I’ll push off at dawn tomorrow on my bike, and carve down towards the coast. A new route, snaking through swampland and through rivulet shards, broken off from the Mekong River.
Countdown to midnight on December 31st is well underway over here. Stranded in Vietnam for another Christmas, another long drawn out year of waiting.
With each gear shift and wheel cycle, splattering droplets of mud off the road’s hard shoulder, I’ll be seeing off 2021, with its pain-staking lockdowns and startling monthly ennui, as the world kept seeking out answers from pasty, fat-faced figures of authority.
Turning each corner as I sail off, briefly, on another routine voyage of escape, gripping the handlebars of my bike tightly, hoping for some normality in this coming year.
Hoping for travel outside of Vietnam, hoping to see our family. Hoping Flo and Martha’s school re-opens after another protracted seven months of online tuition.
I’ve not been short of work this year, nor different types of focus, but the familiarity and comfort of forward planning has again been cut off at the legs.
As I reach my 11th Tet in this country, all the many daily wonders on offer here remain: hot, black drip coffee supped at a local cafe, street vendors nearby, all smiles as their livelihoods come out of a four month hibernation. “3 jabs” points the pho seller to me, proudly pointing to the top of his arm.
With each rise and fall of tropical sun here, I count the smiles received from locals as sacred moments. And there are many smiles. So many locals here are fully focused at any one time, focused at hustling, surviving, making it all work. Accepting full-heartedly that things “are what they are.”
Me, I’m still learning how.
In the meantime, as I walk by my house, the smell of fried pork sizzles with the roasting of garlic, and coffee bean steam rises up from the local factory. Conical hats bob up and down my street, one on a bicycle peddling re-cycled boxes, one carrying a wooden yoke of coconuts.
The Year of the Water Tiger – a year of stability and self-esteem – is coming.