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July 1, 2016 — Day 1: Leaving my house Wednesday morning, I knew I wasn’t quite prepared for the journey I had ahead. I thought I was forgetting something. By the 27th hour, the 12-hour time change, and third flight, I realized I wasn’t forgetting anything (at least not that I’ve discovered yet) but instead I was afraid that I would be unable to forget the American culture I am so accustomed to and adapt to the culture I am about to be emerged in. Landing in Chicago it still hadn’t hit me yet. I am about to embark on this journey of a lifetime to a country I’ve never been, to interact with people whose native language I don’t speak or even remotely understand. What have I gotten myself in to??

I was ready to board my flight in Chicago to Hong Kong, and as I stood in line I became a little more aware of where I was going. I sat between two very nice Vietnamese men who immediately commented on how tall I was saying I looked like an “Amazonian woman” and they remarked that they’ve never seen hair like mine (long and blond) up close. After a little more discussion I learned that the men and I were all headed to Ho Chi Minh City after our layover in Hong Kong. After 16 grueling hours of limbs falling asleep and uncountable bathroom breaks, we landed.

“As we land in Ho Chi Minh, I still don’t quite know what I’ve gotten myself in to, but I do know that I sure am happy that I did.”

Flying over Hong Kong was amazing — this city has it all. Mountains and sea sprinkled with sky scrapers and small fishing boats. It was amazing to see from above. It finally hit me. I’m not in the United States anymore. Wow, I’ve been missing out on so much of the world. Walking in to the Hong Kong airport I didn’t see anything in English at first. Again: What have I gotten myself into? I’ll never be able to find the gate for my next flight. With the help of 10 or so airport staff and a fellow traveler, we found our way. By this point, it was 8pm in Hong Kong, or 8am in DC. I Facebook messaged my mom and dad to let them know I was okay. They were ecstatic.

Now, as I fly over the South China Sea from Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh, it looks upside down. The sea below is riddled with little fishing boats all lit up like the stars on a clear night, shining and twinkling as far as the eye can see. I feel like a little girl again, laying on the ground in my backyard with my brothers and sisters staring at the stars so very far in the distance. I don’t really know what’s going on out there, but I can’t wait to learn all about it.

As we get closer to the mainland of Vietnam, the lights look less like a tiny ant trail and begin to grow larger and band together to create a mirage of buildings and streets whose reflections glisten off the nearby water. From 35,000 feet up, the city looks like it is lined with gold. None of the tens of pictures I took could do it justice. This country is where I get to spend the next 3 weeks.

As we land in Ho Chi Minh, I still don’t quite know what I’ve gotten myself in to, but I do know that I sure am happy that I did.

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