Vietnamese American Visiting Vietnam for the First Time
Thoughts about Vietnam:
It only took me 25 years to see my parents’ and grandparents’ home country for the first time.
I was so nervous and anxious about going. Hearing words of warning from my grandparents and mother did not help calm the nerves. I can’t blame them since they had sought refuge -along with hundreds of thousands of fellow Vietnamese refugees since 1975, due to an ugly war that took too many lives (on both sides). To this day, my grandfather refuses to return (for personal, political, and moral reasons). He’s a funny man.
This trip has been a long time coming. It was an ultimate destination that I had put on a pedestal – a trip that I really wanted to take with my mom. My mom had always wanted to show me where she was born, and where she grew up before leaving it all behind at age 15. She wanted to wait until after I graduated from UCSB, but then I decided to take an extra year to go to Spain, so it would have to wait a little longer-but even that did not go as planned.
Her diagnosis in 2009 for stage 4 colon cancer put a halt on things.. It was and still at times an emotional roller-coaster ride, but we are all very happy that she is doing better…”same same, but different.” Her condition makes her more apprehensive when planning trips or planning things in general too far ahead in advanced- due to changing circumstances, and keeping up with her appointments.
I was fortunate enough to be able to make plans and share this experience with my partner. At least we will get to share the photos with my mom upon our return. She’ll be thrilled.
I had intended to write everyday about my reflections on Vietnam. Obviously, my partner and I have been busy having too much fun seeing the sights, eating too many good meals, walking around or sleeping to sit still long enough to process it all.
Tonight I am having trouble sleeping, so I will write something to update about our trip thus far.
Setting the Scene:
Right now I am staying at Splendid Classic Star Hotel in Hanoi, near St. Joseph’s Cathedral -Old Quarter, Hanoi. The staff here have been wonderful from the beginning. I wish I can say the same about the rooms’ conditions. (I will explain this in detail under the Hanoi section)
Reflection thus far:
Over all, I love it. I love seeing the people- seeing the life and how people live and interact with one another. I did not think I would love it, I mean, I grew up near Little Saigon in California, and I hated it. I thought Vietnam would be worse! I was completely wrong. I love it. I love the mixture of simplicity and chaos all at the same time. I found it scary sitting in the back seat of a taxi, and driving through the crazy streets of Saigon. It was even crazier when we had to walk and CROSS the streets! wow. I thought I was going to die. For real. Could not believe that/this was/is real life- it’s crazy, INSANE! Intense. It was. I survived it, and am so grateful. Hope to continue surviving as the trip continues!
Definitely, for sure I have grown a sense of greater pride for where my family came from, for my heritage. I have a better understanding of the culture, though not thorough, but better than before. I get made fun of for my Vietnamese skills everywhere I go, it’s disappointing on my behalf, but I try. I find myself learning new ways of saying things, and I am happy to be practising speaking and listening. I love seeing the words, and I wish now more than ever that I could read and write. I wish I was thoroughly fluent. I will post more about our trip in detail, from beginning to end, little by little when I have the chance. Just thought I should write some sort of reflection at this point of our journey- we’ve been here a week now.
Started in Singapore, stayed for a day. Then Saigon for one night; Nha Trang for three days where we met up with my aunt uncle and cousin (awesomeness);Hanoi area for seven days where we saw Halong bay for two days, one night; Hanoi for three nights; Sapa 23rd-26th Jan; off to Hoi An 26th-30th Jan; back to Saigon til the 4th of Feb; Singapore again for another night, leave for Brisbane on the 5th.