We have all spent months on our best behavior, wearing our masks, avoiding crowds, and we’ve all missed out on so many of the things that we love about Vietnam.
We’ve probably all grown tired of our own home cooking. We’ve eaten every type of instant noodles; drunk a variety of disappointing home coffees, and put together meals with as much flavor as a brick. We’ve also watched every silly YouTube video that has been sent our way and finally watched all of those TV series that friends have been pestering us to watch.
It’s getting to the point where we’re all hungry for Vietnam to get back to its full and frenetic pace.
For British national Maizy Wright, she can’t wait “to experience life again when everything returns to normal.” She explained that “the first day back to normality; I want to eat all the Vietnamese food I can, especially bun bo Hue . Secondly, I’m desperate to see my friends face to face and have a much needed coffee. Lastly I can’t wait to trek around Hanoi, my adventure plans to this beautiful city have been thwarted by Covid outbreaks twice already; hopefully the third time’s the charm.”
For others, it was more about becoming even closer to their loved ones. Huy Nguyen Ngoc, from Lam Dong Province, explained that he’s realized “the value of family.”
“I know it’s perhaps a cultural thing but Asian people – Vietnamese like us particularly – will definitely gravitate towards family. We live together, we take care of each other. For those living far from their hometown for the sake of their livelihoods, they will have the chance to pay their parents a visit.”
Lydia Garcia-Potter, an American living in Vietnam, craved the simple pleasures of “going to a coffee shop by the canal and just hanging out.” She even missed the more everyday tasks of just “getting back to normal and seeing all my coworkers again and having a fun time in the office.”
After seeing loved ones and returning to work, many dreamed of traveling around Vietnam. Amy Richards, a Vietnam based teacher from the U.K., said she was “hoping to be able to visit Hanoi and maybe Sa Pa before the end of the year. I want to see the different types of food and compare Saigon’s banh mi to Hanoi’s. But most importantly I can’t wait to see my friends, but I don’t think I’ll be able to see my bestie before she leaves for good.”
Amid social distancing, the once busy Dong Khoi Street in HCMC’s District 1 sees little traffic one day in July 2021. Photo by Ngo Tran Hai An.
This theme of seeking the common and everyday things was the link that ran through each conversation I’ve had. Most people just wanted some sense of normality back. Some wanted to sink their teeth into a fresh and crispy banh mi . Others wanted to just relax in coffee shops, to be around a group of people, and to savor a fresh cup of coffee.
Even the more banal things that we often begrudge were missed, like getting back to work and seeing colleagues. Perhaps it took a pandemic to realize we may like each other more than we thought.
It was the words of Xiao Long from HCMC that brought everything into perspective. He revealed that he was desperate to see his close friend so that they could “scatter the ashes of my Mom in her hometown – she passed away a few days ago because of Covid.”
Each person had a desire to move around in some way. Sometimes it was for love; sometimes it was for family; sometimes it was to cherish a memory that could never be shaken.
Every person was missing somebody: from friends, to colleagues, to partners, to their own families. The desire to be closer to the ones we love is universal. We are all connected together and entwined in this common thread to be reunited with our friends and families.
We've all lost something during this time and we are all eager to get life back to normal. The one thing that seems certain to change is our perspectives – while we've been staying indoors we've all had time to reflect on things that matter most.
The recurring pattern is that while we have all temporarily lost something; we all gain a healthier outlook and a new appreciation for all the things we may have taken for granted. When we're over this, when we can look back at this as a hard fought battle – we can walk forwards knowing that we have to cherish the small things, seize our travels plans, and hug the ones we love just that little bit tighter.
*Leigh Doughty is a language tutor and writer based in HCMC, Vietnam. The opinions expressed are his own.
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