My Last Day in Southeast Asia

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While Chris, his wife, and Bobby went to see the Cu Chi tunnels, Darrel and I decided to walk around the city so that I could soak up and enjoy my last remaining hours in Vietnam. We took off around the city to eat a breakfast of soup noodles, and went out towards the Vietnam War Museum so that I could see the exhibit before I bounced.

Bobby and Darrel said that I’d be shocked by how badly Americans are portrayed at the War Museum, but of course it was no surprise for me – it’s the same shit that I used to teach when I did our Vietnamese history workshop in AYPAL!

We had bomb-ass cafe su da’s from some lady vendor that Darrel likes and then headed into the museum. It was pretty dope, actually. The first floor was filled with official letters and protest photos from around the world, from all the countries that stood in solidarity with the Vietnamese during the war. The second floor talked a lot about the history – from quotes, letters, and photos documenting and analyzing the war…to horribly mutated still-born babies on display that were a direct result of all the Agent Orange bombs that the US dropped on Vietnam.  The third top floor was really interesting – it was a photography exhibit dedicated to all the international war photographers that documented Vietnam. Their shots and stories were amazing. Most died during the war – as they said in the “War Photographer” documentary I watched a few years back, many photographers who died were either newbies or folks who had been in the game for so long, they thought they were invincible.

Since we got kicked out around 1 pm for the museum’s lunch break, Darrel and I roamed around town to look for a computer that I could use. We didn’t find one, but we did find some good shops selling hats and knock-off brand name clothing. We found that the vendors in that area actually don’t bargain down their prices – I think because they usually sell to local Vietnamese folks and not tourists, the prices are what they are, they can’t go any lower. I got two plaid shirts (inspired by the fashionable folks in Siem Reap) while Darrel got a hat.

After taking a trip to the museum, we went back into town so that we could get facials. Darrel had never gotten one before, so we tried them out. As I had feared, the facials we got weren’t really facials. Afterwards, Darrel told me, “I don’t know why you chicks like that shit so much” – to which I replied, “those weren’t facials, those were hour long face massages”. Yeah, it felt kind of good, but it didn’t do what it was supposed to do – make my skin healthier and cleaner!

Darrel and I were supposed to meet up with Bobby, Chris and the wifey after they got back on their trip to see the Cu Chi tunnels (I heard bad reviews of the tour, so I avoided it), but after playing phone tag with Vinh (one of Tony’s friends in Saigon) I had to say my early good-byes to the four of them so that I could hang out with Vinh and see Kat again (she had traveled down to Saigon from Hanoi to see her old friends there).

I met up with Vinh and his folks at a street side restaurant that served pretty damn good food (except the brains – I”m not a fan). And of course, I got plastered drunk – folks out here just keep pourin the wine and beer! Vinh was hella nice. He entertained me and we got to know each other while we waited for everyone else to arrive. I also talked to Kat for a while, which was dope because she had been going through a lot of the same shit as me before she left her job in San Francisco to travel and go to grad school. Some people at her kept telling her that she was really needed at the organization, but other folks told her, “Kat, there’s always more work to be done – the movement will always be here!” It’s not like structural oppression is going away any time soon, there’s plenty of work to be done!

Talking to her about the pressures of our jobs (or past jobs), and expectations and judgments from others, made me feel a lot more justified about my trip to Southeast Asia and my decision to move on from my organization in the near future. Yes, I love AYPAL, but I’ve been there for 8 years now – sometimes we gotta move on – for our own sake, and the sake of the organizations we serve.

We talked about relationships, and falling into them. She didn’t plan on getting together with her current partner, but sometimes things just happen that way, don’t they? Life happens when you least expect it.

As I left the dinner party and took my final trip to the airport, I reflected on everything that I had done during my past month in Southeast Asia. I was hella sad to leave, but hella fcking thankful for everything. I came here with no expectations and walked away completely mind-blown. I really, truly couldn’t have asked for a better experience out here.

* * * * *

Good lawwwd. Traveling! I wish everyone had the opportunity to travel for long periods of time — EVERY year. I can’t  emphasize how much it opens up your perspective on life and helps you realize what’s really important – and what’s petty. I’m hella grateful for all the folks that I’ve met and talked to through my travels. I know I’ll be taking every conversation that I had…every experience that I went through…back with me when I return to my “regular” life in the states. Going on this trip was the perfect way for me to start over again in 2012 — with more determination, more confidence, more hope…and a better understanding of the vast possibilities that are open to me. I’m not so afraid to fuck up anymore. This year might not be easy, but it’s going to be monumental. I can feel it.

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Posted: January 30, 2012

Author: Tiffany

Category: Asia, Blog, Vietnam

Tags: , , , , ,


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