A Different Bird

Author: Linda Vu

Tags: Asia, Finalist, Heritage, Vietnam

I had been counting the days, then the hours during the plane ride. Finally I am in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, my home, the place I had been longing for the past year. And yet, back in the city, I feel like a stranger.

I lived in Ho Chi Minh City for fourteen years before moving to Florida the summer of my ninth grade. I was like a newborn bird living in someone else’s nest. Florida never felt like home. The cars seemed foreign to me since most people drive a motorcycle in Vietnam. The people were different, the weather was humid, and I couldn’t get used to living near the beach, even though it has the bluest water and the whitest sand I’d ever seen. Back home we had to fly to  Côn Đảo island to see a beach with blue water and the somewhat white sand. I missed going to the wet market with my mom early in the morning to bargain for food. In Florida, we shopped for food at Walmart and Costco’s.

It had been only a year, but my birth place seems so different now. My nest is still there but I no longer fit in it. I remember seeing foreign tourists fascinated by the colors of Ho Chi Minh City. Now I feel like one of them, fascinated at how much my birth place has changed: new skyscraper buildings, old statues replaced by new ones, new shops are replacing old shops.

Walking into Saigon Square, a famous shopping mall for visitors, the vendors speak to me in English. I wonder if I look any different than I did before or is it the way I act that give them the sense that I’m a foreigner. I observed the locals, the way they act, talk, walk and try to learn again how to fit back into my own nest. The bird has changed and so did its nest, just like people, countries change too.

I am now a different person and people see me as a different person. The nest is still the same one that I was born in but the bird has grown too big to fit back into its comfort zone for protection.