Thursday, December 30, 2010

Same as It Ever Was

This time last week I was giving a farewell speech at my school in Hanoi. After the speech, I rushed home and raced around Hanoi with last minute errands, goodbyes, and my stomach filled with butterflies on account of my impending holiday trip back to the US.

I was excited to come home for three weeks, I was at the point where I missed my family, friends, and the life I'd left behind twelve months ago. I just wanted to return to "normalcy" for a few weeks, i needed a breather.

Last time in returned home, i was inundated with questions as to why I've chosen to live my life in Asia, people asked what it was Vietnam had to offer that the US doesn't. Questions like these are always difficult to answer but I did my best, but think i failed to satisfy some people's curiosity. This time around, I prepared myself for these questions better, but haven't yet had been asked to present my case.

People seem to understand now that the current chapter in this book of my life is taking place in Asia. They've accepted it and there aren't any attempts to coerce me back into the western world. This time around, I am faced with a whole new set of questions, this time about my life out there, and what it entails.

These questions are natural, i suppose. I am living as an expat in an exotic country that isn't that widely traveled by people in the United States.

The problem with these questions is that, once again, my answers aren't all that great. Even though I claimed I was anticipating being back in the US for a few months of "normal" life, the truth is that my life in Hanoi is just as typical as it was here, as it would be anywhere. I do the things that everyone does: I go out with friends, I try new restaurants, I have hobbies, I go to work, I buy groceries. When I'm sick, I go to the doctor. When I'm sad, I watch sappy movies or have a vent session over coffee with someone I'm close to. My friends and I face the same trials that people do over here: our boss is annoying, we're broke, we're gaining weight, we met a guy and he seemed cool but now he isn't calling. The only difference is the backdrop, the form of transportation, and the language. Instead of NYC, I'm in the capital city of Vietnam, instead of the subway, I drive a motorbike, and while English is the primary language I communicate in, I also have to stretch myself and throw in some Vietnamese words or some fantastic charades.

I don't think this answer is a particularly enthralling one. I'm pretty sure people want anecdotes depicting how crazy and disparate my life is over there. I wish I could oblige, really I do. Perhaps, I've become accustomed to all of the idiosyncrasies that make my Hanoi life antithetic from the life I led here.I just don't feel the contradiction anymore.

We are, for all intensive purposes, adaptable creatures. We are equipped with a certain level of survivor skills, and when we're placed in unfamiliar territory we tend to acclimate to wherever it is we have to. I truly believe that you can take any person, and place them in a new situation and within a few months they will have carved out a niche for themselves, they will have found a way to belong and make it their own.

Now, I obviously wasn't forced into moving to Hanoi, I went, and have stayed, on my own free will but once again, the realization of this has given me a whole new perspective. We (or at least I) like our comfort zones, for obvious reasons we feel safe there, but I see now that ANYWHERE can be a comfort zone, it just may take a bit of time. It took me a while to establish what i consider a life for myself in Hanoi, but in retrospect it took me the same amount of time to do the same thing when i lived in NYC, and when i went to school in Boston. I recognize now that no matter where I go in the world, I'll have a period of adjustment and once that's passed I'll be engaging in the same routine that i was in my last stop.

As massive and dynamic as this world is, the bottom line is that the basic functions and necessities are the same. People are people, they all want and crave the same things. it doesn't matter what language you speak, what deity you worship (or don't), or what economic background you've come from, your desires and needs are the same as almost every other person on the planet. It's further proof in the mind of Alice that it really is a small world after all.

1 comment:

  1. Strikingly diplomatic in tone and movingly unitarian in scope.
    Foreign relation between the US and VN seems to be in the up-tick; how about picking up the local language while you are there, and parlaying it into a job in the States Department later?