While we spent time in the United States for a quick holiday, we were asked lots of questions about our new life in Viet Nam.
What are the people like?
What’s your favorite Vietnamese food?
How’s your grasp on the Vietnamese language?
Do you have a motorbike?
What’s the weather like?
While we had answers to many questions our family and friends asked, two questions challenged us to think about our personal development.
How have you been challenged personally, and as partners?
How have you grown personally, and as partners?
We sat there, sharing side glances, thinking about the big things in life. Had those changed? Had we changed? The answer was ‘yes.’ We’ve been challenged by the new experience, the new environment, by other people, and by ourselves. We separately had our own responses, and we were prompted to continue to discuss those questions long after the initial conversation.
Overall, the parts that have challenged us are the moments where we have grown the most. We are challenged by our own assumptions of how work processes should be done, social etiquette should be performed, and what we thought we knew. We were hoping for this and we craved a change in our lives that would make space for difficult experiences with rewarding ends. For Joe, the challenging part is learning a new work style and how people communicate. Joe is working on being more flexible and practicing assertive communication. Justine’s had difficulty with her expectations of time management. She loves organization, planning, and showing up on time and Viet Nam has been challenging in this regard. Justine’s been working on breathing a little bit more and ‘going with the flow,’ as Joe says.
We’ve grown as individuals and as partners. As partners, we talk through problems, rely on each other when we need a sense of ‘home,’ and navigate the good and bad times with heightened awareness. In our own ways, we talk about impact, privilege, and making meaning from experiences. Individually, we’ve found our own habits and routines. Joe is reading more global current events and Justine is enjoying books (she finished her initial batch of books quickly and has been sharing them among her friends).
Together and individually, we have slowed down. Joe works more intentionally on his friendships while Justine is more mindful of professional/personal balance. We take the time to enjoy our food because we know where it is from. We notice and try to appreciate the work it takes to get things accomplished because it’s not a quick car ride to Target to get anything and everything, it’s a (sweaty) bicycle ride to several markets or shops to find exactly what we need. We are cognizant of the kindness of others and attempt to take time to get to know the people we work with. We’re not in a rush to go anywhere else.