By the winter of 2010 I was openly not religious and immersed in my studies about Vietnam. I was studying Vietnamese 3 times a week with Long and spending much of my free time with him and at his house. I was also getting very depressed. I had accepted the fact that I was attracted to men a few years before hand, but my religious life style always motivated me to try and ignore that aspect of myself. But now I no longer believed in a religion that hates homosexuality, so my only reason for not pursuing it was fear. I was afraid of how my family would see me, how my friends would see me and I was afraid of such a major change in my life. But the more I tried to ignore my attraction to men, the more I realized that I couldn't. But how was I going to approach learning about this part of myself?
I decided that a trip that coming summer to Vietnam would be the perfect answer. Why Vietnam? For a number of reasons. First, my studies gave me a "legitimate" reason to travel there and what to do with my time while I was there. I would go for a few weeks and take classes in Vietnamese. Second, I did not know anyone in Vietnam. Any Vietnamese people I knew at the time were all overseas. I would be completely anonymous and free to meet new people and experiment living a gay lifestyle. Thirdly, I am what is called in gay slang, a rice queen (for all those who asked about that tag in previous posts, I told you to be patient and I would explain). A "rice queen" is a non Asian guy that is only or particularly attracted to Asian guys. For all these reasons, I reserved a ticket to Vietnam for July of 2010 and I was VERY excited.
When I told my parents of my plan to travel to Vietnam to take classes in Vietnamese they became very concerned. At first they would just say "we are concerned but its your money, do what you want with it." But as the days passed concern quickly turned to panic. My parents told me that since I was newly not religious, that it was a dangerous time in my life for me to go to a country with no Jews. They feared I was vulnerable and would fall in love with a Vietnamese girl and that marrying a non Jew was the worst thing I could do in their eyes. It would be unforgivable.
Of course I knew how my family felt about intermarriage, but at the same time I could not put their fears to rest by announcing I was going to meet guys, not girls. I told them not to worry, but they got very upset and begged me to cancel my trip. At first I refused. This trip was so important to me, I could not imagine canceling it. But one night after a very difficult conversation with my parents on the phone I agreed to put the trip off for one year.
At the time I was very angry and very disappointed. I had so much planned for this trip and it all disappeared a few days after being planned. But in the long run things worked out very well. In 2011 I did go to Vietnam and I had the most amazing time of my life. I met the most amazing people who changed my life forever. But of course, that story will have to wait for another post :)