You should quit your job and teach English in Vietnam. You should sell all your shit. You should take out your savings and buy a plane ticket with it. Because you have to. Because if you don’t, you’ll always wonder “Why not?” Your imagination will remain just that– an idea. You should make it into a reality. You should imagine what your life will be like living across the world, among a language you’ve never heard, eat the food you’ve never tasted– because this is where you will get to meet yourself. A part of yourself you never knew. A you that follows curiosity. Because, without this curiosity, you find yourself comfortable. Maybe too comfortable, maybe a little stuck. I decided to come and teach English in Vietnam because I knew if I didn’t, I’d never know. I’d never know how to weave through moving motorbikes, how to dip my vermicelli noodles into the sweet and sour sauce like a local, I’d never know how two Vietnamese coffees will keep me up all night, I’d never known how to say thank you in Vietnamese, I’d never know how the students call me Teacher and sing me goodbye every class, I’d never known I’d walk down my street and wave hello to new friends each morning on my way to get fresh juice, I’d never know my new home. I’d never know how much I miss my family, but how lucky I am to have found a new Vietnamese family. I never knew what it’d be like to watch my mom face time them. To see them laugh and wave. How I get to do yoga on my rooftop when the sun goes down, while incense burns and the sounds of traffic soothe me. Because it reminds me of where I am. Right here in Hanoi, where old things are still loved. How I get to walk to temples on the way to school. Where I teach barefoot. How I crave Vietnamese food when I’ve had it for ever meal 5 days in a row. How I can’t wait to go to tell my kids and grand kids about life in Vietnam. How it has changed me in three months, more than I’d ever known. The independence I’ve found here is something I didn’t know was possible. How I can ride my motorbike through rain, over the Red River to buy passion fruit from familiar woman who wear rice hats on the side of the road. Who smile and feed me sticky rice right from the palms of their hands. How I come to the coffee shop next door and the owner runs upstairs to bring me their puppy. How the locals take pictures of me with this puppy. How we lay on the floor and how full I feel. How some morning when I come to get coffee, there’s Karaoke! At 11 am. And I have no choice but to join in. It’s what we do here. We wake up with a fire in our bellies, ready to start the day. There’s not over politeness or fake hellos in our tones; the genuine smiles and diligence in everyone’s work. I live here, because I get to sleep in buses while the sunrise peaks through the curtains. I wake up in a new city– in the mountains, rice fields, or at the beach. I paddle through caves and floating temples and make it home for a rice wine dinner. I live here because I have to. Because it’s more than I could have imagined. Because, now it’s my reality. So, get a job teaching English in Vietnam because you have to. Teach English in Vietnam because you get to meet you.
Written by Gabrielle Barnes for Teacher’s Friend Vietnam