The feeling to know that you can call a foreign country home is truly a wonderful thing. I call South Africa home and now I can add Vietnam to this prestigious list. How exactly do you know if you can call a country home? Well, there are a few unwritten rules that apply. First, upon entering Vietnam, I honestly didn’t feel like a tourist or a visitor, I felt like I was returning home to a place I knew. Secondly, I have a whole network of local friends and colleagues here that I keep in touch with on a consistent basis. If I ever came to Vietnam on a whim, I’d be completely comfortable because I have really good company here who always make sure I’m welcomed no matter the circumstance. The Vietnamese are some of the nicest people on the face of the planet. That list of mine is indeed prestigious, with only two countries that I’ve inducted (not including the USA).
My time in Vietnam was short and sweet. This was only a pitstop between my European Excursion and my next major venture into Nepal. Saying goodbye to Quyen, Duc, Duong, Anna, the students, and everyone else wasn’t too bad. I know I’ll return again someday but Quyen made me promise to stay longer next time and I plan to keep that promise! She’s still as awesome as when I first met her last year.
Even though I wasn’t an official volunteer here at the college, I still felt like one. The volunteers here told me they felt like I was part of the group since I was always around. I usually spent my free time just hanging out on their floor introducing them to games like “Werewolf” and “$hithead”. There were many times where they offered me their coupons for the PR restaurant when they weren’t using them. Thanks for those, guys. On one of my last nights, Quyen and Duc took Felix (Germany) and I out for some more Vietnamese cuisine. One of these foods was a duck fetus. It sounds gross…and it is!
What you do is you boil an egg that has a baby duck in it. Then you gently crack the top of the egg and drink the fluids from the inside. Then, you scoop out the wet soggy baby duck, feathers and all, and take a bite out of it. Quyen scooped a gigantic piece for me and spoon fed me because I was too hesitant.
As soon as the duck head entered my mouth, I gagged instantly. Felix’s eyes were watering while Quyen and Duc thought it was hilarious! Onlooking locals sitting nearby were also enjoying the show. Duc scooped out some of the yolk part for me, which I was able to eat. I still gagged and gawked from that, but I felt like I could feel a piece of that wet soggy baby duck swimming inside my stomach. The taste wasn’t horrible, but it was definitely a mental game I wasn’t prepared for. Definitely one of the worst things I’ve ever tried thus far. (I’ll be trying other bizarre things later in Nepal.)
I packed my belongings and said my goodbyes to the volunteers, students, and staff. Thanks for the welcome return everyone! I’ll be back again.
On Route to Nepal
So here’s what’s happening now. For the next six weeks, I’ll be living in Nepal teaching English via IVHQ, my regular volunteering agency I have used frequently through the years. This is my sixth country where I’m volunteering somewhere completely new and different: Costa Rica, Peru, South Africa, Tanzania, Vietnam, and now Nepal. I only started this blog during the South Africa season. I like to think of this as season six. Each season takes place in a completely new location with a new cast of interesting characters from all over the world or in this case, volunteers. Before each season I really don’t know what to expect as far as who I’ll meet and where I’ll stay. Usually though, I have met some pretty awesome people that I still keep in touch with to this day, even volunteers all the way back from season one (Costa Rica). And in typical Sellers fashion, I plan on getting my hands dirty, going above and beyond, experiencing new and crazy things which I will definitely share on this blog.
Getting There Was a Giant Mess
In order to get to Kathmandu, Nepal, I must fly from HCMC to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and then from there to Kathmandu, Nepal. By the way, if you aren’t sure, Nepal is a small landlocked country situated north of India and south of Tibet and China. Everything was going smooth, until my layover in Kuala Lumpur…
Entry into Nepal requires a visa in which costs $100 USD for a 90 day stay. You can get those upon arrival. However, they won’t accept credit cards, debit cards, or their own currency, the Nepalese rupee. My plan was to just get money out of an ATM and exchange it at the airport. I had some time to spare at the Kuala Lumpur airport and checked out an ATM to use, but my card didn’t work. Odd…it worked just yesterday? I tried a different ATM and same thing–invalid card. What gives? My phone doesn’t work outside of the US so I couldn’t call my bank to find out why my card wasn’t working and besides, it was 2am at home; bank’s closed. I looked online for reasons why my card won’t work and there are three possible reasons: insufficient funds, the bank blocked the card because of suspicious transactions, or the strip on the back of the card was demagnetized. I checked my account online and all my money was still there and I told my bank before I left to allow my card to be used anywhere until I tell them so. The only option left was the demagnetizing issue. I had brought a spare card with me just in case my current card was lost or stolen. I tried the new card and still, no luck. I’d figure I try again at the airport in Kathmandu.
That One Time I Was Able to Sneak Out the Kathmandu Airport Without A Visa
Upon entering the Kathmandu airport, I immediately searched for an ATM in the immigrations lot. Of course the only ATM was out of order. I asked the cashier at the money exchange if there was another ATM and he responded “Outside the airport.” I was trapped though, I couldn’t leave the immigration area without a visa and without getting through security, and customs, and baggage claim! I went for it anyway and went past the immigrations and immediately a security officer came and stopped me. I told him my plea and he also told me the only ATM was outside, but didn’t give me any further directions on actually getting past all this security without the proper papers. I pressed on anyways. From prior experience in unorganized airports, the key is to act like you know what you’re doing, act like you know where you’re going, and speak in English really fast to confuse your opponents. It worked! I waltzed right past the visa counter, right past the security, right through the metal detector, and a few minutes later I was outside the airport without a visa and no questions! I literally went past all those long lines and dipped right through. I found an ATM and was able to take out the rupees I needed to convert into USD. Now how do I get back in? I just went through the way I came. I had to go past all the security again an even go up the escalator that only went down. I finally was able to get my visa, but the way I was able to escape the airport without one was a little strange. Get your act together Nepal! A crazy person could have gone through there.
Now with my visa and luggage in tact, I was approached by a man holding a sign that had my name on it. “IVHQ?” I asked him. He responded yes and I proceeded to follow him to his van past all of the taxi drivers practically begging for me to get a taxi instead. “You want to do trekking or safari?” the locals would ask me as I walked past them. “I just got here man!”
There were a couple of scammers who grabbed my small bag from me, walked three meters to the van and placed my bag inside and then said “Tip me please.” Instantly I had flashbacks to Morocco, a place where if you get any help from locals, even if you don’t ask for it, they will tell you to tip them. Just to see what he said, I asked him “How much should I tip you?”
“20 American”, he said.
I laughed at him. “You’re out of your mind.”
I reached for my wallet and pulled out one American dollar, which is still too much. It was mostly for him just to go away. “That’s all I have”, I told him…which was a fib of course. Looking back, I shouldn’t have given him anything. I asked the real IVHQ drivers “Why didn’t you intervene at all?” They told me because they didn’t want to start any trouble with the locals. Makes sense I guess.
It was 8:30pm in Kathmandu and I was here and ready for the next chunk of this global adventure to begin! I can’t wait to tell you all about it. 🙂