The following post was written by Global Gap Year Fellow Alyson Cabeza.
It was 2 am. I was crying. The idea of leaving everything I’ve ever known behind, in the next 5 hours, was finally hitting me. The phrases “I’m scared” and “I can’t do this” were constantly coming out of my mouth. I was reassured by the people who mean the most to me that everything would turn out alright. I was reminded that this is something I needed to do for myself. I calmed down and continued to frantically pack (last minute).
It was 2 am. After spending more than 24 hours in either an airport or on an airplane, I was hit with the stench of pollution as I arrived at my hostel. It didn’t matter though, because I quickly realized how beautiful Hanoi is at night. Even though all my energy was drained, I managed to spend the next thirty minutes updating everyone on my safe arrival and whereabouts. I made it to Hanoi, Vietnam. I was doing this. Alone.
It was 2 am. All of the other volunteers were still awake. I gained random motivation to plan my lesson; the first one I would teach alone. I panicked. What if I couldn’t do this? What if the English class I semi-taught earlier was just being nice by saying I did a good job? How could I spend an hour and thirty minutes teaching the letters XYZ? I shared my worries with the other volunteers, and they put my mind at ease. That’s my favorite class to teach now.
It was 2 am. It started to rain. The night had consisted of everyone laughing, eating, and participating in karaoke. A sudden burst of energy ran through me. I needed to run in the rain. I quickly grabbed my rain jacket, put on my Chacos, and asked if anyone wanted to come along. Another volunteer, Catherine, decided to go she would accompany me as far as the door. I ran outside and jumped for joy. It was like a North Carolina summer rainstorm, warm but rough. It was exactly what I needed. I danced, and I kicked the water puddles as if there was no tomorrow. It was the never-ending feeling of being alive.
It was 2 am. We went to Old Quarter (the touristy part of the city) to celebrate both the arrival of a new volunteer, Jeanne, and the sad departure of another volunteer, Mark. The conversations felt more meaningful throughout that night. We opened up to each other in way we hadn’t before. Then two songs by Oasis played: “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and “Wonderwall”. We all gathered in a circle, dancing and yelling the lyrics to both songs. The volunteers spend so much time together, and while I have always enjoyed their company, there was something about that night that made everything better.
It was 2 am. Catherine and I were having a deep conversation about who we were while growing up. We exchanged funny stories involving silly boys and drama-obsessed girls. We talked about our families and their impact on our lives. I told her of the nights I spent in high school working on homework and club duties. Eventually, our conversation led to what our plans for the future, our hopes and our aspirations. I admitted to her that in middle school I dreamed of a different world. Catherine told me, “You must do the things that make the pots to be done.” It’s a South African saying about how you need to find that thing within you to clean the pots, even after you thought all the dishes were washed. She meant that I need to find that thing within me to accomplish what I want.
It is 2 am. I am writing this surrounded by people of different backgrounds and stories, but with a similar interest: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part Two. This past month of my life has consisted of many ups and downs. The children I am teaching are the sweetest. They come into the classroom ecstatic to be there and genuinely want to learn. They climb on my back during break time and offer me snacks. The other volunteers have such different perspective on life, and I admire every single one of them in their own way. While this past month has been hectic, I go to bed with the same thought: this is where I am supposed to be.