Adventures as Miss Saigon

Archive for the ‘moving’ Category

Just got this email from my mom…

“awake since 4am…no I am not excited.”

Don’t worry momma! I won’t be sleeping much tonight either!!!!

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I have 14 hours left before I check in for my flight back to Canada, 3 hours at the airport then 21 hours in transit!

I’ve spent the day trying to pack 8 months worth of my life into 2 suitcases, getting my last Vietnamese pedi and my last cheap hair cut, colour and facial. I’m now hanging out at at cafe and will be meeting Wendy shortly for sushi dinner. I can’t believe it’s all coming to an end……

But I’m so excited to be heading home! Catching up with everyone over the next two weeks before I head back to work will be so amazing!

This is a time of serious reminiscing and reflection for me…I can’t believe how much has changed in the past 7.5 months (8 by the time I step foot in Canada again).

Back in September, the night before my early morning flight out of Toronto, I was an emotional mess. I stood in the shower at my mom’s house (where I had been staying for the 2 weeks prior to leaving) crying and crying and crying…for the first time, unable to cry this much in front of my mom. I didn’t want to upset her any more than she already was, and I didn’t want to show her or the rest of my family how scared I was.

Now, the next 2 weeks of my life will be a blur…I’ve had the start of some very difficult goodbyes to say today. Tomorrow evening I fly to Australia and return back to Vietnam on May 8th for 36 hours before beginning my journey home to Canada the morning of May 10th. One minute, I’m so excited to be coming home, the next minute, I’m so sad to be leaving Vietnam. I can’t wait to see my family, friends and puppy…I’m devastated to be leaving J and my wonderful girlfriends here.

I’m struggling. I don’t want this to end. But I want to go home. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m sad. I’m happy. I’m confused. I’m confident. I’m smiling. I’m crying. I’m up. I’m down. I’m anxious. I’m calm. I’m filled with so many conflicting emotions, all at the exact same time.

I’m a mess. An emotional mess.

“If you’ve never failed, you’ve never lived.”

Today officially marks 6 months in Vietnam, and I have a big announcement…I’m moving home earlier than planned. I still have some details to work out, but I should be home in 2 months time.

Let me explain my decision, as best that I can. This has been a difficult decision for me, and definitely not one that I took lightly at any point in time. I am not running away from anything in Vietnam. I am still enjoying my time here, and haven’t had any dramatic experience here that would make me want to leave. I enjoy the people, the lifestyle, the traveling, my work and my friends. I am also not moving home due to extreme homesickness or any problems at home that I need to get back for. I made this decision on my own, with a clear head. I am moving home, because for the first time, I just knew that it was the right thing to do. My heart and my head both agreed that I needed to do this for me, and once I allowed myself to start thinking that this was a possibility, the clearer it became that I need to be back in Canada and the more I ached for it to happen.

The decision to move home has been just as big as the decision to move here in the first place. This decision has a lot of implications and complications- especially for J, the little guy I’m working with, and his family, and for my supervisors and friends here. There’s also potential complications with me returning to my employer in Canada earlier than anticipated. Thankfully, and most importantly, it looks like my supervisor has been able to find a therapist to replace me, so there will be minimal impact on J and his family. Leaving J is the most devastating part of this whole situation. After spending 6 months with him, I really feel like we’ve bonded and I’ll miss working with him every day.

There are a lot of unknowns in my future right now, and a lot of things that I am terrified about. Most of these things are things I would have had to deal with in 6 months time when I was due to return to Canada at the end of my contract…they’re just coming up sooner than I had planned now. I’m unsure of what my life will look like back in Canada – unsure if I can go back to my job early, unsure of where I’ll be living after my temporary stay on my mom’s pullout couch (both where I’ll find an apartment and what city I’ll choose to live in), and unsure of my future education plans. I’m terrified that I’ll be seen as a failure for not surviving 12 months in Asia. The handful of people that I’ve spoken to already about my decision have been supportive (thank you), and at the end of the day, I have to remind myself that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. I’ve lived in Vietnam, traveled through Asia (and Australia soon), and have come out of this experience stronger and more confident in all aspects of my life. I’m also still scared that I’ll return to my old ways in Canada, but I know I’ll just have to make conscious decisions to change my ways.

So, two months left in Vietnam. My mission is to make the most of my time here…with J, with my friends, and embracing the travel plans I have already booked and paid for. This coming weekend, Wendy, Laura and I will have our last trip together to Bangkok. Bangkok was supposed to be one of our first trips together, but was delayed, and now I’m more than a little excited that it’s almost here! I’m also supposed to spend a weekend in Bali in early April (although there’s some complications with connecting flights that I’m trying to sort out…stupid budget airlines in Asia!), and have 12 days in Australia before I head home.

