Wednesday, December 26, 2007


On Christmas Eve in 2001, K and I barrelled uphill towards a town called Dalat in the highlands of Vietnam with seventeen other adults, all of us packed like sardines in the world's smallest mini-van.

It was freezing that night so the mini van windows remained tightly closed even though all seventeen of our traveling companions were chain smoking.

The van radio blasted a Vietnamese comedy show at top volume and, though the show's canned laughter indicated when the punch lines were delivered, no one in our van laughed even once.

K and I, western giants squeezed into a much too small Asian space, rode with our knees next to our ears in the swirling cigarette smoke wondering if we would find the Christmas spirit in Dalat.

We had only been traveling for two of the fourteen months we would backpack, but it was Christmas and we were feeling quite homesick.

We understood that Dalat had one of the largest Catholic populations in Vietnam, gambled that we might find some semblance of Christmas there and began the bumpy journey in the world's littlest van.

The van dropped us off
in what seemed like a random parking lot far from the town center.

Our only option was to pay two teen-aged boys driving mini bikes to take us the rest of the way.

Each of them balanced one of us and the enormous backpack we carried towards Dalat.

The town was teeming with people. Everyone was outside. There was some kind of festival or celebration going on.

K and I were desperate to stay together through the crowd, make it to our guesthouse, wash off the cigarette smoke and rest.

Miraculously, that is just what happened.

The next morning we awoke to search for Christmas only to learn that it was all over with the celebrations of the night before. There weren't even church services on Christmas Day - everything had occurred on Christmas Eve.

I remember us feeling incredibly sorry for ourselves and wandering around the deserted streets of Dalat.

Eventually we found a shop that sold Cadbury Fruit and Nut bars. We bought ten of them and called it Christmas.

This year my mom and a friend flew to Hanoi on Christmas Eve.

I haven't heard from my mom yet.

I suppose she hasn't been to her first Vietnamese Internet cafe.

I think I understand how she must have felt when I was half way around the world... like the tether that binds us might be stretched too thin or even uncharacteristically snapped with the frayed end blowing aimlessly in the wind.

World travel is certainly harder for the one who is not off on the adventure.

I can't help but wonder about her and how her trip is going.

Has she eaten a gelato on the shores of Ho Kiem Lake yet?

Has she admired the karst formations shooting up out of the river on the journey to the Perfume Pagoda?

Has she sampled a bowl of the Bun Bo Nam Bo at 67 Hang Dieu Street?

Has she seen Ho Chi Minh's masoleum?

Is she safe?


I hope she finds the shops with the Cadbury chocolate if she needs them...


furiousBall said...

This reminds me, I need some pho stat

WILLIAM said...

I am sure she is some Opium den somewhere.

Is Bun Bo Nam Bo like NoNaBloMo?

and thanks for your kind words.

Paige said...

Your Mom is having a great time. I just know it.

Nancy said...

I hope she is having a wonderful time.

This post reminds me of my only Christmas away from home when I lived in Mexico.

carrie said...

I know, I feel the same way when my parents are off on their travels.

I am sure she's fine, just having a whole heck of a lot of fun!

liv said...

Oh, dearest Mom. I hope she checks in soon.

Damselfly said...

You are so lucky to have been able to travel like that. Thanks for sharing!

Lisa Milton said...

It is tough to be the ones left behind, so to speak.

I bet she's having a grand adventure.

(I'm asking you because I bet you know: how the heck is 'pho' pronounced? It is the topic of conversation in my circle right now. I could go on pointing to the sign & smiling, but I do want to say it right.)

Mel said...

Dude, now you've got me freaked out. I'll be popping in multiple times a day all week now to see when Grandma Seattle checks in.
Take care, my friend, and Merry belated Christmas!

All Adither said...

Cadbury is, indeed, Christmas no matter where you are.


Aliki2006 said...

Oh, I can't wait to hear about her adventures!

Happy Holidays to you, friend.

suchsimplepleasures said...

