“I can’t say what made me fall in love with Vietnam – that a woman’s voice can drug you; that everything is so intense. The colors, the taste, even the rain. Nothing like the filthy rain in London. They say whatever you’re looking for, you will find here. They say you come to Vietnam and you understand a lot in a few minutes, but the rest has got to be lived. The smell: that’s the first thing that hits you, promising everything in exchange for your soul. And the heat. Your shirt is straightaway a rag. You can hardly remember your name, or what you came to escape from. But at night, there’s a breeze…”
Vietnam is one of those few countries that have touched my soul the hardest. It’s strange in life how we are drawn to certain places or find resonance with those places inside ourselves. Vietnam is one such place.
My last semester in college, I took a fascinating history class on Vietnam. An older, seasoned professor taught the class from pretty much the viewport of a War veteran. Up until this point, I was finishing up my degree in International Relations but I was vastly ignorant of the Vietnam War, except for the fact that my uncle was drafted and upon returning home, he was never the same again.
There are few classes in college that are so good that they actually do change your life and enrich your soul. This class, in essence, dissected the Vietnam War – not from American History books but from both America and Vietnam’s perspective. We read all the major pieces of literature, studied maps of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, and watched the relevant movies and documentaries of the time. By the end of the semester, something remarkable happened – I captured the essence of this beautiful country, this culture, and could empathetically grasp the magnitude of this War that preceded my life.
I ended up traveling to Vietnam on three different occasions. My husband at the time was also Vietnamese which made the trips all the more meaningful. The first time I traveled to this country, I felt like I’d already known it, or at least, felt its soul.
I believe places are like people – they have a soul, created from some kind of collective consciousness. Vietnam’s essence is something that resonated with me before even traveling there, and is something that has stuck with me ever since. The smell of this country is something that hits you right off the plane, a scent unlike anywhere else. I look forward to the day I get to step off the plane again.