Living with my home-stay family has provided the opportunity to experience everyday life in Hanoi. Walking down my street in the morning, I pass food stalls where community members come together to share breakfast phở and bánh cuốn. Taking the bus to work, I am able to move along the daily traffic and find myself in the current of the rest of the city. In the evening, I join my home-stay family on our bamboo mat as we come together over shared meals and google translate conversations (each of us trying to learn the other’s language).
In addition to everyday life, I am afforded the chance to participate in special family travels. For instance, this past weekend, my home-stay family invited me to join them in their hometown of Bắc Giang. Though I found out we would be traveling on the weekend, I did not know the details of when we would leave, how we would travel, where we would stay, or how long we would be there. As communication is often strained, I decided to just go with the flow and follow their lead for the weekend adventure. This going with the flow entailed receiving a message to meet the family at the bus stop merely 20 minutes before the bus was to arrive and hoping on a bus not knowing how long our ride would be or really where we would be going. It meant getting off of the bus in a small town only to be directed to ride along a path through farm land with people I would only later find out were extended home-stay family members. Going with the flow entailed being dropped off at a beautiful farm house to stay the night and have a weekend of smiling, nodding, enjoying wonderful foods, and expanding my comfort zone. This opportunity to go with the flow was something I never would have experienced without my home-stay family.
Of course, being aware of one’s own feeling of security is important when going with the flow of things: During this time I was always sure to recognize just how far my comfort zone could stretch. However, as I stretch within my realm of growth, I find that anchoring my time in Hanoi with a home-stay family has allowed me to experience situations where I can grow in new ways.
Fresh trái dứa harvested on the farm (one of the perks of going with the flow 🙂 )!