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The other day, I had to stay at school a bit later than usual. Although it’s certainly not my first time doing such a thing, it is the first time I stopped to look at what was around me. Suddenly, under the pale glow of the nighttime lights, the same bleached white walls that I was so familiar with had an eerie feel to them. Hallways and classrooms seemed abandoned.
*This article contains a tiny — tiny! — bit of sexism and gender stereotyping
The way things change in the teenage years snaps into focus on that most important day of the calendar — the birthday. Teenagers’ birthdays may include an exciting night out partying with friends: dancing, socialising and maybe even getting drunk.
Not long after we realise that we exist, we become preoccupied with the meaning that carries. Every existence has meaning, like a word in the dictionary — and if you had to flip through all the names with the same first letter as yours, eventually finding your own, what definition would you hope to see?
I remember when my pre-school teacher used to make us all go to the front to introduce ourselves: first our full names, then our ages, hobbies and interests. The last question would always be what we wanted to do in the future. The answers ranged from actress to zoologist.
What do you remember of your high school prom? The excitement? Or the anxiety? You may remember entire weeks, months even, leading towards prom night, when even boys fussed over what suits they were going to wear, which pants with which blazers. It’s a time when minds float and eyes wander, as optimistic teens dream about all the perfect ways prom could turn out.
Public holidays for third culture teens in Vietnam are special times in their own sense. They are short, irregular and much less common than any other holidays or weekends, and so they seem more special — like a lucky bonus day off from work or school. Whether it be Hung King’s Day or Reunification Day or Independence Day, even non-Vietnamese teens love public holidays — as long as they keep them away from school.
In a couple of weeks, we’ll be sitting through the tortuous bus ride to a miserable-yet-still-exciting hotel in Ba Be, or on the bunk bed train to Sapa. If we’re lucky, we’ll even be flying to Hue and Hoi An, to tailor our own clothes and enjoy a place few of us have seen.
Soon, Valentine’s Day will come — and with it all the passion, romance and lovingness of the teenage world. These good intentions will be dressed in pink and fluffy hearts, with chocolates and roses going back and forth between boys and girls. Yet as beautiful and marvelous the ‘rose’ of Valentine’s Day may seem, trust me, its thorns hurt just as much.
Winter has finally arrived in Hanoi. You might say it’s the gloomiest, most miserable time of year — which is sort of true. You rarely see the sun during the whole three or four months, and it rains nearly every other day. Although it never snows here, there is still a ‘bone-chilling’ element to it.