This isn’t the most well-framed or well exposed shot. In fact, I snapped it with my iPhone, sitting behind Andrew on our way home from lunch on yet another rainy day. I took it, the light turned green, we sped away in a crowd of honking motorbikes. No editing, no cropping, just the moment. It has rained for February and March. Every. Single. Day. Except “it rained” is too strong a word, what it does isn’t rain, it’s mist. But then “it mists every single day” sounds odd, doesn’t it? In this weather I have the urge to remain in sweatpants at home with a blanket to keep out the dampness. I have the urge to sit inside, to drink endless cups of tea, to watch re-runs of old TV shows and have food delivered. But Hanoi doesn’t miss a beat. Hanoi continues, despite the rain, and so must I, as an adopted Hanoian.
Everyone owns a poncho. It’s wadded up in the storage space under the motorbike seat, to be grabbed and donned quickly when the rain gets serious enough, hung up to dry (a bit) at night. The ponchos range from high quality durable plastic with snaps and drawstrings to glorified garbage bags in a range of bright colors; basically good for one wear and sold at every street shop for 25 cents as soon as the rain appears. The drizzle has been almost constant for a week, so I’m guessing the disposable rainwear business is booming. New arrivals complain online about how they haven’t seen the sun in a month, seasoned expats buy $32 plane tickets to southern beaches to get a small break from the weather.
See the lady with the flowers? She’s parked her bicycle loaded down with buckets and baskets of flowers right up next to the road, so people can pull up and make a quick purchase without turning off the bike or getting off. In the spring when it’s raining the variety of flowers is largest, with roses and snapdragons and all sorts of other things that I recognize but don’t know the name for. For a dollar or two you get a big fresh bundle of flowers, tied with a few strands of rice stalk or a sliver of bamboo, an all-natural twist-tie. Flower vendors are both stationary and wandering. They pick a spot, stick around for a few hours, and then migrate to another spot; I’m guessing based on the traffic and purchasing patterns they’ve noticed. As beautiful as their wares are, it’s not an easy gig – flowers are purchased from the wholesale market between 3 and 5am, and are sold until everything is gone, quite often 6-7pm. When I’m on my way home from work around 6 I see them with one or two bundles left, usually willing to take a bit less so they can leave.
Next to her (in the photo) is another vendor, selling what I think are some sort of peeled nut. This lady sits by the road with a paring knife, peeling these things and selling them by the bag. Each bag has 20-30, and each is peeled by hand. Not knowing what they are or how much they cost, we’ve never purchased these…but I see them all over the city.
I’m excited for the rain to stop. I’m excited to see blue sky, even through the polluted air of the city. I’m excited to be warm, even hot, even sweaty – something I know will happen soon enough. We’ll sit out on the balcony to play scrabble, and have to go inside after 30 minutes because one of us will be sunburned. We’ll go swimming, eat cold salads and raw fruits and veggies. It will be searingly hot and humid, and it will feel like a tropical place because it is one. But this…the humidity minus the heat, the rain and drizzle and mist…this is also a part of the tropical climate. So I guess that means poncho season is just another facet of Hanoi.