The last month!
Things couldn’t have gone by quicker in the last month. The buzzing Saigon traffic became standard, the flashing lights at night were akin to stars in the night sky, and breathtaking skyline views were becoming a norm. I was forgetting New Zealand and becoming familiar with the labyrinth-like layout of Saigon. I had my favourite cafes, my favourite juice spot and locals who knew me. The normality was comforting, and I dreaded returning and having to readjust again.
I want to share with you some of my best last month memories.
I love singing. I am not good at it, but it doesn’t stop me from stealing the mike and singing away. I’ve been to a few Karaoke spots in Auckland, but let me tell you, it does not compare to Saigon Karaoke. The rooms are decked out with flashing disco balls, colourful lights, vivacious decor hanging off walls, three microphones (at least!) and diamond-studded couches. Let me tell you, karaoke in Vietnam is a serious sport! I did karaoke multiple times, and it was the best with the locals. They get into their singing and jam for hours on end!
One of the best things about Saigon is the food. Not only is Vietnamese food delicious, but it caters so well to vegetarians. When I first came to Vietnam, I was afraid all the time. What was I going to eat? But, soon I realised there were vegetarian restaurants everywhere! I went with my coworkers to some delicious places. I had some of the best vegetarian food in my life, whether Vietnamese or western food. The ingredients were so fresh that the food had exquisite flavours and lightness. You could eat food until it made your stomach burst and still feel energised.
One of our cultural day activities was visiting an orphanage. This was an all-boys orphanage that had been running for over 30 years. We helped cook food for the children. The boys had such good manners; they all cleaned up, looked after each other, and were very inviting to us. This was one of my favourite activities on this trip because it felt authentic. I talked to one of the boys, and he was so happy to open up about his experience in the orphanage and his career goals. Another one sang for us, and although he started nervous and shaky, he had a beautifully controlled voice that nearly bought tears to my eyes. It was a wholesome experience.
The little mistakes
There were times when things didn’t go right. I got stuck in random locations, overpaid for something, or lost in some market. They were the little mishaps that continued to happen. But, strangely, I learnt a lot from these mistakes, and I miss the experiences that came with them. For example, one day, I was very tired. I went to the ATM to get some cash but forgot to take my card back. I realised later in the day it was missing, and this was my only source of money in the country. I remember frantically rushing places, retracing my steps and arranging alternatives. As a last resort, I went to the bank and asked if they might have retrieved my card from the ATM by some miracle. Surprisingly, they had! It was a stressful experience, but through it, I met some very nice people from the bank with whom I had great conversations.
I miss many things from Vietnam. I miss my friends, and the times we spent together. I miss the hustle and bustle. I miss my coworkers and the alternative lifestyle I was lucky to experience. But I bring all these relationships and experiences back with me, giving me a different perspective on how I see things in New Zealand. I will merge the teaching of Vietnam into the NZ lifestyle. However, I’m still dealing with being back and trying to combine the two worlds I have lived through.