Saturday, August 3, 2013

Closing Vietnam in Africa


First off, I would like to apologize for the delay in posting about the end of my trip to Vietnam. It was definitely hard to leave and there may have been a few tears shed on the way to the airport at 2am the morning I left. There may have even been a few more than that here and there in the past few weeks. Almost immediately following my arrival back in the states, I unpacked, did laundry, repacked, and headed to UMARMY for a week. That post will have to wait for another evening. I came home from that and have since spent the past week and a half in a whirlwind of friends, VBS Kenya prep, shopping, packing, shopping, packing, more shopping, and even more friends! It was a wonderful time catching up with old friends and hanging out with new friends! I cut out a bazillion Jonahs, whales, and strings (with the help of some awesome friends (thanks Melissa, Katy, and Zach)! Oops, this is sounding like the beginning of my Kenya trip. Let me get back to Vietnam.

First, I'd like to share about things I found interesting or learned while in Vietnam. Listing them seems the easist but in no particular order of importance so:
1. Street sweepers- now when I think of street sweepers I think of those truck things with the spinning circular brushes at the base that drive slowly down the sides of streets. NOT the case in Vietnam. They are actually people with brooms and large trash bins on wheels that go around sweeping and cleaning streets!
2. Turtle tails- these are actually what we consider rat tails. Much cuter name than ours but same meaning. It's a long tuft of hair that grows at the base of the hairline. I also saw quite a fe mullets.
3. Mole hairs- men actually let the hairs on their moles grow on their face out! I saw some pretty long hairs! They view it as a sign of bad luck to cut it, I believe. I think it also has to do with having wisdom. Can't remember exactly.
4. Hello- I was greeted so many times a day! Everyone wanted to talk to the American, even if they only knew hello, what is your name, how are you, and where are you from. I even made quite a few introductions on the back of Heather's motorbike at stoplights!
5. Have some more- they love to offer you food. Lots of food. And lots of tea. Even if you are full, they keep adding to your bowl! I thought I was going to explode when we visited a family in Ben Tre! They're so friendly and giving!
6. Shoes off- this took me a few days to get used to, but every time you enter a home you take off your shoes. Even some businesses/restaurants asked that of you.
7. Unison- while staying in Ben Tre one weekend the people I was with prayed  before each meal. At the end of a person's prayer (in Vietnamese) they all said words in unison. I never did learn what that was, but I thought it was nice. A way of pulling everyone into the prayer.
8. Motorbike accidents- if minor there would usually an exchange of money on the side according to damage. If major, they do not move the bikes, even if someone is unable to get out from under his/hers on their own. I also think most accidents are caused from drunk drivers.
9. Bribes- did you know that the majority of people driving motorbikes do not have licenses to drive? There are lanes that motorbikes are required to stay in and police will stand on the of the streets and wave you to the side if they see you cross the line! Since most people do not have licenses, they name their price so that you can drive away.
10. Hammocks- in most homes there is at least one hammock inside! I love this because I love hammocks! I wish I had space in my place for a hammock inside!
11. Affectionate- a lot of the people I met while there were very affectionate. I really enjoyed that. As a single person who lives alone, I don't get touched very much. There were lots of friends there that liked to hug, to link arms while walking, lean on while sitting, or even lay over on to use you as a pillow. It was quite refreshing to be so comfortable and loving toward one another.
12. Building up- there are lots of tall buildings in Vietnam. But they are not typically very wide. That's because places build up instead of out! The house we were house sitting at was 3 floors and Heathers place was 2.
13. White desire- most Vietnamese people (especially the ladies) have a strong desire to have as white of skin as possible. To achieve this, they wear jackets or long-armed gloves, face masks (also for pollution), long socks if in shorter pants or skirts, and always socks with their flipflops or sandals. I find this interesting because most of us white people seek to be as tan as possible!
14. Cheese- well, cheese is limited and more expensive there, but that's not the cheese I'm talking about. Vietnamese LOVE to take their picture with you! Even if they haven't met you! If you happen to be nearby when they take a group photo, they will ask you to be in it! I took lots of pictures with people at coffee shops and such.
15. Dong- that's what they call their money. The exchange rate was 20,000 dong to $1. Of course, that's much easier to figure out than Kenya's. They have an 85 to $1 exchange rate.
16. Locks- every house has a gate in front of it and a door on the house. Both of these are locked with key locks. These key locks can be very tricky because they are exposed to rain and such and can get very difficult to open. I learned that cooking oil will help a lot!
17. No parking- everyone parks their motorbikes inside their living room at night!
18. Music- in almost all coffee shops, malls, and such they play almost all English music. The only time I heard Vietnamese music was when I went to karaoke with friends.

