Our guide walked into the bamboo forest and hacked off long stalks with a machete to use as walking sticks.
Sapa is a town in the Hoàng Liên Son Mountains of northwest Vietnam. It is home to the H’mong, Tay and Dao ethnic groups. The markets are full of unbelievable colour and textiles made by local women. The mountains are carved into flooded staircases of rice paddies. We struggled to keep our footing in the wet mud and water buffalo and motorcycles barreled up and down the slippery paths.
I wouldn't call most of my daily walks remarkable. Highlights included finding markets, rivers and coffee shops. Remarkable wasn't the point. I thought of Keri Smith's How to Be An Explorer of the World. "Everything is interesting." The idea wasn't to find things as much to be quiet, curious and happen upon them. Learn my neighbourhoods, take slow walks without a grocery list or agenda. Get good lost and get good found.
The last three days of hiking were something like magic. Sapa ranks in the tops views of my life. Table Mountain. Jasper. Volcan de Masaya. Giza. Sapa. My compass was a marker of my movement through Prague and Hanoi, the brand new and mundane of walking every day.
The bamboo walking stick was a marker of something else entirely. My final walks of March didn’t follow suit.
Deliberate, not aimless.
Calculated, not lost.
Sublime, not ordinary.
Collective, not solitary.
A tool for great effort, carrying ourselves up and down the mountains.
Last month I felt a nagging for movement and presence in my body. I wanted to get really familiar in my new place and give myself an opportunity to build a friendship with it.
Walking cracked open doors and windows all over my new cities and forced me to have a relationship with Hanoi and Prague that is completely my own. Jon and I live here together, I ride on the back of his motor bike and we share a tube of toothpaste. AND I have my own set of roots beginning in this place because of my solo walks. I have time and a few kilometers every day to inhabit my moving body in my/our new city.
Ending on a triumphant, exhausting, intentional note feels like a welcome home. We begin teaching in two weeks.