Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

One great thing about Hoi An is that it’s a coastal city.  Vietnam in general has some stunning beaches, and its hard to pick my favorites.   I’m your classic beach bum, because give me sun, sand and a beer in my hand and I’m in Heaven.  There are two popular beaches on the coast here.  One being less populated, and I think more popular with the locals, called Cua Dai Beach.  The second being more like a little town in itself is An Bang Beach which is far more busy with tons of restaurants and accommodations of its own.  In the middle of these 2 beaches is Hidden Beach, staying true to its name because I still haven’t been able to find it.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

As I told you in my first diary entry (its right here if you missed it), I hadn’t done much my first week at my new job, besides sit in my room researching English teaching.  I needed to get out and explore the city more.  I had become very fond of one girl that worked nights at my homestay.  Her name is An and we became quick friends.  She is 24 years old and is eager to learn English.  She always tries her hardest to communicate with me.  She is one of the only ones who will chat with me during our meals together.  She is patient with me and herself when struggling to find the right words to communicate.  She has an infectious laugh and we find ourselves laughing hysterically at each other during our conversations.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

One night at dinner we were talking about waking up early and she had mentioned she wished she could get up earlier to enjoy more of the day.  I told her I wake early every morning and that its my favorite time of the day.  She asked if she could come pick me up and we could go to the beach together.  I hadn’t been to the beaches yet and was delighted to have company.  The following morning she picked me up at 6am and we headed to Cua Dai beach.  She is just a tiny little thing, as they all are here.  Its adorable to me when they are on their motorbikes that are bigger than they are.  Once she pulled out in front of someone and just giggles and says “oh, sorry”.  As we zipped along down to the beach she pointed out different buildings and made a great little tour guide.  She parked at the beach and we headed down to the water.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

I was shocked at how many locals were here in the water swimming, or bathing, I don’t know.  It’s 6am, who swims at 6am?  Well, to answer that question for you, the Vietnamese do.  It actually makes complete sense.  The beach is much quieter at this time and I was the only foreigner in sight so they were all there amongst their friends and family.   We didn’t actually see much of the sun because there were beautiful clouds in the way, which never disappoints me.   We sat on the beach together and talked about her family, interests and boys.  She had brought her little notebook with English words and paragraphs she had been practicing.  She read to me some English and I taught her a few new words before we headed back to the homestay.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

A few mornings later she came to get me again and we did it once more.  This time the clouds were more intense because a storm was rolling in, which offered some really gorgeous photos.   This time An brought fresh lime juice she had squeezed at home, some crackers for a snack and a blanket for us to sit on.  We had another great time chatting about anything and everything.  I was really creating a special bond with her.  I felt like she was my little sister and I just wanted to teach her everything and help her succeed.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

I also have the pleasure of teaching An’s younger brother, Thin, in my younger English class.  He speaks very good English and although he is much quieter and more reserved than the other boys, I know that he is very smart.  He is extremely sweet and always sits next to me in.   He is very polite and calls me teacher, instead of by my name.  One day before class he brought me a bag of snacks, the kind An had brought down to the beach.  I had really liked them and she had noticed, so she had bought a whole bag of them for me.  I almost started crying.  These two are so incredibly thoughtful.

Rice Cracker Snacks- Vietnam

One night I had been asking An more about her family.  I was falling in love with her and her brother and I wanted to know more about their lives.  She told me she lived together with her mom, dad, younger sister and Thin.  I asked her what her parents did for work and what they were like.  She told me all about them and then asked me if I would come over to her house the next day to meet them.  I couldn’t have been more excited for this.  I’ve been so curious to see how the locals live, and I wanted her family to adopt me because I loved them all already.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

The next morning she came and picked me up on her motorbike and off we rode.  Along the way she pointed out different important spots in her neighborhood and around the town.  When we pulled up to her house her mother came right out and gave me the biggest hug, the kind my own mom gives me, that makes me feel more loved than ever before.   My heart was already so full and I knew this was going to be a day I would never forget.  An showed me around their modest but lovely home.  We then woke up Thin so he could come hang out with us.  An went to buy us some Quang noodles for breakfast from a little lady that has a shop right outside An’s home.  I remembered An had told me it was her favorite and I was excited to try them.   Her mother made us coffee and we sat and enjoyed our breakfast noodles that had vegetables, meat, shrimp, quail eggs and a delicious sauce.  I can see why this is An’s favorite.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

After breakfast I got to meet An’s younger sister Cham as well as her aunt and her grandmother, who were also just as adorable as can be.  Cham and Thin took me down to their neighborhood market on their motorbike while An stayed behind to prepare some food.  I had no idea what she had planned for the day but it didn’t matter to me.  Thin and Cham were fantastic guides showing me the fishing port and market as well as pointing out anything fascinating.  I didn’t realize Thin was so funny, he came way out of his shell in the comforts of his family and home.  I truly enjoyed getting to know this side of him.   He had me laughing so hard with his jokes about fish and things people do.  We snapped a few pictures together, they forced me to allow them to take pictures of me.   I have a hard time saying no to these little sweeties.  I’ll thank them for you.