Next, FAQ.
1. Have you considered long-term missions? Yes, I have. I've felt called to the mission field ever since I was younger. I just never had the means or support to seek it out. I absolutely LOVE being on mission and long-term has been on my mind and heart a lot this past year.
2. Did you like Vietnam? I LOVED Vietnam! Everyone was super friendly and I really enjoyed serving every way possible, mainly in just loving on others.
3. Would you go back or live there? I would definitely go back if I have the opportunity in the future. I made some great friends while there. I could live there if I felt called there. It would just come with some difficulties I'm not used to experiencing.
4. What exactly was I doing there? Mostly just being friendly, loving on people, being in conversation with them, assisted with English lessons with both kids and adults, loved on children at an orphanage, talk times in coffee shops, loved on and encouraged Heather, and even went to a few youth group outings and planning meetings.
5. Was it hard to leave? It was EXTREMELY hard to leave. I still get sad when I'm home alone in the evenings.
6. Did I enjoy the food there? What type of food did they have? I did enjoy the food. I tried many new things. Lots of rice, pork, eggs, and spring rolls. They also had lots of American fast food places to choose from when I wanted that. They have pho which is kind of a noodle soup and I even tried goat brain hot pot!
7. What was I most looking forward to getting back to? Lucy, Lucy, Lucy! Also, my small group, River service, cheese, and Mexican food!
8. What was Vietnam like? In the city, it was very crowded, building to building, with many floors. The streets were packed with motorbikes and cars at all times for the most part. There were lots of nice big bridges which means there were lots of bodies of water. People burned their trash curbside and many use water sources to dispose of trash. On the countryside, there were lots of fruit trees and the rice fields were the prettiest most vibrant green you've ever seen. It was cooler there because of the rainy season, but it only rained maybe a week's worth of my month long trip all together. There were many poor people who walk around trying to sell lottery tickets. Also, lots of street vendors walking around trying to sell you stuff. Most things were pretty cheap. The street coffee was yummy. The glass was filled about a quarter full of half sweetened condensed milk and pure coffee syrup and the rest was all ice. You had to wait for the ice to melt and constantly stir it to finally get to drink it, but I enjoyed it a lot!
9. Where do you feel called to serve? I still have no idea. I feel called to go, but I have no idea where. Maybe after my summer of missions I'll have an idea or specific.
10. Where to next? Well, after Vietnam I went to UMARMY and now I'm in Kenya! God only knows what's next!
11. How long was I there? I was there one month, June 3rd-July 3rd.
12. Why Vietnam rather than close to home? Because Vietnam had been on my heart for the past few years. I feel more called to the ends of the earth than I do right here at home. And I do not use that as an excuse not to serve at home. I happen to be very involved in home service as well.

My personal reflection questions:
1. What was most difficult? Could I live life there through those difficulties? The most difficult thing was not being able to talk freely and openly about Christ, the real reason I was there, and how Christ has moved in my life and heart. I couldn't offer them the same hope I have in words. It is purely building relationships hoping that eventually one day they will ask and God will open the door for you to share. It would be very difficult for me to live life like that. I would feel like I was hiding my hope away and possibly have a very hard time knowing that I'm making a difference even if I'm not sharing Christ with others through words.
2. How was God's presence felt and made known? I was filled with peace at all times! I'm a fairly anxious person and meeting new people can be hard for me. But I never struggled at all with that while there. I went to talk rooms on my own and talked with a room full of strangers multiple times. Heather and I were involved in a somewhat minor motorbike accident and I remained completely calm and at peace. Me and another girl were pulled over by the police and I never felt anxious. My heart never raced. It was like I was surrounded by and covered in God's all-surpassing peace! Also, in the friendships I made while there. I miss them!
3. What was I NOT looking forward to getting  back to? I was not looking forward to getting back to the hectic busy lives of everyone in the states. I was not looking forward to losing my evening deep share time with Heather and being in an empty house on my own. I was not looking forward to the lack of simplicity. And in a way, I was not looking forward to the possible bombardment and overwhelming question asking I could return to (but actually didn't experience nearly as bad as I expected).
4. Favorite moments? Definitely loving on the kids at the orphanage was number 1. I also enjoyed working with the children in district 11 teaching English. Open, honest, and real conversations with Heather and being overly welcomed by everyone was also awesome!

Things I liked in Vietnam and would like to have here:
1. Motorbike
2. Community that seeks to spend more time together whether it be playing frisbee on Saturdays or having a meal together or playing games.
3. More affectionate community where we're all not so stand-offish but more willing to reach out physically and love freely.
4. More simple living, less stuff.
5. Cheaper prices. I want my $1 smoothie!
6. More friendly and happy greetings from all

Feel free to leave comments or ask questions in the comments section.

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