By Julia Davis, Can Tho University
In some ways, it’s hard to believe that it’s already been a month.
But most days, I feel like it’s been a year. Not because time is moving slowly, but because the United States feels so distant, and because Can Tho has become home so quickly. From the harshly lit (but somehow homey) house that we live in, to the restaurant where Maddie and I go twice/week to get vegetarian dry noodles (similar to a Vermicelli bowl), to the campus, which still feels huge, but so much more familiar, everything has begun to feel comfortable. I’ve started to feel like a life is coming together…if that makes sense.
When I arrived in Los Angeles four years ago, after deciding to leave home for college, I felt so incredibly overwhelmed and isolated. I had never been away from home for more than a month, and I found myself swallowed alive by the beast that is LA, too intimidated by it to really explore, and asking myself why I had ever chosen to move. But slowly, surely, something within me shifted and the place that had once felt so scary and huge, became small and warm. I found a favorite coffee shop and neighborhood and beach, and friends who felt like family. Now, when I think of LA, my heart aches with home sickness. I think of cruising down one of the million different highways in my little Prius, or of the home I made with my beloved roommates last year, or of sitting in a politics class at Whittier. I think of the life I built.
It happened more quickly here. I remember my first days in Can Tho, wandering around on foot (before I got my motorbike), sweating my face off, asking myself if I made the right decision coming here. I remember my first day of class, facing 40 students and asking myself how the hellllll I’m qualified to teach them. It feels so long ago! The culture shock has worn off, my stage fright in the classroom has shifted to excited confidence, and I finally know how to order a vegetarian meal and ask for the check in Vietnamese—not much, I know, but it’s a start. Ok so I know this has been rambling, but basically what I’m saying is, I’m happy. I’m so happy. Like, whooping on my motorbike, occasionally feeling tears of joy well in my eyes, falling asleep smiling happy.
All that being said, I’ll share some more concrete developments and events in my life (this is for you mom and dad). I started teaching my two Freshman classes this week, which are both pronunciation classes, and I think they are going to pose the biggest challenge this semester. English levels are quite low, and during my first class, I was a fumbling, anxious mess. Hopefully next week will go better….
I bought a violin!! Last week, I went on a solo mission to HCMC to find one, and after spending all morning trying out cheap, mass-produced Chinese instruments, I resigned myself to just buy one. As I was walking to the ATM to get cash for it, I stumbled upon an artisan violin shop, owned by a retired concert violinist who carves all the instruments in his shop by hand! He and his wife, who spoke perfect English, let me try about 10 different violins and showed me videos of their son playing violin, who is studying music at a university in Northern California! I came home with the beauty pictured below. It was so serendipitous and amazing! And a friend has since connected me with a young composer living in Can Tho who plays cello and is trying to arrange a string quartet! Life sometimes man. I also got some craft beer and ramen while in the city, so that also made the 3.5-hour bus ride wellllll worth it.
Yesterday was awesome, because Maddie and I met up with a girl (Tiny) whose mom is a tailor, and she took us to a fabric store to pick materials then to her house to get fitted for a few fancy new items. It was so much fun, and as we were leaving, Tiny asked if we like shopping and getting massages, and if we want to go to a vintage fair on Saturday, and get massages together some time. Um yep. Glad we share interests. That kind of thing keeps happening, where we meet someone and they immediately offer to show us the town and do all the fun things and basically just be our friend and resource. Something that definitely wouldn’t happen if we were the new kids on the block in the U.S….
Also, this weekend we are heading to Long Xuyen, a city about 2 hours away, to motorbike and hike through the rolling green hills that the city is famous for. It’s also where Tyler lives!! Reunion! I can’t wait, and I will post pictures when I get back!
With that, I think it’s time to sign off, because this post has gotten super long and I know you all have a life and don’t want to read an essay. The last thing I’ll say is, I got a pretty gruesome burn this week on a motorbike exhaust pipe, so if anyone has good advice about burn treatment let me know! I’ve been told this type of burn is called a “Saigon kisser,” so at least my injury has an awesome name!
Things that I do miss:
- Being the student in a classroom—this week, I’ve started feeling pangs of missing school. I miss my advisors, and excitedly sharing excerpts from awesome journal articles with my roommates at night, and the general feeling of being a student
- My puppy
- Cozy sweaters—I may be acclimated to the weather here, but not to the point where I’m able to wear wool sweaters like many of my students
- Craft beer
- Driving a car