Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Heavy suitcase, light heart

Found this blogpost that I wrote exactly three years ago today, the first day I landed in Vietnam. I took the photo at the coffee shop I was in then. It went on to become "my place" in Saigon.

I have often paid excess baggage. It is impossible for me to go somewhere without six pairs of shoes and three bags. A profusion of other accessories. Laptop, two phones, external hard drive and all their attendant paraphernalia. Extra adaptors, back-up headphones, 57 pens (all but the worst one get lost in the ride to the airport), skincare for various parts of the body and times of day, specialist hair care. All of this is somehow doubled on the way back.

But in my head, I travel light. I carry no pre-conceptions, bring no personal agenda. I leave self-destructive habits and personal existential angst at home. I need about a week to pack the smallest suitcase but my mind is travel-ready in about fifteen minutes.

So when people tell me I am brave to come out to a strange country at short notice, I don’t know how to be sufficiently modest – to be effectively self-deprecating, you have to believe the compliment is true. The truth is you don’t need a lot of courage to get on a plane that’s been booked for you, be met by a hotel that’s been pre-arranged for you and work in an office exactly like all the others you’ve known. Within an hour of landing – in the middle of a long weekend –I got a call from my new boss’s PA, asking if everything was okay. It was.

Yes there’s a language to get familiar with, there are cultural idiosyncrasies that you have to recognise and accept. Even more important, you need to be able to separate those from personal behavioural traits. You need to find out where things are and how they get done. It’s not hard to do, it comes to you in the course of living every day. And it will come to me here too, in this unexpected, wonderfully exuberant city that I never knew existed till a few hours ago.

No comments:

Blog Archive