Movement and the Freedom I didn’t miss – between two chapters, two continents and cultures.

Now that I’ve had half a bottle of red wine I finally feel ready to write about the huge movement that happened since June 19th. About how it feels to move from one environment to one a 100% different in 20 hours. This fast pace of our time can make us feel too much to cope. This blog started in Vietnam, now I am sitting in Vancouver and I am sharing my sentimentality and my perception with you.

From Vietnam to Vegas. What do you think? Wanna read this? Sometimes I still feel like I am dreaming. It seems so random and unreal where I am now. I feel like what I am doing is unfair, the opportunities that life happened to offer me are unfair compared to everyone else living a serious life back in the country that I left about a year ago. I wonder why I don’t want to go back to the people and places I know best and love most. And I hope they don’t think my love for them is degrading. I wonder how an expat becomes an expat. How a passport becomes your existence and how you carry your home in your heart. Leaving Vietnam makes me think.

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Months and weeks of back and forth. The urge of moving got me again. But which direction? Where should I go next?

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Do I want to stay in Vietnam? Or do I want to move on? If I want to move on, where should I go? I really didn’t know. Why could I not just take the ‘easy’ way out and go home?

Finding myself in a relationship that was more like an amusement park than a real life situation, going up and down like a roller-coaster, but somehow impossible to give up, I couldn’t just make a decision on my own and simply take off. If I would have been alone, I would’ve probably played dart with a world map. But I had someone who’s hand I kept holding and who was giving me a direction. The goal: Get to Canada by August to attend two very important weddings of his friends and family. I knew if I went with him, I wouldn’t be able to come back. I couldn’t afford a trip like this, and I needed a change so bad, so if I go, I have to make my plane ticket worth a new life.

Our green EVA airline plane took off the 19th of July, at 4pm, from Than Son Nhat, Ho Chi Minh City, International Departures. I spent the 17th crying. Terrified by the future. The 18th passed by in a nutshell. The last night. Get all your friends together. Have beer. And man, have as much as you want! It costs 50 cents. And yes, order whatever else you want. All of you. No one will pay more than 10 bucks. We’re enjoying each other. A loud group of people from Asia, from Europe, from North America got together and we had a beautiful night, until we moved on to our last dance at ‘Apocalypse Now’.  More tears. More goodbyes.

Why do you cry so much, you whiner?? Is what you might ask yourself right now. Well. I really don’t know when I will see them again. For the Vietnamese part, I don’t wanna say they are locked in their country, but it is so damn hard for them to get out. And for the other part, these people are all crazy travelers, we must be very lucky to cross each others paths again. But we will. I am sure eventually, we will.

So I left. With him. And a big smile between my teary eyes. This is the right decision. All the tiny things that added up in the past months and made me wanna leave Vietnam were reflected right at the airport. Our friends Cyril and Yen came to say goodbye at the airport. Took their free time and came all the way up. But Yen, as a Vietnamese without a flight ticket, was not allowed to accompany us on our way to leaving a year of love and friendship and experiences behind. I did this at least 3 or 4 times. But the Vietnamese girl gets restricted by the Vietnamese security guide. This time, I swallowed my disappointment. I knew I was leaving.

My best friend Ngan came to the airport and waited outside, because she couldn’t come in either. Our check-in took ages and we were in a rush afterwards. I ran outside and made my last phone call with my Vietnamese number, to Ngan, thinking that it is probably good that we won’t have a long scene, I could save some tears. But as soon as I heard her energetic, strong voice answering the phone “OUI?!?!” I felt like I am being choked. I told her where I am, we walked towards each other, had a long 30 seconds hug, looked into each others eyes and said goodbye. A few hours earlier we played lotto, hoping one of the tickets would make her win enough money to leave Vietnam and travel the world.

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This was it. Going to Vietnam was probably the best decision I’ve ever made. Thanks to my boy Jonathan, who told me lots about this unique country while I was restless and desperate for leaving my own.

But, was leaving it also one of the best decisions?

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From Vietnam to Vegas!

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I knew what to expect when going to Vegas, but the culture shock that hit me was huge. Of course I knew that this place is as fake as anything could be, and you go just for the fun, right? We had a really great time and, I would say, a cinematic experience of Vegas and how real Vegas-People live it. No sleep. No food. Champagne and dollar bill showers. *sexdrugsrocknroll* The feeling of being placed in-midst of a typical American trash movie hit me a little hard at the beginning, being jet-legged and one foot still in the religious and traditional country called Vietnam. On the way back to LA I was happy about the experience and everything I’ve seen and heard, also the many superficial pieces of conversation I collected that reminded me of what is important in life and what clearly isn’t.

Huntington Beach’s fresh breeze whiffs by with movie-like happy faces, superstar smiles and girls in bikinis on every corner. Believe it or not, everyone seems natural though, and they seem to do what they like! This California breeze brings a constant smile to my face. Thong bikini bottoms remind me of what I had almost forgotten after living in a country where you feel naked wearing shorts for a year. YOU CAN WEAR WHAT EVER YOU WANT! NO ONE IS GOING TO JUDGE YOU FOR IT! :) Seeing all kinds of people, wearing whatever they feel like and doing whatever they want reveals something in my head I have long ago pushed back on my own priority list: Freedom.

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I don’t want to say holding on to traditions, religious directories, or fitting in the portrait of an ancestor are bad things. But now, from another part of the world, I wish that every girl in Vietnam could take her long pants off to enjoy the ocean, if she wants to. I wish that every young Vietnamese couple could show their love openly and hourly paid hotels would become fewer. I wish that a girl can go out and have fun without being looked at with pinched eyes. I wish that a homosexual scene wouldn’t have to be kept underground. I wish that people would learn how to break out of a prison of rules, and use their own head to make their own decisions.

– People now ask me: What is different from North America to Vietnam? I can’t list anything. All I can say is everything. And then talk about it for an hour. Think twice if you really wanna pose this question!

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Making my way up to Canada, I felt extremely lucky about everything that crossed our way. A flight upgrade, a wonderful friend having us over for Vegas & LA, people, lovely people, politeness, a free car to drive up the coast just because someone needed it, great hitch-hikers along the way, generosity, always and always generosity, cooperative people, helpfulness, other’s time and space to make you comfortable, (job) opportunities, space, so much space, fresh air, the smell of trees, the forest…

Life offers you an infinite amount of possibilities for appreciation. You can find them everywhere and anytime.

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And if you do so, you might eventually end up finding some sort of…peace.

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