Archive for the ‘lucky me’ Category

Lucky, lucky me

It’s been an amazing week in the Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc Island, Vietnam. My $30 three-day tour (includes meals, transportation, tour guide and accommodations) captured the highlights of the Mekong Delta including the floating market, traditional music, rice paper compounds, temples and even a crocodile farm. The highlights were of course, the people. Everywhere I went, people shared their stories with me with very little prompting. I learned about the “New Economic Zone.” After the war ended in 1975, the men that were involved in the South Vietnamese Army/government/United States were placed in re-education camps/prisons for months to years. The people that were involved in the Northern Army/communists were moved into Saigon’s “New Economic Zone” and the Southern Sympathizers were displaced from their homes, many to the Mekong Delta. I have met so many people this past week – the men that were placed in the prisons, the women left behind to raise children, and the now-grown children.

I continue to be frustrated with the tourists that are so cynical of Vietnamese people, while also incredibly touched by the generosity of the locals. I took the public bus from Chau Doc to Rach Gia. We foreigners had been properly warned by the travel agent about the public shuttle: no air conditioning, many stops to pick up/drop off additional passengers, slower than the VIP/Express Bus. I boarded the van with two German tourists and we got the best seats. The German man sat on the end for the additional room for his long legs. Inevitably, more passengers boarded bringing a lot of boxes and luggage, and the staff started moving the German man’s legs to accommodate the extra luggage. More people boarded with more luggage and lots of squeezing into tight spaces. The German man started yelling, “Less touching and more talking!” and “NO! NO!” There was clearly a language and cultural barrier, and the Vietnamese man tried to shift the boxes around to make it more comfortable for the German man (although less comfortable for all the Vietnamese passengers). Every time the Vietnamese man tried to make more room, it just seemed to anger the German man even more. I was just happy we weren’t sharing a seat with chickens and pigs! And then I remembered a scene from the prior day. We had walked through a watermelon field and my sandals were caked in mud. I stopped by the river to clean off my shoes but couldn’t quite reach the river from my vantage point. A woman washing her dishes beside me saw my hesitation, and immediately started WASHING MY FEET! I was just floored by this simple demonstration of the generous Vietnamese spirit. And I see it everywhere, so it is so hard to understand the wrath of tourists.

After the Mekong Delta, I went to Phu Quoc Island and spent four glorious days on deserted beaches. I got a massage on the beach (my seventeenth massage over eight weeks!) and the massage therapist asked me all the standard Vietnamese questions: “Where are you from? How old are you? Are you married? Where is your mother from in Vietnam? How many brothers and sisters do you have?” And then she asked me an unusual one, “Are you happy?” I burst out laughing with a loud, “Yes!” I discovered we were the same age and was totally surprised. She looked so much older than me, and I realized (again) that I am very lucky. If things had been slightly different in my life, I could be massaging tourists in Vietnam for a few dollars a day.

I have had such a wonderful life in Seattle, and an amazing 21 years in the Northwest. And the exciting part is I know I have an even better future ahead of me. I usually feel a bit sad at the end of a vacation. But this time, I am excited to return to Seattle in two days and see friends and family. I know I will be returning to Vietnam in March, and have found a new home. This is probably the last e-mail during my travels. My thanks to all of you for being such wonderful vicarious travel companions. Hope to see you in Seattle, or in Southeast Asia later this year!

Attached are my final photos from Vietnam. I keep saying the people are amazing, and they are. But FOOD is definitely the second highlight of my trip. I had two wonderful beach BBQs in Phu Quoc. You can see the delight in my face from the shrimp and sea urchin. Also included a serene trip down the Mekong Delta.

Read Full Post »