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

 

 

Living Your Own Life

What’s stopping you from doing what you want to do?

In the last eight months, I’ve heard repeated comments and compliments of what an incredible journey I am experiencing. Absolutely, I am having a marvelous time exploring Vietnam and getting a taste of the culture here. But I also hear comments about how others envy my life and are jealous of the path I have chosen to explore. Comments like  ‘Wow Perry, I am so jealous of your life. I’ve always wanted to do something like this.’

I had a moment to reflect about this (… in the shower, naturally). And it prompted me to think about whether I am envious of anyone else’s life. Am I happy with where I am and what I’m doing? The abbreviated answer is a resounding yes. I couldn’t imagine anywhere else that I want to be – at least for now.

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The purpose of this post is to not convince you to sell all of your stuff and book a one way to a foreign country (although I support that decision), the point is to ask yourself: Are you living your own life?

Loaded question, many meanings, complicated and confusing; I know. To answer, self-reflection is required. It’s easy to get lost in the illusion of happiness and stuck in routine – coasting on the comforts of the past and riding on the coattails of previous successes. Day in. Day out. And ultimately day lost. Tara Branch says “The way you live your life today… is the way you live your life.” In other words, your life is not only the compilation of days you choose, it’s everyday.  If you spend today dreaming and lusting after someone else’s life, who’s life are you really living?

This isn’t a one and done kind of mentality; it’s constant. Constantly thinking about what you’re doing, if you’re happy, and where you want to be. Without a doubt, there are barriers to following these worthy desires. These are the few questions I had to ask myself when I wanted to make a change. Be forewarned, they can’t be simply answered with yes or no.

Do you have the means? AKA the dinero; can you afford this decision? Saving up for a big adventure sometimes isn’t always realistic. Set something up where you can make money as you are pursuing your passion (or get a daddy). While money isn’t everything, it plays a role in you eating. So make sure that you have the ability to eat.

Is this something you want or just like the idea of? Often I get caught up in the fantasy of the unknown. It’s exciting and it’s perfect. But reality has a stark difference in opinion. Don’t blindly make a decision and hope for the best. Do your due diligence and research. Be prepared… And hope for the best.

What’re leaving behind? Regardless of what you do, there is some cost. If you seek a new job, you have to let go of the last. If you want to move, you have leave behind people you love. If you want to get out of a relationship, don’t ask me for advice. There will always be an opportunity cost for any decision. It’s not only about what you leave behind; remember, you will gain something from your pursuit.

So I ask you again: what’s really stopping you? Don’t live vicariously, simply live.

Ready, set, go.

Preflight Jitters & Postflight Jetlag

Finally, it came the day where I had to leave the country and set off on a new adventure.

I remember as I was finishing packing and weighing my bags how nervous I was to be leaving the country (again) for such an extended time. To be quite frank, I knew very little of Vietnam and how to live there. All I knew is that Vietnam is different. It’s a developing country meaning there will be a stark contrast to what I am used to in America.

IMG_6396My journey began with a trek from Portland to the Seattle airport (flights were cheaper there). A 3 hour train ride to Tukwila was actually pleasant, a pretty easy and comfortable ride. After arriving at the station, I met up with a fellow traveler/co-teacher to Vietnam. We are both doing the same program and happened to live in the area so it worked out great to travel together. It was another 10 minute drive to the airport where TSA and airport security took especially long. Apparently I couldn’t have a aerosols, even in my checked in… “flight hazard.” There goes my shaving cream and bug spray. Cue sadness.

Thirty more minutes of shuffling through security and over two hours of waiting later, we were off to South Korea for our first layover. The planes were decent and I managed, as well as I could for being on a flight for 12 hours. One the plane, I was surprised because our meals were served with real silverware – Korean Bipbimbop!

We arrived and had a long, overnight layover in Seoul. But I lie, because the layover is actually in the Incheon, which was about 30 minutes from Downtown Seoul. I wanted to head out into the city but after some recommendations to stay inside by airport staff, Raychel and I decided to give ourselves a tour of the area. Surprisingly, there are “cultural centers” at the airport specifically designed for foreigners to experience Korean culture. We painted whats called a “Dancheong,” roof tiling that provide symbolic meaning for preventing fires and pests.

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Incheon Airport is renouned as one of the best airports in the world. There were free showers to use, tons of food places, even a Taco Bell! We stumble around a bit longer passing time and head to the designated “Nap Area” to crash for the night. In the morning, we board the final flight to Hanoi. A quick five hour flight, and off for another mini adventure. Eight hours wandering in Hanoi, a mango smoothie, some Asian chicken, a sweaty walk around the lake and we were finally headed on yet another six hour transit to the final destination, this time by train.

A total of 51 hours to get from Portland to Vietnam, 23 of which were in transit. I made it. Traveling for me always feels surreal. It never feels like the day has come even while on the plane. It only feels like I have moved to a new country when I have been living there a while. This time, it felt real after just a short few days. I think the extreme humidity and the complete change in culture may have some thing to do with it.

More updates soon,
Perry