"Why?" he said. "I love it here!"
I reminded him that the last time I saw him he confessed to having homicidal thoughts about strangers in the street.
"Oh yeah, sure," he recalled. "But that was the summer."
I, too, love it here so long as I'm not too hot, or I'm not too hungry, or not in too much of a hurry to get anywhere, or not too fussed about treading in an overflowing gutter of poo water. When I do, however, tick one of these boxes, then watch out Hanoi: I'm bringing you down with me.
It's like the city is the ultimate litmus test for your mood. Nowhere is this more apparent to me than in the Botanic Gardens, where I go most mornings at the same time to jog the same route. The only variable in this experiment is me.
When I'm in a good mood, the Gardens are glorious. There are so many trees! And so much green! The lake is magical! Oh, the reflections! Oh, the nature!
But on a bad day, I can't help but notice that the so-called Botanic Gardens doesn't really have any plants in it. Sometimes they shove flowers in these pots to create temporary displays, then the flowers die and the display is discarded, pots and all. And then people - men and women - wee behind these pots. Right next to the public toilets.
Good day: This dragon made of plates is so awesome! And his teeth are teacups! Isn't public art great!
Bad day: A downside to making public art out of everyday objects is that people with an everyday need for them will just flog them. Every day.
Good day: I love that you can just come to the park and string up a net! No need for fancy sports facilities! And these Gardens are so well used and so appreciated!
Bad day: I better put my iPod away. Who knows what kind of people are hanging around in here.
Good day: Look at the blue of the peacocks! So stunning! If I had a pet peacock I would call it Andrew!
Bad day: There's really nothing more depressing than a caged bird.
Good day: I love this man-made hill! It's like the only hill in Hanoi!
Bad day: Wherever you happen to find a beautiful natural spot in Vietnam, you'll find these mini jelly cup wrappers everywhere. And they were banned in Australia for choking people. Are there no limits to the evil of the mini jelly cup?
Good day: OMG is that a squirrel! A SQUIRREL! With a bright red tail! Look at him go! Who says there's no wildlife in Vietnam!
Bad day: They released 1,000 white doves as a grand symbolic gesture for the 1,000th anniversary of Hanoi. The birds made their way to the Botanic Gardens where there's now only about a dozen left. Turns out that white doves are not only symbolic, they're also delicious.
Good day: These hedganimals are so sweet! So much personality!
Bad day: What is that thing even supposed to be?
And on it goes, day after day.
Of course everyone has good and bad days, wherever they're living. But here I seem to hold the city accountable for them. I constantly demand of Hanoi that it prove to me why I should be living here, and I scrutinize every street, and every resident, to measure against my expectations.
Rather than holding Hanoi responsible for how I feel, I'm trying to understand that it's actually the other way around: how I'm feeling that day will determine what kind of Hanoi I get. The city itself is just a bystander to my moodswings.
Over time, I feel the wild alternations between the good days and the bad days - Hanoi the Hero and Hanoi the Villain - happening less and less. I think one day soon I'll wake up and it will just be Hanoi, home.