Sunday, April 24, 2011

The End... for now

It's here. My last day of my journey. In a way it feels like I've been gone a lifetime but really it's only been 4 short months on life's long journey. It's been amazing. I have loved every single second of it and feel extremely lucky to have been able to go on this trip. Sadly, I caught the bug. It's not terminal, it completely curable, but it will be with me forever. This was the first, of what I hope to be, many excursions out in the world.

Now I've got a full day of sad goodbyes, taxis, and planes awaiting me. If all goes according to plan I will end up in Troy, NY around 9pm on the 26th. I'm just hoping the Easter Bunny thought I was a good enough girl this year and has some of Easter's delicious leftovers waiting for me in the fridge!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Checking In

Sorry for the lack of blogging. With only 5 days left I am trying to soak it all in and show Patti around. We've been to the beach, the market, the best local restaurants, and of course souvenir shopping.

I have to say, Patti hit the ground running. Nothing seemed to affect her. No jet lag, no "I cants", the market didnt even through her for a loop. She's a trooper. It's nice to have her here. She's been a great reminder for me of what I'm excited to go back to at home. And she stops and looks at things that dont even phase me anymore, which is wonderful because it really makes me appreciate them and take it in one last time.

We have switched over from bicycle to motorbike which is amusing. Dan wont even come near us with a ten foot pole. We're on our way out to a night with Thang and Thuey to eat a traditional vietnamese meal. I'm sure it wont phase Patti either!

Hoping everyone has a wonderful Easter. See you all in a week!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Ms. Patrice Wright

She's here, she's here, she's here!!! My inner child spilling out. It felt like Christmas yesterday. Sitting in the lobby of the hotel waiting for Aunt Patti's taxi to roll up. At about 11pm I started to get a few knots in my stomach while every bad scenario that I could imagine popped through my mind. She arrived in good spirits willing and waiting to take on all that Nam has to offer.

We aimlessly walked the quite, cockroach infested streets until 1 in the morning filling each other in on our lives. After a wonderful sleep we headed out (in the rain) to explore. I am constantly having to look back as "the photographer" is seeing Vietnam through her camera. I told her one more day and then she's got to shed it and just be. She wants to show everyone back at home…, "I need to be their eyes too" I'm a sucker- she's totally (w)right.

Camera or no camera it's so wonderful to have her here. Pictures to follow soon!!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A tourist once again

I havent opened up "the bible" in 2 months and yesterday I found myself eagerly flipping through the pages. "the bible" I'm referring to is the tourist bible, the lonely planet. I havent had to use it in Hoi An and it just feels wrong dusting it off the shelf and bringing it back into circulation.

After an over night bus to Hanoi, I checked into my hotel at 7am this morning. I couldnt muster up the courage to head out on my own until 10 though. I blame it on the lack of sleep on the bus, but really I forgot how uncomfortable it is to show up at a new place and not know your way around. So after a great breakfast and a quick shower at the hotel, I headed out to parouse the streets, the very very very busy streets on Hanoi.

I got into my grove after 5 minutes. Dan warned me it was tricky to get around but I think that's because I'm the one always reading the map to him so I didnt find it too much of a problem. I went up and down what felt like a million streets, each one selling something different. I made a tour around the lake and then headed up to the market. That's where I started to get the grunts of people and the hand waves of "get out of my shop". I decided to call it a morning and headed back to the hotel.

After a refreshing nap I headed back out again to see what else Hanoi has to offer. I'm eagerly awaiting my aunts arrival. But that's not until 11pm tonight!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Realizations Galore

The last few days have been filled with realizations... It's been a month since I've moved into my apartment. Just like that, it snuck up on me. I packed up my things just as quickly as I unpacked them. My lease was only for a month, which is actually perfect because my Aunt Pattie is coming to visit and as we found out with my last visitor you need a special visa to be able to stay with me.

