It’s true, my friends. It was shocking how effective it was.

Let me tell you the embarrassing tale.

This was my goal: The front door to the big outside world.
Or rather, the door that leads to the alley that leads to the
big outside world.

After getting up early (about 3am) I was feeling pretty good. I’d had a good excursion Saturday, and added a number of things to my todo list that I felt were important. I felt confident in my first experiences with street vendors and xe om (motorbike taxis – so damn pushy!) and gotten a lot of water for my hotel room.

I got up and got ready for the day, showering in my crazy shower-room, and even whistled a little bit (I haven’t been singing much since I got here… weird). I dressed, looked in the mirror, told my reflection how nice he looked (he needs some encouragement sometimes) and popped open the todo list. My first 20 minutes was spent reorganizing and prioritizing, followed by a quick ‘n dirty flurry of internet activity that took 5 or 6 things off that list. It felt good. I felt good. It was time to go foraging for food and more water. Maybe I could find some more banh mi!

(Aside: Because most meals are cooked from fresh ingredients on the spot, I’m assuming this hunter-gatherer behavior will continue for awhile, until I can find an American grocery store that sells frozen burritos, ha ha. Protip: unattainable fantasy alert.)

I got my backpack, threw all my valuables in it (I take them with me every time I leave the hotel) and strode to the door. I opened it.

*WEIRD SOUNDS. WEIRD LANGUAGES. WEIRD SMELLS. WEIRD LEVEL OF HUMIDITY.*

I assume they applied it in the middle of the night.
With their minds, of course.

NOPE NOPE NOPE went my brain, and literally before I even knew what was happening the door was shut and locked again and I was sitting on the bed, my head spinning. What had just happened?

Maybe I was just feeling a little overwhelmed, or maybe I just needed some time alone, or maybe this is the very first moment of culture shock (or all three!) – whatever it was, it completely threw me for a loop. Suddenly I wasn’t hungry – at all – and clean water seemed like a nice extra… like small, warm hand towels, or Turkish Airlines stewards giving you free Turkish Delight (true story! If only Turkish Delight didn’t taste like nutty, plastic-y bubblegum). Certainly not something I needed to survive! I spit in your face, biological needs. I didn’t want more banh mi (!), I wanted a sloppy joe from my sisters graduation party that I was missing.

“Knock Knock!”
“Who is it?”
“VIETNAMESE CULTURE!”
“Vietnamese culture who?”
“OPEN UP, AMERICAN, WE KNOW YOU’RE IN THERE!”
“No today, motherfuckers!!” *cacklinglaugh*

I had a sinking feeling that I wouldn’t be leaving the room today. Well, no use debating it now – as I mentioned in a previous post, Have a Plan, but Be Flexible with Details! Since it was merely a jaunt I was after, and not a job interview, I had no problem working on things in my room today – or should I say in my own impregnable English-speaking bubble. I turned on the air conditioning, took another shower, and got back to the job boards, applying for a number of jobs and taking care of banking and financial matters. I talked to friends and family back home. Wrote a few letters. Journaled. Skyped my mom. Read a friends new blog. Got news that my cousin had her baby(!!). No Vietnam allowed in the clubfort, not today!

But the point is that it was, all of a sudden, completely and unexpectedly overwhelming to me. I suppose it’s only been 5 days that I’ve been on the ground here. It’s massively different than anyplace I’ve been or anything I’ve done. And now that I’ve had the opportunity to reflect (I’m big on reflection) I feel better about it and stronger for recognizing how truly different it is here and how hard this will be at times. I’m not going to be a tourist, in and out in a month. I actually want to LIVE here, and this culture will slowly become a part of my personal story, my mental makeup. Just… not yesterday.

It helped to have a day where I connected with Home so much, vie text, facebook, Skype, and Viber (and if you haven’t downloaded Viber and texted me, DO SO! The voice quality is much better than Skype, I’ve found). I feel refreshed and centered in myself after yesterday’s disorienting event.

Going through one door will lead
to the next, and the next, and the next…

Now I’m up again, much too early, and around 6am I’m planning on facing down that Invisible Forcefield surrounding my room once more – and this time, with a deep breath, I’ll let my feet do the thinking and I’ll head right through it (wouldn’t I be surprised if it was actually there? ha ha. The Sci-fi mind in me can never let go of the what ifs…).

I seriously do need the water, I suppose. You can get ARSENIC POISONING from tap water her! WAAAAT!! … mmmmmm, almond-y water, yum.

Anyway, here’s to today…

Rock on,
Ben