Expat life is full of lessons. Jesse Meadows remembers what nights in Tay Ho taught her


One summer morning, my housemate bought a bouquet of lotuses. She was leaving soon, as so many others would do that summer. We didn’t know each other when I moved in, but strangers in a strange land quickly become family. I watched over the next few nights as the flowers fell apart on our coffee table. It happened so fast, but the end was even more beautiful than the beginning.


I had a friend tattoo this imagery on my arm, so I would never forget it. “We’ll be dead by morning,” she always used to say in the face of worry, teeth glinting at me on the dancefloor. And if we weren’t, we’d be picking glitter off our skin. Tay Ho is covered in the stuff. It would stick in every crevice, and remind us in the light of day about the nights we’d forgotten.


That friend left soon after, too, and new faces replaced hers. Towards the end of my own time in Hanoi, I told a newcomer that I’d rather feel my heart break than not love at all. He didn’t agree.


But see, he hadn’t learnt yet. It’s all about hope, and loss. Risk, and danger. Loving deeply in the dark of night and looking back on past lives like vibrant fever dreams. Because it’s not the living that gives life meaning, but the dying.


Photos by Jesse Meadows

Jesse Meadows

Like many expats before her, staff writer Jesse Meadows stopped in Hanoi on a backpacking trip in early 2015 and just hasn’t managed to leave yet. A compulsive documentarian with a case of incessant curiosity, she loves buying one-way tickets, photographing dance parties and writing stories on the bus. 

Website: www.messyjeadows.tumblr.com

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