Saturday, December 4, 2010

10 days till lift-off.

Most people who know me, know that I spent most of 1997 and the early part of 1998 in Thailand. And so most people - and this perhaps most foolishly includes me - might think that I would therefore be prepared for this.

It's true that I've lived in Asia and there are some things that I am prepared for:
  • I know what a rambutan is.
  • I know how to eat noodles with chopsticks.
  • I have ridden on the back of a moped.
  • I know how to be modest with the soles of my feet.
  • I know to beckon with my palm faced down.
  • I know to duck my head.
  • My brain has learned an Asian language once before.
  • I have been vaccinated against TB.
  • I can competently and unsqueamishly use a squat toilet. 

There are some very significant differences that I'm not sure I am prepared for - but at least I am aware of.  Most importantly:
  • Thailand is not Vietnam
  • 1997 is not 2011
  • Exchange student is not expat wife
  • My mother has Skype

The things that are frightening me now, though - that are keeping me awake at night and making me burst into tears at any time of the day are all of those things that I am not prepared for, and that I know I have no idea about.  I don't know the answers to any of these questions, but I get asked them almost every day:
  • What are you going to do in Vietnam?
    This is the most common question I get, and it is usually served with meaningful emphasis on the 'you'.   I don't know - is the honest answer.  I like to tell people that I am going to "drink during the day!" or "complain about the heat!".  I recognise that I have an opportunity now to find something interesting and inspiring to do with my career.  I am terrified that I won't find anything, to do or anyone who likes me, that I will spend my days in Vietnam chasing geckos off the walls and swearing at CNN, that the pinnacle of my career would have been and gone already, that the most interesting thing I will ever do might be some mundane thing I have already done and the rest of my life will be spent waiting for my husband to get home so that I can have someone to complain to about how the air conditioning wasn't working properly in the last taxi home from the shopping mall. 
  • Where are you going to live?
    The company are going to help us find accommodation. The problem is, that I have so little idea about where we are going, and what kinds of places are good to live in there, that I don't even know what to ask them for.  Should I live in an apartment, or a house.  What do those words even mean in Saigon?
  • Are you going to get a maid?
  • Are you going to ride a motorbike?
  • Is it easy to be gluten-free in Vietnam?
  • Are you going to learn Vietnamese?
  • Can you get good medical care?
  • What about dental?
  • Are you going to wear your hearing aids?
    I'm a bit deaf. Just a bit - not like post-deaf. I don't really understand speech I am not actively concentrating on but I can hear a lot of stuff.  I do have hearing aids. They sit in a little box, usually in a drawer, but now in the lid of my suitcase.  I haven't worn them for at least a year. Currently, they don't even work properly.  My mother frowns at me almost daily at the moment and says unhelpful things like: put your lugs in. Will I be able to cope without them?  This is my greater worry: will I be able to cope with them? A deaf life is quite peaceful. Because I have been deaf my whole life I find the unamplified world much easier to interpret.  I am afraid that I will struggle really badly with communication and making new social connections once I get to Vietnam because of my hearing loss. Hearing aids might help. Hearing aids might make it worse.
  • Will you have enough money?
  • What will you do when this assignment ends?
  • When are you coming home?

A year ago I had sort of an idea of what my life would be like in five or ten years time.  But now I don't. I don't have sort of an idea of what my life will be like in five or ten weeks time.  I have a lot of hope, and I firmly believe that going to Vietnam is a good decision for us, for our careers, for our relationship.

But make no mistake: Vietnam is giving me the shits.

1 comment:

  1. Girl, if you can use a squat toilet you can do ANYTHING!