Love

I was talking to an American expat here who runs a company that provides training & education for Vietnamese students, helping many go to study in the US. He’s also beginning to bring American students to Vietnam, which is why I was talking to him, but that can be a subject for another day–I just wanted to make a note of something he said in passing. Mentioning an American student who had spent time studying in Vietnam and was returning for a longer stay, my friend inquired, he told me, about the reason for his return. “Love,” the student had replied. “Ah . . .” I began to say. . .  It turns out he has a Vietnamese girlfriend. (That’s cool–I only get creeped out when 50 year old American / German / Australian / Korean men come to VN and take up with Vietnamese women half their age.) But my “Ah!” had not been meant to acknowledge the narrow definition of “love” — I was thinking that the student, like me, had fallen in love with the place, not merely a particular citizen of the place.

“I fell in love with the place” is of course a cliche, but I can’t really think of a better way to express the feeling I have when I come here. Hanoi is not my home, but coming here feels like coming home. I have felt this I think–or some version of it–from the day of my first arrival & now when I go out in the evenings to walk around the Old Quarter, I feel a deep affection and a sense of  peace, even amid all the honking & hammering & the cries of vendors & school kids darting along the sidewalks among the chickens & parked motorbikes. There is a liveliness here that stirs my heart. Which is not to imply that it never makes me crazy. It does. That’s the way love is.

 

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Humanities at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press (2001). He lives with his wife Carole, two Jack Russell terriers, Jett & Penny, & a Chocolate Lab, Angel, on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.