Our lives were so different. I was a suburban mom of two busy sports kids trying to balance a part-time job that I loved at a toystore. Tyler was just becoming a teenager – when we thought he was just starting to look “like a young man” he was really on the teetering edge of still being a kid. Caroline would still have been in elementary school – our Little Miss Sunshine was broken-hearted to leave all her friends and family behind. We took a risk – a big one. But I’m oh so glad we did.
Living in HCMC these past two years has been an experience I cannot begin to describe. I feel like all four of us have lived completely new and separate lives than we did back in Portland. I almost feel like we have dual identities…do we?!? Caroline, who was once my dedicated gymnast and softball player, now shines on the stage and has a leading role in the school production; she has also learned to play the piano, does ACRO, and is team captain of her school football (soccer) team (we have finally all succombed to calling it football). She is still our Little Miss Sunshine and amazes us all still every day in all that she takes on and excels in doing. She is not afraid of navigating International airports, using foreign currency, learning new languages, taking on new hobbies (scuba diving and archery), and has recently admitted to me that she would like to stay here through High School. GASP! No….not my baby girl who begged and cried to stay home in Portland. She would never give up her gymnastics team or softball…would she?!?!
Tyler…the changes in this guy are immeasurable. Sure he’s gone through all of the teenage boy physical changes – grown about 6 inches, has a much deeper voice, takes 1/2 hour showers and his clothes smell just as bad as Barry’s at the end of the day. But his outlook and approach to everything here has taken a complete 180. Ironically, when we moved here, it was Tyler we were most worred about adapting to all of the changes. When he, in fact, adapted quicker than any of us. After a brief bout of anxiety of entering a new school, wearing a uniform, new friends…he slid right in. It was almost two years ago exactly, when he left for his first class trip to Dalat for the week, when I handed him his passport on his 13th birthday (both of us choking back tears) and told him to go and make new friends and have new experiences. This was only 3 weeks after we had arrived here. He came back a new kid. To this day, he still has the same core group of friends he made that week. Just yesterday I gave him money for him to go downtown with his friends and actually shop on his own for clothes. We are not talking about the Nike store people. For those of you who know Tyler well – you know This.Is.Huge. He came home with two pairs of pants and a new hoodie for his class trip to Hong Kong this week. While they were out, they made reservations at a well-known pizza place for lunch. He is quite confident in navigating busy downtown HCMC – the taxis and ubers. He buys gifts for his girlfriend, and will randomly come home with a kitchen “gadget” he thinks I need, or something for Caroline or mention something he thinks “that dad would like”. What the what?!? He spent hours the other day online looking at flights for us for Spring Break saying “you cannot book these until you talk to me about it”. He is confident he will study abroad for college and has no intention of going back to the US for high school. We call him our airport expert and speed walker. When we want to get through Immigration quickly anywhere – we send in Tyler. Want a taxi – send in Tyler. Need foreign currency calculated – ask Tyler. Want to know how many hours it takes from here to there – ask Tyler. He has become a true International kid and I could not be more proud of him. Yes…he still misses baseball; but has come to accept that it just isn’t in the cards for him here. He recently was asked to join the “Athletics Squad” at school to compete in Track & Field events for the city championships. We are extremely proud of him, and I know it makes him happy to still be recognized as an athlete although he hasn’t been part of a team in a while.
Those of you who know Barry know that he is pretty passionate about what he enjoys doing – that includes work, coaching, working out, finding and making new healthy recipes, and oh yah…work. He loves it here. He loves his job, the people, the culture, learning Vietnamese, eating local, shopping local etc…I could go on and on. But yes – we all have our challenges here, and so does he. He spends many, many hours in the car each week visiting hot factories; his job completely changed here going from basically a “desk job” to actively traveling to his factories every day and interacting with the factory managers along with his uppers at Nike. He is also the one to “entertain” visitors from WHQ now rather than being the one “entertained.” He works hard, long and hot days and weeks…and it’s been a big adjustment for all of us. His determintation and commitment to his job never cease to amaze me….and I’ve never seen him go to bed earlier in all the 20 years that I’ve known him. 😉
As for me…mom-truth: some days I do feel lost. Some days I wonder “where do I belong in all of this?” I miss my old job – my old co-workers and friends – my car – my house – my school volunteer work – my neighbors – and of course, my family. It is sometimes surreal to think that we have created this whole new life and house here several thousands of miles away from “home”. Not only are the physical and environmental aspects different; but also so is my mentality and outlook on life. I have a much slower pace of living here. I ride my bike to the store and pretty much everywhere I need to go. I sometimes take long leisurely walks with Ziggy in the compound along the river enjoying the sunshine and flowers and palm trees; and some afternoons I spend in the air conditioning reading my latest book. I average about 4-5 books/week. I treasure and sometimes linger on old memories of managing the toy store and being a buyer; and I dream of one day again going to the New York Toy Fair as a buyer, a store owner or manager, or a sales rep. But I also have new dreams – dreams of using my passion of the Engligh language and books to become a book editor or simply even an ARC reviewer or beta reader (book-geek lingo). Maybe I’ll be a bookstore buyer when we return? Or even a bookstore owner? Or novelist? I don’t know. But what I do know is this….we took a risk. We left our comfort zones. We left dreams and goals behind. But we have also created new ones. We have discovered so much more about ourselves and the opportunities that are out there for all of us. 2018 is going to be an amazing year of new adventures, experiences, travels and story-telling. I can already feel it. Take a risk my friends – it’s so worth it. XO