Julie Laughlin-Hoi An, Vietnam
Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam
Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam

When we got back to the house An was ready for us, and we all sat down on the ground together, and they taught me how to roll spring rolls.  An had graded carrots and onions, sliced green onions, and sautéed meet and shrimp together with spices.  I’m terrible at rolling and the whole family came in to bear witness to this.  Dad, aunt, grandma, Thin and even the dog came in to watch us girls roll.  They were taking videos of us and we were all laughing.  It was the most fun I have had in a very long time.  After we finished rolling, we then fried them.  An had also made a salad with fresh greens and left over pork meat with a delicious dressing.  Thin was outside making a cold drink with yogurt in it.

Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam
Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam
Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam

We then set everything out on a small table in the living room and we all sat on the ground sharing.  Grandma sat next to me and was making sure I kept eating as she watched my every move.  She was very fascinated by me and kept touching my skin, probably to make sure I was real.  I just wanted to wrap her up in my arms.  She had very little teeth and I couldn’t tell if she could see very well, but my guess is no.  She never said a word.  She just kept motioning for me to eat more, while she watched.   I was beyond happy at this moment with these beautiful people.  They had opened their home up to me and taught me how to cook authentic Vietnamese food.

Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam
Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam

After lunch we did the dishes outside, although An and Thin refused to let me help.  Thin brought me a chair to sit on so I could chat with them while they washed.  This felt so wrong to me, but I’ve learned not to fight with them and to just soak up their sweetness.  We were quite full from our feast, so Thin, An and I went and sat on their bed and talked about music.  Thin has a passion for the violin and wants desperately to have one and to learn to play.  We talked about ways he can achieve this dream and I encouraged him to never give up.  All I could think about is how badly I want to make his dream possible.  I wanted to go buy him a violin, right now.  I know that won’t help him become a hard working man that makes his own dreams come true, and I know that’s not the way things work here.

Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam
Fishing Village- Hoi An, Vietnam

An brought out her guitar that she has only had for two months and has been teaching herself to play.   She has the most beautiful voice and I could listen to her sing all day.   She is actually quite good at guitar, especially since she has only been playing for a few months.  I was shocked at her skill level.  I asked if Thin liked to sing as well and that’s when they got the idea to sing karaoke.  Now, maybe you know this, maybe you don’t, but Vietnamese LOVE to sing karaoke. I mean they LLLLOOOOOOVVVVEEEEE it!   Again, I can’t say no to these lovely people.  So we all sing karaoke out in their living room.  Thankfully Thin closed all the shutters on the windows so no one could see us, or me mostly.  If you know me well, then you know I have a horrible singing voice and can not sing on key to save my life.  This was the first time I have ever allowed someone to talk me into singing karaoke, maybe the last.  Honestly though, I really enjoyed myself.   I’m sure mostly because of my company, but also because it felt good to let my guard down and sing like no one was listening.

Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam
Sunrise- Hoi An, Vietnam

After Karaoke it was time for me to leave.  I said my goodbyes and hugged Thin and Cham and the rest of the family.  I thanked them all for such a wonderful day.  As An drove my back to the homestay I couldn’t stop thinking about how much she had done for me.   All the times she had picked me up and driven me to the beach and now to her home.   The gift of snacks that I loved so much.  She had bought all the food for the spring rolls and had bought the noodles for breakfast.   I was so thankful and I didn’t know what I could do to thank her.  When she dropped me off I gave her the biggest hug and told her how special this day had been to me.  I tried to give her some money and I’m pretty sure I offended her, which was never my intentions.  I just felt overwhelmed by everything she had done.  I could tell that her family doesn’t have a lot, just like many Vietnamese.  But they wanted to give me the most memorable experience and they offered everything they had.  Words can’t even begin to explain how special and loved I felt.  It was an experience of a lifetime.  I will never forget this day, I absolutely could never forget these people. They have taken my heart and left a giant mark on it, proving to me again that love knows no bounds.

Since going to meet her family we have become even closer friends.  Everyday she comes to say Hello to me as soon as she arrives at work and at night before she leaves she comes to say goodbye.  She’ll sit with me on my bed and tell me how her day was and sometimes vent to me about things she struggles with.  I can’t express how much I love this girl and her family.  Thin asked me the other day if I will come back after I leave here.  I told him absolutely, and when I do come back it will be for this family.

I’m currently trying to think of something nice and proper to give to An and her family before I leave.  I haven’t found anything.  Any ideas people??

Also, I didn’t take any photos inside An’s home because I didn’t want them to feel like I looked at the experience as a tourist attraction.  Below is a picture of An that she sent me.  I need to take more photos with her before I leave!

An- Hoi An, Vietnam