Taking no prisoners. Including herself.

Hello, Hanoi
(Part 11 of Many)

Across the street a man is loading into a hand-drawn cart dozens of red bricks. Each brick has 4 cylindrical holes, and one by one, he lays them on top of their comrades, each singing a soft little clank as they fall.

*     *     *

I am beginning to see Vietnam and the Vietnamese more intimately, perhaps more realistically. It is always difficult to not view different cultures as “other” — even when it’s in a positive light. The once magical, uniquely strange gestures of Vietnam now appear to me as simply gestures. Culture is a powerful force; and yet, I am learning anew that people are people, no matter–

At first I felt very “different” here — not better, or worse, just different. This is what happens when you walk the streets and instantly your skin, your eyes, your height, your clothes, your motions are differentiated at simple sight.

Often I felt there was a chasm — whether shallow or deep — of understanding whenever I spoke with someone of a different language, whether they had a stunning grasp of English, or only spoke a word or two.

But here there are the same dramas, the same concerns, the same striving, suffering, and wants. Behind every set of eyes that I look into, there is the same substance of love, family, acceptance, joy, sadness, wonder, suspicion, humor, pain, laziness, fear, and kindness. People’s basic nature is to be human.

And I think humans, by their nature, want to connect, to help.

This has become so apparent as I make my weeks here. Blanche DuBoi’s quote has never felt more apropos to me as right now. I require assistance with so much; is this the right bus? Where do I buy clothes hangers? Can you help me ask the taxi driver if he knows this address?

And people help.

I am trying to let go of this thing called “embarrassment,” and learning to trust that I can be lost, a fool, even a mess –and will still be forgiven.

Beyond logistics, I am amazed by how much kindness I receive from complete strangers. I have met those who, with no vested interest and nothing to gain, offer up food, a place to stay, companionship, information — simply because they see I need it. I am often more grateful for their offer than anything they provide.

But my truest humility comes from the kindness of my familiars — how much I need my intimates back home, and how I am half a person without their invisible support, without the meaning and richness they unknowingly gift –

I had the illusion I was Shannon the Independent Dynamo…  Nah. I am merely a piece of sound for a few lyrical equations.

There are those who just know your heart. My time in Vietnam has allowed me to see that I am no one but a heart for others to know. I am dependent on everyone in this “too huge” world.

*     *     *

The humidity has risen, and the rains finally broke. I am going to bed early.


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