On Winter and Hanoi Fridays

Winter is finally coming to Dubai. The wind is nippy enough to warrant a jacket when you step outside and the floors are cold enough to warrant socks inside the house. It’s the season of freezing hands after brief contact with water and in my case, stone cold feet despite being inside blankets. If only I could do something about the eerie howling wind that keeps me up at nights, my happiness would be complete. But for now, I’ll take what I get, specially since we are experiencing winter for the first time since 2011 when we were in Hanoi. And this winter brings back snapshots of foggy grey drizzled in the omnipresent “powdery” rain that Hanoi winter was.

I remember very well my first day in Hanoi. After ten days in warm sunny and sometimes sticky Singapore, being greeted by a rather chilly breeze in Hanoi felt refreshing. “Is it winter yet?” I had asked our agent who showed us around our apartment. “It is autumn now, pretty soon winter will be here though” she had replied. The “pretty soon” turned out to be barely a week, and we found ourselves rushing to buy warm clothes. If I was to know that what followed would be a whole month of not seeing the sun maybe I would have soaked up the sun a bit more but still, something about that winter was… Magical. That winter was about fuzzy bunny shaped slippers inside the house, and carrying the portable heater around with me to every room. It was about going out for a walk and instinctively pulling each other closer to keep ourselves from shivering, and about keeping each other’s hands warm. But nothing was more magical than the Hanoi Fridays.

From Monday to Thursday, I would keep waiting for just that one glorious evening. Monday to Thursday, the evenings were his to do what he wanted, but Friday? Friday was mine. Come 5pm, I’d stand in front of my closet wondering what to wear and which perfume to complete the outfit with and how to do my hair. By 6pm I would be in a cab, on my way to Vincom Tower if a new movie had come out, or just generally Hoan Kiem Lake if we weren’t watching a movie. And all along the cab ride I would wait for the one moment when I would see him and hug him and smell the winter in his clothes and the wind in his tousled hair, and cheesy though it was, I would be giggling with the anticipation of the evening. So from getting the popcorn to watching the movie and then taking a cab ride to Hoan Kiem lake for a walk around the night market and maybe dinner at Namaste Hanoi (the Indian restaurant we loved frequenting) and then picking up DVDs dirt cheap to watch over the weekend; everything about that evening summed up to the magic that Friday was. Some Fridays we would hang out at home instead, with pizza from Al Fresco (divine, divine!) and beer and a DVD instead and even that would seem perfect. I remember one Friday evening, during my CELTA when all of my buddies planned to hang out at a Bia Hoi, and even though the Husband was all “Of course you should go as long as someone drops you home and you don’t get sloshed” I found myself feeling sad thinking about him home all alone on a Friday; our Friday. So I walked for twenty minutes (in a skirt, flimsy tights that left me shivering and heels that made me walk awkward) to be home with him after changing my mind halfway through.

I guess it is as much about Fridays as it is about winters. Because even now when I think about our best Fridays, it was in Hanoi, and when I think about Hanoi I remember winter because we left just as spring had arrived. I remember aimless walks on sepia tinted streets, taking our time taking it all in. I remember coffee after coffee and that heavenly carrot cake in the Highlands Coffee by the Opera House, and sniffling in the cold by the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum. I remember sitting on a bench by the Hoan Kiem Lake and feeling as though we truly belonged among all the people thronging the area, watching the faraway twinkly lights twinkling alike on the water. I remember flowers and flowers everywhere; in baskets by the roadside, in flower shops dotting the pavements and all along the Hoan Kiem Lake during the flower festival on the last day of 2011, the brilliant flashes of colours disrupting the greys and the fragrant lilies driving me near mad. And of course, our very first Christmas tree as a couple, and how that tree set traditions for all the Christmases that followed.

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And I remember thinking of this song, almost as though it were a background to all of that. This really is the perfect song; two strange souls getting to know each other in a strange city starting a whole strange chapter in their lives. To the Fridays that were the highlights in the life of a young new housewife. To winters and the reminder of the full circle that a year is. And to dear, dear Hanoi who will always be my true love.

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