Climb every mountain

As I was walking to church for my last breakfast in Duc Linh the good ol' Saigon bus tried to get me to
come on - one more for the road! This time was the most aggressive. The bus came to a full stop and the man who hangs out the door to grab people came out onto the street with his arms stretched out, almost grabbing me to get me on and yelling at me in a persuasive tone (I imagine it was something like "come on! We've been trying to get you out of here for weeks! What are you doing here? It doesn't make sense! Let's go already!") I kept saying "no! no!" nodding vigorously, waving him away, making an "x" with my arms - they wouldn't go! I walked by and the bus crawled behind me before taking off (the guy in the door was laughing and had his hand in a peace sign). I was thinking not for a few more hours! And I'm not going on your annoying harassing bus anyways! One of my fellow volunteers and Vietnam native Van said to me this morning: "it's been four weeks and you are still here. You are tough. I am proud of you." I smiled and hugged her and told her "YOU are tough! You are much more tough than I am!" It's true. Those girls shared beds with no blankets, took cold showers with all kinds of bugs (lots of frogs and lizards made bathroom appearances), slept with no AC and many mosquitoes and didn't make a peep about any of it. In fact, they seemed perfectly carefree and joyful the entire time.

After breakfast we motorbiked about 20km to a mountain. The hike up took about two hours, and almost the entire way we were climbing stairs through an ascending alleyway of shops (we kept saying "how do they have a shop up here? What is going on!?") People were sleeping in hammocks, watching TV, trying to get us to buy things and just living life in their casual mountainside homes and shops. We were absolutely exhausted and sweating, panting as we put one foot in front of the other. I smiled to myself thinking how perfect that on my last day here I am LITERALLY climbing a mountain after a month of climbing all sorts of metaphorical mountains (hi Natalie!) A lot of this experience was different than I expected. Some things I didn't even think about or didn't think would be issues ended up being the biggest struggles (like the NOISY MOTEL, lack of alone time and sleep deprivation training) and others that I was terrified of before coming here weren't so scary after all (teaching, mosquitoes, playing with kids all the time and language barriers). There were times I cried in my mosquito net tent feeling exhausted, anxious, homesick and uncomfortable, and other times I walked around the church gazing at the abundance of yellow butterflies and dragonflies flying around me and waving to sweet little kids, feeling like I was exactly where I was supposed to be.

I'm currently sitting in the airport at Ho Chi Minh City, thinking back to my arrival here on June 25th. It was late at night and I was absolutely exhausted and terrified. My entire flight over I was thinking what the hell! Why are we doing this? Can we go home now? Is this over yet? JFK! I miss you! The first few days were incredibly disorienting and I was overcome with anxiety, fear and homesickness. Those feelings came and went throughout the trip, but once I met the kids (and slept a little bit) they were greatly subdued. It feels like it's been months since I boarded that plane at JFK. It seems like there is a vast space between then and now - mountains and mountains of space, time, energy and experience. Time to go to the gate!

 Many temples along the way up the mountain

 This guy spoke really good English! I made friends with him and he wanted me to take a photo

 Some of my crazy students came on our hike

 He was walking really slowly - I think it was a walking meditation

 That's me! I'm a lot higher up than it looks!

 Sneak shot by Dan