Our third day in Hanoi is New Year’s Eve. I spend the day exploring the city with friends. We drink coffee, we play around on Hanoi’s famous train street. The guys go out on an expedition to get SIM cards for their phones. We talk to other backpackers, trying to figure out where we will spend the evening. In the end we opt for beer street. Yes, bring me back to the tiny stools.
We get hassled and pushed and asked to sit here – or here, or here, or here. We walk on until we find a place we like – I will sit down, but not because you told me to. We sit down at an “official” bar and the drinks begin to flow. Per usual, we chat and even more so, we laugh – and laugh, and laugh.
Shoe shiners pass by, shaking their heads at my filthy white sneakers and offering their cleaning services. Or at the very least some new laces, woman.
“I like them like this,” I maintain.
A vendor comes by offering us fried “donuts.”
“Maybe later,” Louis says. That’s that; we continue to talk.
Within 5 minutes, the donut lady returns. “Maybe later!” she says with a massive grin.
“No, not yet, maybe later. Later.”
5 minutes and she’s back with another “maybe later” and a smile.
We have to admit that we like her style. Louis buys a bag full of donuts and quickly discovers that they taste terrible.
We continue to chew on stale donuts and drink overpriced alcohol when suddenly the lights go out. A blackout down the whole street. We are howling with laughter. I sit in the dark under exposed power lines and think that this New Year’s Eve is wonderful. It is a wonderfully different departure from all the ones I’ve had before.
Shortly before midnight we head to a club someone recommended to us. We pay a cover fee and as we enter into its dark depths realize that it is busy here. Like, very busy. There are so many bodies packed into this place that I can barely breathe, let alone plow my way through the flailing limbs. I am suddenly very aware of the bone-crushing capabilities of a crowd.
Our timing is a little unfortunate and if we try to leave we will most certainly spend midnight stuck between a door and a dancing person (or something like that). We decide to spend midnight inside.
We count down, we cheer. We don’t quite hug because we just might suffocate one.
Then we get the fuck out of there.
We sit in an alleyway off of beer street and order more drinks. We send voice notes to our loved ones. I teach everyone how to say happy new year in Papiamentu – bon anja- and send a video of us happily saying bon anja to my family. We go out and dance in the street. Louis dances the Charleston and I howl with laughter. We go to a bar and play drunken pool. We smoke too many cigarettes.
As 2018 turns into the early hours of 2019, I am drunk and happy. I am in Southeast Asia for the first time in my life. I am unemployed and on my first solo trip. I am in Hanoi with dear friends that I met only a few weeks ago – December 31st is Louis and my three week-a-versary – and dear friends that I met only a day ago. All the worries I had before coming out here have melted away, carried off by waterfalls and buggies, by 5,000 dong beers and tiny stools, by jokes and a lot of laughter.
As 2018 turns into the early hours of 2019 and I experience the most unexpected New Year’s Eve I ever had before, I am reminded of the decisions that brought me here. I think in twists and turns, in adventure trails leading off of main roads. I think one hundred different things at once and I also think nothing at all as I watch my friends interact in the haze of the smoky bar.
As 2018 turns into the early hours of 2019 I am blissfully, stupidly content. I am also blissfully, stupidly, joyfully curious as to what the coming months of this year will bring.