Growing up in a small city (hereto forth referred to as the Notorious B.A.Y.), it took me a while to realise the many benefits of being raised in a community-oriented place. Being a typical, narcissistic, ripe old adolescent, I thought I was infallible. At seventeen, I moved away from home to live and work in Switzerland. Sure enough, it was rough. After I quit my job, bounced around all over Europe to “find” myself and said goodbye to some of the most amazing friends I’d ever met, I returned to the B.A.Y. As is always the case with difficult adventures, this was a formative experience that would prove to be only the beginning of a bug that never stopped biting.
I went off to university the following autumn just biding my time until I could run my own life again. (I really was so dramatic!) The year before graduation, I’d started working on a plan. That plan went as far as: “I’d like to go somewhere where there is no snow for an indefinite period of time and somehow get paid to do this.” Pretty lofty goal. Lo and behold, as the fates would have it, Bagheera*, one of my very favourite people in the world, had the exact same and incredibly detailed plan. Both of us had intended to do this on our own, but once we started comparing notes, there was no better way to do this. We were doing it together!
Where? We still had no idea.
When? Sometime after I graduated.
For how long? There’s still a large question mark next to that one.
In September 2012, we finally got our acts together and started looking at various options. We had decided by this point (after locking ourselves in to a $1000 TESL course) that we were going to try our hand at teaching English. Vietnam came up as one possible country of employment. I remembered that a friend of mine from high school whom I hadn’t seen in a few years had moved to Vietnam. I wrote Rhinoceros a quick note to let him know that Bagheera and I were looking at teaching abroad and ask him if he would answer some of my inane questions. His rapid and enthusiastic response set off a firestorm of pesky almost-daily e-mails from me and within a matter of weeks, we were on a twenty-four hour trek from Pearson International Airport to Frankfurt, Frankfurt to Bangkok, Bangkok to Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport in Hồ Chí Minh City, the former Sài Gòn.
This is where my journey begins…
*All names have been changed to protect people’s privacy. Most of them would agree to let me use their real names but creating fake names for them was just too extraordinary an opportunity to pass up.