I can’t wait to go home. I can’t wait to see my mom, my sister, my nanny and the rest of my family. I can’t wait to catch up with my friends. I can’t wait for cuddles with my furbaby, Lexi. I can’t wait for the comforts that I took for granted and that I had no idea I would miss when I moved here. Watch out Canada…I’m coming home.

Obviously, when I decided to move to the other side of the world, I knew there would be many things I would quickly miss…my family, friends and dog top that list.

Just over three months into this year long journey, there are many things that I’m now missing that may have caught me off guard…things that I didn’t realize I was so attached to at home…

  • the freedom of having a car…although transportation is cheap and easily accessible here, I miss being able to just jump in my Civic and go.
  • seasons! It’s difficult to keep track of the months when the weather is more or less the same everyday…hot, hot, hot! I actually miss the routine of snow (waking up early to scrape off the Civic, repeatedly cleaning off the Civic throughout the work day, unexpected and always welcomed snow days), the comfort of seeing your breath on a cold winter day, and most of all, I miss wearing sweaters, scarves and toques!
  • “regular” food…I rarely eat meat here (the girls I work and hang around with here are all vegetarians and I don’t necessarily trust the meat in Vietnam) and I’ve been trying to indulge in Asian cuisine (which is all very delicious), but I really do miss my mom’s home cooking! I already have a list in the works of the meals I want to eat when I get home!
  • living in the same time zone as my family and friends…12 hours makes if difficult to connect with people at home some times.
  • music…at home, it was natural for me to always be listening to the radio or my iTunes, downloading new music whenever the mood strikes, and going to live shows on a regular basis. Here, I have to go out of my way to listen to music – my computer is becoming slower and fussier by the day making listening to iTunes challenging, internet in Vietnam is mostly just slow, so downloading music is rare, and although Wendy and I went to Loretofest, it will never completely fill my Trews void!

On the flip side, there are things I already know I will miss about life in Vietnam when I do finally return to Canada…

  • palm trees and the many other joys of living in a tropical climate! I hate wearing socks, so constant sandal weather is perfectly okay with me!
  • the cost of living and traveling in Vietnam and Southeast Asia…I make similar money to what I made at home, but instead of going paycheck to paycheck in order to afford the lifestyle I was comfortable with, here, I can afford that lifestyle, can afford to travel almost every weekend, and can also save.
  • delicious, amazing, cheap, fresh food…simply changing how and what I eat here (due to availability and personal choices) has caused me to lose approximately 30lbs in the 3 months I’ve been here. And, the best part is, I don’t feel like I’ve sacrificed anything.

Despite the homesickness roller coaster and all of my Canadian comforts that I’m really missing, I’m still trying to focus on enjoying my time here…I’m aware that this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I don’t want to miss anything. Three months has never gone by faster and slower at the exact same time.

…but I didn’t want to!

After finally recovering from food poisoning, I have had the most amazing couple of days. On Wednesday, my supervisor, Tony, came for a visit to my afternoon session. We were at the school playing and J was in a fantastic mood. Tony gave great suggestions and feedback, and on the way home, we stopped for a quick drink at the tavern. Tony and I had a good chat about J’s program and the future of ABA in Vietnam. I think if Tony had his way, he’d like to see me stay here and be a part of building ABA here with him and Laura. And as much as I’d love to, this girl needs to return to Canada come September 2011. It would be an incredible career opportunity to stay here, but it’s just too far from home.

On Thursday evening, I met Wendy for a ca phe sua da at a little cafe near our apartments. Paris (the cafe) is complete with a mini Eiffel tower and the comfiest hanging chairs I’ve ever sat in. If Wendy’s not at home, we know to check the hanging chairs at Paris, where she will likely be found curled up with her current book. Wendy and I had a great chat and laugh about our previous weekend in S’pore.

Friday evening, Wendy and I went out for comfort food…pasta at an Italian restaurant right by our apartments! It was satisfying on so many levels…the restaurant atmosphere, the plateful of carbs and the great company were all wonderful! After dinner, we headed to Laura’s to plan our trip to Cambodia, which is taking place right after Christmas, and is where we will spend New Years Eve. We should have learned from our issues when booking a hotel in Phu Quoc Island for Christmas…it’s a peak travel season, even in Asia! Getting a place to stay in Phnom Penh won’t be an issue, but one of our island destinations was already booked up. We’re now hoping to book into Jonty’s Jungle Camp for a few nights before heading to Tranquility Guesthouse on Serendipity Beach in Cambodia to celebrate New Years Eve.

Chris and Carly a few months ago celebrating Chris' birthday...I'm pretending they were here celebrating mine!

