Saturday, February 1, 2014

The Year of the Horse

Kayaking through Halong Bay, Vietnam
It's been one of my favorite experiences on this journey to be traveling through Vietnam during their biggest holiday - Tet - the Lunar New Year. The travel has not been without challenges. We have had to take overnight buses to get to our destinations and we have had to skip Mui Ne completely because every hotel and hostel is booked over the 6 day holiday. But, it's been a special treat to walk along the streets of Hoi An and Nha Trang and soon Saigon with a mutual exchange of "Happy New Year!" It's been nice to celebrate New Year twice and I kind of dig this second chance of turning a new leaf after the hangover of January has passed.

In January, we visited four different countries with four very different vibes. We rang in the Western New Year in a tiny bar in Kathmandu listening to an awesome band cover The Doors and Kings of Leon. A week later we took a two week road trip that led us over the border of Nepal into Chinese Occupied Tibet. Traveling through Tibet in a Landcruiser with two Tibetans was one of the most eye-opening and soul stretching experiences of the trip. From Tibet, after a bit of a chaotic experience trying to leave the country, we flew into Thailand where we enjoyed walking through the protests of Bangkok only to learn after we left that the protests were inspired by the middle to upper class to throw out the recently democratically elected prime minister. After putting back on the pounds we lost in Tibet due to altitude sickness and a sinus infection, we left Bangkok with our bellies full of delicious Thai food and flew to Hanoi, Vietnam where we laughed ourselves silly with Tara. We kayaked through Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and all agreed that the water was shamefully polluted. We toured the heavily propaganda "Hanoi Hilton" or Hoa Lo Prison where John McCain was kept as a POW and read plaques that said how luck American prisoners were to have been prisoners of the Vietnamese who treated them extremely humanely. After a tearful goodbye with Tara and a few days of contemplating what the hell I am going to do once I return home, we met up with two other friends in Hoi An where all my worries were quieted.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
"Instead of looking at is anxiety, can you look at it as awe?" my friend, Hugh, asked me. It was one of those moments where words slay the fear dragon and my heart swells at the realization of how much I have come to care for and love this friend. Just the slightest shift in perspective can change everything. At least for today, I don't feel anxious about my future, I feel in awe of it and in awe at my life and this world and in awe of my desire to give back to it in some way, a way I believe will one day be revealed to me if I keep asking the question.

Berto & Hugh in Hoi An, Vietnam
Right now, we are sitting in a cafe in Nha Trang, taking it one hour at a time as we try to kill 8 hours before our overnight bus departs. In the morning, we hope to be waking up in Saigon and ready to catch the SuperBowl at an ex-pats bar at 6am. Perhaps even more exciting than the game is my friend, Danielle's hard work manifesting in a Superbowl commercial that I have to see! She is a publicist for the band Passenger whose song will be playing during a Budweiser commercial and she will probably kill me for even indicating she deserves some credit, but the girl is a rockstar at her job, not to mention one of my oldest friends to date. We have weathered many storms together from 12 - 32, even with an out of touch period through our twenties. We have survived the Valley, charged the Big Apple, and toured through Berlin and Prague together, as well. It will be fun to raise a glass to her during a SuperBowl commercial from halfway around the world.

Tet in Hoi An, Vietnam
Cua Dai Beach, Vietnam
 The other night, Mike and I were playing our usual game of "Top 5 Experiences on this trip - GO!" And while there are some experiences that just are above and beyond (The road trip through Tibet, paragliding in Nepal, the balloon ride in Cappadocia, Turkey, volunteering for three weeks in McLeod Ganj, India, cruising the Amalfi Coast, etc...) the best experiences have been with the friends we have made like the Canadian family we spent Christmas with and the friends we have met up with along the way - having the slowest served dinner high up above Berlin with Nicole and Chris (friendships originally forged through a small sandwich shop in Caherciveen , Ireland and walking the Brooklyn Bridge), cliff diving off the Turkish Coast with Jeff and Erin, ending up with an unwanted hot dog and a shitty glass of wine in Prague with Danielle and laughing at the let down of our last night in Prague, playing cards with Sandy and John in our riad in Fez, Morocco while taking turns having a horrific stomach bug but laughing our asses off, literally, making friends with two men from Bhutan in India and sharing a homecooked meal together, siting around a dinner table in Shimla with a family that for a few days became our own, talking life and passion in Hanoi with Tara, shedding fear and anxiety in Hoi An with Hugh and Berto, and we are not done yet...

So with this New Lunar Year, and with the Year of the Horse upon us, a year that is supposed to be energetic and enthusiastic and positive, I find myself steeped in gratitude and awe for everything that has been and will be, and a deep love for the people in my life and the people that one day will be.

Flowers for Tet, Hoi An, Vietnam

1 comment:

Carmen said...

the people that will one day be!!!!
so much more to look forward to
on this trip and in life
keep taking in all of it!