“Vietnamese people…may be cold on the surface,” said Nghia, in his French-inflected English accent, leaning over his neglected lunch at our table in Nambo, the open-air Western style restaurant in Ninh Kieu plaza. “They don’t smile at you right away because they do not know you. But when you open up to them and make them your friend, they become your friend for life.”
I cringe when he says this. Originally, I was supposed to stay here longer. But my plans have changed along with my heart. I want to teach English abroad somewhere else. So I will be retreating back to
Although I am ecstatic to come home and see friends and family, there is a part of me that is already missing
This is perhaps because
Although they frustrated me at times, my students were what kept my spirits alive in Can Tho, and helped me to understand this country through the eyes of its future. True, they were negligent when it came to voluntarily raising their hand in class, but they encouraged me every day with their silent, smiling faces. Our upbringings may have been separate. Our dinner tables may have sported different dishes. Our favorite cartoon characters may have spoken different languages. But my students (at the risk of sounding cliché` here) have taught me more than I have taught them. They have reaffirmed my already pre-determined belief that all people in this world are more alike than they are different. They have, by way of never failing to miss a class and showering me with gifts on Teacher’s Day, shown me how much they appreciate my presence at the front of their classroom. And they have also broken my heart.
“When you come back
I sat there with my mouth open and stared at her. After a few moments, I closed it and simply said, “I have no idea.”
I came back to life and found myself seated across from Nghia, who was studying my face intently, trying to relay a message through his unspoken words.
Finally, he let me in on his secret.
“I think you should stay longer,” he said. “That way, you’ll understand.”
I had to look away. I had tears in my eyes.