THE FILMING OF ’6NORTH’ 4/6 VIETNAM

By : | 0 Comments | On : July 28, 2015 | Category : Adelaide Uni, Filming, Ho Chi Minh City, Host families, International Schools, Interviews, Media, My Recipe for Cultural Interchange, Norwood Morialta High School, Parents, Students, Uncategorized, Vietnam

The flight to Ho Chi Minh City Vietnam was smooth and the crew on Vietnam Air were very pleasant. Before long we were landing in Ho Chi Minh City for the very first time! The sun was setting as our plane landed. We were quite happy that we actually got on this flight considering the mayhem we had felt in Shanghai just before embarking. We felt at ease because friends were coming to collect us.

The journey through the airport, immigration and customs was certainly a pleasant one and very quickly we were already collecting our bags. At this point I thought I’d better change some money from Chinese Yuan to Vietnamese exchange. I know our friends would be looking after us in Vietnam but it is always nice to have your own money handy. The wad of money I received in exchange was pretty large and I felt rich!

Our friends spotted us. We have known Lucy (of Lucy’s clothing store in Adelaide ) and her daughter Kim who studies at Adelaide Uni for a while now. In addition we were received by Lucy’s 80 year old father and by Kim’s friend Vy.   We were driven in a People Mover van through Ho Chi Minh City and then were taken to our very first restaurant in Vietnam!

Lucy and her father.

Lucy and her father.

Oh boy what a sight this restaurant was. It was lit up like a Christmas tree and there were tables as far as the eye could see. It was an open-sided roofed puzzle of table settings, pathways and ponds. There were many hundreds of people dining.   Waiters wore roller skates to deliver food to tables to all corners of the restaurant, walking would have been too slow and the exotic food would have gone cold. Some tables had their own kitchen staff adjacent to them and we were lucky to have one reserved for us.

Lucy and her father with Kim and Vy at the reserved table with staff to look after us.

Lucy and her father with Kim and Vy at the reserved table with staff to look after us.

The hustle and bustle and the atmosphere was so lively. It looked like everyone was enjoying the food and atmosphere.  It is hard for me to imagine a similar scene in the West.  Then I was told that this restaurant employed some 800 staff! What an amazing place!

Lucy was such a good host. She kept ordering more and more dishes till our table had no more space.  The food was delicious and it all looked and smelt healthy.  It must have been healthy because it was hard to find an overweight person there, everyone was so thin and petite, unlike in the West.

Mud crabs, yum!

Mud crabs, yum!

Vietnamese spring rolls.

Vietnamese spring rolls.

Something that I would cook at home, no wonder my students feel like they are in a home-away-from-home!

Something that I would cook at home, no wonder my students feel like they are in a home-away-from-home!

Another familiar dish of fried rice.

Another familiar dish of fried rice.

Sauces and condiments.

Sauces and condiments.

Every dish we ate had salads and the variety seemed so great that I couldn’t recognise some of the leafy types. Could this high vegetable content be why they were so slim? In the West their size may have looked anorexic but here they appeared to be healthy and normal in their society. The food was in abundance and this banquet for 6 only cost  Lucy $60 Australian dollars including fresh coconut water, beers, freshly squeezed juice and soft drinks as much as you could drink. I could certainly live there. The cold rolls came in so many varieties each accompanied with loads of green salad. In contrast the cold rolls that we make here in Australia are more of a Western variety really.

Fresh coconut water cheaper than bottled water, I could live with it!

Fresh coconut water cheaper than bottled water, I could live with it!

Lucy’s home was going to be at least one hour drive out from the city so her driver came to pick us up. I was dressed in bling bling. People had been staring at me, I thought they must have been wondering who I was. Lucy kept getting asked in Vietnamese who we were. It wasn’t until our last day in Vietnam that I came to learn why people had been staring at me. More on that later.

