What Vietnam has taught me

posted in: Asia, Blog, Destinations, Vietnam | 0

rice hat vietnam hoi an tea shop travelVietnam has taught me much more than how to be homesick. I love this place for all its flaws and differences. I would be happy to call Vietnam my permanent home. One day, maybe, one day….All I know is, I feel a little less depressed and a lot less stressed here in Asia.

How to relax

I think back to when I first returned from Asia, three years ago. I went to the mall to run an errand. When standing in line, something caught my eye and I took a step away. Meanwhile, a man stepped in front of me, then noticed me, and jumped about a mile.

“Oh no, I’m sorry, were you in line?” I could see the anxiety in his eyes–the same anxiety I had left behind in America when I had left for Asia. The anxiety we all feel in a high-speed, high-stress society with standards nearly too high to reach.

“Go ahead, I’m in no hurry,” I shrugged. I couldn’t have felt less stressed or anxious, let me tell you that. In fact, I don’t remember ever being so carefree in my life!

There were a few more instances like this. My new outlook on life lasted for a few months. When I got a job at a sushi restaurant, one of my coworkers noticed my relaxed — and commented on it to me a year later.

“This girl is so, like…zen,” she had thought. “Is she a white Buddhist?”

No, I’m not a Buddhist and I don’t intend on becoming one. Neither do I do yoga. I’m just open to new experiences and I let Asian culture mold me. I’m feeling quite anxious at the moment, due to losing a few completed blogs thanks to unreliable Internet. I’m hoping a few more months in Asia will cure me, just like last time.

Here’s a few basics I’ve learned within three months in Vietnam:

Daily life

  • The rainy season here is no joke, man.
  • Seattle has no reason to complain about the rain. Saigon does. Do the locals complain? No.
  • It’s not a question of if it will rain–It’s a matter of when. So always pack your raincoat with you.
  • Expats don’t smile much. They’re quite hard to talk to, usually.
  • The only thing that brings expats and Vietnamese together is the flooded streets of the rainy season.
  • It’s not always impolite to yell.

Inconveniences

  • How to get strong arms: carry heavy groceries home every day.
  • How to wash my dishes without a sink. My apartment is the origin of the expression: Everything but the kitchen sink.
  • The fact that you can drink enough water and still end up dehydrated.
  • What hyponatremia is and how to cope with it.
  • Tour guides have to deal with a lot. Foreigners can be extremely rude and/or high-maintenance.

Conveniences

  • You can order any kind of food for home delivery. Awesome.
  • You can even get your groceries delivered for free! My life is made.
  • You can tell the condition of a motor by sitting on it. Which can be a little unnerving, depending on which Grab bike you’re riding.

Life lessons

  • Why bother complaining about the rain? You can’t do anything about it.
  • How to put up with disappointments. Come on, it’s Vietnam. (Insert shrug here.) Just deal with it.
  • How to let go of the past. We’re all friends here, who cares about an unfortunate history?
  • There’s no reason to be wistful about things that aren’t possible.
  • There’s nothing to fear but fear itself. Speaking up to practice my Vietnamese, talking to random people on the street, riding a motorbike through traffic, getting lost–it’s never as bad as you think it will be.

Overall, Asia is slowly molding me into a more positive, more patient, and less harsh person. Now, if travel has this effect on people, shouldn’t we all travel more often?

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