Grandmotherland? Is that a thing? Well, it is now. You see, I was born in Seattle, but both of my parents emigrated from Vietnam when they were young. So, Vietnam is my grandmotherland.
It’s been 7 years since I’ve been back and my memories of the trip are such a blur. But there are certain things about Vietnam that will stick with you forever. The distinct smell of the Vietnam air as I stepped off the plane in Saigon, motorbikes driving in all directions, tons of fresh tropical fruits, and the simplistic lifestyle of the people. Oh, and how could I forget the food and how wonderfully cheap everything is over there!
This time, I returned to Vietnam with a group of 70 volunteers and health professionals to provide free healthcare to the rural areas of Hue. There is no way I can accurately describe my experiences this time around. But… I’ll try:)
Being in Vietnam with my peers really allowed me to open up and embrace something that has been part of me all along. During our mobile clinic days, I polished off my broken Vietnamese and helped translate for doctors and consulted patients on how to use their medicine. Clinic days were fast-paced, sweaty, and tiring. But never did I hear one person complain because we were all there to serve those who need it most. Together, we helped over 2,000 patients!
Not only did I learn more from clinics than I ever could in a classroom, I had the BEST time with all the friends I’ve made on the trip. Even though we spent about 8 months together prior to take-off from Seattle, we grew so much closer during the 17 days we were in Vietnam. Wandering the streets trying to find a delicious and somewhat sanitary restaurant for dinner, hanging up the dang tarp that provided shade every clinic day, playing taboo and charades to pass the time, haggling with street vendors for the best deals, singing Disney songs while packing hundreds of pills to prepare for the next day of clinic… I’m so glad I got to share my experiences with all of you!
As a second-generation Vietnamese American, going back to Vietnam isn’t much of a culture shock because I am immersed in some form of my culture everyday. It’s more of a reminder of where my family came from, the struggles they faced, the reason they are the way they are, and an overall better appreciation and understanding of what makes me, well, me.