After a pleasant nighttime drive we arrived at Lucy’s lovely home. We were desperate for sleep but also desperate for internet connection. As you read in my earlier blog, we did not have internet connection in China.  Once we got indoors we used Lucy’s WiFi and checked our next flights. It felt like civilisation again  “Houston we have lift off”.

We needed to connect to our next destination which was Malaysia and Singapore. This we did and I felt comfortable knowing that all was going to be OK for the next leg of our 6North journey. We had a good shower which fixed our aches and pains and then enjoyed a peaceful sleep on a wonderfully comfortable bed. So thanks to Lucy for providing a great  ‘home-away-from-home’ environment.

We woke to the sounds of dogs and roosters. We opened the curtains for the first time and saw birds in abundance with neighboring paddy fields and Lucy’s garden filled with exotic fruit trees. We were certainly in the countryside and it felt very much like I had returned home. We only realised how far into the lush countryside we were when we set off again in the van. It almost felt like I had stepped into the 60′s and 70′s of my childhood years!!! Everything seemed so behind the time that it was lovely. The buildings weren’t tall, the roads underdeveloped and it took me back in my childhood years! I enjoyed seeing the “kampong life” again. This was a pace I had loved when I was growing up. It was like the areas I remember knowing outside Kuala Lumpur (KL) city when I paid a visit to my grandparents or relatives.  Some parts of Malaysia are still this relaxed and tourists just need to know where to find it. It is a pace that can make you feel better about life, certainly not a bad idea if you want to escape the hustle and bustle of modern life.

Apple or Guava? We called it Jambu in Malay it is crunchy but more water based than apple.

Apple or Guava? We called it Jambu in Malay it is crunchy but more water based than apple.

We did a lot of local shopping. We were able to buy so much with our dollar. Compared to Chinese goods in China, Vietnam was incredibly cheap! When I visited China for the very first time in 2008 I felt the same feeling with the same view point of Vietnam today. It was amazing how little everything cost and the workmanship was actually better than Chinese made.  We had to hold ourselves back from buying more because of our limited luggage space but enough room to buy Stephen his birthday gift, yes it was his birthday! On our next visit we’ll go with an empty suitcases just to fill them up with such bargains! In China neither did we have time to buy nor did we feel goods were value for money anymore.

Vietnam definitely is on our ‘must-return-to’ list. On this trip we went as busy documentary-makers and the hectic work schedule gave us little opportunity to chill. Next time we will go more as tourists than workers. Anyway, back to my story:  on our excursion we came across a lady who was baking sweet potatoes on a hot charcoals. The skin was charred outside but the inside was perfect, it was so nice and soft and golden, it was truly delicious and fresh. I felt so glad that we had stopped to try some even though it looked badly charred from the outside. You see, looks can be deceiving. Lucy looked on (pictured) amazed that I liked simplest of things in life.

Roadside Sweet potato charcoal roast.

Roadside Sweet potato charcoal roast.

Purple skin, yellow inside.

Purple skin, yellow inside.

VN roadside sweet potato roast

We also shopped at a supermarket looking for some more Class 10 SD cards for our camera but none could be found. Then we went to some camera shops but even they didn’t have them. Being based outside the Ho Chi Minh City had some disadvantages too. None of the shops had them. A lot of time had passed so we rested for some dinner. This time we had freshly made cold rolls by the roadside. These came with  some omelette pancakes which were served wrapped in a variety of salad leaves and a variety of Vietnamese mint. This seemed to be normal to be served all kinds of Salads and fresh herbs placed on the table during meals in Vietnam, however in Korea, freshly peeled raw onion and garlic with whole chili and sliced capsicum of green and red variety were a familiar sight even at breakfast time. I recall when growing up my mum and family would also have small red onions and chilies on the side of a plate with every meal to bite into but I don’t recall having raw garlic during our meals. Amazing how similar some cultural food are even though worlds apart.

Every meal had a variety of freshly made sauces e.g.  hot/sweet/sour/salty sauces. These were used to dunk many types of cold rolls and food into, unlike the only type that we know here in the West. I was told by Lucy that the cold rolls that we are accustomed to in the West seem rather peculiar to a Vietnamese person trying them for the first time. Ours seems giant in comparison to the standard ones in Vietnam!

