It was very early and except for the ubiquitous scooters that still prowled these pre-dawn streets he was alone. He stood on the step momentarily and as he surveyed the deserted street but all he could see was the reflection of streetlights in the gathering dawn and thick air that hung over the city like a wet blanket.
Within seconds his shirt had begun to stick to the skin on his back, perspiration beads forming on his brow and tiny droplets of sweat appearing on the wrists, even at this hour it was stiflingly hot. The humidity and pungent smells of Hanoi’s Cát Linh Đốg Đ assailed him as soon as he had stepped from the air-conditioned sanctuary that he now called home.
The life of a foreign correspondent wasn't all what it was cracked up to be he thought to himself as his mind wandered back to that fateful day in John’s office, when he had begged to be posted to Hanoi. Memories of that conversation still haunted him, but that was another lifetime ago and so disconnected with his current reality.
It wasn't that he was a bad correspondent, no far from it. He'd been a dogged overachiever in his work with the Sydney Morning Herald and later the Times in London and had always yearned for a posting like this. However, soon after arriving in Hanoi he realized that it was far from the exotic location he'd expected or hoped for and that he’d literally thrust himself into a journalistic backwater with little hope of salvation.
He closed his eyes momentarily and sighed deeply to himself, the lack of sleep and overall exhaustion weighing heavily on him.
God, how could I have been so naïve he chided himself as he groggily made his way along the street toward the Old Quarter. He felt the pre-dawn gloom wrap itself around him like the comfortable companion that it had become over these past six months.
If only I had that moment over again, he thought…