Archive for the ‘From Seattle to Saigon’ Category

It’s a long haul from Seattle to Saigon. The trip took 21 hours, including a layover in Taipei – but the mental shift is the biggest journey.

At first, it looked like I’d be travelling solo since my travelling companion had forgotten to pick up his Visa. But things magically work out for my life and he was able to work it out through the wonders of e-mail and Vietnamese customer service – it’s a total conundrum how it can be both so good and so bad.  We arrived in Saigon at 1pm, and I stayed awake in an attempt to kick jetlag on day one. My first stops were eating banh cuon for one dollar and getting a massage for four dollars. We dined at the Architect’s House, an amazing restaurant that is designed by an architect. I ate vegetables I’d never eaten or heard of before and was starting to feel like this was the life for me.

The next morning, we were up and out by 7am to volunteer at an orphanage with my friend’s mother. As we were walking through the morning market and the floor began to undulate (it’s 90 degrees already!), I realized I needed to be kinder to my body and not underestimate the power of jetlag. We arrived at the orphanage and were immediately put to work feeding babies. My baby was lying down on my lap with his head back, looking around and distracted, and my vain attempts to spoon mush into his mouth were thwarted. I looked up, saw the staff easily feeding babies, their portions quickly dwindling while mine was landing all over me and the baby.

How could a simple task of feeding a baby be so hard? This is what my first few days in Saigon feel like sometimes. The most mundane tasks seem so difficult.  Vietnamese is swirling around me and it astounds me that I still can’t understand anything after being around the language for 40 years. My friend constantly tells me I’m so American, and it’s starting to get a bit old.

Alternately, it is so exciting to be here. Saigon has 10 million people and the city never sleeps. It is teeming with people, activities and of course, food, in every available space. I try to maintain perspective, and not run away screaming, wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake with my one-way plane ticket to Vietnam.

Tomorrow, we head to the Mekong Delta with volunteers from the Vietnamese Scholarship Foundation. I know it will be an amazing experience and stay open to everything around me. As I speed down the streets of Saigon on a moped, I feel the thrill of living here. This is what I am focused on now. This journey took a lot of courage to leave everything behind me. It is exhilirating, and I don’t regret it for a minute.

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