Stories to Tell

I spend some of the days walking nowhere in particular in Hanoi. Sometimes by the west lake where the retirees gather. I met a few two days ago. All American. So many different stories. They all stay here now on a variety of visas. Most face the same future. What to do when the visa ends? It’s a constant discussion and new arrivals have their stories. Soon we have many stories making the rounds. The common thread is they don’t know what to do or know the people to talk to. I guess I’m lucky there. Meeting some of the nice Vietnamese people here has helped me know the story. So I try to tell them a different story.

They will have none of it. I think they luxuriate in hopelessness and simply not knowing what is next for them. One person I will call Dwayne had no idea what happens with his year tourist visa or that it’s easy to extend the stamp IF you have money. There’s really nowhere to go now. No friendly borders are open for air or bus travels. No visa runs. Without that Dwayne needs to find out answers. But does he try? No. He decides all will just somehow come to him so he waits. Waits. Waits. It’s crazy.

I gave up on the narrative because they want to feel powerless or unable even to go to Vietnam immigration and ask. There are immigration staff that speak very good English and will help them. It’s too much of a story though. It’s easier to sit at the coffee shop and spin the story how they want it.

So I don’t go to the expat places too often that the Americans hang at. It’s rather depressing to see people gather and tell stories but not seek answers.

So many stories good and bad. Actors that did this and such. Dwayne does not use Facebook nor probably does he use WhatsApp. Facebook is more than a social network here. It’s the groups you can find to ask the questions and meet the others that will add chapters and plot to Dwayne’s story.

I’ll try to help Dwayne again in a few days. But when you are locked to a particular storyline and it’s plots and chapters it’s hard to see the limits.

There are hundreds of retirees here. Each has a story. I’ve heard a few. None of them even close to mine.