Of course I realized I was finished at 328 two days before I had to move out. I'm not sure that was enough time. Either way, I made sure to soak it all in, the cooking, the cards, the tailor shop next door, the rice wine, the laundry, and of course all of the laughs that go with it.

I woke up and found Ha working away like usual. She was shocked to see me. Dan's visa prevents him from staying with me, but it doesnt prevent me from staying with him. She cant understand why I stay at 328 and he stays in a hotel. For the tenth time, I explained that we were still happy, I just wanted to sleep in my palace.

After her motherly "you should do this/that" talk she let me pull up a seat and help her with the rice wine. Everyday they cook a 5 gallon bucket of rice that has to be broken up into each little particle. Usually I skip out on it, but with only 2 days left I couldnt pass it up. We sat there and giggled while the ladies in the tailor shop next door peeked their heads around the corner wondering what was so giggle worthy. They joined in on the conversation. 5 of us sitting and giggling, about what, I'm not too sure, but I was lovin it!

Dan pulled up as to what he would call girls "skwakin". They giggled some more and amused Dan while I got ready. As I was coming down the stairs they all gasped. I was too "black". They insisted I go put on long sleeves to hide my skin from the sun. Yeah right! We settled on a hat, A moldy chettah hat to be exact. I wore it with pride.

After a stroll through the markets in my stylin chettah hat, another realization hit me. I'm heading to Hanoi tomorrow and I have no clean clothes. Back to Ha's I went leaving Dan to stroll away in the old town. As I pull into Ha's she says, "laundry", almost like she could read my mind. I'm sure she saw all the filthy clothes I've been wearing. So I started scrubbing. All the ladies came over to see me. Of course I wasnt doing it right, like always. They tried to give me pointers, they told me to scrub harder, soak longer, repeat repeat repeat!!! Once again Dan pulls in to see them giggling away. This time I knew what it was about, Me!! Dan wowed them with his muscles, ringing out my clothes. Then we parked our bums in little plastic chairs and just watched the time go by.

Realizing we were late to meet Thuey and Thang for an afternoon of fun. Dan and I said bye to Ha and the girls and headed out on our bikes. We had another great night with them, once again ending early because that's what the vietnamese do. We cycled back to Ha's just in time to catch an evening game of cards. What a perfect day!

The next morning I spent laying around Ha's trying to soak it all up. Ha was chatting away as usual but she through in a few hand gestures that caught my attention. I asked her to repeat what she said. Something not lost in translation, for once. She explained that everyone is going to be sad to see me go. Realizing how fortunate I've been, I explained to her that I'd miss them all too, more then they'll probably ever know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Hai muoi ba

Hai muoi ba- My age in Vietnamese. It was one of the first things I learned to say when I got here. I was constantly being asked how old I was. 23- twenty three years young.

I've always heard adults talking about terrible two's and the awkward stage of adolescence, particularly 13, but no one ever talks about how weird it is to be 23. At least if they do, no one ever mentioned it to me. I always associated 23 with independence. But didn't I gain that when I turned 18?

I'm finding it difficult to deal with my current state- Hai muoi ba. I am treated as an adult- I partake in adult conversations. I make adult decisions- decisions I know I would have never made when I was 18. But deep inside, I feel that inner child that says, slurp all your banana shake, stay up as late as you want, or hey another day without a shower wont kill ya. (I am in Vietnam after all)

Luckily enough, in this wonderful town of Hoi An is an ex-pat community. A community comprised of adults and children. Notice how I didn’t mention young adults. I seem to be the only ex-pat in their twenties. So when I'm with the other adults I grow up a little. I put my big girl pants on and talk about the quality of life, life plans, finances, men, etc etc. And when I'm lucky enough to be thought of as a "cool/hip" adult, I am accepted into the children's circle. This is where I'm able to shed my big girl pants, let loose and talk about video games, the cool sound head lice makes when you squash it, giggle about funny words, and all the other silly topics that come with the careless aura of being a kid.

