While my year of study abroad was full of huge exciting moments often brought on by traveling from city to city on a monthly (sometimes weekly) basis, my life as a teacher in Vietnam moves at a much slower pace.
This is not a bad thing in the least, but it means that my “blog-worthy” moments aren’t as obvious or even as exciting to the average reader. Since moving to Can Tho over a month ago I have not left the city, nor have I ventured especially far from my neighborhood. I realized this today when I met up with a student for coffee, and she took me to a location I had assumed was super far away – the Big C shopping mall.
The mall is maybe 10 minutes from my house by motorbike – not exactly an insurmountable distance. The fact that this was a big excursion for me has made me sit back and reflect on how I spend my time here, and why, despite the lack of movement, I’ve generally been very happy.
To give a little context, I’ve defined my post-college year by a need to move around. After graduation I ran to Nantucket for a summer, then moved back home to St. Louis for a PR internship. Returning home was not a decision I had anticipated, and the minute I finished my internship I began traveling as much as I could. From January to August of 2014, I think the longest stretch of time I spent in St. Louis at one time was 4 weeks, and that was mostly because my plans to visit Israel fell through. You can see a sampling of my travels in the photos below. Basically, I tend to get antsy being in one place for a long time.
Despite my love of travel, I’ve found myself happy and generally content to get to know Can Tho. While I would of course like to see other parts of Vietnam and South East Asia, I don’t feel any rush to get out and about. I only just made plans to travel to Tra Vinh (2 hours away), to visit a friend, and have no other excursions on the horizon. Part of this is definitely my teaching schedule, but I think it has more to do with discovering a different type of excitement. An excitement that comes from really getting to know a new place, and making it my home.
Because that’s what Can Tho is now, it’s my home for the next year. And it’s full of small adventures, from making new friends to learning how to maneuver a bicycle on the crowded streets. It’s going to the nearby swimming pool right before a storm, and deciding with my friends that we won’t let the rain stop us, because this is Vietnam and pools don’t shut down when it rains. It’s trying endless new foods, learning how to get my students excited about learning how to order in a restaurant, and struggling to understand what my neighbors are trying to tell me when they emphatically point at my bicycle and wave their hands (still no idea on that one…).
I’ve settled into a great routine of coffee shop afternoons, classes in the evening, and grabbing beer with friends after work. And despite the routine, it still feels new and exciting. Maybe this will change in a few weeks, but for now I’m going to sit back, sip my coffee, and enjoy the small adventures as they happen.