“Do tell me when u come to Australia”

beo tay

In a restaurant looking over Saigon river view, Karen and Tina pulled out their camera and kept exclaiming

“Wow it is so lovely here”

I said a half-yes , because it is true yet  I was worrying what to order and the driver kept telling me to hurry up. “Damn it is late”, I thought. Nevertheless I did not rush. Beside me is an incredible pleasant lesbian couple who are adventurous at the same time, and I am losing the ability to feel the way they feel. All I could think of was how to order the right food, how to be not too late, how to stay calm and entertaining. I was ready to act.

“I wish you were not my customers, so I can be myself and still nice”, I thought.

Then after 10 minutes talking and sharing about Vietnam, they started to ask about my personal stuff, insisted:

“Do let us know when you come to Australia. We will take care of you there”

I replied “That is cool”, as this might be the 100th time somebody said something like this. Maybe they mean it, maybe they don’t. Yet what makes me very sad is that I have come to a point that I would definitely not contact them if I do come to Australia.

I kept thinking

“What can I give you in return? We are here because you bought a product in which I am the one who deliver. Without that cashflow, I would not sit here. That service includes everything wrapped up in a term called “hospitality”. I do not earn anything else. Why should you take me around while you have to buy me in Vietnam? Both you and I know that”

Then I went further to solidify that thought

“You are thinking like that  because we have shared an adventure and right now you are in a good mood. When you come back and occupied with your daily lives, you will forget that I existed. Your mood disappeared and there is no relevance anymore”

I stopped there. Isn’t it clear? This bittersweet interaction?

I still still wish they were not my customers but just some random people I meet. That would be cool. But for now I have to put my Gaara face on, to face that fact.

gaara face

Wait, maybe I am just overthinking. Story short: I met 2 nice people. They like me. Period.

Ha ha ha ha ha .

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When I can’t escape

Felix exclaimed:

“Hi May, where are Luke and mom?”

My heart skipped a beat. The mom and her 10 year old child slowly dragged their bikes towards us with a frustrating look. The chain is falling out and the derailleur is broken in half, with the second half lying nowhere to be found

chain falling out

“I have searched for it everywhere. I didn’t see it”

I was panicked. Since the beginning I have acted the role of a poised, know-it-all guide very well whom won their affection and trust. Can I say something funny to twist their perspective of this shit – that I don’t know how to fix a broken derailleur?

The normally romantic rubber plantations are at their worst time of the year: rainy season when tree branches fall off, creating a messy backdrop.

From all corners mosquitoes are screaming, waiting to eat us alive. Two little boys, 10-year-old Luke and 7–year-old Felix are losing their cheerful face. I called numerous people for a few minutes when Felix started his rambling

Why does it take so long? Uh huh, ahhh, mosquitoes

 

Their mom says nothing.

Deep down I know they have all the rights to complain. I am delivering a service and this should not happen. In this case, they need a problem solver and not an entertainer as usual. I happen to be in a situation when I don’t have what it takes to solve and people who can solve are out of reach.

When you are expected to be a problem solver

Normally, I am an escaper. I just do things I like and meet people I care about. If there is any hint of mess or discomfort, I just say NO.

No. You deal with it. That is not my shit.

No, I will not meet you (because I have no interest at all)

No, I will not meet you (because I have so much interest that I am scared of rejection)

But there are cases when I have no choice but standing in front lines. Being a tour guide is one of that. I talk obvious things in different ways to entertain people and when bad surprises happen, I am expected to be a problem solver.

Problems expose our vulnerability

kids

If things go right, I will just make fun with Luke & Felix, listen to them eagerly sharing about their life in Singapore, act like I am so interested and then look at their satisfying mom’s face, happy that somebody is caring about her kids.

If things go right, I will just be poised, comfortable and in control. The mess kicked me out of that driver’s seat and just in seconds I became passive and frustrated. I felt so vulnerable, and somehow I feel that is a good sign. It shows me what I know I lack and force me to face it, find a way to deal with it, seeking help from others and grow from them.

If we feel stupid and vulnerable, that is a good sign. If we always feel confident, we are in the wrong environment.

When life gives you rubber dust…

Meeting me at the new pier of Cu Chi tunnels, Adrian immediately asked with his broken English:

How many kilometer is our ride today?

I was stunned. Oh man, not again, I thought. With just 6 hour’s sleep and the boredom of riding the routes over and over again, now my customer is even bringing me more trouble?

Fixing my mindset in seconds, I patiently and professionally explained to Charlene and Adrian the riding route, step-by-step. Charlene fell of the bike after 2 minutes and decide to just get in the van. We look at each other’s face, each get lost in our own thoughts.

“We will see her after 17km. It’s okay”

Most of my ride with Adrian was predictable. I tried to clear my head, riding past by rubber plantations now turning ugly and wet after yesterday rain, stop by our frequent interest points now all becoming meaningless in my numb mind.

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After the second rubber plantation, after we stop to see people harvesting latex and exploring that meticulous process. Suddenly, Adrian asked me:

Are you married?

OMG why is he asking that? Isn’t he going with his GF? I thought. Something is wrong here.

“No.”

“I just got married 3 weeks ago. I am 25.”

@@ Really? I am 25 too. So, this is your honeymoon trip?

I felt an incredible guilt.  If I were Charlene, just got married and have a honeymoon trip, the last thing I wanna do is to let my husband go with a girl then be waiting for them in a van.

After a few small talks question of why I end up here or what I think about HCMC, I asked

So what do you do in your country (I cannot remember the name of that country, an island in Europe)

I am a firefighter.

Really? Do you like your job?

Yes. Very much.

Why do you like it? I mean, Isn’t it a job of danger?

Yes, my dad is a firefighter, too. But when you take people out of buildings and see expression in their face, it is incredible.

Do you keep in touch with people you rescued?

No. Not very often.

That moment shifts my perception forever. Believe it or not, grass looks greener now, sky looks bluer, everything smells good and waiting seems not be an annoyance anymore.

After we met Charlene, we decide to explore a mushroom farm nearby.

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The trip was brief, none of us learned much, and I will never see them again. In fact, very soon I will clear them out of my mind, as the rule of this industry. But nevertheless, with every interaction with people, we all have the choice of letting it turn sour or spicing it up.

So why not the latter?