I’ve been back in Chicago for about a day now, jetlagged out of my mind but so happy to back in the world of English speakers, gluten free products, clean air, and most importantly my family. I’m loving the breeze off lake Michigan, the sounds of my friends’ voices, sunflowers waiting the kitchen table, dinner with my parents over a Good bottle of red wine, coffee that doesn’t need four packs of sugar, the summer farmer’s market filled with strawberries and herbs, the sight of big dogs lying in the park, and the general sense of returning to a world of normality and comfort. In my jetlagged state, I find myself trying to make sense of the past ten months, though I’m finding this easier said than done.
I know that my time in Vietnam has changed me – the people I’ve met, the lifestyle I led, and the experiences I encountered both in travel and everyday life have taught me so much . . . exactly what that is – I don’t think I can entirely say yet. I know that the majority of what I’ve learned will only come in the future . . . but thus far . . .
I learned to teach words like “hope” and “wisdom” (in addition to words like “the arms trade” and “terrorism”) to groups of 14 year olds.
I learned to develop the confidence to stand in front of kids everyday and get them to listen to me (and I think even respect and like me).
I learned what it feels like to be the outsider . . .
And what it feels like to be misunderstood.
I learned how to ride a motorbike. In rush hour traffic. In the rain.
I learned how to laugh at myself.
I learned what it was like to feel completely lost and completely at home at the same time.
I learned how to accept people.
I learned that I am a terrible speller.. thank you spell check.
I learned (eventually) how to read a map…kinda.
I learned how to do a headstand in yoga in three different ways.
I learned how to dance in the rain. (It’s okay to let your feet get wet in life).
I learned how to travel.
I learned how to listen to people.
I learned that I am ready (and even excited) to go into the “real world.”
That being said, I learned that I do not want to be a teacher.
I learned that I take things like beautiful tomatoes, sidewalks, blueberries, and rolling around in fresh grass for granted.
I learned how to relax. And take naps. And sleep in. And eat breakfast in bed.
I learned that it’s OK to eat breakfast in bed . . . On a Wednesday.
I learned how to act like a kid again.
I learned that I really really like playing games.
I learned to live in the moment . . . and to know when it’s time to move on.
I learned how to play foosball (kinda).
I learned how to live a simple life.
I learned that I love eating squid.
I learned how to say goodbye to something wonderful.
I learned to always check my blind spot.
On a motorbike in Vietnam, I always seemed to have one eye on the road ahead and one eye behind me on my blind spot looking out for crazy drivers and unexpected crashes. Living in Vietnam I was always looking forward but making sure that life didn’t come out of nowhere and send me flying into a traffic jam. As time went on, I started checking that blind spot of mine in Vietnam more and more, instinctively knowing that staying longer, for me, meant loosing my balance.
I hate admitting that I may never see people again and that things end and change. However, I also know that things are always changing and recognize that with each change, there is the hope and possibility of a greater new beginning.
Maybe I’ll even keep writing in this thing . . .I kind of like it . . .
Thanks for everything Saigon, it’s been great!