8 Months In
No scooter yet lies beneath me, but I am suddenly aware of becoming just a little bit Vietnamese. After 8 months here in Da Nang, Vietnam, the previously weird begins to morph into the vaguely familiar. Although Home with a capital H remains Michigan, little guy h home has become right here. The view off my balcony – of five karaoke bars, two lit up neon bridges and the newest Dragon Bridge that really, actually breathes fire – is somewhat normal. I’m comfortable packing my own toilet paper anywhere I go and don’t ever consider drinking water from the tap, even when I’m thirsty and half asleep. Chopstick by chopstick, I’m adapting.
I had a similar revelation after all of 45 seconds of living here, which I documented in an optimistically titled post, Making the Foreign Familiar. Now, in my 8-month-old wisdom I have to laugh at the greenhorn I was back then. In another eight months I’ll laugh at myself now, and all the Vietnamese around me never seem to stop laughing. At me. Regardless of the naivety of that last post, or the arrogance of this one, I’m quite pleased with myself.
I take a moment to reflect on the chaos Vietnam hit me with initially, and the panic I brought to her. Whatever travel experience I’d had up to that point was lost in my whimpering when I first tried to cross the street here. Now I’m ok. Alright, so I’m still always lost, always confused and always mispronouncing things, but I’ve made it this far.
All this patting-on-back leads me to the concept of human adaptability.
We’re a curious species, we. We ignore our thin and dainty skin to set up shop in the inhospitable north and the sun-blazing south. We traverse giant oceans, battle the Cape of Storms and trust camels to take across endless sand, just to bring a little bit of pepper back home. We’re up in space, deep underwater and at the tops of the world’s highest mountains out of – yes – determination, but also because of our ability to adapt.
We adapt physically. We adapt mentally. We come around to accepting concepts that were inconceivable in earlier generations. We disprove our own scientific facts, and then make better ones – which we’re wise enough to just call “theories”. We develop societies and customs that seem totally different from each other, and then travel across the world to learn about those differences. All in all, we’re pretty cool.
So well done, Us. We keep our own lives from becoming boring by learning to contort ourselves into new ones. We encourage our own curiosity even through times of love, grief and apathy. We fight to keep from becoming stagnant by pushing past initial discomfort. So let’s keep it up, and see how we make the most of our adaptability.