I keep saying I'm not going to be sad my last week here, but it's so hard to enjoy it when I keep thinking of how I'm going to miss it. I don't think I'll ever be so touched by a country or it's people as I have here. I don't think I'll ever click so well with a culture as I have here. How the hell did this happen in Vietnam? It's the sense of community here that I love and am going to miss watching, even if I was never a real part of it. I've had some bad days here and met my share of cold or mean-spirited people, but speaking of the masses I have been just constantly amazed, impressed, and touched by the sincerity of the people and their spirit that's somehow simultaneously lighthearted and deep. For a country that's supposed to be officially athiest, I've never felt so spiritual as I have here. I've never seen such people that on the whole, work so hard, use everything they have, and take advantage of every situation to get ahead. They seem both content with what they have, but not content enough to not constrantly strive for more and to better their own lives and families. The Vietnamese have such a natural, sincere friendliness about them. They live life in the moment. When I meet a new foreign person here, we exchange phone numbers and maybe you'll hear from each other in the next week or two. When you meet a new Vietnamese friend and exchange phone numbers, they call you up in two hours to meet up for coffee... hell why not. Why all the waiting time in life.
Every street and hem and bis have their own community and every city and even the country as a whole seems to have a communal energy. In some ways it seems like an unspoken 'hey, we're all in this life thing together'. Each person fighting their own private battles, but they also seem grateful for life in general. People smile a lot here and they enjoy the little things in life that so many people seem to forget in other parts of the world. I notice an offbeat sense of humor, almost tinged with irony at times, but I notice most that the average person treasures the little pleasures in life. I get the sense that they feel something better lies ahead either in this life or the next, but that they must enjoy what they can from it now. You can get a friendly, shy smile or a tease from most people here. They say what's on their mind. I've rarely met a Vietnamese person with much pretense to them (except the ones in the changing room at the gym.)
My students have said some funnily revealing things to me- about Vietnam that is, in the nearly two years I've been here. The material I teach them is pretty dry and dull, but the conversations have been almost enlightening at times. I remember getting frustrated in class this past semester when realizing that again almost noone could express their thoughts in a coherent paragraph. When I asked them frustrated what they actually learn in their high school Vietnamese classes, they all looked at me surprised and said 'we write poetry and copy marxist theory essays'. Oooh. And yep, they are sometimes the most poetic students I've had. They love units about 'love and commitment' and can analyze wafty philosophical lines pretty intently. We did a unit once about birth order and family and when I asked them to guess what my own birth order was, without thinking they all agreed that I must be the youngest and when I asked why, they said that there was no way I would be half way around the world from my family if I were the oldest... When I told them I was going to America, some of them seemed surprised and one girl innocently blurted out 'my friend went to live in america before and she said it was really boring'. hehe. I told them it's true. Someone else said that they'd heard of little saigon in america and that it's just like Vietnam... They seemed a bit disappointed when I told them yeah, but everyone drives there in cars, no one sits on the sidewalks, and people aren't outside in conical hats gossiping and people watching...
sigh...... I've never felt so alive as I do in this part of the world... but alas, I must go. I want to leave loving this place. Times be a'changing and a few years in asia is about the white girl's limit. Must cash out and move on to keep my own spirit alive. There are definately some things I will not miss (like the screeching of security gates), but I know I won't remember those things very well.
Someday soon I might be clicking my ruby flip-flops though.