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Moving to Vietnam: Delicious Ambiguity
By Sherry Ott | On 25 Jan, 2014
I’m moving to Vietnam. Yes, Vietnam – a place I probably wouldn’t have even been able to find on a map a few years ago.
Am I scared? Well, I made my last big move a few years ago from the west coast to the east coast of the US. But now I’m crossing continents to the other side of the world. Moving isn’t that new to me as I’ve had many homes after I moved out of my childhood home in Peoria, IL at the age of 18. They included New York City, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Omaha, and Lincoln, Nebraska. However, now, when people ask me where I live, I have to get used to saying “I live in Ho Chi Minh City.” It doesn’t roll off the tongue easily; in fact it’s a mouthful.
I’m one of those strange people who enjoys the challenge of turning my world upside down, even though it means that it will be painful at times and there will be many doubts and a few tears. But don’t get me wrong, I love moving. I love the result – even though it normally takes six to twelve months to realize that I love it. I’m not the type to get super excited about a move; I’m more reserved, cautious, and cynical than the average person, causing me to be cautious and guarded in my emotions. And I have moved enough to know that there are a lot of difficult things that come with moving, which is why I don’t enthusiastically say in a high-pitched voice, “I can’t wait to move to Saigon!” Instead, people ask me if I’m excited about moving to Vietnam and my reply is more of a subdued, “Yes, I’m excited about it. It will be challenging and fun.”
This particular move is full of many firsts. The most obvious is that this will be the first time that I’ve lived abroad. It will also be the first time I’ve moved someplace where a different language is spoken. It’s the first time I’m moving with only two suitcases and absolutely no furniture. And, finally, this is the first time I’ve taken a job solely based on a phone interview.
So, back to the question, “Am I scared?”
Yes. Who wouldn’t be? In fact, I’m sitting here in a plane flying over Thailand freaking out right now. I was trying to read my English grammar book for a while until I realized the futility; as if I can cram five hundred pages of grammar into my head before I start teaching. I guess it was worth a try. Then I tried to listen to my “Learn Vietnamese Podcast” in vain. I tried watching Sex in the City: The Movie, but it just ended up making me homesick and questioning what the hell I was doing. Finally I turned to the only things that calm me down – wine, Billie Holiday, and writing.
I’m feeling better already.
I don’t know much about my job except that I’m teaching a subject that I use everyday but hardly know. I don’t have a place to live. I don’t have a map. And even if I did have a map, I wouldn’t know how to use it to get around. I don’t know anyone in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC). Ok – that’s a tiny lie. I know one person in HCMC – a woman I met in my travels, who I did some computer consulting work for. Strangely, sort of knowing one person in Vietnam makes me giddy.
But, most of all, I don’t know if I’m cut out for teaching and I don’t know if I’m cut out for any of this relocating adventure. One of my favorite quotes talks about how delicious ambiguity is; so instead of being scared to bits, I will try to embrace the ambiguity of this move and life change.
“Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it without knowing what’s going to happen next. Delicious ambiguity.” –Gilda Radner
Traveling around the world and volunteering in remote Nepal did exactly what I needed it to do – it stripped my western conveniences down to nothing and forced myself to reset. It was a severely painful process, but it worked.
Heck, at this point I’ll be thankful if I have hot water in Saigon. I will be thankful for a bed that has some sort of padding. I will be thankful not to have to bathe in public. Nepal also taught me how to be alone again, which was probably the hardest lesson that I had to learn. And even though it sounds pathetic, I have realized that this keyboard is my best, most reliable friend. But it’s absolutely true. It can talk me off a ledge, it can bring me calm and sanity, and strangely it listens well…in the form of these words. And it will continue to play the role of closest confidante until I can make new friends.
I’m as prepared as I will ever be for this next chapter in my life. Sufficiently scared and excited, here I go again into the unknown.
What’s the scariest decision you’ve ever made? Tell us about it in the comments section below:
Sherry is a long-term traveler, blogger, and photographer who did her CELTA at Teaching House, got a job teaching in Vietnam, and hasn’t stopped moving since. She writes about her around-the-world adventures on Ott’s World and is a co-founder of Meet, Plan, Go!, a website and travel event teaching people how to take their own traveling career break or sabbatical.
Latest posts by Sherry Ott (see all)
- Challenges of a Middle Aged TEFL Teacher - February 29, 2016
- Missing the Old, Embracing the New: A Food Adventure - January 18, 2015
- Overcoming Fear: Driving a Motorbike in Vietnam - October 2, 2014