The summer of 2008 was an eventful time. I journeyed to my grandma’s home country, Vietnam. My grandma met my grandpa during the Vietnam War; he married her and brought her to the United States. Grandma had always told me stories of her time there, but actually going myself made my ethnicity more significant to me. I traveled with my mom, sister, aunt, uncle, grandma, grandpa, and three cousins. Three weeks in Vietnam were very educating and eye opening. While I was in Vietnam I saw poverty, hatred, compassion, and love.
When we landed in Ho Chi Minh City and gathered our luggage, we went out into the lit up city to find utter chaos. I have never seen so many people in one place. All of a sudden I had people rushing up to me grabbing my arms, face, rear, and belly, and they were sniffing me. I couldn’t understand them, or what they were doing. Suddenly they started taking my bags from me and putting it on a bus, then they ushered us onto the bus and they boarded after us. Apparently I was related to all of them.
The next morning I woke up, and all the women were cleaning the house. They stopped everything they were doing and started thrusting food at me. (The amazing thing is they did this everyday at every meal, and I actually lost weight while I was there.) Most of my days were spent lying in a hammock all day. There were, however, a few attention-grabbing events that took place.
It seems that the ‘sniffing’ that people were doing, is how they kiss. I was visiting one of my blind aunts and she had pictures of me and my family on her walls. She kept on feeling me, ‘kissing’ me, and saying how big I must have gotten since she had lost her sight. My grandma was interpreting everything she was saying, or else I would have had no idea. It was very humbling to see her crying just because she was so thankful she got to meet me. Another memorable moment was when I was about to get on a ferry to go across a river, and two of the men running the boat said I wasn’t allowed on their boat because I was American. Ouch to my pride. It was hard to see so much hatred toward Americans even though I was not even born during the time of the war. I did get to ride the ferry though, due to the fact that one of my Vietnamese aunts started yelling at them. She won the verbal battle, but I can still see the look of pure hate coming from their eyes into mine.
I learned that I must be strong when it comes to beggars because in Vietnam they will never stop tormenting you if you give them a little bit of money. Homeless are everywhere you look, and if they see you give money to one person then you will have a mass of followers. After going through college and getting my nursing degree I plan on going back to Vietnam with Mercy Ships to provide health care to the needy. Being in a poverty stricken country was so enlightening on what is outside of the U.S. I am so grateful that I got the opportunity to see the beautiful and the ugly sides of Vietnam.