So, I’m finally here.

A little over two weeks ago, I completed my one-month, in-country orientation in Hà Nội. I bid farewell to the amazing friends I’ve made in my cohort, all of whom are the most inspiring, humorous people I’ve ever met (love y’all). After a month of being with each other, we were finally leaving, spreading across the country and moving into provinces we’ve never been to and/or heard about before.

For me, I was moving to Tây Ninh, a south-western province in Việt Nam. I’d be living about a few hours away from Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh (Ho Chi Minh City, or HCMC), where I still had plenty of my dad’s side of the family residing. And knowing that I was only one 2-hour bus ride away from them was reassuring for me.

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I’m sorry for raising my voice.

A couple of weekends ago, the Fulbright Program sponsored my cohort to a weekend getaway to Ninh Bình. It was honestly a nice break from the usual routine we all had going on: wake up (late) every morning for breakfast, spend a few hours learning Vietnamese, eat lunch for an hour, and spend the last few hours learning Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) lessons. During our little getaway, though, I was prompted—or rather, reminded—to think about the space I/we occupied (shout out to MJ!).

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A Bittersweet Departure

It’s nearly 1 o’clock in the morning, and my family is barely awake. We all squeeze into my dad’s 15-year-old minivan with all of my luggage; ten months worth of clothes and supplies are jam-packed into two 50-pound suitcases, a carry-on, and my backpack. My dad pulls out of our neighborhood and makes his way onto I-76 while my mom quickly passes out in the back seat with my two brothers. I am sitting beside my dad in the passenger seat, awake and slightly anxious. As he drives quietly under the gleaming, bright moon, I look over and asks if he’s tired. “No, I have my coffee.” Steering with his left-hand, my dad reaches for his cà phê sữa đá and takes a sip.

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