I can start getting ready for the most exciting New Year time in Vietnam

Friday, 2016-01-01 03:05:45
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Outdoor stages around Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi attract thousands of people on New Year's Eve (Photo: NDO)
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NDO - How a city marks the New Year says a lot about the character of the city and spending the New Year in Hanoi certainly has a particular feeling and charm. I have had the chance to experience New Year’s Eve in Vancouver, Toronto, Paris, Tel Aviv, Berlin, Amsterdam, Chiang Mai, Saigon and now Hanoi.

It was exciting to sense the city buzzing with excitement and preparations for the huge public gathers on the streets, in parks and around the city’s many beautiful lakes.

In the early evening of December 31, the anticipation and excitement growing for the big moment marking the end of 2015 and start of 2016 was palpable on the streets of Hanoi and all across the country and world. I was sitting at my desk at the Nhan Dan office on the evening of December 31 and was lucky enough to have a prime view of Hoan Kiem lake. I could hear the musical rumbles of sound systems gearing up for the big night, with a buzz of crowds around the lake getting ready. I was once again impressed by the decorative lights covering the city, and giant New Year 2016 installations on Hoan Kiem lake.

In my opinion, what truly makes the feeling of the December 31 New Year’s Eve in Hanoi different to any other country I’ve experienced is the feeling of only welcoming the first new year knowing that Tet is now just around the corner - a second and even more exciting New Year celebration! Just as Thanksgiving seems to mark the start of the Christmas holidays in the US, January 1 seems to mark the start of anticipation for the traditional Vietnamese New Year, Tet. It’s now time for a fresh year of preparations for Tet!

Being in Hanoi to watch 2015 close also held a special significance for me because of all the historic landmarks marked this year. Working at Nhan Dan, I’ve been reading about the numerous anniversaries marked in 2015, including Ho Chi Minh’s 125th birthday, the 40 year anniversary of reunification and 20 years of diplomatic ties with the US. On top of that, I felt a sense of witnessing a new anniversary in history with the formation of the ASEAN Community on December 31 2015. I certainly could sense history meeting the future this year in Hanoi, an even more poignantly with the conclusion of 2015 and welcoming of 2016.

This year I spent New Year surrounded by close friends from all around world at our favourite place tucked away from all the big crowds. We didn’t see fireworks, but we were all happy to be spending time together, and had our own exploding glitter crackers to mark the change of year at midnight. Leaving around 1 am, we were all completely amazed to see the city so transformed and awake on a Thursday night! It was so obvious how special of a day this was, with so many families and friends walking and riding together, smiling and holding hands. And most of all, such a unique sight to see Hanoi, normally a very quiet and sleepy city at night, to be completely awake with joy for the New Year. It was definitely a special night in Hanoi.

For my friends and family in Canada, 2015 marked a significant election with our new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau welcoming a new era for our country, while also pulling the country to remembering the past with the legacy of his father, former Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, following his footsteps. We also shared an important event with Vietnam this year, the conclusion of negotiations of the TPP. I can feel this event marking both countries, reading about the potential outcomes and challenges for both sides in the Vietnamese and Canadian media alike. I am lucky to be able to experience and learn about the formation of the TPP coming from two very different sides and I think it will give me a unique perspective to be a Canadian in Vietnam as this trade agreement comes into fruition.

This year I was able to visit my family in Canada this year and bring some of my experiences in Vietnam to them. I also had friends and family visit me in Hanoi and was able to teach them what I know about this city and my experiences here. I even had a visit from my dad, his first trip ever to Vietnam and to anywhere in Asia!

I know a lot of my memories from my 2015 in Vietnam will stay with me for a long time. Trips to Mai Chau, Sapa, Cat Ba, Ninh Binh and Cat Ba were some of the highlights of my travels around the north of Vietnam in 2015. But even better than the stunning scenery on these trips was being able to communicate just a little bit in Vietnamese. Whenever I try to speak Vietnamese, I am always met with an amazingly friendly response and it makes traveling an even more wonderful experience. My New Year resolution for 2016 is to improve my Vietnamese even more, and keep trying to speak as much as possible even though it is difficult!

This marks my second New Year in Hanoi and it’s a promising feeling to know I’ve learned so much about this city and country in the past year. I have huge hopes for 2016 for my own home country, Canada, and my temporary home country, Vietnam. And most of all, I can start getting ready for the most exciting time of the year in Vietnam to start, Tet! Chuc mung nam moi!

KAELA GREENSTIEN