Head in the clouds, Sapa

I’m back. For real. This summer has been one of the strangest times of my life I believe… Making it past finals, dropping my productivity level to –100, graduating, feeling bored, getting nostalgic about Oxford, wanting to do it all over again, having too much free time to overthink finals results, wondering what I’m possibly going to do with my life. All in that order.

My only salvation from this post-partum spiral of emptiness was travel.

I feel so lucky and grateful I was able to escape from London, a place I’ve come to associate with this gloomy emotional cloud of turmoil.

And I realise I’ve documented none of it over here. Not that I was unable to, you know I never stop taking photos. The truth is: I just got lazy. As paradoxical as this is going to sound: I had too much free time. I didn’t know what to do with it. I had no urge.

That urge to do things, to be active, to create… I wanted it back.

The summer reached to an end, and everyone went back to their productive lives. This was going to be the first autumn in my life where nothing pre-planned would be waiting for me. “La rentrée” (back to school in French), has always been a big thing in my life. Probably because I’m French: turn on the TV in September and that’s all French reporters will be talking about. I should add that since the age of 3, “la rentrée” was probably one of the most steady events in my life. Moving around with my family, the country and school were often different, the process was the same. It was always the beginning of an upcoming year, during which I knew I would be given a frame to grow as a person. The frame is now gone.

After école primaire there was collège, after collège there was lycée, and after lycée there was uni. It was comfortable, always knowing what the next stage would be. Now there’s just a void. And this year, I’m going to have to learn how to fill it, without a frame, just an urge. An urge to make myself a place in this new life.

So I took off to find that urge again, and I flew to Vietnam with my mom.

I’ve been going to Vietnam since I can remember. My mom left everything she knew when I was born, but she never gave up on who she was and where she came from. So every year we returned to Saigon. I would sing with my aunts, be spoiled by my grandparents, run downstairs to ask my friend Chị Giang to play with me. A few years passed and my sister came around which made it all even more fun (although, there are too many photos of us wearing matching outfits playing in Vietnam together…).

We wouldn’t always stay in Saigon. My grandfather took me to Huế where he was from, I visited so many places such as Hanoi, Đà Lạt, Nha Trang and the list goes on. But that was a long time ago. After a while we started going less and less. And when we would go to Vietnam, it was such a long trip (flying Congo-France-Vietnam is a) costly, b) a very long journey) we would just stay in Saigon to spend time with family. So I don’t remember very well the places I visited during those childhood holidays. A few  rocks emerge from the waters of my memory and I see myself by the lake in Hanoi listening to the story of the sword and the turtle. But nothing is as clear as the pictures in the photo albums.

I had to go back and not only rediscover those memories but create some.

Sapa was our biggest discovery.

Getting on that night train from Hanoi, we didn’t know we were heading to one of the most beautiful places we’d ever seen. Heck! We didn’t know we’d make a great encounter and spend the rest of the night getting to know Em An and his grandmother.

Early mornings are always surreal. You’re never sure you’re really woken up. The drive from Lào Cai to Sapa at 5am was like a dream: we watched the sun rise over the mountains as we made our way up into the clouds.

We trekked the rest of the day; we met Nkauj Rhuv Tees and other women from the black hmong tribe, we watched children play and bought all the handmade bracelets we could. Along the road we gazed at the rice paddles and the hardworking people harvesting rice with the help of buffaloes. I’ll stop now and let the photos speak for themselves.

[totally not sponsored but if Hype would like to give me money I am in no position to say no]