It’s time to go home

25 Mar

I always expected my backpack to send me home early, that’s why I invested in one of the most comfortable bags on the market. I didn’t want to throw a tantrum after months of struggling with it. I underestimated myself, though, as I’ve proven to be one of the most patient and understanding travellers amongst friends.

It took an anxious night alone in a State of Islam to conceive the idea of returning home; a thought that was fostered when dozens and dozens of people aggressively accosted me for photographs the following morning, and finally a pack of arrogant Vietnamese men lacking queueing ettiquette (one of the only pet peeves I just couldn’t adjust to) solidified the idea the same afternoon. And once the idea was cemented in my mind, it was all I could think about. It was time to go home, and it was almost right on schedule.

I wonder if people will continue selling food on the street until I return again?

By the next morning I was in Hanoi and just hours away from boarding the flight that would take me back to my homeland, my partner and all the things I used to take for granted. I took photographs of the Old Quarter – which already looked more developed than when I saw it eight months ago – and I fantasised about how it might look when I return again. I also met with a great friend to laugh about all the things we love about Vietnam: street bars, the ability to have a cheap massage and without an appointment, the way men wear pink helmets and cuddle on motorbikes. Weight, of course, was a more sombre conversational point as we both expected to lose weight in Asia but had produced sizeable beer bellies. Patting my round centre, I kind of hoped a parasite was stirring in my last Vietnamese meal, just to help me lose a few of the kilos I had gained.

“Farewell Vietnam” I mouthed to the land during the drive to the airport. “It’s been swell, really swell.” The taxi driver smiled through his rearview mirror. He could see how much I loved his country and he was proud.

Over eight months I learnt the importance of development work, the hardships people endure around the world, the realities of communism and socialist countries, human rights, advocacy. I realised Australia really is “the lucky country”, ranking at the top of the UN’s Human Development Index for years while Vietnam ranked 113th in 2010 (one being the highest quality of life and 169 the poorest on the scale). My work in the development field is not over yet, just the first amazing chapter of it.

By Marissa Toohey

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