The Beginning: Southeast Asia in February


I just love how many challenges I tend to face when crossing borders to another foreign country. After a grueling 38 hours (including layovers, flight durations), I arrived in the exotic country of Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. My cousin and I agreed to meet to the left of the airport exit as soon as I picked up my luggage.

But, surprise surprise, I was late meeting her because of a few bumps (more like mountains) to smoothe out before starting my Southeast Asia expedition. The immigration officers are never seem to be in a jolly mood even though I came prepared with my pre-approved tourist visa letter. I handed off my passport, the letter from immigrations, and application paperwork happily while the immigration officer on the other side of the window yelled, 'Sit DOWN! Take a seat!' in Vietnamese. I try not to take things personally but this time...I was already under a good amount of stress because of how long it took me to actually arrive. And, so...as a result, I shed one tear but quickly wiped it away because I knew things will work out...somehow, sometime...

After 30 minutes of waiting around, they finally called my name and demanded 25 US dollars (although I could have sworn I paid it online already...?). I explained to them all I had on me was Czech Crowns and Polish Zloty's...Do they accept credit cards? Meanwhile, I was being stared at as if I just offended all of the immigration officers. Luckily, one of the officers gave me permission to pass the immigration center to convert my Zloty's and Crowns. YES! As I carefully proceeded to convert my foreign monies to the Vietnamese Dongs - - the people at the Conversion place looked at me as if I was crazy; they had never seen that type of money before and it was impossible to convert it. Oy...They directed me to a nearby ATM Machine...

'It's going to work out'
'Don't freak out, there is an ATM machine that will give me enough money to finally cross the border'

and most important...

'BREATHE!'

I anxiously inserted my trustworthy Capital One debit card into this foreign machine, entered my PIN, and waited for the cash to magically appear...'This card is INVALID'! Okay, I need to breathe again. I will just find another card...INVALID... What am I supposed to do?? No cash, no 'valid' cards to pull out money, and, at this point...Stuck at immigrations. I found someone nearby with a cell phone and begged them to call my cousin who was waiting for me outside. Luckily, she picked up and agreed to lend me 25 US dollars...

Saved by my cousin...that I don't think I have even met before. I'm not sure if this was luck or if challenges are attracted me but either way, they are all experiences to be even more prepared at any border crossing.

I picked up my luggage (perhaps I shouldn't have put a padlock on it because the officers cut it right through and confiscated my camping knife :/ ), met up with my cousin and aunt, hopped into a taxi to get settled in at my new temporary home. The day proceeded quite smoothly given the complicated circumstances earlier on...Traditional iced coffees, scooter bikes, immense amounts of traffic as well as the overwhelming beauty of it all. 80 degrees? Yes! Grilled Fish over an open fire? Yes! A Vietnamese market clad with cheap everything? YES!
















It feels amazing to get in touch with my roots; it's almost surreal just being here and hearing the language all around me. It reminds me that being anywhere in the world is possible. If there is a will, there is absolutely a way. Just do it! 

Mscathy.


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