Girl Meets World
By Ginny Tonkin staff blogger
Girl Meets World is a multimedia look at the sights, sounds, and insights of experiencing a different culture through teaching English as a foreign language.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: October 10th, 2010

I feel like Joseph Gordon-Levitt in 500 Days of Summer. After successfully wooing his love interest Zooey Deschanel, he lists her little quirks that endear her to him.

I feel like I’m doing the same thing here in Vietnam. Now that I’ve spent over two weeks in the country, and now several days in HCMC, a certain familiarity with a different lifestyle helps write my mental list.

-Iced coffee.

-Little plastic chairs and tables for street side dining.

-$0.25 baguettes at every turn.

-Street badminton. Hacky sack with a badminton birdie.

-$2 manicures. $6 haircuts.

-The grace and moxie of Vietnam’s many high heel clad fashionistas and businesswomen, astride motorbikes.

-Monsoon season: LOVE IT. No sweat, fewer tourists, keeps the bugs at bay.

-The thrill of a motorbike ride down a boulevard strewn with twinkle lights.

-Café culture. There’s a certain rhythm to enjoying your meal. Waiters don’t rush you out; just ask for the bill when you’re ready.

It’s good to be back in HCMC. Nicknamed the Paris of the East for influence from its French colonial past, HCMC has reincarnated into the New York of the East from the frenetic rhythm that drives its residence.

These cuties that came up to me at the Botanical Gardens in HCMC remind why I want to teach

These cuties that came up to me at the Botanical Gardens in HCMC remind why I want to teach

I wonder if this is just the honeymoon period, or if like Gordon-Levitt, I’ll turn on this newfound love, peevishly naming the same endearing traits as irksome misfortunes. The thing is, regardless of what I do or where I go after my CELTA, I’ve learned a thing or two while traveling in Vietnam. Wherever I decide to go, I know not only that there are beautiful things in every place, but those unique characteristics are only one facet.

It’s like this. The Best Day Ever I alluded to in an earlier blog? I declared that day my Best Day, because I concluded what I had planned for my overseas adventure was, in fact, possible. After a day’s worth of successfully navigating streets running errands, I was also meeting great, interesting people, who happened help me with what seemed to be exactly the right thing at the right time. It’s not that I didn’t think I could succeed in my venture while still Stateside, but when you travel so far on recent graduate’s budget, certain misgivings can nag. My Best Day Ever was the realization that wherever I go, I’ll be okay and make it through.

I was grateful for (and am now blissfully listing) the little things—they’re what give a place a unique character. But what I realized was what I was most grateful were those experiences that showed language, culture, and location don’t divide mankind.

-An unguarded smile, caught in surprise.

-Honesty in a transaction when too much money exchanged hands.

-Help with a heavy bag without a money-seeking intention.

-A child’s laugh.

-An old man’s wisdom.

-The love of family.

-The success of hard work.

I have been the recipient of so many amazing experiences and boundless generosity over the past two weeks. And now it comes time for the hard task that brought me here–the CELTA. My class starts tomorrow morning at ILA Vietnam; I need to appear promptly at 8:45am. I met with my group Saturday night for dinner, and I know it’s going to be a good experience. Although we all shared our anxiety about working through this rigorous 4-week course, we relaxed knowing there were 18 people with the same objective. A diverse, international group, my class is connected by a common goal: successfully passing the CELTA.

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