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the rain is here


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Coming back from another run to the neighboring city, we met the rain at the entrance to town. At first just a few scattered specks, and before I knew it, my sunglasses were shrouded. In shorts and a T-shirt sitting in the back of my nephew’s motorbike, I was dusted in the softest raindrops. Every hair on my exposed skin stood up to welcome them. Out of the corner of my eyes, I can see the gray clouds hovering over every corner of the afternoon sky. I knew it was going to be a good one.

Fortunately for us, my cousin’s house is less than a kilometer away. A few of my grandfather’s relatives decided to join us for dinner. We gathered, ate, and said our goodbyes. Seven hours later, the rain continued. And I don’t mean the kind of drawn-out trickling rain. Downpour after downpour, the rain soaked ground gave up its yielding ways. Water poured from every crevice of what was earlier today parched ground. I stayed inside, but my curiosity leaped through the window into the ankle deep layer of water standing in the front yard. It immediately brought me back to childhood, spending these rainy days with my younger brother and the neighborhood kids. We used to run naked through the streets free of obligations, and absent of worries. The cold raindrops on my bare skin always left me with an irreplaceable sensation of purity. I imagined it would be somewhat similar to being baptized, but I wouldn’t know. I’ve only seen it on TV.

We would race through the streets filled with laughter and overflowed with excitement. Sometimes when it rained so hard like it was today, every drop felt like tiny fingers tapping me on the shoulders, urging me to partake in the celebration of typhoon season. Only that today, it is barely the month of January of the lunar calendar year. This kind of downpour at this time is rarely seen. A part of me thought superstitiously, and the other parts reasoned with science. Flowers in the front yard that my aunt has tediously cared for many months before the arrival of the new year seemed to have succumbed to the force of gravity. I lay awake under the tin roof listening to melodious sound of the rain. When I close my eyes, I imagined the sea bringing in a convoy of waves colliding into each other onto shore. The sound I very much embrace, the sound of sleep, and the sound of peace.

travel blogs, Uncategorized

who we are


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That’s how these things go. I’m always inevitably pulled into these awkward situations where I’m bound to engage in semi-formal conversations with neighbors and distant relatives all over this stretch of dirt path. Everything seems a little smaller every time I come here, from this dirt road to my grandparents’ house where I had spent most of my summers as a kid. The fact is, everything has gotten bigger. I can tell from the narrowing river inlet that has graced the front of our house for as long as I can remember.

I’m reminded of how different we all are now. We’ve adapted and evolved to become the essence of who we are.  Is it a product of our environment? Absolutely. But that’s no surprise. I’m more interested in what connects us. Take my little cousin Nhí (his nickname) for example. He and I had a lengthy conversation tonight catching up on the ten plus years that have passed us. I stayed silent for the most part, listening intently only to decipher a fraction of our conversation. Admittedly I have no knowledge of what he was saying, but nonetheless, I caught up quickly.

I’ve known he has had a rough beginning. We grew up together in this village, though I was more fortunate than he. Tonight, he spoke with an overwhelming sense of honesty as if he had speculated my apprehension in his words. He is now a husband, a father, and a salesman/electrician. Previously he was a delivery driver for an insecticide company traveling throughout the Mekong delta into Cambodia and Laos. He proceeded to tell me about a slew of other professions he has had, some in conjunction with others, just earning enough to feed his family in this tough economy. He insinuated a lack of resources and the demands for his type of work changes on a daily basis. I can see his eyes gleaming for new opportunities, and his brain forming new schemes as we spoke. I followed the lines on his forehead down to his cheeks stippled by the sun. It was not with a sense of curiosity or judgement, but with pure affection and admiration. I realized how much of him and his life I did not know. How he had to navigate through childhood and adult life on his own. How he had managed to stay afloat to support himself, his wife, and his child. The harsh conditions of living in this place forced him to be skillful, resilient, and a lot of times, cunning. I could tell at times when he puts his head down mid-sentence that he was not proud of the things he had done, and that’s just it.  In that way we are the same. We meet at this junction where we do what we must. We survive.

We lived separate lives, on separate continents.  Like our environments, we mold ourselves to get where we need to go, and who we need to be. Just like my grandparents’ house, just like the narrowing river, we too transform with time. I still remember the sparkle in his big brown eyes when he was young, and yes, they still shine. Even though the lines on his face, the hair on his chin, or the calluses on rugged his hands may have tried to disguise the boy I knew before, he and I are still very much the same. And in that moment, I began to understand, who we are.

travel blogs, Uncategorized

first day tet ’17


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I’m wide awake. It’s almost three am. Exhilarated, jet-lagged, drenched in relief to have made it to Vīnh Long without a hitch. The long trip was anticipated but the jitters are keeping me up at this hour. It’s probably the lack of sleep, but who knows, I might have drank too many espressos at Taoyuan airport. Maybe I’m subconsciously celebrating Tet as it creeps up on this day. Even in this state of mind, I somehow feel at ease amidst the concert of frogs and insects outside my steel-framed window. It’s still pitch black outside, as black as I remembered. The nights here bring out the mysterious side of this land, and apparently I’ve forgotten these early mornings embodied the same. In which case, I will stay inside my mosquito net and wait for the sun to rise…