The problem with being an expat

Being an expat is great. It almost feels like real life is put on hold and instead you live an intensified adventure. Gone is the daily grind, replaced by new experiences that help to freshen your perspective on life. Getting into a rut can still happen – there was a time here where it was so damn hot that all Tom and I did was watch Game of Thrones in our airconditioned room while ordering in virtually every meal – but luckily they tend not to last long.

Life as an expat in Saigon is particularly intense when it comes to relationships. It’s hard to think that we’ve only known some of our friends here for a few months because we feel so close to them. Maybe it’s because we’re like minded souls banding together in a foreign country to provide some reminder of home for each other. Whatever it is that throws us together though, it’s an amazing thing but also the reason why being an expat sucks.

There comes a time when home starts calling. For Tom and I, we knew that our time here in Vietnam would be limited as we have weddings of close friends to go back to NZ for in early 2014.  Somehow that time is nearly up and we’re about to embark on a two month adventure home via Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Malaysia. Thankfully we don’t have to say goodbye to Vietnam just yet (Con Dao island, Dalat, Hanoi and Sapa are locked into our itinerary) but unfortunately it is goodbye to Saigon and the beautiful friends we’ve met here.

At one point it felt like we’d been in Saigon for years but as time has accelerated towards our final day in the city I feel like we’ve just arrived. Everything seems just as exciting as when we first set foot in this mad city and I find myself more reluctant to leave. Alas, the flights are booked and tomorrow we fly.

The past week has been so emotional and full of drawn out goodbyes…which are the worst! I finished teaching last Sunday but just had to pop in today to see my littlies class dressed up in their Halloween outfits. Luckily they’re so young that they’ll have forgotten about Miss Amanda in a few minutes but it was harder saying goodbye to my older students. Especially when they write things like this:

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We also didn’t manage to have one leaving dinner as originally planned. Instead we’ve had at least three leaving dinners, one goodbye lunch and a house party last night. If that’s not enough, we also have friends popping in for a final goodbye tonight which will be hard. Luckily we live in such a small world these days that new friends are never far from reach. That’s what I keep telling myself when I feel a bit emo about it all anyway!

It isn’t just our friends that we’re saying goodbye to though, it’s also the place that has become our second home. I’ve never lived in another country before so this is my first time leaving somewhere, potentially for good. New Zealand is where my home and heart will always be so I didn’t need to worry about saying goodbye as I knew I’d be coming back one day. Here though, it’s different. We don’t know when we’ll next be back and riding around on the back of a bike this morning I caught myself wondering if this would be the last time I’d see all the crazy sights there are to see here. Needless to say it made me a little blue.

But then I had a revelation. If you’ve lived here long enough then you’ll have noticed that no one in Vietnam ever says “goodbye”. It’s always – “hen gap lai” which translates as “see you again”. So from here on in no more goodbyes – hen gap lai Saigon, it’s been an amazing ride.

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