Got my visa for Vietnam yesterday — A big gaudy sticker that takes up a whole page in my passport. The embassy very efficiently turned my application around in three days, so here’s three cheers for the socialist bureaucracy! I’m not leaving for a month yet, but wanted to get this bit of paperwork out of the way — it’s the last little detail I needed to take care of before traveling and also is symbolic, marking the fact that, after eight years, I’m really going back to Hanoi, my favorite city in the world. It’s not a “great capital” like London or Paris (I’ve been to both), but it is an intensely human city, a city in which one can walk (and walk safely) just about anywhere. And yet the customs and structures of reality in Vietnam are sufficiently strange for an American that they induce various forms of heightened consciousness, ranging from the sublime to the intensely irritating.
I’ve only been studying my Vietnamese language in a desultory fashion, alas. I think I’ll be in pretty good shape when I actually get there. My Vietnamese was rough but serviceable when I lived in VN before and I have a better sense of the grammar now than I did then. I’m really hoping this trip will jump start my language learning, that I’ll continue over the next year, and then be able to return the following year. Knowing even a little of the language makes a big difference to how one is received, not that the Vietnamese are anything but hospitable. Anyway, I have a few more weeks with my Rosetta Stone and audio tapes.