Vietnam has, in many ways, kicked my butt. It has also, incidentally, grabbed my butt. Despite all the stresses of traveling in this country, though, I declare that Vietnam is my favorite country that I have been in so far this trip. Why? Because it has BACKBONE. It is pulsingly alive with its own culture and with a fire to keep on rising.
Now, praise be to the heavens and the earth, this week I have had the fortune to begin to feel the warm heart of Vietnam, thanks to some blessed help.
“What’s your name?” I asked the man next to me on the hotel lobby computer. I had been at the keyboard for over four hours, typing out the whole motorcycle groping saga and editing photos.
“David,” he replied with a dimpled smile.
“What’s your name?” he asked.
“Lillie,” I replied.
“OH!” he laughed, “That’s my sister’s name!”
Since then we have been fast friends, and it has lifted my happiness and tranquility immensely. Since David was born in Vietnam but has lived in Canada since he was five, his English and Vietnamese are both perfect, meaning he is a heaven-sent bridge between two worlds. He is here visiting Vietnamese family on a short vacation from his job in Canada, and his Aunt owns the lovely hotel in which I’m staying.
At last, I am feeling like I can peer into some previously mystifying windows of Vietnam! For example, what the heck is a “Butter” fruit shake (sign pictured, right)?! David laughed and explained, “Avocado”. But beyond the translation wonderfulness, it is just nice to have a sweet friend and feel like there’s family here.
Last night David took me to hang out with his cousin and her chums at a restaurant decorated from head to toe with sparkling sea shells and aquatic life. The lights were made of blown up puffer fish (pictured, left)!!!
To chat casually in a family group after months of tourist traipsing and feeling like an outsider– now that was a gift. The fifty-song Karaoke marathon afterwords was other gift, though David’s aunt who lives upstairs from where we were belting out “Livin’ on a Prayer” might not have thought so.
If my laptop hadn’t been broken by the insane motorcycle ride through rural Vietnam, I would not have had to spend all those hours in the hotel lobby’s computers, and I would never have met David and his family. When things are bad I chant to myself: “Everything for a reason! Everything for a reason!” In this case, it was really true.