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!
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.
Love is mandatory in Vietnam. While places like Vegas and Rio beckon you to the glitter of singledom, Da Nang is decidedly monogamous. Just ask any of the trillion couples camped out along the Da Nang promenade oblivious to the roar of scooters, children and dogs around them. Their love blinds them from remembering to look before they cross the street – or look before they walk straight into me. But I don’t mind being stopped in the name of love.
After all there is nothing quite so beautiful as love in a time of karaoke.
A few weeks late, but fantastic nonetheless.
Remember how excited you used to get for show and tell at school? Or how you’d jump around when your mom brought in class cupcakes for your birthday? Remember how amazing it was when the teacher would let you use the glitter markers? Or make you line leader for the day? Now imagine being a nine-year-old once again and welcoming a surprise visitor. No, he’s not the principal, or somebody’s dad. He’s a dragon – a dancing lion dragon who does gymnastics on teeny, tiny suspended discs and then wiggles his dragon butt when you pet him.
Ahhhh!!!! Best day ever!!!!!!!!!
Sigh. Why couldn’t it stay Sunday afternoon at Intercontinental, Da Nang forever? There’s something magical about a whole day dedicated to beautiful scenery (and unlimited champagne) that puts you in the mood for Weekend. Just add a few key players from California, UK and Aus (and a few much missed ones from South Africa and USA) and you’ve got the perfect moment of travel.
Beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. Although it may be indefinable and indescribable, it is also undeniable – certain things are beautiful. And others aren’t. The Taj Mahal: beautiful. The city dump: not. Sure there are the artsy among us who find beauty where it isn’t, but I’m talking about cheerleader shallow pretty; the things that smack you as gorgeous the moment you meet. They are the pristine snow topped mountain peaks that show off on the covers of travel blogs. They’re the magnificent old architecture that makes Paris Paris and London London. They may be interesting. They may be historical. Above all they are beautiful.
So what about the ugly things? What good are they to us? Why hang out with the zitty adolescent of travel destinations when you could be with the prom queen? Is there any value to ugly?
It’s all part of the adventure.
This line has been on my mind’s repeat since moving here to Da Nang, Vietnam. Watching a scooter fly by packed with an entire family of two parents, a grandma, three kids and a dog I think It’s All Part of the Adventure. The next day when that same family offers me a lift I squeeze on to their miniature vehicle and remind myself It’s All Part of the Adventure. When the family and I stop along the way to pick up several live chickens and a BBQ eel I say – you guessed it – It’s All Part of the Adventure.
It’s a good motto to have when you’re in a brand new place. It’s a survival mechanism when you’re in a really strange brand new place.
Turns out eating ice and crossing the road are about the same thing here in Da Nang, Vietnam. All travel blogs say Don’t Drink the Water. Just like that: bold, italicized and underlined to let you know they Really Mean It. And no ice, they remind you. After all ice is water. But the thing is, it’s hot here. Like crazy mo’fo’ f-ing hot. And I’m here for two years. How can I possibly survive without ice? So when faced with my first Vietnamese coffee – iced coffee – I took a deep breath, closed my eyes and slurped like a maniac, hoping to make it to the bottom of the cup before too much ice had seeped its way into my body to twist and mutate my intestines.
It’s the same strategy I’m using to cross the road. In America we call them traffic lights. In South Africa we call them robots. Here we call them…nothing. Why bother naming something you don’t believe in? I say “believe”because driving here is a religion. You believe you have the right of way. Always. You believe those annoying red and green lights above the road are for decoration. And, in order to cross the road, you must blindly, stupidly believe that somehow you will make it to the other side.
Why did the Vietnamese chicken cross the road?
It didn’t, Stupid.