Thank You, Vietnam

I found this old post I wrote when I thought we’d stick to the original plan and leave after two years in Vietnam.  We stayed five.  However today I really, actually move on.  In re-reading this, I realize how much Vietnam has grown on me in the past few years.  I like her even more now than I did when I wrote the “letter” below.  Vietnam, it’s been great!

Dear Vietnam,

When we met I was overwhelmed by your frenzy.  I slapped your mosquitoes, hated your heat and feared your scooters.  Time and time again you made me wonder why I’d come.  In our two years together I watched from the other side of the world as I lost two of the dearest people in my life in my first few months here and spent half my salary to fly away from you.  To put it lightly, we were unlikely friends.

And yet, I will miss you.  Our roller coaster ride included so, so many highs.  Never again will I see a beach so beautiful and deserted.  Never again will I be such an anomaly in my own neighborhood.  Never again will my awkwardness and lack of language be so quickly forgiven – and compensated for by those who should resent me.  I will never again meet such purely lovely children who want to learn and love school and work to ridiculous extents just to become smarter.

I’ve been blessed here with friends who take me under their wings like family.  I have been invited to countless dinners with families who barely know me and cannot really afford to feed a giant Western stomach.  I have been to so many weddings where the music is uncomfortably loud and I barely know the bride, but am included in family photos.  I have been surrounded by empathy when homesickness strikes and found kindred spirits here from all parts of the globe.  I have experienced hospitality and generosity in excess.

Somewhere along your busy streets where sidewalks are reserved for scooter parking and roads for spontaneous U-turns, I have met people who will forever make me want to better myself.  I have accepted free beer and free bicycle repair from people who should want to take advantage of the stranger.  I have celebrated my career with neighbors who make one fifteenth of what I do as a teacher.  I have lived rich among the poor, and found no animosity lingering.  How?

Thank you, Vietnam.  Thank you for letting me live big on little.  Thank you for allowing me the circumstances to make all of Asia accessible, along with an annual trip home.  Thank you for reigniting a passion for teaching by reminding me that people do want to learn.  Thank you for giving JD and me exotic adventures.  Thank you for the sun that let me be more tan than I will ever be again.  Thank you for your rainy season that let me laze around and read without apology.  Thank you for putting in the energy to overcome my confusion and illiteracy each time I tried to order a sandwich.

Thank you for making me humble again.  Thank you for reminding me how lucky I am, how spoiled I am, and how much I take for granted.  Thank you for cutting the electricity and reminding me that my “needs” are not always needs.  Thank you for kicking my butt at times with third world amenities, but then cuddling me afterwards with wonderful friends.

Thanks for pushing me – forcing me- out of my comfort one.  I hope we meet again.




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2 responses to “Thank You, Vietnam”

  1. Chuck says :

    I have been following your blog for several years and have enjoyed getting to know Vietnam Nam along with you. (In fact, it was because of you that I went there myself recently!) What a wonderful farewell. I will miss it too.

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