It was almost a kind of sadness when, right before leaving my country, I realized that I didn’t know much of it. I have traveled a lot to different countries, I have memorized the name of strange streets, have stopped to take pictures of places I may be able to visit just once, have walked down the road looking, observing, learning, remembering, trying to carve everything seen into my heart. But I didn’t know much about my country. I have never taken enough time seeing around. I know all the famous visiting sites, but I have not been there. Tourists come and go – and me, I live here for eighteen years, knowing a lot but also knowing very little. I wish I had used my time here like a traveler – like someone who is burnt with passion and eager to discover new things, someone who captures every precious moment carefully, knowing it will soon pass. This place, however, has already become a part of myself, and so I didn’t bother examining it. Now when I was about to leave, I suddenly became a tourist in my own country, trying to notice every small thing I saw every day but was oblivious to.
One thing in Vietnam is that there are a lot of small coffee/food shops along the street. Sometimes the “shop” is made up just from a couple of small tables and stools, and the menu is simple with limited choices. Still, from the morning to the evening, there are always people sitting there, either with a group of friends or alone. I used to think of them as people with lots of leisure time. I, as a typical teenager, had so many fun and wild things to chase after rather than sitting down in a random road-side shop. Yet I was trying to do things undone, so one day I sat down on the plastic short stool and ordered a glass of tea.
It turned out that there are many things I can do there, rather than just dazing off as I previously (and wrongly) thought. It was a good place to tighter the relationship with friends – here, in this simple shop, on the small stools, people just talk to one another freely. No eyes sticking on the large movie scene for hours without any communication, no focusing on how to throw the bowling ball too much that conversation becomes unimportant… – there aren’t even fancy dishes or drinks to take your attention away. If you come alone, you can always talk to the shop owner. If you want to enjoy a peaceful and silent moment, this is also the place. The open-air shop makes it is so connected to nature. You can look at people passing on the road, wondering where they are going and why they are always in a rush. You can look at the school girls in ao dai just finish school that are walking down, recalling your youthful memories. How often do you actually get to stop in life to observe and pay attention to the surrounding? So many deep thoughts ran across my mind like wild horses as I looked at the street and the houses I thought I knew so well for the first time in details. I am always moved by simple scenes. On traveling, I always try to discover small corners that seem to be insignificant but can reflect the culture and tradition of the place more than its fancy mask. I guess to me, the beauty of Vietnam is that there are so many places like this to calm myself down. Sometimes the place that needs to be discovered the most is your nearest place. Sometimes taking a break to slow down and watch the world moving is a wise decision. Sometimes giving yourself a little time and space to ponder about life is meaningful. In the current society where there are fast-food chains everywhere and people are always seem to be hurry, I love to see places that remind me to stop once in a while and reflect things.
About the Author: An Nguyen loves traveling, writing, and writing about her traveling. She is studying abroad and plans to use this opportunity to travel around as much as possible.
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