Editor's note: This story was written by Ray Kuschert, an Australian living in Ho Chi Minh City. It was edited by Tuoi Tre News for clarity, consistency, and coherence.
As we bid farewell to the Year of the Buffalo, we look eagerly toward the approaching Year of the Tiger, hoping that our world continues to improve and we never again have to experience the pressures of the past year.
But what was the Year of the Buffalo like for you? In numerology, 2021 is seen as a lucky year. In the Vietnamese horoscope, the Year of the Buffalo is a year of industriousness and patience. For me, patience was the theme of the year. I think also think we all needed a bit of luck to get through it.
My year was definitely a strange one. A mixture of wonderful experiences and the lowest of lows.
The start of 2021 brought my first-ever three-day bicycle adventure, during which I traveled to Vung Tau, La Gi, and Phan Thiet.
That was followed by another three-day adventure to Lake Tri An and War Zone D in Dong Nai during Tet holiday. Times were rolling on well.
By April, the COVID-19 situation hadn’t worsened in Ho Chi Minh City, and I was able to arrange a home wedding in Binh Duong for myself and my now-wife. We were lucky because, had we waited just a few more weeks, we might still be waiting now.
Early May came around and, not being able to travel back to my home country, I took a week-long holiday to Hue, Da Nang, and Hoi An (with my bicycle, of course). The sites and experiences I took in on my first visit to central Vietnam were amazing. Hue and its spectacular history thrilled me. Da Nang and Ba Na Hills were a joy, and Hoi An must be one of the most beautiful places to visit in the world.
But things started to turn dire soon after my return to Ho Chi Minh City. The number of COVID-19 number of cases exploded and authorities began to isolate certain streets from the rest of the community. It wasn’t long before I got a call that my apartment had been locked down by police due to a COVID-19 outbreak in my building. This ended my otherwise happy year.
I wound up being isolated in my apartment for about three weeks, not allowed in the corridor or stairs to exercise. My physical health began to slide and I became more and more frustrated with being locked away at home.
I was finally allowed out of my apartment in early June, but that only lasted for three days until a city-wide social distancing mandate was imposed. That set the tone for the next four to five months. My wife and I were isolated in our apartment, only allowed out to pick up food or get COVID-19 tests.
With this new isolation came a decrease in my health. I found myself with a serious sinus infection and had to take medication for about five months before I finally wound up in the hospital in December for an operation. It was a fitting end to a stressful year.
|A tiger statue at Nguyen Hue Flower Street in Ho Chi Minh City, January 26, 2022. Photo: Quang Dinh / Tuoi Tre
However, all that stress set the scene for the excitement of the year ahead. The Year of the Tiger comes with renewed energy and anticipation of a wonderful new year. I am back on my bicycle and taking adventures to the countryside. I am back to my office and interacting with my wonderful colleagues. I am able to visit my family and friends thanks to having been vaccinated. And I am running again, something I missed so much during the lockdown.
This year will be a year of growth and adventure. I plan to explore new parts of Vietnam until borders reopen and I can visit my family in Australia. I plan to finish my degree a year ahead of schedule, thanks to being isolated and having had more time to study. I plan to lose the weight I put on during the social distancing period and get back into running half marathons. And I have a dream of, one day, running 100 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City to Vung Tau.
The Year of the Tiger is here and it’s a time to channel the tiger’s bravery to get out and make a difference in the world. It is time to take a chance and try something new. And, perhaps most importantly, it’s a time to appreciate everything that was not available to us during the Year of the Buffalo.
So much will, once again, be available to us in the Year of the Tiger. Face-to-face groups, like English clubs, will bring people back to in-person communication. Schools and other learning centers will reopen and give people the opportunity to experience face-to-face learning once again. And one of my favorites, the simple human interaction of meeting new people and shaking their hands, or bumping their elbow, will be a wonderful daily experience.
Vietnam has so much to offer, from the friendliness of local people to the beauty of the countryside and its amazing tourist attractions. There is something new and exciting for everyone to chase this year.
“Fortune favors the brave,” so I will make the most of the Year of the Tiger by taking risks, making changes, and finding adventure at every turn. I know the fortune in my life will be the people and memories that I will hold in my heart forever.
Enjoy the Year of the Tiger and make it a year of bravery - take risks and change your life for the better!