A couple of weeks ago I went on a little trip to Cambodia.
From moment One I was amazed by beauty.
The buildings are an architectural must-see and the countryside has Zen written all over.
The exploration delighted more than just my eyes.
The warmth offered by the locals was seductive.
Honest smiles, innocent greetings.
And yes, I was struck by their proficiency in the English language.
Việt Nam has a long way to go to compete with its neighbors in that aspect.
For four days my senses were relishing.
To be honest, after being settled in Biên Hòa for 7 months, this was a welcoming change.
I blamed myself for not discovering Cambodia earlier.
With every encounter I would make up the balance and Cambodia would overpower Việt Nam.
My travel-mate strengthened those thoughts.
He travelled through Việt Nam for a month, but was just as overwhelmed by the new encounter.
Hold on for a moment, if you think this post will blossom with dazzles about my little side-trip, you’re wrong.
This one is about the bigger picture.
If you’re accustomed to certain things, there will come a point in which you will be met by boredom and annoyance.
Familiarity aligns with comfort, security, easiness.
But doesn’t it lie in our nature to wonder how it would feel to step out of our comfort zone, to explore the unknown?
For most of us it stays with questioning and creating imaginary thoughts, but I don’t want to expatiate on that aspect.
An unfamiliar touch will stimulate your curiosity.
You will be tempted to compare.
Sorry, to burst your bubble here, but we compare all the time.
Lifestyles, prices, moments, people, work, knowledge, flavors, colors…
If the balance shows you’re pulling the weight, it gives you a pleasant, satisfying feeling, a boost in your self-esteem.
When the unfamiliar opens up a new world that overthrows you with positivity, you are reluctant to appreciate what you had before.
It will accentuate the boredom and annoyance that was underlying your comfort. I have to confess that this progression
I experienced during my short trip.
I saw all the negative sides of Việt Nam at once:
The struggles to get something across due to the language barrier, the endless polluting by littering and burning rubbish, the all-around annoying hooting, the rudeness in the staring, spitting and nose picking, the laziness and inefficiency.
Aspects that I didn’t come across during my trip to Cambodia and that made me yearn for the other side.
The feeling built up during four days, but it collapsed in exactly 17 minutes, the time it took me to cross the Cambodian border to the Vietnamese side.
Vietnamese authorities aren’t exactly known for their kindness, but while they were checking my passport I muttered some Vietnamese words.
They looked at each other and gave me a familiar smile.
It sprouted a feeling inside me, saying:
‘Hey, I’m back home’.
It felt absolute great.
I love the challenge to get something across; it definitely improved my body language.
Somebody up for charades!?
I’m hooting my way around, even developed different rhythms for ‘Overtaking’, ‘Crossing, without giving priority’, ‘Arrrggghh!’
Their slow beat tempo makes being aware to take it easy once in a while.
And, come on, you have to give them some credit for staring, spitting, nose picking en public without remorse.
The littering is a different story of course.
But I hope you get my point.
I truly love Việt Nam, with all her colors.
I love how the women and children wear their pajamas in the daytime, how the men effortlessly align their body with their motorbike for a powernap, how they master karaoke, their perseverance in selling something, their top notch cuisine, their endless respect for family, their gratefulness for what is, their smiles and authenticity…
Sometimes you just need to go away, to appreciate what you have.
By BIEKE VANDAMME