A random thought as we meander our way through Lao history. More in-depth stories and photos will have to wait until I get back to constant WiFi and a break from having so many wonderful things to see and do.

Throughout this trip, I have found so many emotions flowing through me, too often resulting in embarrassing episodes of me trying to look stoic through tears. I do this fairly well, but tearing up in the middle of a story is counter-productive. There must be half a dozen people on this trip who have only heard the first part of my return to the States after Saigon fell. (Was liberated. Sorry, I forgot, but you know, after April 30, 1975.) I can never get past that lady in customs in San Francisco who stamped our passports, looked up and said, “Welcome home. Saigon just fell.”

THERE—I got it out without … ah hell.

In general, I am free with my emotions. My mom says I cry at supermarket openings. But here, this, this was a different kind of emotion. It was something really deep, profound, and I just couldn’t explain it.

Trish in Vientiane

I finally figured it out in a ballroom bathroom at the Landmark Mekong hotel in Vientiane. A good (new) friend caught me up, told me to stop worrying about why I was crying, and just go with it. When the reason came around, I’d recognize it.

And suddenly, right then and there in the ballroom bathroom of the Landmark Mekong hotel in Vientiane, it came to me: I missed the expat community. It was the sense of community that we so instantly hit when we fellow expats gather together. I’ve been writing about it indirectly (and sometimes directly, really) since I started writing this blog. It’s a community that largely disappeared when I moved to America.

That’s not to say that I haven’t had friends and great memories and a wonderful life in the States. I have and I do. It’s just … different. It’s the “do you remember …”s; the shared understanding that an open wood cooking fire or the smell of mildew means home; the reminder that we shared very, very special childhoods and we just get each other.

It’s that folie à deux.

Since that revelation, I’ve been just fine! The heavy emotions of the return to Saigon and Vientiane are in the background now, seeking the compartment where one puts special memories of long ago places and warm and fuzzy blankets.