Rundle Mall, Adelaide

Missing home

This is the 16th essay in the #26essays2017 challenge that I’ve set for myself this year. I’m doing this because I’m the first to admit I’ve become a lazy writer: allowing guest posts and series and cross-posting to make up the bulk of content on The Diane Lee Project across 2016. The brave, fearless writing that readers admired and respected me for has all but disappeared. This year—2017—will be different. I’m reclaiming my voice—my write like a motherfucker voice!

For the first time since arriving in Vietnam  seven — almost eight — months ago, I am missing home.

It’s not for any one particular reason, because I am happy here.

Or I was, and I still am.

It’s this vague, gnawing feeling in the pit of my stomach, a feeling of general unease, that has dominated my last few days. I feel teary and disengaged, even though I know I remain spiritually to connected my beloved Hanoi.

But some of my friends have left, or are leaving, or are away for a month or two doing other things. Everyone leaves Hanoi in July and August. The weather, don’t you know. And the end of the teaching year.

I kind of feel like the last woman standing.

I am painfully aware that I don’t have a special someone to share my feelings with, even though I could have. Twice. But that’s a topic for another post.

(And I don’t mean my recent escapade of the sexy times variety. That was a once-off.)

And it’s not because work things aren’t happening here. They are. If I told you what I’m doing in the next couple of weeks travel-wise (and free!) you’d be green with envy. Stuff still just falls into my lap.

But life is starting to feel kind of normal. I fear that I’m losing that I’m in Hanoi, bitches feeling of awe I had when I first got here. Now life is about pumping out words, getting up exceedingly early to get on buses, and chasing people to get paid.

I need to get my awe back.

***

I’ve moved apartments, and getting used to new noises and routes and people and routines has been unsettling. And as much as the construction around my old apartment was annoying, I did like it very much. I liked my security guys, particularly Mr Hung, who thought it was hilarious that I — with my grey hair — was younger than he was. Chao em, he’d say and then  burst out laughing. He had hardly any English, but decided that speaking to me in French was also hilarious. Bon jour, he’d say. Comment talle-vous. And crack up laughing again.

I miss Ms Van, my cleaning lady who also did my laundry. I discovered that my whites were grey because she had no concept of separating clothes into whites and coloureds/blacks. It was endearing rather than annoying.

But I’ve moved in and I’ve also had a foster kitty come to stay for a couple of months before I go back to Australia in August. Jodi Foster Kitty to be exact. A little ginger kitten who is behaving exactly like my Bella.

And it’s this little kitty which is the catalyst for my homesickness. I think.

Jodi Foster Kitty has reminded me of all the things I love about my home city of Adelaide: my daughter, my friends, my home, my cat. All the things that are not here with me, including all my things, that I’m not able to be close to.

Sure there’s Facebook, and I get to keep up-to-date with everyone, and they with me. But it’s not the same.

Clearly.

I’ve missed birthdays (my daughter’s and my sister’s), a wedding (sorry, Melsy), break-ups and surgery, among other things.

***

While Hanoi is an easy city in which to live, it’s not convenient. I can’t go to a department store and get everything I need all in one place. I can’t buy clothes off the rack. I haven’t run for months.

My pay isn’t easily paid into my bank account, that’s if it’s paid on time. And I’m forever asking when I’ll be paid. I receive profuse apologies, but I think the assumption is that I am foreign, and therefore wealthy. I’ve been told that Vietnamese are always paid first. From the questions I’ve asked, it’s true.

And it’s been hot. So hot. I can tolerate heat, but I don’t enjoy it. It’s even more unpleasant here, with the humidity. Sweat trickles down my back permanently. I just can’t seem to get cool. Menopause doesn’t help.

But there’s respite in the rain — it buckets down late in the afternoon, and sets in for the night. While it’s not cold, going out in the evening is fraught. Umbrellas are useless when the ran falls in sheets. And often the water is past my ankles, up to my mid-calves. I like the rain, even this rain, but it seriously damages evening plans.

***

Today, I booked my flights back to Australia, leaving Hanoi at the end of August.

I’ll be back in Adelaide for a month. The plan was to pack up my personal things, rent my place out and bring Bella Kitteh back to Hanoi with me.

Now, I’m not so sure…

I have six weeks to work out what I want to do, taking into account everything: work, cost of living, climate, pollution, friends, family, health care…

I might be like so many people here, and be back and forth for years, sitting on the fence, unable to make a decision about where I want to live.

Now, I’m not so sure as I was…


Photo credit: Halong Bay by me.

4 comments

    1. I’ve talked to other expats, and apparently these feelings come in waves. I think about all the opportunities for me here — real opportunities — and the answer is a no brainer…!

  1. Let me pass on the most valuable piece of advice I read about people like us… wandering gypsies. Once you make the move to a foreign country and start to feel right about it, you will suddenly realise that nowhere in the world is “home”…. you no longer fit anywhere. You will always be a ‘foreigner’ not only in your adopted country at that time, but also in your “home country”… most days you are good with this status, adapting to the present time and place, but occasionally you feel like you have nowhere to call home and it rattles you. Not for long. There’s usually a trigger of some sort. Welcome to the world of the “homeless’… its not so bad… we chose it.

    1. Thank you, Karen. I absolutely love your insight into this weird existence. I remember you sharing something similar with me about your choice to move to Bali. Your wisdom and strength inspires me 💚💚💚

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