reflections whilst in vietnam
There’s nothing better than the scent of Vietnam- a mixture of monsoon winds and rain, rotting vegetables, thick clouds of cigarette smoke, daylight humidity, the pungent ripeness of durian, tropicalia, and the red sun overhead. it’s distinct, perhaps the most distinct scent that I can associate with a physical place, and it’s memorable. The past three weeks have opened more doors than I initially expected. From recognizing the importance that family holds for me, to understanding that wanderlust is only something that has seeped into my bloodstream- it will be permanently plaguing, but that’s ok, I think I can handle it.
I’ll miss my family here, much more than I expected. From the very beginning of this trip they welcomed me with open arms and huge grins, granted they had never known my father, and it’s been a long time in the making since I came here, but I felt comfortable quickly. From the beautiful breakfasts of cold meat and banh mi, to the motorbike rides around Phu Giao, Saigon, and Binh Phuoc, I can’t begin to describe how happy these past few weeks have made me. Despite mere moments of heat exhaustion, sleep deprivation, and being too full to stand, I’ve reveled in everything that Vietnam has offered me.
Last night was one of the most moving experiences I have had in a while. A going away dinner at my uncle Thanh’s, where we ate sandwiches, drank American beer, looked at the stars, played with puppies, and enjoyed one another’s company. I was serenaded by a chorus of voices, telling me that Vietnam is forever (despite it’s communist message, I find myself agreeing with the sentiment) and we drank to the country that has brought us all happiness in the past three weeks. Then driving through the deserted park and getting late night coffee with my good friend Ngoc was also meaningful. Neither of us can communicate with one another besides with our facial expressions- and after listening to bad karaoke, drinking ca phe sua da, and the banana smoothie I’ve been waiting for since April30th, we drove around Phu Giao for the last time. I was bid farewell by another mixie who, despite only knowing me for less than a week, gave me one of the most heartfelt goodbyes I’ve ever received. Hospitality here is beyond what westerners can comprehend- but only if you allow yourself to experience said hospitality.
The days have been completely saturated with heat and sun, sometimes unbearable, but always appreciated. Spending time in Hue and Da Nang also brought about a plethora of new experiences. Thien Mu Pagoda in Huế was one of the more memorable places. I met a Mahayan Monk there, who, for lack of better terms, was absolutely magnificent. He spoke no English, but told me to learn Vietnamese. His dedication to his calling in life was incredibly inspirational and moving at the same time. The other experience that was particularly meaningful was on the river in Hue. We were riding a dragon boat in the middle of the evening when some small children rowed up beside us asking for money. While it’s typical for kids to be great scam artists, these children were just so authentic. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from their sad faces, and this only made me more grateful for the life I lead. After sending them off with some money and cake, I couldn’t stop thinking about them, about their futures, about the fact that they are being deprived of so much. My uncle told me the money we gave them would buy them enough food for a week, but even then, I still am saddened by the state of the world.
There’s really too much to reflect on in a single post. My bags are packed, only a few goodbyes said, and tears have been shed. I will miss this country, my family, and the culture. I’m sure it won’t be long until I return however.
More reflections to come…