You will miss the days of wondering when you’d finally succumb to a permanent food coma. You’ll yearn for the feel of the steam from a nice, big bowl of phở. The taste of the boiled chicken broth that spills pieces of bò and ga, instantly cooking them, will tantalize you. You will always feel the crunch of fresh bean sprouts, paired with soft noodles and lettuce and hoisin sauce; the symphony of textures only brings you closer to that nirvana your Buddhist parents always talk about. And you will believe it, even though you’re Agnostic. And you’ll always savor the moments where you sat back and held your stomach (Look, I’m pregnant) because you ate too much and wanted throw up. Funny—because you know that you would eat another bowl of phở within 20 minutes.
You will miss the sugary, cold slurps of sugar cane juice that was freshly squeezed in front of your eyes, and the coolness of coconut water from a young coconut that had just fallen off the tree in your backyard. You will miss, unbelievably, the bitter taste of Tiger beers, which you had the liberty to try since Vietnam holds no drinking age limit (but no more mango daiquiris).
You will miss the beach of Nha Trang, how the shoreline stretches miles and miles and how the ocean is so blue and clear that even as you swim deeper, you can still see your legs. You will miss the bamboo umbrellas which shielded you from the unforgiving sun. And yes, you will even miss the pesky but convincing women who roamed the sands (Hello, Madame, you like to buy?), carrying bamboo baskets filled with bracelets and trinkets that—let’s face it—you’ll never need in your life.
You will miss the boat rides which took you from one island to the next. You’ll remember the sunsets that led your dreams for most of the vacation. You’ll want to go back to that time when you stopped your boat in the middle of nothing but gorgeous scenery and purple and pink, and jumped right into the bay.
You will miss the mixture of fear and excitement that coursed through you when you rode on the back of your non-English speaking, but still endearing, cousin-in-law’s motorcycle in the heart of Nha Trang (Slow down! Too fast! Sorry, no English, and he smirked). You’ll remember the sweet, suffocating, and homely smell of gas, bún bò Huế, and fresh bread, each individual scent bombarding you at every corner you turn. You’ll dream of the nights where everyone went out to have fun by the beach, where the lights of the night market stretched a mile down an already crowded street. The sights of eyesore and blinding glares of neon lights flashing “Fun Hear” (Oh look there’s fun—what?) and “Sailing Club” are now embedded in you.
You will remember the day you finally left home. Goodbyes weren’t given; you just told everyone you would meet them ‘later.’ Yet, ‘later’ could mean a year, two years—maybe even ten years. You took your final pictures, passing it off in playful gestures, but you secretly wanted to take photos with the people who you know will not live too long. Aunt Eight didn’t smile at the camera; instead, as you posed next to her, she whispered in Vietnamese, croaking at the age of 65, “What is that?” (Just smile, you said through your fixed smile).
And then, as you drove away in your taxi, you resisted the urge to climb over the piles of baggage to glance at the family house one last time. So, you sat in the front seat and closed your eyes, and before you could even comprehend it, you were at Nha Trang airport, ears full of English and Vietnamese.
Now, you’re ‘home’ in the suburbs (doesn’t feel like ‘home’ just yet), sitting on your bed, thinking that Vietnam shouldn’t have become a memory so soon.