I gelato-ed my way through europe...i'm so glad to know that, if i ever go to vietnam...they have it there, too!!!
you're mom is fine...she's having a blast!

flutter said...

your Mom is awesome, and adventurous. see her in Roo?

Jenifer said...

I am just catching up, I hope the family Joy had a wonderful Christmas!

I am sure your Mom is on a wonderful adventure, what an adventurous soul she has, no wonder where you got yours.

Last Christmas my sister was teaching in Seoul and it was hard...the distance just too great.

Omaha Mama said...

Sending good thoughts your mom's way. I know that worrying makes the waiting for that call longer.

Patience said...

Isn't it amazing how things turn around and the child begins to fret about the whereabouts of the parent?? It's kind of payback somehow! Perhaps.

Mrs. Fussy Fussypants said...

Jessica, I bet your mom will love it when she reads this post. Her girl, worried the way she was!
My mom loves it when I worry for her. Finds the change of perspective hilarious.
Your Mom may have some stern words for William! ;)

Stepping Over the Junk said...

that was me a few years ago but I was in northern Maine and it was with Brigham's peppermint icecream...lots of it. No one knew where I was. It was awesome.

JCK said...

That 14 months must have been truly life altering. What a cool thing that you and K did it together. Hope your mom is having a blast! ALWAYS harder for the one not traveling. Always.

Kelley said...

My 16 year old is planning to backpack around the world when she turns 18.

Terrifies the heck out of me.

But I hope she doesn't do it around Christmas.... that would break my heart.

Hope you have had contact with your mum, and she is having a ball!

mikster said...

I hope your mother is having a fantastic trip and that you hear from her soon.

Jo Beaufoix said...

It is so hard being the ones left behind, but I bet she's having a fab time. Hope you are too.

Fairly Odd Mother said...

Yes, I hope she is enjoying her chocolate now!

Hydes Like Us said...

I'll bet she's having a wonderful time. Keep us posted, I'll be so interested to hear about her experiences- as I have been yours.


jennifer said...

Your stories are so fascinating. I love reading about your adventures. I hope you'll share stories from your mom's adventures.

mothergoosemouse said...

I understand the safety concern. My parents were in Beijing when we bombed the Chinese embassy in Yugoslavia in 1999.

But I think it's wonderful that she's there, and I'm sure she'll find some vestiges of home somewhere.

Magpie said...

Wow. She's undoubtedly having a wonderful time.

I didn't know that you'd backpacked for 14 months. Cool.

mamatulip said...

I hope she is relaxing and enjoying herself...and I hope you are this holiday, too. :)

Queen of the Mayhem said...

I hope she is having a phenomenal time and you hear from her soon!
(if you haven't already!)

Merry friend!

Queeny said...

I'm certain your mom is fine. If you haven't heard from her already, just give her a little time. I know it's hard, but try not to worry so much.

Kimmylyn said...

I bet your mom is kicking up her feet having a great time.. :)

creative-type dad said...

If she's anywhere, it's probably a karaoke bar.

Shannon said...

It's funny that you said travel is harder on the one who stays behind.

When I was in France, Jeff would freak if I didn't call him each and everyday. He was beside himself with worry. Little did I know that the hotel I stayed at had free internet use until the last couple of days I was there.

I'm sure your mom is fine and is currently trying to figure out how to make an overseas phone call, or figure out where an internet cafe is located.

Mama Zen said...

That's how I always feel when my Mom is traveling. Some sort of weird role reversal!

Emily said...

Hoping your Mom is fine and having a fantastic time.

Why did she fly to Hanoi on Christmas Eve?

Bon said...

oh wow, your mom is adventurous.

my mom gets travellers cheques to go to Nova Scotia, a ninety minute ferry ride away.

but the Christmas with Cadbury's? oh friend, you brought back memories.

good luck and joyous adventuring to your mama!

Kelly said...

Love the digs. Just stopped over to introduce myself. I'm Kelly. Great community ya got here.

Aimee Greeblemonkey said...

Yes, it's funny when the shoe is on the other foot. I bet she is having an amazing trip.

frog ponds rock... said...