Maybe 23 is not weird at all. Maybe it's that special age where it's acceptable to be a kid and an adult. Where the big girl pants can appear just as quickly and effortlessly as they disappeared. Weird or not weird- I am 23 and I'm going to continue on being 23 until November. So for now I'm going to appreciate my adult conversations just as equally as I appreciate my giggles with the tweenie boppers.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Chasing Pavements

I had a quick chat with my sister-in-law yesterday and she asked, "Are you a changed woman?" I told her that I'm still the same ol' Meg, but the more I think about it, the more I realize I have changed. I definitely have a different outlook on life and have really enjoyed every single second, good and bad, about this journey.

With less than two weeks in Vietnam, my eyes and my ears are working on overdrive trying to soak up everything life over here has to offer. I cant stop thinking about how surreal it feels that I have actually been living in South East Asia for four months. Which I can assure you is 100% different than living at home.

Sadly, as hard as I try, I can't put my mind on pause. So yesterday when I was being the beach queen that I am, enjoying fresh seafood and great company, my mind kept slipping back to the next phase. I'm not quite sure I'm ready for it. Whatever "it" is. (That's a whole other issue in itself)

I do have to admit that it's really nice to have Dan back in Hoi An. I enjoyed every little second of my "me time" but with the next phase quickly approaching, it's nice to know that we're in it together. A together that's ever-changing but with what feels like infinite roots that keep us grounded and strong to get through those windy storms.

For now, I am going to embrace that 100% difference that South East Asia has to offer and be an unusual procrastinator and not think about the next phase. I'm going to enjoy my weekly mani-pedi, $2 bottles of nice wine, and the slow atmosphere that life is offering me right now because I know that everything is going to come to an end. If only I could pack it up, ship it home and have it all waiting for me when I get back to the States.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

April Fools No More

My last post I mentioned that Mr. Vong and Thang were stand up guys. Well, you can add Dan to that list. April 5th at about 10:30 there was a little bit of commotion downstairs at the front gate. Becoming one with my Vietnamese lifestyle, I poked my head out of my door to see what was going on. There he was, suitcase in tow, standing at my front gate. I dont have to joke about Dan coming to visit anymore. He's here!

I wish I could say it was a total surprise, but I knew it was coming. I even hired the motorbike taxi guy to pick him up. Which is a funny story in itself. I met Mr. Twan, the motorbike man, and explained my friend was coming in at 9:30pm at the airport (which is an hour away from where I live) I gave him a sign with Dan's name on it, some money and reiterated 9:30pm. The morning of the 5th I got a call from MR. Twan at about 10 am saying, "You're friend is not here" My heart sank. This poor guy just drove an hour to get Dan at the wrong time and he's going to have to do it again tonight. Once again I said 9:30pm. No need to worry, he showed up. Mini Crisis fixed.

Ha and Mr. Vong were already asleep when Dan got there so I called their cell phone and explained Dan was here. I don’t know if they actually understood that he was at their residence of 328 Cua Dai, but they didn’t protest...that night. The next day Ha asked what kind of Visa Dan had. C1- tourist which translates into he can only stay in a hotel. Of course she waited to tell us this until 3pm, so off on our bikes we went trying to either fix a visa or find a hotel. End result- Dan's in a hotel.

Sorry for my lack of blogging and email responses but it's been pushed to the last thing on my to do list. With only 20 days left on my adventure, I am enjoying the beautiful weather, the delicious food, the Borch's company, and now Mr. Dan Robbins.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Male vs. Female, Vietnam Style

We are all lucky enough to come from a country where women are equal to men. I would have to say Vietnam is a step up from India, but not by much.

Example #1:

I had the pleasure of going to another wedding today. After 3 other weddings, I knew what to expect so instead of taking in all the wedding traditions, I just people watched. We were at a neighborhood wedding where men and women were sitting together (big doings over here) I watched as the men were served first, and by women. I watched only men do karaoke, drink beer and smoke cigarettes. I watched all the men at my table get up before me, leaving me in the dust.

