So to start off, I must apologize for the lack of pictures . . . in the process of becoming less of a tourist and more of a “local” I have stopped carrying my camera around with me everywhere I go – A decision I find myself constantly regretting because it is the “mundane” snapshots of Ho Chi Minh City that I find myself wanting to capture the most! So next week’s goal is to stop pretending that I know where I’m heading and instead embrace the fact that I stick out like a sore thumb (and that I actually am usually lost) and take some more pictures for you all.
The goal for this week you may ask? Well it’s harder than it sounds – and I know that for those of you who are reading this at your desk as a way to procrastinate from the piles of paper stacked next you – that this might prick a nerve . . . but the goal of this week is to learn the art of doing nothing.
“But Andee ,“ you may inquire, “aren’t you finally employed out there?”
Well yes . . . except that I have a really “hectic” schedule of a whole 10 hours this week. English teachers in Vietnam work nights and weekends, and the schools ease you into a full schedule gradually, so for now, the day is wide open (eventually I will be working around 25 – 30 hours). While this schedule may sound like a dream come true to some, as an enthusiastic morning person who loves being busy, I struggled this week with adjusting to an entirely new open time frame. I’m still up at 7:00 a.m. indeed . . . but what for? There is really only so much reading, showering, running, exploring and eating that a person can do between the hours of 8 am and 6 pm. Every day. And these opportunities diminish significantly when it’s raining – which is often.
So bear with me, yes, here it is, another life lesson – whether you’re interested or not.
On one of my runs (and by run, I mean walking 15 minutes to this big park and running laps around it as running outside on the street is most definitely a death sentence) I noticed an old man (again another infatuation with elderly Vietnamese folk) simply sitting on a park bench. Just watching. Or maybe waiting? Wondering? But mostly I think he was just there – enjoying the fact that he was there.
I noticed him on lap one. Lap three? Still there. Lap seven? You bet. Lap ten? He has crossed his legs but he’s still there. As I was running my laps trying to find new artifacts in my surroundings to keep me from getting bored, here was this man simply sitting and embracing the same scene, but with contentment and fascination rather than boredom. He’s been there everyday since.
So the moral of the story? When life gives you free time, use it to be free. I’ll never forget one of my friends at school (yes Miss Jennifer Anderson, this one’s for you) commenting on another classmate who had just passed her outside the library with knitting needles, a cookie and a cup of tea, declaring that she was off to go sit in the school café for a little bit. Jenn’s response, “She’s just SOOO good at relaxing!” I never knew that I didn’t know how to relax until Jenn had made that statement – that relaxing is an action and that it requires some motivation.
So here I am in one of the most wondrous and hectic cities in the world, on a voyage to teach, volunteer, travel, and learn Vietnamese – but also to learn how to be content with just me. While I’m not there yet, I’m sure I’ll get there – maybe I’ll even learn to enjoy sleeping in. But my guess is that you aren’t so great at relaxing yourselves . . . so to all you stressed out souls, my gift to you: grab yourself a cup of tea, a park bench, and go look at those beautiful leaves changing around you and breathe in that crisp fall air, because as someone who won’t see the colors change this year, they are a wondrous sight indeed.