Good Morning, Vietnam

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ICYMI: the answer to yesterday’s riddle was Vietnam. Our second leg of the journey takes place in Hanoi, Vietnam.

But before I talk about the country, I need to set the stage for why I’m the most horrible teammate in the world.

An hour after we arrived, our score sheets were tallied and we learned our standing in the competition: Team Thundersnow is 6th (of 10) places.

We weren’t surprised, and this is why (granted, one leg of the journey is not enough to make a sweeping judgment call, but this is our general first impression):

  • Money isn’t everything….but it helps a whole lot – There are many scavenges, and they range in price. Some are free, (going on a hike, for instance), but transportation costs money, entrance fees cost money, food cost money, challenges that require you to buy something cost money, bonus challenges cost money…. And if you have greater amount of expendable income, it’s less of a concern to do them all. Having money also makes a team more expedient—instead of walking or using the city bus, they can use a taxi or high speed ferry. It’s especially difficult not knowing in advance how much a scavenge will cost because at that point you’ve either wasted a lot of time to get there and now can’t get points for it, or you go through with it, but it prevents you from doing something else because of resource limitations.
  • Experience pays offLawyers Without Borders, the 10-time Global Scavengers, have a system of figuring things out, they know how to work well with each other, and they are simply well traveled. It’s safe to assume Mark and I will be much better at completing scavenges on the last leg of the trip compared to the first; so, having previous experience and/or visiting the countries before is invaluable.
  • Team dynamic is important – Mark and I are the only team on this scavenger hunt who met on the first day. We got to know each other via phone, text, and Skype for two months, but there are advantages and disadvantages to this arrangement. On one hand, we’re not inclined to fight. On the other hand, Mark and I are still figuring out where we are similar and where we are different, and how that plays into this experience.
  • Competition makes people crazy – I’m convinced that we revert to our Darwinian survival brain when it comes to competition, and teams vary on their level of willingness to “bend” the rules. Mark is 100% honest; I’m more of a “big picture” person; and there are those who are focused on the easiest, quickest way to accomplish a task, not the correct way to do it. Our scoring is primarily done through peer review, and this is a flawed system (in my opinion) since not knowing the answer to a scavenge makes it impossible to accurately approve of someone else. You must simply trust them, and we prefer to give each other the benefit of the doubt. The organizer’s motto is “let karma be the judge,” and karma can take a while to pan out.

Mark and I have a realistic sense of how far our motivation and willingness will take us, and also where our limitations are. I’m not telling you this because we’re giving up, but the possibility of “not first place” is very real, and it’s a hurdle for me to accept. I’m the person who throws her tennis racket after losing a point in a match (correction: I am the person who swings with all her might to knock a tennis ball over the fence, and either misses entirely, or doesn’t aim high enough and the ball ricochets off the fence back at my face), so this required me to step away for a day to understand that collecting points is not everything.

With that said…

Vietnam Part I

Back at square one. We were given a map that covered a fraction of the area we needed to cover and a scavenge booklet that contained 72 scavenges that made no sense to us from the first read through.

We located one address for a mandatory food challenge, and headed in that direction, stopping to convert money and mail a postcard (another challenge) along the way.

Traffic in Hanoi is nuts. I’ve never been to India, but from what I’ve seen and heard from others, it seems like a cross between India and Bali. Bill advised us to not look anyone in the eye. If you look at them, you’ll end up playing a weird game of chicken. If you keep your head down, the scooters will stop before hitting you. Supposedly.

It was great advice, otherwise we would have never been able to cross a street, but it never got less unnerving.

The food stop was the best part of my day (as noted yesterday), other than the very end of the evening when we completed two more scavenges, to get a massage and pedicure. <– this experience itself could be an entire essay.

Hanoi noodles noodles mark noodles








Instead, the middle of the day was spent failing one challenge after another.

We tried to get a better map from the train station, which they did not have; neither did anyone speak English. We used hand signals and our micro-map to learn from a local cabdriver where two of the scavenges were, and he took us to one of them.

It was closed.

We walked to another.

It was closed.

We tried to find Mango Alley, but it turned out the palace doors were closed, and all of our questioning locals did not pay off.

We walked up to a lake, where we were supposed to find 2-3 scavenges. One of them was mildly successful (the signage was in Vietnamese, so we’re not sure if it was the oldest temple on West Lake, but we’re 90% certain); one of the scavenges wasn’t on West Lake, as we’d been directed, and the last scavenge was closed.

We then took a taxi to a scavenge we’d seen previously only because he told us it was still open. He needlessly ran up the meter so that a five minute drive ended up costing $14 USD, and then did slight of hand and stole another $20; and it turned out that scavenge was closed, too.

We ended the day completing a few scavenges—questioning locals, finding an old tree, and hanging out on “beer corner”—but I was in bad shape. I did not want to return to all of these scavenges the next day. I wasn’t sure how to locate the scavenges we wanted to do (it’s rare to find people who speak English here, which is not their fault! But it makes what we’re trying to do impossibly more difficult).

I was weary and frustrated and irritated of how poorly we’d done and how low our standing already was, and I was upset because the one thing I really wanted to do—visit Halong Bay—was not a scavenge.

It had been playing on my mind all day, and I thought, “Why don’t we just spend a day on a boat seeing something beautiful instead of killing ourselves for very little payout?”

And that’s where I’ll leave you for now.

together Hanoi



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