January 24, 2006
January 24, 2006 - As I read back through this journal, I couldn't help but laugh at how high-strung I was at the beginning of the trip. Many of my observations talk about what was different about Vietnam. By the end of this journal, my observations were simply that - observations. Or, even better, I noted things that were the same. I think that's the biggest lesson I've learned from this trip. Even though Vietnam is a third world country halfway across the world, when you get down to it, its not all that different. This really hit me once I got home and people started asking me what it was like in Vietnam, "Do they have this?" "Did you see that?" Most of the time the answer was "yes" and ultimately, "It wasn't as third-world as I'd thought it would be."
No doubt there are differences. The Vietnamese mentality is very different and, of course, the approach to governance. But when you get down to the root of everyday living, it’s all about people doing what they can to make a living. Of course, we don't have street vendors lining every major road of every town and yes, they get annoying. We do, however, have hot dog stands, people in trenchcoats trying to sell you knock-off watches, yard sales, flea markets, telemarketers, and door-to-door salespeople. And for those things for which you can't find something comparable in the U.S., all those things are are differences - not good, bad, or anything else.
I think the things that I'll remember most about this trip
are the things that I haven't written down here - anecdotal stories that enhanced the whole experience. I'll remember
the taller contingent on our trip taking picture after picture
with Vietnamese people fascinated by her stature; funny mistranslations like the donation box for "especially difficult children," and seeing a Cambodian couple cuddle together on their flat during siesta time. I'm glad I've kept this journal, but there was much more to the trip than what I've written down, and some of the experiences can't even be put into words.