I ventured into downtown Saigon today, on a mission to find a couple of nice birthday gifts to send back to Thailand. There is a decently-stocked (by Vietnam standards - it's no Toys R Us) toy store in this shopping plaza that's called "The Tax Centre". It's full of high-end cosmetics, wristwatches, and Renault automobiles on the ground floor, but it's more like loose stalls on the upper levels.
As I circled the second and third floors on the way to the escalators to the top floor, my eyes focused only on my destination and not on anyone who might be staring at me in curiosity, it occured to me that I don't even notice anymore that I may be the only one who looks different in that place, the only foreigner. It makes me invisible, in an ironic way.
When I was a teenager and full of angst and largely repressed rage, I never thought about the future any deeper than twelve months out. I never thought that learning to navigate whatever crap I was given to deal with alone would ever be something that would serve me well, or be something that I might feel a few tinges of pride over, give or take twenty years. My status as an outcast and loner was very much forced upon me, and man, it sucked when I was fifteen.
But now, I think that I can cope with being different it now because I coped with it then. Not only that, I'm doing better this time around. I can walk around an overcrowded shopping plaza full of people that I can't even communicate with in a culture that I don't understand the unspoken rules of, and I don't care that I am different at all.