Monday, September 22, 2008

This is the story...

Written on the Airplane:

This is the story of my 48 day journey to find myself.

I had weeks to prepared, but nothing can prepare me. I realized when I was on the plane that I didn't pack comfort items. No stuffed animals, no snacks, no pictures. I'm going to Vietnam with nothing but an open mind.

I am already feeling alienated. You may think that I have an advantage because I have family, because I can speak, but you're wrong. I don't speak. I understand, sort of. I have family, but they are distant.

This is not a vacation, i am not traveling. I am searching.

Searching for inspiration. Searching for definition. Searching for myself. Somehow, I lost myself. Somehow, I became more of a shell than a person. Somehow I hit a wall.

And to me, this is how I find a solution. Not by running away, but by running in the right direction.


To the very last minute my mom took care of me. She washed my clothes and stuffed my two very large suitcases. One case full of gifts, another with personal belongings. Shampoo, clothes... replaceable items. I took inventory and realized that if I lost my luggage, I would be okay. Replaceable. Just back away from my FANNY PAK!

I am coming empty handed.


My mom is terrified. Terrified that her eldest son is traveling alone. But more terrified that he won't come back. She is terrified that I may reside in a country that she escaped from more than 3 decades ago.

The people who I talked to treat Vietnam like a shit hole. Like a place that used to be wonderful, used to be home. In fact, when people return to Vietnam they say, "going home to Vietnam." But now, it's a place not suitable to live, but perfect to visit for a very short period of time just to reminise. And for kids like me, it's a perfect place to visit for a short period of time because he lacks the comforts that we take for granted... like "real soap." Ever think about living here a couple of months? Didn't think so.

My mom warned me about Customs in Vietnam. My mom warned me about sweet girls who try and trick people like me to marry them so that they can escape. My mom dropped a large sum of money to get me an emergency vaccinaction so that I won't come back with Hepitias A.

The doctor who administed the shot also warned me. Don't trust anyone.
"I don't mean to talk down about Vietnam, but when people are poor... they will do anything."


Today was interesting. I woke up to a phone call at 6am. It was James. He drove to see me before I left. But for some reason, he wasn't really concerned about my parents catching him. "I'll just say hi." He was playful.

We kissed. We cuddled. I got it all out of my system so to speak because I ain't doing any of that in Vietnam. Today I realized that I have a relationship with him. A "gay" relationship in which he allocates a time where we belong together.
But when he leaves my door step he is a different person. Because he is SO many other things.. and to him we just sleep and comfort each other. Non commital, but stagnant and no one is complainning. Sound familiar?

He is probably against Gay Marriages.


My mom woke up right as he left. She was mildly upset that my suitcase wasn't ready. I lightened my suitcase. I became more minimal.

The gifts my mom packed, i take for granted: well constructed clothes, toothpaste, bars of soap.
"Do they really need this mom?"
"Yes! Everything there is fake."

Seemed real when I went there in 2006, but of course even in Vietnam I was sheltered by my parents. But not this time.


We were stuck in traffic 1.5 hours before my boarding time. I began to curse to the sky.

Stress and paranoia kicked in, but it cleared and I made it just in time.Check in was painless. Mony was there with Neil. Szeto and Joe were on their way,but I was anxious and boarded early. A phone call informed me that they we sad they didn't see me leave.

I got sad because i wanted that one picture with my boys before I left.
They are my true friends.

I called/text them before I left, joking that I cancelled my flight and they need to pick me up. I got lonely quick in the terminal. Really quick.


I sat next to a very humble and polite less than elderly, more than middle aged korean lady on the plane. She asked me some questions and I remembered my mom warning me not to indulge.
"I'm still a student, I go to Berkeley."
"Oh, you must be really smart."
"I'm okay."

It was at that point that I realized that I could have said anything to her. I could have reinvented myself. "Actually, I'm flying to Vietnam to find a wife... i already have 1 in thailand, I'm trying to get all of south east asia."
That would have provoked a more interesting response.

I watched random movies: Nim's Island and Run Fat Boy. I kept falling asleep so i did some exercises demonstrated on my screen.


I was excited to land in Korea. i wanted to see how different it was. But it was just like SFO, except with more Asian peo... Nevermind, it was EXACTLY like SFO. I wondered how developed Saigon would have been if they divided. North Vietnam, South Vietnam.

And here I am on my transfer flight. On the plane from Korea to Vietnam.
5 more hours and I land in a county so alien, yet familiar. Not because I grew up there, but because i want to be familiar with it.

What idiot would order western style when you can get Korean!?

I'm learning a lot about Korean culture on these flight. I've learned that they love this red chili paste and put it on EVERY rice dish. I was confused at first because it was larger than a travel tooth paste tube, but I soon learned that they use GALLONS of that stuff in every bowl.

My cousin informed me that I'll sleep in his bed and I let him know that I can sleep on the floor. After all, I have slept in jail.
"OH you're a tough guy now." Tough... maybe. Lost? Yes.

"I hope you find what you're looking for." I'll find something. That's for sure. I've wasted enough time.


dannie said...

i'm sure you'll find something. :]

JV said...

dang..I miss you already Anh...

mich said...

omg chris!! i can't believe you're actually gone. but i'm excited to hear about your adventures.