I was about to enter a fast-paced, exciting and unpredictable stage of my life and I could not wait to get started.
To get to the other side
My first challenge came when trying to cross the road on my first day. I was with 2 friends that I had made from my TESOL course. We looked left, we looked right, we looked left again, but the motorbikes did not stop coming from either side, nor did it look like they would stop any time soon. We had to take the plunge and step into the road full of danger and unknown, a feeling not too dissimilar to the time I clicked the ‘submit’ button on my Global Work & Travel program payment, only this time the danger was staring me right in the face. We walked slowly forward, holding hands and keeping direct eye contact with the motorbike drivers coming towards us. We kept the same pace as we crossed the road, taking great care not to speed up, slow down or stop in the middle of the road. The bikes twisted and turned around us with ease, never once coming close to hitting us.
“That was an experience.” Said my friend. This was the first challenge of many, but facing our fears this way helped us to get stuck right in, and start our Vietnamese adventure head-on.
Step up 2: The streets
But what about now, after 1 month of living in Ho Chi Minh City and 2 months of living in Hanoi? The roads no longer scare me and I have now become part of the madness by acquiring my own motorbike. That’s right, I decided to rent a bike and learn how to ride in the seemingly chaotic streets of Hanoi (which are very similar to the streets of Ho Chi Minh City). The thing is that now I am a part of the traffic, I finally see that there is order to the anarchy. The traffic here is not so crazy once you become a part of it and it turns out that roads aren’t so scary after all. Like anything worth doing or achieving in life, moving to a strange new country has its challenges and scary moments, but living here has taught me that anyone who possesses an internal hunger to learn new ways of living, experience life outside of their comfort zone and gain an insight a wide variety of different cultures should take the plunge, listen to their heart and step out into the busy roads of life!
Up my alley
If you would like to keep up to date with my travels, or to chat about working abroad and life in Asia, please follow my Instagram account (mentioned below). I also host a weekly podcast in which I often talk about travelling and living abroad. If you would like to listen, there is a link in my Instagram bio. Otherwise, if you would like to be a guest on my show then please get in contact.
Instagram – @jordanharkin97
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Call Vin Diesel cause we’re about to get Fast AND Furious: Hanoi drift. If you’re ready to live life in the fast lane and check out what Vietnam has to offer, click the link below.