Determination in Vietnam
Ask me about our trip to Vietnam and before divulging any stories I’ll quickly advise: “You must go.”
We saw beautiful beaches, devoured tasty Bahn Mi and kayaked around the famous karst peaks of Halong Bay, but one feeling resonates above the rest: we loved the people. We were moved by them.
Despite our brief stay in the former capital of Hue, we were approached more times than I can count by groups of students, ranging from high school to university, seeking to practice their English. We embraced their polite requests with a ‘good for them’ mentality. Our conversations contained your typical pleasantries – asking us about our hobbies, favorite foods, and our journey. After a pause the conversation would close with a flurry of thank you’s.
After a few of these language-practice chats, it quickly became apparent that the students’ interest to learn English wasn’t simply for a grade. They were truly passionate about learning the language as they bravely attempted similes and tiptoed carefully around those tricky idioms, “yes, navigating the city IS a piece of cake!”. Thinking back on my half-hearted attempts at speaking high school Spanish at the nearby tex-mex restaurant, I was very impressed.
One evening we were approached by two med school students, Ku and Chau. After cautiously asking us if they could practice their English (we heard that many Westerns decline these invitations), we had a casual chat with them for about 10 minutes at a nearby park bench along the Perfume River. As with the others, I was inspired by their diligence in learning my terribly difficult native tongue. Busy with their university studies, Ku and Chau don’t have time for a formal english class so they study independently with an online program in the evenings.
The next day Chau reached out to me via Facebook and asked if she could prepare us dinner in exchange for another conversation. My heart melted. That night Chau arrived alone to our hotel, toting tins of roasted duck, rice and fish that she’d made that afternoon. The three of us dined in the breakfast room of the hotel and chatted for over an hour. After our feast Chau took her empty tins and headed home to finish studying for her pharmacy class the following morning.
Chau’s efforts that night resonated with me, and they still do. Chau is truly determined to learn English. She had told us that a year prior she could barely form a sentence. She’d nearly given up after the first few months, so disappointed with her progress she had been in tears. Instead of quitting, she decided to dedicate even more of her time each night to studying. Drilling herself with a heap of flashcards, diligently completely English workbooks and spending time in the park practicing pleasantries with travelers.
I found Chau’s determination incredibly inspiring. I tried to remember the last time I bore down, determined to achieve something, to learn something or to improve myself. I couldn’t. Chau’s polite grit was contagious for the reason. Her resolve will undoubtedly led to her success in learning English and success in her career, though she’s not thinking about that now since she has pronouns to focus on.
We had traveled to Vietnam for street food, trekking and relaxation. What we found though is Chau’s determination and that’s what I’ll remember most.
When is the last time you were truly determined to do, learn, see something? I’d LOVE to hear your story.