It was over in a blur and then the loneliness set in. We’d flown, we’d slept, we’d eaten, we’d cried and then he was gone. I was alone in a place I didn’t want to be, fuelled only by fear, panic, uncertainty and an unshakeable longing to go home. Travel isn’t always easy.
Peter had left to go to the steamy jungle of southern Vietnam whereas I was to remain in the dusty streets of Hanoi. It was a great solution to a problem that had somewhat darkened the whole of New Zealand for us but that did not make saying goodbye any easier. One of the reasons we had decided to go travelling in the first place was so that we could actually spend some quality time together. Weeks and months side by side instead of a stolen weekend full of exhaustion was the goal and now he was far away again, all because of the animals we both loved.
However, together in our determination yet separate in our geography we ploughed through the essentials to attempt to ground ourselves again. I had a house to find, a SIM card to buy and a zoo full of animals whose lives I could try to improve somewhat. Peter had a forest full of Bears who needed his help.
I attacked the chores list with the hope that it would bring about a new routine in which to immerse myself. The search for a house lead to many futile wonderings down questionable alleyways surrounded by the din of motorbikes and the close heat of the twilight. I walked for miles, crossing many roads so full of traffic that it seemed like certain death to even step out off the pavement. But I also came across kindness. People I had never met before who spoke no English but were willing to help me locate a person or location. I was grateful I had already memorised the Vietnamese for “Thank you” because I needed to use it so frequently.
The language was a huge barrier and I just couldn’t learn it fast enough. But the whole place seemed so alien to me, instead of an exciting and exotic new location it felt more like a prison. The weight of expectation and fear crushing all the exuberance out of me yet the stubborn streak was still there forcing me to try.
I ached for Cambodia which I found easier. The language, the currency, the people, the Tuk Tuks and the comparative familiarity were all absent along with Peter’s constant reassurances. But there was still a zoo and work to be done in it.
As I had done previously in my life to combat negativity I threw myself into the task at hand. I was eager to see what differences, if any, I could make to these animals lives and wanted to get started as soon as possible. I still don’t know if I can cope with this place or not but as I mutter to myself continuously…..”we can do naught but try.”