Một Chuyện Của Việt Kiều Về Quê

Ngôn ngữ, người dân, và xe máy là ba thứ mình sẽ không bao giờ quên: dưới đây là những sự cảm nhận về Việt Nam trong tôi.

Xin chào gia đình, bạn bè, và tất cả những người đang đọc bài này. Cho mình xin giới thiệu: Mình là Hiếu, gia đình mình sinh sống ở Mỹ nhưng hiện nay mình làm việc tại Việt Nam. Thông thường người ta sẽ nghiên cứu và tìm hiểu những thông tin cơ bản trước khi chuyển đến một đất nước mới. Nhưng mình thì không.

Mặc dù thời gian đầu mình cảm thấy việc hòa nhập không hề dễ dàng, mình chỉ có một mục đích trong tâm trí: tìm hiểu thêm. Tuy vậy, mình cũng cố gắng để đạt được mục tiêu mình tạo ra. Trong hai năm qua, mình được khám phá những nét đặc trưng về văn hóa nguồn gốc của mình bao gồm ngôn ngữ, dân tộc, và cuộc sống thường ngày. 

Thứ nhất là học và hiểu ngôn ngữ. Trước đây, như phần lớn các Việt kiều, khả năng tiếng Việt của mình còn “tệ hơn vợ thằng Đậu.” Không biết viết; không biết đọc; nói lơ lớ; nghe được ít hơn 25%. Mặc dù, mình là một Việt kiều điển hình, nhưng ước mơ của mình là trở thành bậc thầy tiếng Việt. Trước khi bắt đầu học, mình chỉ biết vài câu như “dạ hiểu,” “dạ không,” và “xin một tô phở lớn.” Vì chưa có phương tiện giao tiếp hiệu quả nên mình chỉ có 3 cách để nói chuyện với gia đình: (1) tiếng Anh, (2) chỉ trỏ, (3) không nói luôn (“khó quá bỏ qua” đúng không mấy bạn). Vì vậy, việc phát triển các mối quan hệ gặp nhiều khó khăn và mình hiếm khi nói chuyện với gia đình.

Đầu tháng 5 năm 2018, mình đã bắt đầu tập trung học 4 buổi mỗi tuần. Hiện tại mình học được hơn 12 tháng rồi, và mình có thể tự tin nói rằng “Mình hiểu tiếng Việt.” Hay chưa? Điều đó có nghĩa là mình giao tiếp được với những người thân trong cuộc sống của mình, quan trọng nhất là mẹ. Mình từng nghĩ mẹ là một người rất là bình thường, một trong những bà mẹ bình thường. Càng học tiếng Việt càng hiểu thêm về mẹ, mình thấy mẹ thật sự là một người rất giỏi, không bình thường chút nào. Điều này là một bất ngờ với mình, vì tự nhiên mình thấy là mẹ giống như người lạ mà mới gặp lần đầu. Hiện tại, mình có khả năng để hiểu lại khía cạnh hoàn toàn mới của mẹ và tất cả những người khác trong gia đình mình. Sao mình không bắt đầu từ nhiều năm trước vậy ta…

Thứ hai là học và hiểu văn hóa của dân tộc. Mặc dù quê của gia đình mình là Bến Tre nhưng khi mới tới VN, mình ở thành phố Vinh, Nghệ An (miền Trung). Đây mới chính là nơi mình được khám phá ngững điểm truyển thống của Việt Nam. Trong thời gian mình ở Vinh, mình từng làm ở trung tâm Anh ngữ và được làm quen tận mắt với sự thân thiện của người ở đó. Ví dụ, nếu mình bị bệnh, quản lý trung tâm tin liền chở mình tới bệnh viện thâm chí còn nấu cháo cho mình ăn. Cực kỳ tốt.

Người dân ở đây đối xử nhau như anh chị em. Cách giao tiếp của người Việt nhắc nhở mình đến nhân tình của thế giới. Phần lớn ai đều biết ở đây có rất nhiều người vô gia cư, nhưng ít người thấy được những người giúp đỡ cho họ là ai. Mình may mắn đã trải nghiệm được việc này khi một lần tận tay đi phát bữa tối và sữa cho những người đang sống trên đường. Đồng cảm và tôn trọng là hai từ mình sử dụng để diễn tả tính cách của tất cả những người dân nơi đây.

