Almost two years have passed and I have seen, experienced and lived more than I could ever have imagined was possible. I left New York on a whim, interested in breathing in Asia, seeing the world from a different angle and giving myself an education that University could never have given me. I told my friends I'd be gone for six months to a year at most. Never would I have allowed myself to believe that it would be June 2006 when I returned to a city that invigorates me and one that I do call home.
What have I been doing for the last two years? The answer would take days but I'll summarize it for the impatient reader. I flung myself to a bustling, crazy city half-way around the world where I knew no-one and I made it home. Ho Chi Minh City bowled me over, made me question everything I've ever known as a "normal" way of life. I sat on chairs made for infants, navigated streets brimming with motorbikes, learned to ride one, had four accidents, enrolled in a teacher training course, worked ten hour days trying to prepare myself for the hardcore work faced by teachers throughout the globe, honed my English skills in order to teach them, refined my body language and acting skills while trying to communicate with my countrymen, traveled through an incredible country filled with enthusiastic, delightful, forgiving, hardworking Vietnamese citizens, made friends, missed my life in the West, grew accustomed to the dogs and cats and reptiles and rats being eaten around me and finally boarded a bus with my love and traveling companion and did a 5-month, 9-country tour of Asia.
Nothing I had read or heard of could have prepared me for the myriad of colors, scents, tastes, smells, sensations that the Asian countryside had to offer. From the temples of Angkor Wat to the beaches of Bali, we made our way in over 15 forms of transportation, stayed in 46 hotels, read over 20 books, spoke to hundreds, possibly thousands of unique, fascinating people of different classes, races, tribes and countries.
I walk away from Asia knowing what it's like to ride a motorbike, order vegetarian food in a foreign language, bargain for a hotel room, ascend mountain passes with a broken motorbike and a burnt hole in my leg, sleep in a hammock, laugh without understanding the joke, try all kinds of food.
But the lesson that I think is the most important, the most real, the most essential to my role in this world is that I learnt never to judge, always to listen, to always imagine what this person actually means, where they learnt their set of beliefs, why things are the way they are. If you breathe in the air of Northern Vietnam, eat the food of mountainous Java, swim in the ocean of East Coast Malaysia, see the poverty in rural Cambodia or walk the hills of rural Laos, the world ceases to be so large, you can understand it, believe in it and know that we all exist side by side in a tiny globe and the best we can do is respect eachother.
Farewell Asia, I will see you again soon. Your earth is in my blood and I will return. Until then, I leave you a kiss...