Here I am in Room 6320 of Aruba's one and only Holiday Inn - a hotel that was infamously and reluctantly pushed into the spotlight following the fishy disappearance of high school senior Natalee Holloway in 2005 - with full access to a breathtakingly beautiful beach, and an unlimited supply of all-inclusive alcoholic beverages.
But all I keep thinking about is Vietnam.
The mental probing started yesterday when I went for a run. I needed the solidarity. I needed time to reflect about my life, which direction it's going - and what the hell my "plan" is come the end of the summer. As if I'll ever actually figure that one out. But my comfortable and somewhat-lucrative lifeguarding gig terminates in five weeks. So, therefore, must my characteristically-Kelly procrastination.
I was pondering just this when the course of my run took me past a native Aruban, grilling something in the back of a (his?) truck. Exactly what he was cooking, I couldn't tell you. And where safety hazards are concerned, this probably wasn't the best location to set up shop. But whatever it was, it smelled fucking delicious. He looked at me and smiled. And waved. He uncannily resembled a man I used to pass by on my way to and from school every day in Can Tho, also contentedly stationed at his grill: same bronzed shoulders, same ragged tank top, same genuine smile.
...I regret, in many ways, coming home early from that assignment in Vietnam. Sure, it was difficult to wake up every day and go to bed every night in the sweltering heat, constantly combating mosquitoes and trying, effort after effort, to communicate my needs and wants to the locals, as my attempt at making any progress in Vietnamese was just plain comical, to put it nicely.
But there aren't many places like Vietnam. And Aruba is, despite its slightly bluer waters and "tanner" citizens, more or less an extension of any commercialized beach town in America. There's a TGIF's, a Burger King and a Dunkin Donuts right across the street from this resort. Signs of these familiar chains comfort most of my fellow countrymen. To me, they're an eyesore of the worst sort - a painful and ugly reminder that our world is globalizing and therefore, shrinking, at a rapidly dangerous pace.
It makes one think, and fear: is there still enough time to see everything in its most authentic form before it evaporates from the face of the Earth?!
I want to believe, try to believe, that there's still time, despite my foolish choice to leave a part of the world that I had yet to truly discover, to see more of what I lust for - and that is, something different.
So why did I leave it in the first place, when I was already there?
I still don't know the answer to that.
But I do know that I want to live, like most people, with minimal regrets.
As the old saying goes:
"Live the life you love, love the life you live."