I think I had forgotten exactly how much I had missed winter in Michigan.
Despite wreaking hell on my nasal passages, there is something electrifyingly rejuvenating in inhaling the crisp outdoor air, with its ubiquitous scent of campfire. Even its chilly caress on my cheeks I find strangely welcoming.
Waking up in the dark of morning, I got to appreciate the glistening frost on the front lawn as the sun peaked above the houses. The morning before that, the sunrise was apocalyptically pink.
I’m under quarantine, technically. The county health department called to request that I refrain from contact with others for a period of two weeks, starting from when I flew into Detroit last week. Guess they’re taking precautions pretty seriously. It gives me a lot of time to read and write and think.
I’m still somewhat taken aback at the rapid chain of events and decisions that led to me returning here so quickly: I had been traveling in India and Bangladesh for a couple of months when I made the split decision to come visit home. With everything shuttered in Vietnam at the moment, I had no teaching job to return to, so best make use of the situation to see my family for a few months or so.
But then I thought some more and made the tough decision to stop my life in Vietnam altogether. There are various other projects that I’ve long wanted to pursue (which, dear readers, you shall hear about once they materialize), and with things as they are now, I figured it was time to make a transition. I would briefly fly back to Vietnam to gather my belongings, say one last farewell to my close friends there, and then be on my way.
The coronavirus panic made things hectic. Flight patterns were closing left and right. Re-entry into Vietnam became increasingly difficult as immigration policies shifted rapidly. Finally I just booked a flight straight home from India, while I could still find one. When my parents picked me up from the airport, I only had the same lone backpack I wore when they saw me off to Vietnam three years ago.
I realized driving home that I had also forgotten winter’s many bone-bare variations of brown and grey.
Now each evening after the sun goes down, I sit with my parents watching the news about how the world is falling apart. (I’ve never owned a TV in all my time of living alone.) When the three of us go on cool walks around Almont, they remark how nice it is to see the number of children playing outdoors since the schools were closed down. Many neighbors that we talk to I’ve never met before.
I saw my brother for the first time a few days ago. I haven’t seen my sister yet: she’s under quarantine, too.
In my head I still sip that sweet-style coffee with condensed milk as the morning temperature climbs. The breezy scooter rides to the foot of the jungled mountain. Sitting beside my students to correct their pronunciation. Meekly hanging out with the other expats throughout the sultry evenings.
I peer at the messages from my Vietnamese pals on Facebook asking how it feels to be home. “Strange,” I reply. It feels nice, but strange.
Sitting at the bay window, looking out, I always note how quiet our street is. Just the occasional bundled-up pedestrian passing by, braving the cold and the contagious anxiety.
Contact Andrew at firstname.lastname@example.org.