After three years in England, I come home to see Hanoi has changed a lot. I have all sorts of reverse culture shocks from boundaries of privacy to the art of barter or the skills of stealing. I stumbled. I fell. I cried. I didn’t get a hug. My family don’t hug. But they keep me strong because they remain the same as which I belong.

My mum still goes to the pagoda near to their house very often. When I was very small she sold me to the pagoda (neither for money nor for real). I stayed at home the whole time. But I was given a monk name, which was supposed to keep me safe from bad spirits. She believed that would help. She just wants to believe that nothing bad will ever happen to me.

My dad still plays chess every afternoon before tea time with a few others in the neighbourhood. One of them hosted the group at his doorstep. A year ago, I was told he passed away. When the shock and upset passed, I sometimes worried about Dad and his chess group. But I came back to see they gathering still. Just move to another doorstep. They play and shout loudly regardless passing bikes, barking dogs or crying babies. The fear of death might have affected them but hasn’t defeated them.

My brother still tells long stories, buys his little sister lunch, and teases her when she lost her wallet (again). He gave me a lot of books when he found out I lost my kindle as well as my wallet. He knows I don’t read the same types of books as he does. But he cares. As always.

A few weeks ago, I was asked whether my family are happy to have me back. As cynical as I am, my answer was “They said they are”. Now if I am asked whether I am happy to be back near my family, the answer is definitely “yes”. They make it home!


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