I have always been lucky to have great friends. But lately I've realized that the majority of my real friends live in other cities and mostly abroad. Yes, they are all a Whatsapp text or Skype call away, but its so different than having a circle of friends that literally surround you when necessary.
Lately, I've been thinking about "real" friends. The people I can count on 100%. The people that know the real me and love me anyway. The people that will pick up my calls at 4am, celebrate my 30th birthday with me when I'm heartbroken, and who will come to DC at a moment's notice. A friend like Toby.
Toby called me on a Saturday to tell me he'd be arriving on Tuesday. We'd been talking about him visiting for years, and more so in the last few months. You see, I was expecting someone else to come visit. Someone who had been promising me for months that he would. But when he didn't, Toby realized how upset this made me feel, and he jumped on the chance.
Toby, you have no idea how much your visit and your friendship mean to me. You are one of a kind and without a doubt a friend I will have for the rest of my time on this earth. I love you with all my heart. Thank you for loving me for me, for sticking around even after I yell at you, for taking silly jumping pics with me, for treating me to the best steak dinner in NYC, and for being someone I can rely on.
Hello from HCM. Yes, yes, I come here often. This is actually my 5th time here in 2 years.
I love it here for so many reasons. When I came here in March 2011 (here and here) I had no idea I would love it so much. And I think even back then I had no idea the great friendship that was developing with my dear Vietnamese friend Mi. If it weren't for her incredible hospitality and warmth and generosity I would have never loved this city as much as I do. I love it so much that I truly feel like I'm home when I'm here.
When I landed in HCM on Sunday morning, completely exhausted from pulling an all nighter, I was groggy, exhausted, and disoriented. I ran into visa issues and was yelled at (and frankly embarrassed) by the Immigration Officers. When I finally convinced them to let me in, but man, did I have to pull out all the stops. It was a rough start, but as soon as I walked outside I heard Kiki, Mi's 6 year old niece screaming "Nati, Nati!!," I knew that I was home. I knew then, at that very moment, that coming here first, before heading to DC, was the BEST decision I've ever made.
HCM is home. Mi's hospitality makes this place home. I have my own room. I have a gym. I have a pool downstairs. I have home cooked meals and vietnamese sandwiches for breakfast. I drink Vietnamese coffee daily. And go to bed at a decent hour. And I sleep in too. I watch tv, I read books, I unwind. It really does feel like home. Probably more so than my own home in DC feels at this very moment. Sad, but true.
And the best BEST best part of coming to Vietnam this time is that my sister arrives in 2 days. This will be the first time we take a sister vacation since we went to Sevilla and Lisbon in 2008. We will spend 5 days here, 5.5 days in Thailand, and 2 days in Singapore. Oh man, I am beyond excited. I am in desperate need of some sister time and even better that its far far far far away from home. Because we both need this. Maybe her more than me. She needs a break from reality. And I'm so happy I convinced her to take this last minute vacation with me.
And even though my life and my plans changed dramatically in just a matter of days back in February, I am learning to see that there is always a silver lining. And this trip, with my sister, all over Asia, through beautiful cities and postcard type beaches is just that: the silver lining. So thankful.
Today, is my Mi's birthday. She is off gallivanting through Europe and I wish I could be there with her to celebrate her special day. This girl is seriously one-in-a-million and I'm so happy that our completely different worlds collided and that we became the bestest of friends. Mi, I love you. I hope all your wishes come true!
Last night, I had a last minute get together with some friends on campus. We sat around, drinking beers, reminiscing on our days as grad students, talking about future plans, and just enjoying a random Monday evening together. Thank you friends for coming out one last time.
This little girl befriended me a few weeks ago when she was the only girl in her neighborhood play group who was brave enough to talk to the 外國人 (foreigner). She rides her bicycle around my street and you should see how her face lights up when she sees me returning home from my daily adventures. She LOVES Catherine and is constantly begging me to bring her downstairs so that she can hold her. As you can see from Catherine's face, the loving feeling is not quite mutual yet, but we're working on it.
The cool thing about my little friend is that she teaches me new Chinese words and makes me laugh with her sense of humor.
For example, yesterday when I thought I looked dressed up and more presentable than most days, she said:
"Why are you wearing that?" (while making a face of complee disgust).
I explained that I was going out to a grown-up event and needed to wear fancy clothes. She proceded to tell me that my clothes were ugly and that I should never wear them again. Gotta love how kids always speak their minds with no boundaries.
I've had a lot of friends leaving lately First, Augustine left one week ago to return to Mexico. Now, Daniela leaves Sunday for Bolivia. And my very close friend Karolina leaves me in one week to return to her hometown of Krakow, Poland. Last night, we went out to Luxy as a pre-farwell party and it was straight-up awesome because all four of us made it out. I know I have talked before about my closest five friends here, but after Tania left, we now are down to four. And last night, as all four of us danced on a raised block at Luxy, I got a bit sad thinking that in just a matter of days, we would be only 3. With the departure of Karolina, I will only be left with 1 good girl friend. Sad, but true.
Oh Sarah, or Sarita as Luis has nicknamed her. She calls me Natalia, but pronounces it like na-ta-LEEE-A. She is such a high-spirited, high energy, always happy person. She is American. She speaks fluent Japanese. Has a British boyfriend.Loves cooking and baking. And she is a great listener. She was my "date" in Malaysia and we have been great friends ever since. Thank you Sarita for your amazing support and your contstant smile. You rock!
This post is for my bestest friend Claudia, who checks my blog every single day to see if I have posted...Claudi, you are the reason I paid my typepad fees and decided to blog again.
So, if you missed my blog, no need to miss me anymore. And I am going to make a big effort to write regular posts. They will be honest, and raw, and unedited. I'm sick of hiding the truth and sugarcoating my feelings. Expect a big post soon.
Picture above is from my recent travels to Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, which was A-MA-ZING. :)
I don't have that many cultural sight-seeing shots from South Korea. Probably because I spent the majority of the time eating my way through Seoul. Examples:
Now, it's back to reality. But, I still have one week of vacation left. I plan to do a belated spring cleaning, hopefully book a ticket home, clean out my hard drive, and workout every single day. I want to have a productive, yet relaxing last week of freedom before my last semester of chinese studies begins. Ok, back to it.
These are some of my classmates (and one of my teachers - the super adorable one second from the bottom left). We went to KTV (karaoke tv) last night where we practiced reading characters by singing chinese songs. And you thought learning chinese wasn't fun!
It's been hard for me to make real friends here in Taiwan. It's been especially hard knowing that most of the people I meet are eventually going to leave Taiwan. It's already happened with my former classmate who left to go back to Korea. My other friend Randi is leaving me soon to go back to the States. And all the kids from the picture above will leave by summer. I guess I'll just enjoy them while I have them.