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Culture Focus

Taking My Boyfriend Home

Anh Nguyen December 4, 2018

From the pink and purple hues on the horizon, the break of dawn finally arrived. Tiny little snowflakes stuck to the window at 30,000 feet above ground, chipping away as the sun rays glinted off the accelerating plane. Leaning back in my chair, I looked outside as I traveled into the future. In Philadelphia, the dusk of yesterday had fallen on the streets. In Ho Chi Minh City, tomorrow’s dawn was just beginning.

In that moment on the plane, I silently thanked the growling engine for the cacophony which drowned out my thoughts. In silence, my thoughts would have driven me insane. As a first-born daughter, I tended to overthink a lot – about my life choices, my mistakes and my future, anything that would cause me an ounce of worry. Leaving home when I was 19 to live and study in a whole different country was a nerve-wracking journey, but I made it. Taking my American boyfriend home to visit my parents? Why, oh why did I think this would be a stress-free idea?

My boyfriend and I met during my first semester in college. He was a senior and the captain of the debate team, whereas I had just arrived in Philadelphia and didn’t know anything about college or life here. I joined the debate team with friends and went on tournaments every weekend, learning the art of argumentation while growing closer to the congenial captain who shared my love for Chinese cuisine. We spent hours crafting our arguments and talking about life in general. Naturally, I decided to ask him out in the summer after he graduated from college. Two years after that date, here we were two hours away from my hometown.

The international flight flew from John F. Kennedy Airport to Hong Kong, then Hong Kong to Ho Chi Minh City, totaling 19 hours up in the air. Every year, I came back to see my parents’ hair had turned grayer, their postures more frail and still they thought I was growing up too fast. They knew I was traveling home with my American boyfriend and were very accepting of it, yet I couldn’t push away the thought that they was disappointed in me. I was supposed to come back to them after school,but with a boyfriend and an imminent career, that promise has faded away each day.

Unbeknownst to my train of thought, my boyfriend slouched deeper in his seat after a 15-hour movie marathon. I cocked my head to the side and my temple landed on his shoulder at an angle where the only thing I could see was his square chin. Loving a person outside of your culture is challenging. There are so many gaps to fill in your understanding of each other’s backgrounds. I could have laid my heart bare and still he couldn’t see what was hurting me. Likewise, I knew he was frustrated to see our communication fall through so many times. But we made it work because there were also many things we had learned from being with each other. For me, an introduction to American politics. For him, a revelation about Vietnam’s multifaceted cuisine.

Long flights had their perks, too. Free wine, new movie releases, and a chance to contemplate without the distraction of the moving world. Up in the air I was uninhibited by gravity, time or space to reflect on my choices. Right here I had a shoulder to lean on and a destination to long for, a comforting state both near and far.