Thứ ba là mình cảm nhận được những thứ sẽ xảy ra trong một ngày thường. Quan trọng nhất là thời tiết. Khi nào đi đâu hay có công việc thì phải đề ý mặt trời. Đa số người Việt Nam thường thức dậy lúc 6h sáng sau khi mặt trời lên đỉnh và bắt đầu một ngày của họ. Làm việc vài tiếng và như nước Tây Ban Nha tại Châu Âu, người Việt cũng nghỉ trưa để trốn ánh nắng mặt trời. Mình nhận ra được lý do tại sao mà lại có quán cà phê cứ mỗi 100 mét, đó là để mọi người nghỉ trưa. Học sinh về nhà ăn cơm, nhân viên đi về ngủ, phái nam đi quán cà phê đánh bài, và mình… mình thì ngắm tất cả những hoạt động cuộc sống của họ.

Nói chung, mình đã hiểu được cuộc sống của những người cực kỳ thư thái. Việc này liên quan đến tiền và nhịp sống, cái gì cũng từ từ với lại không cần mau chóng, làm theo tốc độ riêng của họ. Đó là một trong những lý do người Việt luôn luôn trễ hẹn (lý do mình cũng vậy).  Mặc dù nhiều người nghĩ điều này như là làm biếng, nhưng nó chỉ đơn giản là để tiết kiệm. Tiết kiệm thời gian, tiết kiệm tiền, tiết kiệm sức lực. Vì vậy, mình có cảm giác là họ sẽ luôn luôn tìm một cách làm nhanh nhất nhưng chưa chắc có hiệu quả.

Cuối cùng, trong hai năm nay mình hiểu được sự quan trọng của cuộc phiêu lưu đi tìm nguồn gốc mình. Đi vòng quanh và trải qua các giác quan của Việt Nam;

động cơ quay của xe máy đua;
sự ngọt ngào của cà phê sữa;
mùi hương của không khí ô nhiễm;
sự ẩm ướt ở trên chiếc áo;
nhận thức về rác trên đường phố;

Trải nghiệm bằng thính giác, vị giác, thị giác, khứu giác và xúc giác, mình được hiểu thêm về dân tộc của gia đình, thậm chí còn thấy được một phần con người mình.

Mình thấy rất may mắn vì được đi khắp vòng ba miền của Việt Nam. Mình thấy rất may mắn vì được làm quen nhiều người bạn thân. Mình thấy rất may mắn khi được có cơ hội để về đây.
Mình yêu Viêt Nam.

Hẹn gặp lại,
Bạn Hiếu

A Year In Review

This month marks my one year anniversary with Vietnam and wow has it been a wild year. I made amazing friends, traveled around south east Asia, gained wonderful new experiences, and learned a lot about myself and the world around me.

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In the beginning, when I first moved here, I essentially came with three other people, arrive all within a month of each other. And for the first 6 months of living in Vietnam, those people have given me unparalleled support to try new things and have pushed me to live outside my comfort zone. We were all stuck together; living in this city with no English capacity. We relied on each other and that’s what cultivated such strong relationships. These once strangers have become one of the main reasons I have profoundly loved my experiences so much. We call ourselves a family because we have become one. Sometimes it really isn’t about where in the world you go, but it’s more about who you had surrounded myself with.

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The bitter time came; one-by-one we all needed to say our farewells and take our leave in order to continue on our incredible adventures. The day when Raychel decided to leave me, I don’t know what happened, but I cried. It was eye opening to see how fond I have grown for these people, the center, and absolutely wonderful city. Then a month later, as I was leaving and headed off to the airport, I was crying as well. And not the type of crying where you look cute as you are seeing off some friends, the type of crying that is unexpected and takes over: can’t talk, can’t walk, all you are is a babbling idiot.  Over this year, I am so grateful having made everlasting friends that I adore and continue to connect with. Every person that I have connected with has all taught me something valuable.

Being in a new country, knowing that time is limited, there is an silent, yet strong urge to capitalize. And, for me, that means exploring as many new places as time (and money) allows. There are too many highlights to share and with so many incredible people. I consider myself extremely fortunate to have been able to travel around the whole Vietnam & even more outside the country. I get nostalgic thinking about all the wonderful (and miserable) trips I had.