Dipping sauces with every meal.

Dipping sauces with every meal.

I thought the sauces were wasted too much, they came freely but a lot didn’t get used. I couldn’t waste that much here in the West because the ingredients are rare and expensive. I don’t know what happens to the sauces, freshly picked herbs and salads in Vietnam that get left behind after customers leave. I don’t mean small quantities of it either……..

Finally in the evening we managed to buy some souvenirs,  clothing and other things that were really good value for money.  Stall-owners were friendly and never forced anyone to buy their products, unlike our experience of China. In China stall-owners called you to their stalls, even pulled your arm to go and buy from them even if you were focused on buying something from another stall.  In Vietnam no one did this, everyone was welcoming and much more laid back.  I think they have got it right,  no pressure was felt by customers.

We returned to Lucy’s late that night, after cutting Stephen’s surprise birthday cake and another lot of fresh coconut water we checked our emails and FaceBook to make appointments for next day. We planned to visit my previous student Phu who was now living in Ho Chi Minh City. Lucy booked us a driver for the day trip.

Lucy fridge had more fresh coconuts than water, so refreshing!

Lucy’s fridge had more fresh coconuts than water, so refreshing!

Even though Lucy and Kim live in Adelaide the home they have back in Vietnam is also occupied by her extended family who look after daily chores. Lucy’s father is a carefree man because he gets to travel with Lucy between Adelaide and Vietnam. When the weather gets too cold in Adelaide he flies to Vietnam where he has his extended family to take care of him, what a life……. I should be so lucky when I get to his age!

You see, like I wrote in my book, in Asia, family are responsible for looking after their elders.  This is done without question, simply honoring the culture, respecting their elders when they are not able to take care of themselves.

Lucy says that she has worked hard to be where she is today. She deserves her success, there is no doubt about it. We were lucky to have met Lucy and her family in Vietnam too.

I couldn’t believe that this was our third day there and soon we will be on our journey to the next country! The morning came with Vietnamese breakfast of noodles, rice, meat and more salads, fresh herbs and dipping sauces prepared by Lucy’s family, as they did every morning while we were there and soon after the driver arrived we went to fetch Kim’s friend Vy from her home nearby on our way to Ho Chi Minh City.

Breakfast daily.

Breakfast daily.

Chicken curry.

Chicken curry.

Freshly baked Vietnamese roll, yum!

Freshly baked Vietnamese roll, yum!

Shredded Banana flower with seafood.

Shredded Banana flower with seafood.

River fish.

River fish.

Rice vermicelli noodles and seafood.

Rice vermicelli noodles and seafood.

We arrived in the city with the sound of motor bikes and honking motorists all around us.  The city felt as busy as Kuala Lumpur (KL). Finally after few local calls from Kim and Vy they located Phu’s apartment. He has been looking out for us from his apartment and as soon as we arrived in his street he came down to greet us. I couldn’t believe what a fine young man he has become now It has been 5 years since he left our home. He really had grown tall, slender and more handsome.  It was really lovely to see him again.

At Phu's home with Vy and Kim.

At Phu’s home with Vy and Kim.

Before he took us to his apartment we told him that we were in urgent need of SD cards again.  We needed him to take us to a camera shop that might also supply sound equipment because our microphone cables had been damaged in transit.  He directed us to a shop on the corner of his street where he usually goes for camera stuff and his local knowledge helped us. We bought micro SD cards but the sound equipment could not be fixed. The SD cards we had bought in China from the shopping centre where we had met Alex and Lena, must have been fake because even after paying extra for a certificate of authenticity they did not last as long as they should have, they must have been smaller capacity than promised so, buyers beware!

Like I said, I do like Vietnam for their honesty and laid back service definitely my next shopping destination. We had told Phu that we had been cheated in China but he assured us that we could trust this shop and their service and that the receipt is genuine.  He would take care of it if we found it to be faulty. Well there was no need for him to because this shop was spot on! We found what we wanted and it was cheaper than the Chinese ones and best quality.