As we drove home, we pulled into the restaurant to see Ha sitting at a table. Once again, she was left at home to work while Mr. Vong got to enjoy. Don’t worry, I offered to watch the restaurant so Ha could go to the wedding. Her reply was, "You cook.. no more customers!" Sadly, I'd have to agree but I tried my hardest to make her go and enjoy.

Example #2

Yesterday, I changed and confirmed my flights for my travel plans home. I am heading home The 25th of April and arriving stateside on the 26th. This morning I had en email from Danny that read.."In proper Asian fashion, I (the male) got all of your travel information and updates, making sure that I am in the know on everything you are doing." Dan and I didn’t book our tickets together, we are on separate flights home from different countries and are currently in different countries as well. However, we did book through the same agency. Being in South East Asia, I guess that gives Dan the right to be in the know of everything that's going on with me.

Example #3:

While I was at the beach yesterday I ran into Thang, who is my friend Thuey's boyfriend. He was eating at a restaurant with a bunch of his friends. Harmlessly, I mentioned it to Thuey when I saw her (at the hotel, while she was working) and she rolled her eyes. Thang is an engineer, who decided to quit his job and find a new one. Well, he's been out of work for months now. So, we can all assume why Thuey rolled her eyes. They are supposed to get married in November, and all she said to me was, "I guess we'll just get married next year now"

Mr. Vong and Thang, through my eyes, are stand up guys who are just living the Vietnamese male life. It's a different world over here. Hopefully the next time I come to visit, things will be different for Ha and Thuey. We all know how different Vietnam is compared to 20 years ago. One only knows what the next 20 years will bring.

Friday, April 1, 2011

April Fools

April fools is a special bonding day for me and my mother. Admittingly, I play a mean and nasty joke on her that results, usually in a curse word and the sound of the receiver on the other end of the phone. After she realizes that I was only joking, it takes about a week and we're back to our usual mother-daughter relationship with a new story to joke about.

It started about 6 years ago when I was in College. I called to tell her I was getting kicked out of school for cheating on a paper. She was so ashamed. I had her in tears only to tell her APRIL FOOLS! Then the next year came, I was living in London and called to tell her I lost my passport. Furious, she assured me we'd get it all sorted out only for me to tell her once again- APRIL FOOLS! On and on it went, using car accidents and being pregnant- Yes, I know what you're all thinking. I didn’t know you could be so nasty, Megan. It's April Fools day everyone, a day when a little white lie is almost acceptable.

After the first year, I thought she'd mark the day on her calendar making sure it would never happen again, but sadly that's not the case. With my mother being a 9th grade teacher, I've got stiff competition. However, I've got the trump card- her telephone number. The trick is to make sure I'm the first one to get to her. Needless to say, it always happens before she goes to school in the morning.

I'm sure you're asking yourself- Why are you telling us all your secrets? Sadly, my mother has come to her senses. She must have marked the calendar this year. I got to the internet cafe promptly at 5:30pm (6:30am-NY time) to start the ball rolling for this years prank. As soon as she answered the phone, a quick I know it's April fools day came out of her mouth. My heart sunk. Well why not try it anyway, right? The conversation went something like this:

Mom: I know it's April fools day
Meg: Is that today? Oh
Mom: Yeah it is- anyways what’s going on?
Meg: I've a visitor- Dan came over from Thailand
Mom: You're kidding, that’s wonderful
Meg: And.... we're engaged!
Mom: MEGAN, Oh My GOD!!! Wait are you joking or are you serious?
Meg: Today IS April fools day mom
Silence- followed by more silence....

No Dan isn’t here and neither is the other part true, nor does Dan know I’d even planned on saying something like that. But I had to try to get her- I couldn’t go down without a fight.

Today was a turning point in my joke playing days on my mother. I think instead of using April 1st as a white lie day, I'll use it as a truth telling day, a special day to tell my mom just how much I love her (No mom, there is no April Fools followed by that) I love you and I cant wait to see you in a month!