A funny thing happens when you wake up to the sound of drilling on your roof but you’re not all that bothered. It’s just the neighbors adding a few stories next door. You put your shorts and sandals on and walk past the pond where the locals are already on their first bia hoi of the day. You and a flatmate joined them yesterday for a couple rounds, which they insisted on paying for, but it’s still a little early today.
You order your favorite egg and sausage banh mi for breakfast and greet the woman in Vietnamese. She smiles and says “hello” while prepping your meal with chopsticks and a propane burner on the side of the road. “Hai muoi” she says and you instinctively grab a 20,000 Dong note, equivalent to about one US dollar.
The sounds of the market flood your ears, but the cacophony of tones feel familiar and welcoming. The smell of chopped up fish in a barrel floats through your nostrils, heat from the roadside meat-on-a-stick lady’s stand flushes your cheeks, and the moped that nearly just ran over your toes dives around another unsuspecting local out for a morning stroll.
The ever present heat makes your brow bead with sweat. A drop falls to the cracked pavement unnoticed. One of thousands; who’s counting anymore?
What once were stares are now friendly “xin chào”s or really nothing at all. Your six-foot frame and ginger beard are as much of the landscape as the stand selling a roasted dog, which is to say not unusual at all.
In twenty minutes you’ve seen and felt and tasted on your very own market road more than you would have in an entire day back home and suddenly it hits you that this really is your home now. So you lie back, kick your feet up and smile because you’re thousands of miles away and yet here you are — home again.