From my journal:
"The day before we took the train to Nha Trang. I didnt even think about writing in this journal. I did this drawing though and little messyfish did the colorful line abstract along side my shapes. I was in a dark and scary place. Crying, hysteria, panic. I was really frightened I wasnt going to manage. And I prayed to god, even though I am an atheist, and I tried to think positive thoughts, but I couldnt stop how bad I felt. I was yelling at little messyfish, he was hitting me, bitting me, hurting me. It was pretty intense. I was asking him to help me, and he wouldnt. I tried to believe "I can do this". If michelle can call people for help to stay clean, then for goodness sake I can get on a train with an unhappy and defiant 3 year old. I tried to believe that what I thnk and how its bee is not how its going to be. That I would get help, that I am being looked after.
It ended up that Mr Ahn from the hotel came up to my room to help with my bag when it was time to go. He walked me through the alley. He got us across the road, got us a taxi. Spoke to the driver and told him where to go. As we drove through the dodgy part of town, I felt the fear and dread. The horror of being dropped off in the worst part of town. Moments of extreme terror. A heavy bag. A three year old. What the fuck am I doing?
But then a minute later I saw the sign for the train station. Thank god for that website "seat61", for its info. I recognized the front of the train station from the photo I had seen on that website. I enter the station, and there are other travellors there. There is a couple who look like Aussies. They are from Queensland. I ask where to get the train. They are getting the same train. They are in the same cabin. I ask at the counter (to double check). The helpful and freindly staff confirm that I am in the right place. I make a visual of where it is I need to walk to when its time to board the train.
We arrived in Nha Trang. Little messyfish ran on the beach. He ran and ran and ran. I have walked the local street outside our hotel. It has everything we will need. Little messyfish and I are already happy.
I am looking forward to relaxing and enjoying Nha Trang. It has alot to offer according to the guide books. I already love how there are lots of Aussies here."
My expectation of the train station was absolutely nothing like what it actually was. I was expecting that I would be inundated by people and chaos. That I would be struggling to read and understand directions and platform numbers and train numbers. Orinarilly those factors in them selves would be stressful, but with a "bolter" of a three year old and a heavy bag on my back that disable me to "bolt" too, I fell into deep terror and catastrophizing. I was terrified that I would loose him. I had only experienced Howrah station in Kolkata. The most incredible experience of my life. But there I had a very small bag and a 6 ft 3' male guide to take care of ME. Now it was me trying to understand the station, AND take care of a three year old.
My first realization that I was completely vulnerable was when the taxi drove through a part of saigon that had shutters everywhere and the street life had disappeared. In Places I dont know....no people equals scary to me.The buildings were numerous and cluttered. What if the cabbie just decided to pull up? What if he let someone into the cab? what if? horror movie horror movie. I was completely at the mercy of another human. I HAD to trust a complete stranger. Someone who could drive me anywhere and I would have no idea. When I was in my twenties, thoughts like that always crossed my mind too. But I wore runners, I was skinny and fit. I was nearly always carrying a chefs knife (being a chef going to or from work), and I always knew where I was. I was also able to read the subtle cultural clues that someone was not quite right. I could tell that a man in a suit walking fast was on his way to work, that a skinny hollow person in rags looking desperate was probably a junkie looking for a handbag to snatch to pay for his next shot of heroin. I could tell that the man in the big overcoat on the dark side of the street in the not so great area was likely a flasher, I could tell that the cute guy looking at me was flirting.
In Vietnam, I did not know what street was ok and what street was a bit dodgy. Everyone stared at us, or tried to touch us, or talk to us, so how did I know whether it was a weirdo pervert trying to get a feel, or simply a human exchange of friendliness? Are there crazies here like the crazies I see in Sydney? There are so many odd charaters walking the streets of Sydney. It is more prominent in the housing commission areas. The areas where the government houses all the people who have mental health problems and are unable to work. I have a few friends who live in housing commission. They are dopped up on psych medication, and spend their days thinking about themselves, walking the streets, generally being angry and negative about the other weirdos around them, and are easily spotted as being "odd". Take for example the man on elizabeth street who sits on a public bench in a swimming costume and a fur coat with his legs crossed, staring at everyone who walks past.
But I did not know how to spot the odd ones in Vietnam. Was it the skinny old man walking around in his pajamas? was it the 10 year old boy with dirty feet staring at me and my boy in the playground? was it the fit man in a hoodie who appears in the narrow alley? Were the alleys to be feared as i would have expected, or could I trust the fact that they are full of families and food and playing and motorbikes and tv sets blaring that they are like the safe suburbs of Sydney?
This is the cultural stuff that is so exciting and interesting. I love how other humans who are essentially exactlly the same as me, do things completely differently. I love that my dissatisfaction with life often stems from the restrictions of my own culture and the mundane repeatdiveness. Then I see the same task being accomplished in a completely different way. In a way that is cultually accepted and that is completely normal. I love the possibilities. The freedom. I dont actually have to think outside the box. I can just go somewhere else and get the hell out of the box, and see what is going on out there. It comes with welcome relief. At a time where I feel bored, lonely and constricted. A feeling I have had all my life. Its a "i have to do this everyday whether I like it or not (it was a very big NOT but none was listening)" kind of constriction. Now in my adult life there is no parent/school/institution doing the "right thing" by me and forcing me to do things I dont want to do. Unfortunately in my adult life I have an ingrained habit of imposing limits upon myself, and getting stuck in my own ruts, and tolerating the intolerable.
What travelling to another culture does for me, is that is irreproachably proves that its ok to be different. Its ok to do things differently. Look...a whole country does it differently and its ok. They are happy and accepted and belong. Oh...the curse of being me. Damn it.
HA! I knew this would happen...the fear and catasrophizing that is. Here is a page from my journal that a I wrote before I took off. I have no idea now if I actually read this whilst I was in the fear.