My cousin and her family planned a trip to South Florida several months ago when it seemed the COVID-19 outbreak was finally under control. She wanted to visit her parents for the first time in over two years. But as COVID-19 cases began rising again, my cousin questioned whether taking the trip was worth the risk of possibly endangering her and her family. Ultimately, with only a few days remaining until departure, she had decided to cancel the trip altogether despite that her husband and daughter still wanted to go. That happened last week.

You can’t really blame her for booking the trip. For months, the U.S. news media has been endlessly covering stories about America’s recovery from COVID-19 even though the prevalence of the delta variant was gaining momentum each day in other parts of the world. Not only did my cousin take the bait, but it seems like a majority of Americans felt the same way, including many people that I know. My father told me that he was being laxer about wearing a face mask, which I cautioned against because the second waves worldwide have been worse than the first. My best friend went on his honeymoon to Hawaii. My ex-customer in the Middle East had asked me about planning on-site training again. He obviously forgot that I was fired soon after COVID-19 first took hold in the U.S. And my ex-boss, who I spoke to earlier this week, mentioned he and his family had just returned from Cabo. Unlike my cousin, they all went ahead with their plans. That doesn’t make my cousin wrong. She made the best decision she could for her and her family. And, in her defense, my best friend cancelled the baby shower that he and his wife planned for their son after the honeymoon and I had heard that my ex-customer agreed to further delay on-site training.

We would have taken the trip. Had my father lived in Florida and the last time I saw him was more than two years ago, it would have been worth the risk to me. Although any risk to our health is likely immaterial, I would have lightened our schedule. No Disney World, for example. Sorry. But the decision wasn’t so simple for my cousin. She has an immune deficiency disorder, which drastically increases her COVID-19 related risks. Also, my cousin doesn’t know whether her disorder was passed on to her daughter and her husband has a dad gut.

My reasoning for not cancelling the trip would have resulted from the years of pain I endured from multiple arm issues. There was a time I let it run my life. From the moment I woke up to the moment I fell asleep, it affected almost everything about me. I couldn’t do anything normally, not even sleep. I even was in a car accident because I couldn’t look over my shoulder properly. As for work, if I didn’t have an understanding customer, it would have affected my career early on because, coupled with laziness, my health was in a precarious state. During those first two years, I hardly ever made it to the office by the time most people had arrived. Post-surgeries though, I quickly got better and life returned to normal albeit temporarily. It was discouraging every time my arm disorder came back until I eventually thought, “Fuck it. I’m not letting it control me.” So, I view COVID-19 similarly.

Had I suffered from the same health disorder as my cousin, it’s hard to definitively say what we would have done because two years would have been a long time without seeing my parents. However, if I felt that the health of you or your mother was at great risk and a safe alternative wasn’t available, I would have also cancelled the trip. Of course, if your mother said no, we wouldn’t have gone.

Like my cousin, I haven’t seen my father for two years. It sucks. I miss him. But the Communist Party of Vietnam has not given me a choice since it had closed Vietnam’s borders to almost everyone, except for its citizens, diplomats and foreign experts, for almost two years. If I left, I don’t know when we’d be together again. The Communist Party of Vietnam purposely separated mixed-nationality families. Husbands couldn’t be with their wives. Fathers couldn’t be with their children. Yet foreign experts, such as sketchy expats teaching English, were allowed into the country. I wonder how many members of the party have financial interests in those businesses, including the crooked English schools. Some are listed on either one of Vietnam’s two stock exchanges, truth.

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