These last 12 months, I have been looking for any opportunity to travel and see more. Now, I’m looking through my photo albums and remembering all that I’ve seen: lanterns with Raychel, went hiking with Ngoc, cleansing temples with Sydney, endless meat sticks with Kyle, frigid waters with Mom, and squirt guns with Tammy. What amazing memories that will last a lifetime. These memories? I wouldn’t trade for anything. I realized that traveling is more about gaining experiences rather than taking photos of landmarks.

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Through thick and thin, teaching has made it possible for me to continue exploring. It has been a cornerstone and foundational throughout my time here in Vietnam. I couldn’t write a year in review without mentioning teaching. For me, teaching is a new experience and wildly different than what I thought it would be. I thought how hard could it be: I already know English. Boy was I wrong. I have a huge new found respect for teachers. Lesson planning and cutting things up for an hour only for a 10 minute activity. In the beginning and first classes, I remember how nervous I would be for every class and how I would stress about going up to present.

In hindsight, I clearly overthought the gravity of the situation. I believed that everything I that I said and did had a direct impact of student’s life. While I was right…  it ain’t that deep. I was too concerned with how the students thought of me and less concerned of how and what the students were learning. I started off teaching lessons that were teacher-based, now moving toward student-centered. What I realized over the past week is that I really do care about my students success and their growth with the English language. I take pride in being a teacher (which is hard because I am not properly trained to be one). I am happy to be a teacher for these next few months, but it’s not a job that I will be doing say 5 years from now.

Next for me? That is something that is still to be determined. I’m not sure what the future holds exactly, but I know one thing for sure is that I am still mobile and not ready to settle down yet. Maybe I’ll be a city near you next.

Cheers to another great year, wherever I am.
Perry

 

 

Realizations of Living Away

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first week of university

When I was first moving out, I so strongly remember the feeling of excitement. I was happy to be on my own for the first time. No rules, no regulations, and no more sharing a room. And what we are blinded by, at that age especially, is the flashing lights and a conglomerate of emotions. Often what is forgotten is all that we have and that which is given up on our exit out of the nest. For most, like me, that was experience occurred when taking the journey to college.

I was reminded of that exact feeling when I left America to continue my adventure, post-graduation, in Vietnam. Excitement and nervousness; filled to the brim with  giddy feelings and butterflies. (Exhibit A: my first few posts here.) And I was blinded by my own emotions — like I often am. To be clear, having excitement about a new adventure is never a bad thing. The mistake is allowing the feeling to completely take over. And that’s what happened. Caught up in the bliss of expedition, I lost sight of what I was leaving behind.

Over the past three weeks, I returned to America for the first time in nine months. It was definitely an interesting experience. When coming back home, the place felt like nothing changed. Everything was just on pause while I was gone. Same old buildings, same old people working at the same old restaurants. While at the same time, there was so much of that city I have yet to explore. My realization of living away dawn on me when I went on a hike in the fresh mountainous air. I remembered how much I love being with best friends, how much I missed the stability of a life in America, how much I missed living close to family, and (most importantly) how much I adore cold weather and sweaters. At this point I was questioning: should I just stay home?

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It’s ironic to hear; numerous of people have said when they live abroad that they couldn’t imagine returning to a nine-to-five work week in the stale town they grew up in. That’s exactly what didn’t happen for me. When I came back, and I saw how much I craved the things that I don’t have. Reality struck. I guess the grass is always greener, huh?

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It’s amazing the perspective you gain while going abroad. While the town I grew up in hasn’t changed, I have and my outlook has. Bringing in this new mentality gives me a whole new meaning to being at home. Now, as I reevaluate where I want to be, with all that I have discovered (and to answer my own question), I continue to recognize that Vietnam is the place I want to be. I have said it time and time again, it’s not traveling to new places that excites me, its experiencing different cultures and people. I’m not done with these unique interactions. This time, as I have returned, I have not and will not forget all the great people and places of the past. While I will always keep in contact with people I love, I’m staying here in Vietnam… but I’ll be back soon.

Updates will come more frequently (at least I hope),
Perry

 

Loneliness and Living Abroad

At some point in our lives, we will be alone: driving in the car, talking a walk, or living in a new country. It’s inevitable. But being alone and feeling loneliness are different. The feeling of loneliness can often accompany being alone, but being alone doesn’t always cause loneliness. And the feeling can happen anywhere: living alone, moving somewhere new, and even while surrounded by friends. I have come to realize that the feeling of loneliness is unique when living abroad.