Now equipped with more recording space on our camera we headed to his home. Phu said that there was no need for lunch outside as he had cooked a meal for us all. This was a surprise and such a generous and kind thing for him to do. He was returning the same hospitality that he had experienced with me in our home.  What a fine example he has become, a young man who can look after himself and others.

He introduced us to a noodle dish like Pho’ which he had put together for us and of course this time round we were familiar with the variety of herbs and greens that accompanied the dish, so it was welcoming and delicious! He also wanted us to try a Vietnamese delicacy of sweets/shaved iced/glutenous rice/seaweed jelly combo desserts/sweets all mixed in one dish which he went out to purchase from a hawker stall on the street below. These were certainly familiar to me because we do have something similar in KL which I grew up with. It made me feel warm and cozy. It was lovely of Phu to show us what he had grown up with and it was very thoughtful of him to let us experience the kind of food that he enjoyed. I can see now why my cooking had appealed to him.

Desserts like these are similar to the ones I grew up with in KL.

Agar Agar (seaweed) jelly based desserts like these are similar to the ones I grew up with in KL.

Soon after this it was time for us to interview Phu and Vy. I wanted Phu to advise Vy about what studying in Adelaide would be like if she ever had the chance to.   The interview was full of sound advice and emotion.  Not only were Phu’s  stories very touching but also his kind words about my role as his mother in Australia touched my heart and made me cry.  My effort and care for Phu as his Australian mother were rewarded with his kind words.  Just like I didn’t want to see my own sons in any kind of trouble I had worried about Phu. I worry about all of my students and have done for nearly 18 years now.

Phu’s stay with us was a happy one because his mother also came to stay with us for his first few days to settle him in.  I have heard that parents do this more these days.   After Phu’s mother left he got into the school routine quickly. Being able to keep in touch on the internet was good, his mother was in regular contact.

My book mentions the effects that peer pressure can have on new international students shortly after they arrive to study. We all know the pressures of the society wanting us to fit into what’s right for others and not necessarily for the individual. Unfortunately our own international students weren’t immune to peer pressures either. Even though we warned ours.  I believed and suspected then that Phu had been tricked by them too. As a Homestay parent there is only so much you are permitted to do to control an international student. You do not have the full authority of the child’s own parents and so you cannot control the child enough to protect them completely from all dangers. This stressed me daily.

Bad peers had convinced Phu that I was being too strict on him when I imposed a curfew after certain hours for his own safety.  I knew that week by week his peers were gaining more control over him than I could. Peer pressure is powerful influence and its strength should never be underestimated. He asked to be moved to another home and had already recruited his mother’s approval. I knew there was no more that I could do for him and we had to agree to let him go. I was  so sad to see him go this way and in the West you might use the word;  ‘off the rails’.

My book was completed after Phu had left. It says that a child deserves to be in a happy and a healthy environment.  I felt that Phu’s peers had persuaded him that he would never be happy in my home. They had penetrated his emotions. I was sad to see him leave our home but to Phu it may have seemed like I was angry with him. I was angry with his peers, not with him. When Phu was having this trouble with his peers, his elder brother Vinh had played a major role in trying to keep Phu in our home. But it was Phu’s decision to leave. It had been  really sad to see him leave us but I had no further role to play once his mother requested his transfer to another Homestay home. At the time my feelings didn’t matter whats done was done, so we prayed for a good outcome.  Some time later Phu returned to Vietnam as he states in his interview.

Now five years later, Phu is so much on track that his Uni have a study link with Melbourne Uni and he may even get the chance to return to Australia for final year studies. I look forward to this deserving opportunity for him.

Vy learnt something from Phu that afternoon. Something very important that will have an effect on her life.

Phu told us that he felt our interview had been a positive experience for all of us. We were able to talk with each other again.  That was such a good feeling for me and Stephen and I hope Phu realises this.

