Sunday, January 27, 2008

Home Sweet Second Home

I suppose it is appropriate that as I finished Leo Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, a pre-revolution soap opera about life in Russia's aristocratic society, I now find myself living one step closer to the lifestyle one might associate with that elevated class - I am officially part-time resident of both a city house and a country house.

My country house has been described in detail in earlier blog postings. While it lacks the expansive grounds (or even a yard or garden) that might raise it to the level of "estate," certainly is rich enough to warrant a certain level of descriptive grandeur.

My city house is no less grand in structure. It is comprised of four stories, five bedrooms, three bathrooms, a large kitchen and living area, and a rooftop terrace. But here it is the location that is worth every word: it is located just off of one of the numerous (but slightly more picturesque) of Hanoi's little lakes, and down winding tunnel of alley-ways which assures something more valuable than property itself in this city - absolute silence at night. Then, by following the lake and a few more winding alleys and hopping over a couple of traffic clogged streets, I can walk myself to work in under 20 minutes rather than risking life and limb twice daily in harrowing motorbike rides through the city's increasingly horrendous rush hours. Across a street in another direction is Hanoi's largest downtown park, complete with lake, walking paths and lots and lots of trees. Beyond this park lies the heart of the city: twenty minutes by foot in the direction opposite my office lands me in Hanoi's tourist district and central cultural, dining and shopping experience.

Unlike a member of the true aristocracy, I hardly have right to claim full ownership of the house. Indeed, far less than I can claim in my country home. In Hanoi I share this massive edifice to doi moi, Renovation and private ownership with two other development workers who have been in this house and Vietnam far longer than me. And we three then pay homage to the full exerciser of the right to make gains on your own land - the landlord who built this house and all of the others, forming the narrow alley in what twenty years ago was vegetable plot surrounding a small lake next to the train tracks. My stake in this existence is exceedingly small and fleeting, but the story of the community I reside in here will be the true lasting tale. In my following visits here I will bring a camera and attempt to capture what is the real miracle of this house deep in the labyrinth of modern Hanoi, as it paints an amazing picture of the changes that Hanoi has experienced.

On a personal level, however, it is nice to have a home in a place that is so convenient for my purposes. My country home will still be my pride and joy, but now I have a safe place to hang my hat and keys to the front gate - and anchoring that will help the great city of Hanoi feel more like a home and less like a destination in the future.

No comments: