Also, as previously mentioned I grew a tail and that’s taken some time to truly cope with. “Has it come to this?” I’d ask myself every evening as I lay pathetically on my tummy, willing my tail to heal and not become a permanent fixture on yon derriere. Well the tail is no more… and I am sitting for long periods of time again (see: working day, evening classes) without having to shift awkwardly to even out the backside pressure. Now that you feel sufficient sympathy for my plight… I should like to tell you of my last few days in Indonesia; Vietnam respectively, and if you think you have ample sympathy for me now, just wait…
Let’s start by mentioning that my camera battery died in Cambodia (with my large intestine) and thus my Vietnam photo-documentation is courtesy of Ms. Terilyn. Thanks T!
We left the adventure at Ho An; where I spent the entire two days battling sickness in my hotel room (which was lovely so that helped) but was somewhat saved by the good Doctor of Ho An who made house calls and brought the pills with him (hear that America? HOUSE-CALLS! Where’s THAT clause in Health Care Reform, eh?). After not seeing Ho An, Terilyn and I boarded another plane to our final destination, Hanoi, Vietnam. We arrived at night and thus, found our hotel and decidedly went immediately to bed. It’s clear both of our bodies were giving us veritable red flags that they were running out of stamina. The next day, I was woozy but capable. Capable of browsing around the city and enjoying the sights of Hanoi, Vietnam. I’d like you to know, Internet, that Hanoi, Vietnam was my favorite city of all the Indonesian cities I'd experienced. Now this is saying something since almost my entire stay in Vietnam was plagued by a super-parasite my body did not have the weaponry to fully combat - I've only got American materials to work with! We took it easy, we took it slow, and really enjoyed a day out and about. We witnessed Catholic Cathedrals (St. Joseph's Cathedral particularly) in the middle of a very Asian City, which was a site in and of itself, and strangely, gave me a sense of familiarity and comfort. Isn’t that strange? I’m from Utah; and though I see the Cathedral of the Madeline almost every day, it’s nothing like the old French Gothic Cathedrals of the 17th century. Envision mini-Notre Dame’s. I think it was this site of Westernized architecture that made me feel not so far away… and when you’re sick… it helps not to feel so far away.
We also saw a traditional Vietnamese Water Show which was very entertaining for me. I’m easily entertained by very simple things – so long as they're genuine. I find a lot of depth in simplicity, and these little water puppets telling a story in a language I didn’t understand with music I don’t listen to, was really fantastic. Myths, stories, folklore, fairy tales, I don’t feel America has enough of these. Perhaps America is too young to have a lot of these; and thus I appreciate ancient cultures and their connection with the past, the ancient, their pagan Gods, and their desire for understanding of the natural things of the world. They don't allow the ancient to die, and that's how it should be.
This is the exact theater I sat in and watched the puppet show (curtosy of Wikipedia)
Moving right along...
We then made a very Westernized decision that perhaps was one of the most self-reflective decisions I’ve ever made – we decided to go to a movie. No… we didn’t want to see Vietnamese movies (espcially considering previous experience... see bus ride from hell), we wanted to see Ironman 2. Right??? We went to an American movie in Hanoi Vietnam, and I am not ashamed. I think seeing the Cathedral had given me such a smidgen of familiarity in my heart that I really wanted to take myself out of the foreign, exotic, and unfamiliar, for a few hours and find a comfort zone. Now, how’s that for self-reflection? Turns out, I’m attached to Western civilization. I'm a Westerner. I will never be truly exotic!!! What a tragedy... D'oh well.
Terilyn and I both agreed that after eating at Pizza Hut (yep! Again, NOT ASHAMED!) and seeing Ironman 2 was probably the best thing we ever did to recharge the old batteries for the remaining two days of our trip. The next day, we left for Halong Bay.
I was nervous about getting on a bus for 3 hours to travel to Halong Bay. I was nervous because I was still woozy, still sickly, and my intestines were most particularly done with moving vehicles and intense traveling from A to B to C to E,F,G… you get it. Oh, and the memory of the bus ride from HELL was still very fresh in both of our minds. This bus ride… well this bus ride TO Halong Bay… not bad. What was most enjoyable was listening to about the funniest, quirkiest, 60 year old British man chit chat with everyone on the bus, introducing us to his buddy, his 20 something daughter, and his 20 something son, who were traveling with him. This guy was a gem… and had I not been utilizing all my energy in basic functioning (blinking, breathing, etc), I would’ve become friends with this guy. Very good friends I expect. Alas… the opportunities lost. Our British friends were with us the entire two days in Halong Bay and for that, I was happy. I dig British folks. I have a strongly held belief I should've been British - of which I will address at a later time. We also traveled with two Australian women, a mother and her daughter, two French girls a la Paris, and a middle aged French couple; "Moi? Je parle francais un peu. Le petite poisson, oui? Tres bien". I practiced a little French. Happily, there were no Russians. You know how I've now become biased against Russians. Snort. Russians. A tender mercy, that. We traveled on a traditional Vietnamese boat, referred to as a “Junk.” We ate on the boat (great food… which I could thankfully nibble), chatted on the boat, and slept on the boat. We explored the bay and I was in awe of the hundreds of tiny islands throughout Halong Bay. It would be incredibly easy for an inexperienced, or even a somewhat experienced, sailor to get lost forever among the islands for a very long time. I’m always in awe of the natural beauty of this world and as incredible as our snorkeling experiences on the paradisical Phi Phi Island was, Halong Bay was almost equal to that. Many people have asked me if it’d be worth going back, given how far away it truly is, and I’ve told them, I’d do Vietnam again… I’d do Halong Bay for 7 days… and then Phi Phi Island for my last 7 days… and come back a more relaxed, self-reflective, humbled person than I’d ever been and likely ever would be. The good Earth provides us with everything we have, food, water, beauty, and in Vietnam I realized, it brings us peace, humility, and gratitude as well. Truly, this Earth has everything we’d ever want. The gift that keeps on giving
Here’s a sampling...
Now enters the second bus ride from hell. In fact, I would’ve taken the Blood-Spattering pornographic vomit bus ride again. Why? Let me tell you why. I felt I was going to explode. My body had lost. Completely. We returned on the Junk from sailing around Halong Bay and my body was simply done moving. Finished. It begged me for a bed… always for a toilet… and a vaut of super strength Pepto Bismol. Longest 3 hours of my life. Luckily, like the good Vietnamese Doctor, there were other Good Samaritans on the bus ride from Halong Bay. They took the form of two older Australian couples who made my eyes tear with longing for home when I caught them watching my scrunched face and doubled up body with incredible sympathy. It makes you want your Mommy. And I did! I did! Some people are just kind; they exude safety and goodness, and these Australians were that. We FINALLY, got back to our hotel where we were going to crash for 5 hours before starting the long journey home, and the Australian man, calling me ‘sweet’hat’ and ‘dahlin’ told me his hotel was literally 20 steps from ours and he had some extra strength Imodium AD that would ‘cure what’s ailin ya sweet-hat… fix ya right up.’ Terilyn, bless her, left me in the hotel room to shower and… er… pay homage to the porcelain gods, and retrieved the blessed Imodium. I took it with relish. Willing it to work. While I laid down, awaiting my Imodium to kick in, I wanted nothing more than to call my Mom. Right? Yet another reflective moment. In a time of extremity, all I wanted was Gatorade, chicken soup, and Mom. I had tried to call and or text her from Ho An… and naturally… my phone would not allow it. But, I thought I’d try it again… just… just for the sake of trying. It was 5am in America, it was likely even if I could get a text through, my Mom would be in bed. But I had to try it. The comfortable memories of Ironman 2 and the Cathedral were long filed away. I sent the text. It said it was sent. And I waited. “Ding..dong…” WHA?!??! It worked! Mom was responding! Oh tender mercy I’ve not had a better one! She was awake! She was texting! I was comforted… We texted for about 45 minutes and each minute gave me more strength to push on through. That, and the Imodium was truly kicking in. Naturally, for two weeks after that dark night I prayed that the Australian couple would be blessed with everything possible there is to bless Australian couples with. I also blessed Verizon for my 1 hour (I kid you not… 1 hour… and then it was gone) I was able to text my mom and get some motherly concern and comfort. These are the things that keep us going. People.
We left Hanoi at 11:00pm and landed in South Korea about 5 hours later (i.e. about 6:00am). You recall what I said about the ridiculous awesomeness of Korean Air… well might I tell you that that awesomeness is also reflected in their airport? IT IS! They had a lovely area meant for weary travelers to just pull up a reclining chair or cushioned bench and snooze. In fact, for a price you could rent a room and shower for several hours (not in my budget… but it was available!). They provided FREE (FREE) Internet and a lovely little Café for chillaxin. We didn’t leave South Korea until around 4:00pm… but I can tell you it was the easiest layover of the whole trip. We slept and slept and slept, ate, read, and before we knew it… were on our final International flight headed toward America.
I was so happy to enter America. And though LAX is a complete mad-house, we were home. And being home felt good. Another 2 hours and we dropped into Salt Lake City. If I hadn’t been in a sleep-coma I probably would’ve teard at the sight of downtown SLC as we approached the run way. As it was, I didn’t wake up until the wheels touched ground and I was jolted out of my sleepy darkness: "Who? What? No tuk-tuk!". Home. Home. Home. Enter Michael BUble: "Another sunny day.. has come and gone away.. .in Paris and Rome and I wanna go home..." (Mmm... Paris and Rome... anybody?)
It’s been over a month since I’ve been home. The souvenirs are handed out and I'm easily back in the swing of ordinary life. I only spent 2 weeks in the most foreign place I’d ever been, and may ever be, but it truly changed me. Perhaps nothing incredibly life-altering, but definitely some life-shifting. What I find amazing about traveling to any place, is how much you can learn about yourself; patience, appreciation, basic needs, comforts, and even love. I wouldn’t change anything about my trip, even the sickness and stress, because that was when I learned the most about myself and what really is important to me: the kindness of strangers, the comfort of home, the luxury of safety, and the connection of families in our very souls.
Plus, now I can enter social conversations with “Well… when I was in Bangkok…” which let’s face it, makes me a LITTLE bit cooler right? A tad. A tad cooler. Enlightenment and raised coolness... now that's a sweet souvenir!