There’s a quote on my Yogi teabag that is accompanying me in writing this post and it states, “If you don’t love where you come from, you can’t love where you’re going.” And suddenly my mind triggered to my observations of the people here in Vietnam . . .
There is something special hidden in the wrinkles of the elderly people here. Everyday I marvel at them, taking double takes at these marvelous and intricate faces. They wear the clothes of the most ordinary folk – the fruit vendors, the grandmothers, the solo cyclist (who at ripe old ages don’t blink about cycling through the heart of rush hour and the accompanying hundreds of motos), the woman who made me Pho at her house in the Mekong, and the many others who float around the streets of Saigon and beyond. I have trouble distinguishing the sole enchanting quality – what makes these individuals pop out at me more than any other? Is it the incredible simplicity in their mannerisms and presentation of self? Or is it rather the complexity that lies between the lines and wrinkles? Or maybe it is something else entirely hidden beneath the surface?
The first feature I find myself being drawn to is their beautiful expression of age. This distinction comes from the deep inset wrinkles, crevices so deep that I often find myself stopping and staring at their intensity and beauty. Wrinkles here are worn with grace and dignity, rather than buried under surgery night creams. They are owned and worn as a badge of Wisdom, outlining and verifying the lives they’ve led and the battles they’ve encountered (no doubt some of those battles came from US interference). They are statements of individuality and achievement; they are verifications of a full-lived life.
Or rather, maybe I am charmed by the dancing twinkle in their eyes. In a country torn amongst war-torn history, an agrarian society, and a booming population drunk with industrial and capital progression, a glittering smile, even if seen only behind the eyes, causes me to stop amongst the mayhem and look. It’s rare to see a simple and genuine smile from strangers in any city, but to find one filtered of alternative motives is a truly rare treat. These wise eyes seem to be simply watching the world and smiling at having the chance to be intertwined within it, despite the weather, despite their circumstances, despite the quality of their day.
So forgive me for this rather deep “dear diary moment,” but we could all take a lesson from these wonderful enlightened souls. Acknowledge where you came from, accept the hardships you’ve endured, recognize the lessons that resulted, and embrace the forks in your road with enthusiasm and passion. All too often we find ourselves needing a reason to smile – the sight of these select Vietnamese dignitaries smiling for being in the present moment is enough to make me step out of my alternative reality, look around, and smile back. Just because.