I visited Vietnam as part of the Chatham MFA program’s 2012 field seminar. One requirement of the “class” (two weeks in Vietnam can hardly be called a class) was to keep a detailed travel journal.
I dedicated myself to that journal, even going so far as to create my own out of cardboard, an old tank top with an elephant print for the cover decoration, and pages from half-used composition notebooks.
But when I came home and the deadline for our twenty pages of fiction or nonfiction crept closer, I froze. I didn’t know what to write. The deadline stressed me out, and my head hurt all the time. I felt I had barely had time to process the experience of visiting a country with which we had so recently been at war, in which a family member fought.
Finally, I knew I had to just write. So I did, one night, in a frenzy. “Crossing the Street in Hue on Buddha’s Birthday” was the last of the three post-Vietnam essays I wrote. My others focused on the war and my experience of being in the country and being a tourist.
I had to get those feelings out, down on paper, before I could embrace the love I felt for the country. Because I did love it. I loved being there. I loved the food, the jungle, the people, the little clusters of incense sticks tucked into any and every available space.
That love came out in the form of this flash essay, a tiny sliver of the joy and excitement I felt. I am glad I get to share it with you.