Yesterday was my 26th birthday (and also J’s 3rd birthday, although I think our celebrations were VERY different!) Birthday cards arrived from my extended family on Wednesday and Thursday, and I was so excited to open them! I’ve never cried while opening birthday cards before, but it meant so much to me to get all these cards. Saturday was really all about me. I slept in, spent all morning and part of the afternoon on Skype catching up with so many people. At 3, Wendy and Laura came over and we went to the salon that’s almost directly outside the door to my apartment building. Laura had her hair cut, shampooed, styled, a massage and a face mask for $10! I opted to get a pedi, complete with a hand painted flower design, for a mere $3! I can’t wait to go back for more pampering!

$3 pedi...amazing!

From there, we met Tony and his lovely wife, Trang, at the tavern for a few drinks before heading out for Japanese dinner. Dinner was unbelievable, and my first taste of raw fish! I had tuna, salmon, octopus, shrimp and eel, and it was all washed down with sake. The rest of the night was spent drinking and dancing at a club called Lush, and then more drinks back at the tavern, where we closed the bar. I was spoiled rotten by Tony, Trang, Laura, Wendy and Zuzana. Not only did they treat me to dinner and drinks, but also gave me a spa gift certificate!

Laura and I at Lush

Tony and Trang at Lush

"dancing machine" Wendy and the boys at Lush

Me and Laura at the tavern...Laura deleted most of my pictures so these are the only ones I have!

karaoke queen at the tavern

I’m really loving life in Vietnam right now. Work with J is going really well, I’m surrounded by amazing people, we have so many travel plans in the works, and most importantly, things seem to be going well at home in Canada. I don’t think I could ask for anything more! 6 weeks down…!

yes, I did get a drink named for me last night! Andy, at the tavern, renamed the "mudslide" the "megslide" and said it would stay there forever and ever!

I’ve been contemplating my first real blog for a while, wondering what to say and where to begin this unbelievable adventure, and I still don’t feel like I’ve come up with the right words. But here I go anyways…!

I’m in f’ing Vietnam! I was told by a recent newcomer to Vietnam that I’d wake up and say that exact line, and that’s definitely been the case! The actual journey here was ridiculously long…after all the driving to Toronto, waiting at the airports and time spent on the plane, I’m guessing that it took me 35 hours to get here. But both my luggage (all three checked bags!) and I made it here in one piece, and the family I’m working for was waiting at the airport in HCMC to greet me! After arriving at my new apartment, my new coworkers and new supervisor all came by to welcome me here. It was great to finally meet all of the people I’ve spent so long emailing and skyping!

view from my apartment on the 12th floor

After unpacking and a long night’s sleep, my next mission was to get settled into my apartment. My immediate feeling was panic…I knew exactly where to get the items I needed at my local WalMart in Ontario, but where the hell do you get the basics in Vietnam?! Next stop, LotteMart, my WalMart away from home! Even the little things in a foreign country, where English isn’t the main language spoken, are incredibly difficult! So many fruits that I didn’t recognize from home, product labels written in Vietnamese, and a currency that is very strange! 1USD = approx 20,000VN dong, and 20,000VND goes a long way!

Traffic here is unreal! At first glance there are no rules, no organization and no limit to the number people or objects that can be piled on one xe om (motorbike). I’m slowly starting to get the hang of crossing streets here, and am beginning to understand the basic idea of traffic here…I’ve even come to the realization that I can not avoid riding a xe om here (sorry mom)…my first xe om ride was on the back of the bike belonging to the mom I work for. She drove me home (a 5 minute ride) after my first morning at work. The little 3 year old I’m working with stood calmly at the front of the bike, while I held on for dear life on the back. Everything went well until we pulled up to my apartment and I had to get off. I was so focused on not touching the exhaust with my leg, that I must have forgotten to maintain my balance and fell off the xe om! Thankfully my worst injury was a bruised ego, and my supervisor kindly took it easy on me the next day! “I’m slowly lowering the bike to the left” was my prompt to carefully climb off the back of his bike, and a week later, I feel like a pro!

traffic in District 1

This past weekend, 2 of the girls and I decided to journey into District 1 (aka downtown). Our first stop was Ben Thanh Market, where the sounds, smells, beautiful colours and women grabbing you to come into their shop were all an amazing assault on the senses. Later, we met our supervisor and his friend at the Sheraton Hotel for drinks on the 23rd floor to watch the sunset. It was an incredible view of the city, and two-for-one cocktails! Dinner and more drinks (and lots of people watching) were then had in the backpackers area in District 1.

inside Ben Thanh Market

Work has been keeping me busy! The little boy, J, is so sweet, but it’s tiring work spending each day trying to play and pair and get him to like being with me. Luckily, I have a great family to work with here and an amazing group of coworkers to turn to for support. It’s going to be quite the year, watching J grow and learn!

Besides leaving home, moving to a new country and starting a new job, this week has been especially difficult for me. In a few hours, my mom is going in for surgery at home, and it’s killing me that I’m not there to be with her. She’s the strongest woman I know, so I know everything will be okay soon, but we’re really close…I just want to give her a hug and tell her how much she means to me…I love you mom!