Our First Week in Vietnam: A new life together — Diary of a Baba
Diary of a Baba
Posted on July 15, 2019
We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City over a week ago at 2 am in the morning. After a week of intense packing for the trip, moving and getting the house ready for our new tenant, the 18 hour journey to Vietnam with a layover in China where the airline lost our stroller, we felt pretty accomplished for arriving (with most of our luggage).
Although mychi did A LOT of research and planning, things have been pretty unplanned. For example, we really only planned the first few days of our 6 month trip but also every potential scenario was carefully researched and vetted by Mychi. No short cuts but definitely a bunch of twist and turns.
Now that we’re here, it feels very surreal but we’re ready for our new life together!
What does this mean? We talked about doing this trip nearly 15 years ago, over a decade before Collin was even born. We are no longer those young and single backpackers – those days are over. But the new days of kid friendly everything is not bad either. (Note: We did a test trip with Collin 2 years ago but this time around, this trip felt like a real family commitment.)
(Image of a selfie of us on the first day of preschool.)
No doubt, everything will be different the next 6 months. Not only are we living in another country, we’re here to be more present with each other, learn, re-learn the language (Mychi is actually already fluent), travel. I plan on doing more writing out here and eventually meeting local organizers.
Thanks for all the encouragement and following our journey. It seems like there is a new political crisis in the US everyday. I keep reminding myself that this time is our turn to recharge and reflect. It will sustain me and our family for the long run. It is a complete privilege to even take this trip and I don’t take any of this for granted.
That said, these blogs will be longer than usual and probably more frequent. Mychi may even blogging on tips and tricks of living abroad, good food and all that. Right now, we need to keep reminding ourselves that the time will go by quick but we also have precious time and space to enjoy each other and the moments together.
Here is what we did the first week! This post is pretty detailed because the first week was the most intense (I hope).
Day 1: Once we landed, we got our SIM cards at the airport and got a Grab car (equivalent to Lyft/Uber) to our apartment which we rented for a few days. The passcode to get in didn’t work at first but we eventually got in and unpacked. By this time it was about 5 am.
(Images from left to right: 1) the line on China Southern Airlines at SFO; 2) Collin asleep on the plane, his ipad in the back; 3) All the bags we packed for 6 months on cart!)
Day 2: Through a property management company, we visited 5 apartments and chose 1 by the end of the day.
Day 3: We visited 2 preschools and even a language school for us. We picked a preschool (Little Saigon Kindergarten), signed the lease for the apartment and went to MM Mega Mart (equivalent to Costco) to buy lot of basic stuff like blankets, plates, utensils, food, etc. It felt like we were really starting a new life!
(Images of the entrance to MM Mega Mart, inside the store and Mychi at the counter with all our stuff!)
Day 4: The first day of school. We dropped Collin off at school and crossed our fingers (!!). Fortunately, Mychi made friends with another (awesome) Asian expat family with kids that were going to school living in Vietnam this month.
(Images from left to right: 1) The entrance of the school with the Little Saigon sign; 2) Collin standing in line talking to a new friend with his hands on the shoulders of the child in front; 3) a group picture with Collin’s new classmates, Collin is smiling in the front.)
Day 5: This was the turning point. The preschool (Little Saigon Kindergarten) was perfect! They began morning pickup at the apartment and even feed them yummy Viet breakfast and lunch. It is a Vietnamese preschool (not international) and Collin is able to keep up with everything. Collin even started reluctantly speaking Vietnamese (after a lot of persistence from the teachers). Video below. Honestly, finding a good preschool was a big relief. Now, we could move onto other things!
(Video of Collin saying hello to the teacher and the teacher asking if he took the bus to school today.)
Day 6 and 7: We finally got some time to relax, breathe and explore the city. We had our first date day in a long time, went to the gym, got a massage and even got some street food. Not bad for the first week!
(Images from left to right: 1) Alex reppin’ his Oakland shirt and eating Bánh Xèo, Vietnamese Pancake at Bánh Xèo 46A, which got really popular after Anthony Bourdain visited; 2) Mychi drinking her coconut coffee at the Cộng Cà Phê, a popular coffee chain; 3) Alex’s bourbon drink at the Deck Saigon, a pricey but well deserved lunch after a long week.)
We’ve got a lot of reflections already. which I’ll write more about in the future but here are a few.
- Find community before arrival. Like I mentioned, Mychi joined a couple Vietnamese/Asian expat facebook groups (Saigon Families and Expats and locals in Ho Chi Minh City) and connected with another (awesome) Asian family. Mychi said the women centered fb groups of the two mentioned are even more helpful. More to say there but I’ll move on.
- International child friendly travel is everything. It has made our travels more intentional and spacious. It takes more planning and costs more but it is hella worth it.
- We’re definitely pretty privileged being here. How will we navigate our first world privilege and transnational Asian identities? Also, how will more time and space together create a “new normal” for us as a family? Over dinner last night, Collin says he likes seeing us more <3
The first week seemed long and intense but we know that time will pass quickly. We’re reminding ourselves to enjoy each other and the present moments. We’re now easing into life here. Now that the preschool is settled, we got our own language school called VLS starting next week. We plan on traveling within Southeast Asia every month and “backpacking” the last month before we leave.
Until next time!
(Image of the beautiful views from our new apartment in Ho Chi Minh City.)
Update: The Wu Han Airport in China has located our lost stroller and it has arrived in Ho Chi Minh City Airport. Nice.
Tagged: A new life, Family Sabbatical Vietnam, parenting, purpose, sabbatical, Vietnam
I just got back from Ha Noi. I believe, at this point, Viet Nam is probably the best place in the world to be. There is no war and within that context, people are happy. There will be difficulties, climate change, the US-China rivalry, but for now people are enjoying life. Their food is unparalleled, especially vegetarian food. Whenever you feel like trekking, visit Sapa. I am so happy for you and your family. Have many adventures, enjoy.
I just got back from Hanoi. I believe Vietnam at this time, is the best place in the world to be. No war and within that context, people are happy and enjoying life. There are great challenges, climate change, and US-China rivalry are the top two. But their food, especially vegitarian, is unparalleled in the world. Whenever you feel like trekking, visit Sapa. I am so happy for your family for doing this. I always say, “Life is an adventure”. Enjoy life, have many rewarding adventures.♥️
it is pretty amazing living here during this time. There is so much to learn and understand, like labor and the gig economy (the formal and informal economy). role of us as internationalists and expat. I’ve been following your journey as well. so amazing and congrats on everything!