The Final Chapter

The plane ride to Hanoi took a toll on me. I felt home sick after getting on a plane for the first time after two and a half months and not heading home. We’ve been having so much fun I almost forgot about home. Taking a plane ride to Hanoi instead of heading home was hard but Hanoi is extravagant. The vibrant city offers amazing food, night life and a night market, the biggest one we’ve been to by far, offering a great variety of souvenirs and gifts. We visited the tribal museum Hanoi has to offer and learned about tribal life and traditions. It was a good introduction for our trek in Sapa. Cat Ba island was a mission to get to. First a 4 hour bus ride, then a speed boat ride accompanied by another hour long bus ride. But it was all worth it. Cat Ba island was beautiful and had lots to offer. We kayaked through the beautiful mountains, seeking the life among the giant rocks peeking out of the water. We kayaked through floating villages and lagoons. The caves were a little on the creepy side but still an unforgettable experience. We all enjoyed David’s reenactment of Gollum. Though Cat Ba didn’t offer so much of a night life, we still enjoyed the amazing presentations done by George and Alondra for their classes. After Cat Ba we made or way north west to Sapa by bus and overnight train. After some down time we departed on a four day trek through the villages surrounding the town. Accompanied by our hilarious and wonderful guide Lan, we enjoyed beautiful weather and views as well as delicious food (CREPES FOR BREAKFAST EVERYDAY!!!!) and comfortable sleeping arrangements for three nights, ending it all with a refreshing swim in a beautiful river on our last day. We then had another rest day in Sapa and then made our way back to Hanoi where we are now spending our final full day of our journey buying souvenirs, savoring delicious pho, writing blogs, and reflecting on the last three months…

The sun has finally began its descent over the Hanoi skyline, and many feelings and memories bubble up as we share these final moments together. It’s a moment that’s always seemed so distant, like there were always going to be three months ahead of us. Now that we’re here, it’s difficult to know how to feel. Most of us are excited to greet our friends and family and phones with a bittersweet embrace, knowing there won’t be any banh mi or mysterious sticky rice treat being sold from a stand outside our houses. We’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on our adventures together and sharing our concerns with re-assimilating into American culture. It’s a real thing, reverse-culture-shock, and I have a feeling it’ll hit harder than the original one back in Chiang Mai. Of course, it’s a necessary part of such a perspective-broadening experience. A couple nights ago David asked us what we thought some of the overarching themes were of this semester were, what morals or messages kept resurfacing throughout our experiences. A specific idea came to my mind, a word that has been spoken in many contexts in the past three months: gratitude. It isn’t difficult to be grateful for comfort when we’re feeling homesick or when we happen upon a hostel without an English speaking staff. In these situations, it’s easy to be grateful for those moments when life was easier, but that isn’t what gratitude is trying to teach us. Gratitude means being grateful for every comfort, every challenge, every moment as it happens, and not after the fact. It teaches humility, requires patience, and results in confidence. Now is the time where we must say goodbye to the amazing things we have experienced in the last 3 months. All the things we’ve seen, smelled, tasted, heard, and felt will be with us only in memory once we return to the land that we call home.

Phong, Reilly, & Cal