I am actually writing this while over the Pacific Ocean right now. It honestly hasn’t hit me that this is happening. I really can’t believe it. To spend two months in another country, when I have never been out of the country before? This is crazy. This is absolutely insane.
And preparing for this trip has been a stressful experience, so I don’t know if I feel more excited about it or if I’m more scared. I already miss my family terribly, and I can’t really communicate with them the same way I always have been. Can’t just easily pick up the phone or send a text.
My parents and my family are definitely concerned about my safety, and that is one of the reasons why preparations have been stressful. I hear their many concerns, and when I think about Vietnam, I think about how dangerous or “bad” the place is.
- Don’t eat the food there because you can get food poisoning. Actually, you should bring a lot of food with you.
- People are always looking to steal your stuff, so lock everything.
- When you buy things from the vendors, they will not tell you the right price. They know that you are an American and they will take advantage of you. They will sell you things at a higher price.
- Don’t travel anywhere by yourself.
- How are you going to get around?
- Don’t use a motorbike.
- I would feel a lot better if you went to Saigon instead.
- You know that I don’t want you to go. This trip stresses me out.
- Don’t trust anyone.
I know that these things come out of a place of love and concern. And it’s true, my family probably have good reason to have such worries. There’s an anti-China / anti-communist revolution brewing. There is a high rate of petty theft. There is crime. There are not many modern technologies that I am used to having conveniently.
But, I think what is getting me the most is that I know of these concerns already, and keep hearing them over and over from many of my family members. And the more I hear it, the more I feel like it is going to happen to me. That bad things are going to happen to me. Additionally, these things are really hard for me to hear because I’m usually a very trusting person, so I kind of lose faith in humanity.
So, these are the things I’ve been hearing more than anything else over the past few days, and they make me so anxious. And the worst part is, I have to keep it bottled up inside. I know that if I let my parents know about my own concerns, my dad will question, “Then, why are you even going? Didn’t you think about what you’re getting yourself into?” And I know that when I’m stressed about something, my mom is 1000 times more stressed out about it.
I don’t know. If anything, when my parents tell me these things, I think it’s their way of letting go of their own stress. They don’t want something bad to happen to me and realize that they didn’t warn me about it previously, when they could have. They were being very thorough. “At least I warned her (about everything)!”
So, what I’m going to do is express everything I’ve been feeling here.
What am I scared of?
I am scared of getting lost and not knowing how to navigate the city. I am afraid that I won’t be able to communicate with people. I am afraid of getting mugged and losing my laptop. I am afraid of people taking advantage of me. I am afraid that I won’t have enough money. I am afraid that I will get sick—like diarrhea or contracting dengue. I am afraid that there will be so much political turmoil that I would have to get evacuated or I get caught up in it and die.
I am afraid that I won’t be useful to my organization or that I am not qualified to the things they ask me to do. I am afraid that I won’t be able to make the most of my practice experience. I am afraid that I will be underdressed. I am afraid of the culture shock. I am afraid that I won’t enjoy my time and eventually wish for it to be over.
I have many concerns, but as I wrote these, I felt myself feel a little bit more at ease. Because yes, I am afraid and nervous and anxious, but I am excited and happy that I am really putting myself out there and challenging myself. I get to explore a new place and learn about Vietnam’s economy. I get to engage in poverty action and experience a different culture.
As you can see, I am trying to orient myself to “be comfortable in being uncomfortable” because I am going to be a whole different place and doing so will lead to the most rewards. I have to embrace these fears and the nervousness. I have to remind myself why I am doing this in first place. I am completing a practice experience to serve an underserved community. I am going to engage in social entrepreneurship and cater to local need.
Yes, I am scared, but there’s no going back. And that’s totally okay.
Over and out.
On a positive tangent, one of the most important things that I have come to be so grateful for this week is the love and care of my family and friends. Even though they are all concerned about my safety, and them being overly concerned has been annoying and draining, I have been shown so much love this week that it hurt me (in a good way). I am so thankful for the little things that my family has done to show in their own way how much they care. My mom helped my pack my things even after long days at work. My dad went out of his way to buy some necessities. My sister has been understanding and someone I could talk to. My friends have been supportive of and excited for me. My UBELONG mentor has been flexible, patient, and helpful. Everyone at Blum has been so caring. I am so thankful for the people in my life, because without these people, I would have never been able to do this.