I am leaving Vietnam now, after travelling from Saigon to Hanoi over the course of 10 days. I love being in Vietnam with it’s busy, tumultuous, city streets and it’s quiet pastoral countryside. I have a new respect for those funky,urban lifestyles but I preferred visiting in places that were quaint and manageable from a tourist perspective.
Hoi An was my uncontested favorite place in Vietnam. A quaint village lifestyle with lanterns everywhere to light up the night. Small town shopping and dining. Bicycle was my preferred mode of transport. And I went to another cooking school there to learn how to replicate the amazing flavors of Vietnamese cooking. It was a wonderful, magical place with a mostly uninhabited beachfront that extended for forever it seemed.
I loved being in Vietnam and I will go back there again. It was a cultural experience not to be missed. An opportunity to feel as close to what happened in the war as I will ever come.
Oh and did I mention five times already about the food. I tell my friends that I ate my way through Vietnam. They have the best street food and the greatest restaurants.
History that never ends.
The opportunity to experience religious ceremonies that I have only ever read about.
Endless exposure to their life on the street. Cooking, eating, caring for their children, socializing, all with the constant presence of the ubiquitous red plastic stools.
Interesting to see Thailand achieve their emerging balance, Vietnam still a work in progress and Cambodia is the new kid on the block, still. Their lives and lifestyles, their opportunities, their health, all reflected in their ability to gain their balance under gentler regimes.
When I left Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, I felt strangely grateful for the little things in my life. We complain about a lot of things but we really have a lot to be thankful for. We are lucky beyond measure to live this one life that we have in such privilege and safety. They all love their countries but they covet many of the things that we take for granted. So, in light of that, here is a list of things for which I am reminded to be grateful for.
- I am grateful for catalytic converters. I will never again complain about having to service my car for my Drive Clean certification.
- I am grateful for No Smoking legislation.
- I am grateful that I can drink water from the tap and brush my teeth under the tap.
- I am grateful for our flawed health care system that supports my health my way.
- I am grateful that the packages that people send through our ridiculously slow mail service, actually arrive intact at my house.
- I am grateful for vaccines administered on demand,which although a contentious issue for me, is available to me. In Cambodia, people line up, outdoors, for days in the heat and mosquitoes, to have their children vaccinated or treated for dengue fever and malaria.
- I am grateful for dry,cool, clean spaces to eat and shop.
- I am grateful for a legal system that sort of works, and despite that it can be costly, it is just. (according to what I believe to be just…hmmm.)
- I am grateful for silly bylaws that protect us from one another when the need arises.
- I am grateful for Sanitation systems that pick up my garbage every week without fail.
- I am grateful for clean relatively clean waterways and mandates for additional progress in this area.
- I am grateful for air pollution efforts to reduce and eliminate.
- I am grateful for a police force that represents my best interests and deals equally with all. (mostly…but that is another discussion.)
- I am grateful for smooth well kept roads that are funded by a tax system that I may no longer resent.
- I am grateful for clean, serviced public washrooms.
- I am grateful for moderate temperatures that do not start with 40. (okay except January and February)
- I am grateful for straight up real estate transactions where you pay and you have a house to show for it.
- I am grateful for the freedom to move in and out of my country at will.
- I am grateful for a humane Humane Society that cares for strays and enforces things like rabies vaccination and laws that requires the more dangerous breeds to conform.
- I am grateful for a mental health system that recognizes that mental health issues exist.
- I am grateful for adaptations that allow those who are disabled to move freely. In my travels I saw only 1 disabled person the entire time that I traveled. So where are they?
This brings back the whole issue of cultural relativism though because the people of Vietnam and Thailand seem reasonably happy and hopeful for the future. Life in Cambodia seems hard but they too, seem content.
In all three countries, their children are well cared for.
Family time is all the time.
Work is often second to social time.
Naps in the heat of the day are expected and delicious.
Seemingly unregulated traffic systems count on mutual understandings (how great is that!)
No winter. (How can that be bad).
In rural areas, subsistence type living that connects them with the land and the ocean in a way that we have only just begun to prioritize.
Life expectancy in my country is 82 years against a worldwide average of 68 years. Cambodia is age 65. Vietnam is 75. Thailand is 74.
But really it is about what we do with our years rather than how many we have isn’t it.
The quality of our days rather than how many we have. It makes me think….