It was a steamy day when our plane touched down in Da Nang, Vietnam. But then again, what summer day wasn’t hot in Vietnam? Being Texas natives did not make my family immune to the blistering sun. It was the first day of our month-long trip to my parents’ birthplace. My dad was from Da Nang, while my mom was from Hue. While Vietnam is where my massive family all came from, my sister and I often felt like tourists. We got odd looks when we conversed with each other in English. Though this was a little off-putting at first, we both realized how cool it was to experience everything with fresh eyes. Everything felt so foreign yet so familiar. I felt like I knew the people despite the cultural and language barrier. The Vietnamese foods I knew from home tasted better because I knew it was authentic. Let me tell you how this trip helped me “rediscover” my roots.
Our month-long journey was filled with new experiences from bathing in natural springs to trying delicious street food to riding in cable cars up to the mountains. However, the day that stands out in my mind was when we took a very lengthy and physically challenging hike up thousands of steps in the woods. Countless (to me, anyway) flights of stairs and an hour later, we reached the peak. The trees parted to reveal, I kid you not, a gargantuan bell. I could tell it had been up there for a while- the rust was evidence of this. While the younger complained about going all that way to see a bell (believe me, I understood), I stood and enjoyed the sights. We weren’t alone; a monk was up there, about to ring the bell. He graciously allowed all of us a turn at it. After I took my turn, I lit an incense stick and joined everyone in a sort of prayer. I gave thanks for the life changing opportunity. I also wished for good fortune- not only for my family and friends but for the poor kids on the streets who tried to sell things to tourists. Most of all, I wished I could come back soon.
All in all, the trip was a memorable one. It was amazing seeing where my parents came from. Living in America, I take what I have for granted without meaning to. After the trip, I have learned to appreciate how my family risked everything to escape a war-ridden country for opportunities in America. I have a better idea of the Vietnam my parents and grandparents talk about wistfully, but I want to even more about my history. Most of all, I realized that the place I came from will always be a part of me. I may be first and foremost American, but I know now that the little country thousands of miles away will forever be my second home.
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