If anyone's wondering about me health-wise, I'm much much better now. It's unbelievable how low my immune defenses are... all those late nights (...more like early mornings...) and sleepless days due to assignment rushing had caught up on me in the past 2 months, whooping with joy for the hapless victim that is me. In the past weeks, I've never felt so fragile in my life.
Ever since coming back from my trip, I haven't been able to step out of the house without feeling as though I could keel over or fall asleep halfway... until this week (WHOOOHOOO!!!!). It's so funny how when I am unable to, there's so much for me to do... mostly meeting up with friends. Yumcha debts:
- Vishul and gang
- PY and LC (tomorrow!!!)
- Moony returns from UK! (watch out for major glomping ;P)
- Ashaaaa (going back to high school for long forgotten cert hahah)
- Kezia, TJ, etc... (Seiji, un-pokkai yourself now XD)
- Wai Mun's upcoming party-gathering (still not sure how to get there though...)
Gosh, I miss them so much! All I've been seeing lately are new faces; from Bangkok to MIRACLE Youth Conference to Project Vietnam. It's definitely great to meet new people, but it's sort of like...sleeping on brand new mattresses as opposed to one that you have slept on for 3 years? All soft and comforting now... Holy crap, I'm comparing you guys to mattresses....
Weird comparisons aside... when I snap back from Lalaland these days, there's this lingering longing. Not always, just a few times, but I guess that's enough, huh? The dreams still flutter behind my eyelids, trying to catch on wisps of something that fades from one's waking memory. In these dreams, I was back in Vietnam, in the 15 May School. The layout of the place is reinvented in my head and yet everything felt vivid. In one of these dreams, An, Boon Ming and me went back to Vietnam for less than 2 days because something happened in 15 May (can't remember). And my dream-self always seeks for one particular kid, Quy...You'll get to know him soon. Maybe not in this entry, but soon.
19th June 2007
Instead of taking the MRT to Changi, then the shuttle bus to budget terminal, my aunt kindly arranged transport for me wheeeee!
As I took my seat on the plane, there's this overwhelming dreaminess that swept over me. Not dreaminess, but more like there's a sensory upgrade? Everything seemed 'bigger' than it is. Everything comes with a story. A sort of detachment from the usual thinking? I was looking out of the window and saw a dragonfly over the wing... and I was hooked on dreaming of the past; of people who dreamt of flying, looking at these creatures. Ponderings turned into wishes; wishes turned into sketches; sketches into machines... how wonderful to see the inspiration and the inspired next to each other.
Then when we're finally in the air, don't even get me started on the stories I got from clouds! They are beyond small clumps of fluffy cotton, with long thin wisps of moody sheets looming over it. Instead it's a congregation of teddy-bears dancing the morn away, a dog breathing flames... Suddenly my reverie cracked from a pining stomach. -__-;
I tried to get the stewardess' attention for a cup of instant noodles (SGD4... budget airway, ye can't expect freebies!) but was looked over =__=;.
My neighbour had her feet up against the front seat throughout the whole flight. Luckily, no case of Hong Kong Chau Keok...
Nearing Vietnam, the plane weaved in and out of clouds. Short glimpses of a land, with rivers so big they looked like highways instead, before my view is shrouded by a curtain of suspended water. I didn't like the whiteness outside the window, the lack of visibility for the land I'm going to live in for the next 12 days... A river roundabout spotted. I had to put the pieces of the landscape together.
Pieces, pieces.... For the first time, I allowed myself a thought for what's to come. Like you, like everyone else, I'm a seeker of pieces... will I find one in Vietnam?
============I was told to look out for the SEALnet banner. As I left the entrance door, I saw it.
'SEALnet' printed on an amazingly A4 sized banner. Nice.
Three people await me; two are Nhung and Duong (pronounced 'Yeung') who were locals in the planning team and one was Selena, a future team member, who I later learnt was on the same flight as I was in. Accosting them was this... fascinating rubbery ball with little 'tentacles' all over it. Like a rambutan, only more awesome. It is bright orange and simply mesmerising when you move it because the 'tentacles' sway like plants under the sea.
It was later christened as 'Emily'.
If anyone were to ask for my first impression of Vietnam... I'd say, The traffic wins, hands down.
The traffic in Ho Chi Minh City is awesome beyond words. A huge number of motorcyles zooming around with helmetless people on it, and blaring horns is a common thing. Very chaotic and seemingly lawless at first glance... Like how sometimes the red, yellow, green in traffic lights all means 'Go' XDXD.
I especially love the part when you see motorcycles from coming towards you from the opposite direction. Crossing the road for the first few days was definitely an adventure hahahha! And I'll never be flustered by Malaysian bikers ever again...
Amidst the traffic, Nhung asks Selena and me had any questions about Vietnam. I immediately asked about the language. 'Cam on' means Thank You. But when I said that to the immigration guy, I got the weirdest look ever... Because the pronounciation leans more to 'Kham en' while I said... "Come on" wtf.
Fast forward an hour later, after dumping our bags at the hotel, we headed to where the rest of the team were. Highlands, which is something like Starbucks chain. One table particularly stood out; a very lively group.
And after that, I was in total... blurness. Table was buzzing with places, events and names that I do not recognise or have any idea of (beyond knowing the existence of the word. Like I could remember the word 'Wullabagawagagoogoogaaaaa'... but comprehension? Nada.). Example: MIT? UCLA? Dartmouth? Sure I know these are universities... but I'm totally clueless on how US education system works etc. I didn't feel too keen to interrupt a happy conversation just to go, "Huh?".
I think I was really quiet that time. The first person I spoke to was John but mostly I'm just sitting there, being a very obedient sponge. It's just a little overwhelming initially.
Remember Emily? The bright orange rambutan ball-creature? Her role was to attract our attention at the airport lest we get lost, but her role has since become.... mascot-like XDXD. Someone named her, citing that it "looks like an Emily..." XDXD
The rest of the day was basically for everyone to settle down and get to know each other. And as you know, the first obstacle is.... names XD. In a hotel room, we sat in a circle and played this game called the Name Game. It's like this, person 1 goes, "Fred." Person 2 goes, "I'm Greg. Fred." Person 3 goes, "Yo, I'm Mimi. Fred. Greg."... and on it goes. There's about 23 people in the room and with great luck, the person next to me was the first one to go... and I'm the last. And if you know me in real life, I'm CRAP with names!! It was really fun though; at least I remember everyone's names on the 1st day hahah.
I'm not about to list down every single thing we did (Heck, I'm even surprised if anyone made it that far down here......damn). Other than the above, introduction to SEALnet and Project Vietnam (PV). Goals and what's at stake. There was one session that I remember well; you turn to the person next to you, and just share with each other on why you chose PV, what do you expect out of it, and what you have to offer on this project. Gayle was the first one I spoke with about this. Then Selena.
I remember Selena offering this view; Some people just go for the sake of going. Selfish reasons, you know? Just so they could say, Hey, I did this and that charity! And after that, they won't think about it. It shouldn't be that way. They should go beyond that.
I really liked that. I think it captures what service leadership is all about. What this project aims to acheive. People tend to not go further once a project or charity run etc ends. It becomes a surface, instead of reaching the core. And I guess that's... really sad.
The clogs in my brain shook off the dust, and the clik-cloks sounds started up; a change from the usual silent domain.