So now I know for sure that I’m going back to the States next fall and will stay there for at least 2 years. That means that day when I leave Saigon is coming soon. I have 1 year left here, or maybe even less, to embrace my beloved Saigon each day I wake up.
Lately, my thoughts wander to this old Facebook post I wrote about 1 year ago. Sometimes I’m still overwhelmed by my tremendous for this city. But I’m no longer worried about “losing” Saigon. I will never lose it because it’s become a part of me. Saigon is in me, wherever I go, to keep my heart warm, and singing.
September 25, 2016
Just 2 more days and I’ll be back to my beloved Saigon. Been away for almost 2 weeks. Missing that place where ‘it’s always summer’ to me.
The other day, Mom talked me into coming back to Hanoi again. I told her, ‘no I just love Saigon, mom. I won’t come back.’ ‘What about it that you like? You have…nothing there.’ I paused for a while, not because I didn’t know what to say, but I searched my mind for an analogy to make it easy for her to understand.
I asked her, ‘Mom, when you moved from your former school to the latter (she used to be the principal of a primary school then moved to another one), did you feel the difference in the culture of the 2 institutions?’ She nodded. I continued, ‘You felt you belonged to one place more than the other, didn’t you?’ She nodded again. That’s when I knew my analogy worked. I said, ‘I feel the same way about Hanoi and Saigon. It’s the culture of each city that makes it different. The culture of Saigon makes me feel like home. That’s where I belong.’
Until now, she hasn’t said another word about me coming back to Hanoi. She visited me in Saigon and told her friends there that her daughter loves Saigon a lot.
One afternoon, I was not in a good mood. I left my cubicle to stand by the window and looked out the streets trying to resume my inner peace. A shower just came and poured very heavily. Saigon-style shower, that’s what I call it. As I recited the word ‘Saigon shower’ in my mind, a thought suddenly came to my mind, ‘If I no longer live here, I’ll no longer see this shower.’ And the following thought couldn’t come more naturally, ‘who knows how long I’ll live here. I may leave this place any time soon. No one knows what future holds for a nomad like me…’ So I had that feeling of deep gratitude and appreciation we normally have when already losing something precious. I was so lucky to feel that appreciation when still having that precious thing of mine. Joy thus immediately filled up my heart as I stood there looking at the city I love in awe and as I silently told myself, ‘I’ll appreciate you every single day I’m with you, Saigon, as if I’d have to leave you soon.’