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It seems redundant to point out that when living abroad, you are literally miles from family and close friends. But the point that is often missed is that the physical distance equates to a temporal distance as well. While I’m awake, all my friends and family are fast asleep. Meaning that when I miss my friends and call them, it’s often in the middle of the night (ngl, I forgot and it has happened a few times). On top of that, being abroad can be harder to make friends. There’s a cultural and language barrier on top of all of the typical friendship making barriers.

It’s a special combination: distance, time, and culture that make you feel truly alone in another part of the world.

But you know me, I’m a glass full kind of guy and wow what an incredible experience it is to feel these emotions. It challenges you to learn to be comfortable doing to do things on your own. It teaches you how to try new restaurants alone, go to movies alone, and have dates with yourself. It pushes me to overcome my fear of talking to strangers and making connections to people I otherwise would have never met. Lean into the discomfort as my friends would say. We may feel alone, we may feel loneliness, but we always have other people supporting us.

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I write this not to discourage others from going out, I say this to invite people discover these new experiences, despite doing them alone. (Also to express my feelings in a healthy way, rather than wallowing and sleeping all day). My advice? Let yourself feel the full range of you emotions but don’t allow yourself to wallow in despair. Find passions and achieve greatness (cheesy I know).

See ya soon,
Perry

Traveling Thailand

 

When you travel to a European country, most of the time, the language is some form of Latin script based language. Thailand, however, uses a derivative of the Brahmic family, a script that is completely incomprehensible to me. It’s full of loops and squiggles, even the numbers were in Thai script! Though I have traveled before and consider myself a novice, traveling to Thailand was an entirely new (and exciting) experience.

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Thailand is unique is so many ways; for one – it’s full of temples. I think while Kyle and I were in Bangkok, we visited over 10 temples… in only 4 days. Some were small, some took hours to walk though, some were just ruins of a temple, some were just completed. It was astounding to see; the temples themselves were almost always elaborate with gold finishing. The buildings, called “wats” were built high and pointed toward the sky at every opportunity. When two sides of the roof met, there was an intricate piece of gold that squiggled up to the heavens above. Wat is borrowed word from Sanskrit, meaning “enclosure,” although I’m not sure why. All I know is that they are very distinct. There were some unique wats, specifically the temples in Ayutthaya. The temples there have been destroyed and are now in ruins. Nature took its course and began to grow in and around the statues and towers; even one Buddha statue was entrenched in a tree.

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One of the best parts about Thailand was the diverse transportation. Staying in Bangkok, there was the an abundant number of ways to traverse the city. There was a sky train, a subway system, and public buses; then you have taxis and tuk-tuks (3 wheeled motorbike); but what I found most fascinating was the River Express Boat. Yes, there was a public transit system on the river and its insane. The boat is crowded. The ride is anything but smooth. To top it off, there is constant whistling from the person in the back that guides the driver in the front. It’s funny to think that riding public transit is a must do in Thailand.

Like Vietnam, street food is very prevalent in Thailand. Down any street, there is a food truck like stand selling an assortment of food, anywhere from full meals to a light snack. Favorites include: mango sticky rice, so sweet with a coconut sauce poured on the rice; pad thai, salty, sour, and sweet all in one; and the infamous meat on stick, pork, beef, chicken and even fish! Not only were they delicious, they were so cheap too. Pad thai was only $1.50! Where can you buy that in America? Ahh right, no where. Then you have the not so savory food stand, selling a variety of crispy insects. My soul was not so brave to try any of the crunchy creepy crawlies. Seeing a fried roach is enough for me.

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After a long day to sightseein’, food-tourin’, and temple-splorin’, we decided to “relax” with a thai massage. Let me tell you, it was anything but relaxing. Thai massages are all about pressure points and targeted pressure. The masseur was basically pushing his thumb into my bone. Yes, INTO. It was not pleasant. I may have cried. Like one actual tear. Then, to top it off, we tried the fish tank, the one where fish eat your dead skin cells. It felt THE most strange… But surprisingly exactly how you would think it should feel: like tiny little fish biting your feet. It was slightly painful, slightly pleasurable, and abundantly ticklish.

Bangkok was truly a spectacular place to visit. The city was full of delightful and, at times, quite frightening surprises. There is plenty more to explore, but that’ll have to wait. Gotta keep traveling to new places in the world.

‘Til next time!
Perry