Vy hopes to study in Adelaide and seeks a sponsor to cover the cost of her education.

Vinh and I stayed in email/FaceBook contact in the five years after Phu left us.  We had discussed matters via email and FaceBook and it was comforting for me to have that contact so that I could plan a meeting with Phu with Vinh’s help.  In my interview with Phu you will see me in tears as he tells his story about what had happened after leaving my home! What I had felt during his stay with me came flooding back to me again, in front of the camera.

As a Homestay mother of a teenager all I wanted to do was to protect and take care of him in the only way I knew how. At that time of Phu’s trouble with peers my motherly instinct to protect him had came out too strong and may have appeared to a teenager bossy more than protective.  I was concerned for him but so much so that perhaps my words should have been chosen more carefully.  In the interview for 6North all that feeling of loss that I had felt for him now changed into joy because I see him so mature,  and caring, sensitive and apologetic, understanding and humble and much, much more. I became so proud of the fine young man he had become.

I no longer needed to worry about what had happened to Phu. The chapter in my book on peer pressure was now resolved regarding Phu and I.  I had come full circle with Phu and all was well again. I sense some good closure. I feel humbled and admire the young man that Phu has become today! Stephen and I are so glad that we met Phu again! Thank you Phu for the interview, it really means a lot to the both of us!

You’ll have to watch the documentary for more.

After a heart to heart talk and good hugs all around Phu took us to the city centre to experience Vietnam the way it is.

I had never seen so many scooters, even when living in Malaysia. Motorbikes after motorbikes after motorbikes. They filled the streets.  When the lights turn green off they went like mechanical bees….says Stephen! It is a frightening scene when you have no choice but to cross the road. The only way we could do it was with Phu’s close guidance and holding onto him tightly. If only we could have captured those  moments on camera, but Stephen the camera man also needed to cross the road at the same time and it was too risky for him to film and walk through the throng of bikes.  I would have been happy to stay on one side only and find a crossing bridge, but there wasn’t any!

The first stop for us was the city’s oldest post office, now called Ho Chi Minh City Post Office. It is old and elegant. It is also a postage museum with stamps dating back to the very beginning. It is such a tourist attraction that all employed there spoke in English to help visitors. All of the employees dressed in traditional costumes and were cheerful to all of the tourists from around the world who kept taking pictures. They had telephone booths that dated way back to telegraph days. This is where you could exchange currencies at the automatic teller machines of various major banks. Clocks on the wall told the times in the major cities of the world. There were souvenir shops that sold various goods. We really did enjoy the visit there and I recommend it to others.

Outside the post office we got stopped by children asking us to buy their lollies or chewing gums and this is the only place I felt a little pressure, but it was polite. They didn’t take no for an answer even if you didn’t really want what they were offering, so the only choice I had was to give them some money, but not take the goods that wasn’t of an interest to me and only then they left us alone!

We crossed the road but this time with ease because crossings near tourist attractions are monitored and motorists pay attention to pedestrians. We walked through locals who were selling trinkets which we had already bought with Lucy the night before so we didn’t need any of them until a man on crutches with one arm came to tell me something.

I really thought he was simply another trinket seller even though he was but he came to ask me something else!

Eventually I worked it out when he showed me the coins he had in his hand bundled up in a wrap….. Australian!

How did he guess that I was an Australian? Well it seems like he is pretty cluey with accents and he has been around tourists long enough to identify mine.   He took a gamble that I was Australian and asked if I could change his coins into however many dollars they were worth!

Kim and Vy toll me that he will not be able to exchange coins so he needed a bigger currency if he was to exchange.

Ah well of course I can and I will do so especially for a nice man who didn’t hassle me.  Instead he had simply asked me a question. He asked me for $5 Australian dollar in exchange for his coins of 5′s, 10′s, 20′s and 50′s. He asked me to count it that it was all there….

Well I said no,  I will take your word for it and here’s a five dollar note in return.

He accepted it gracefully and thanked me profusely and we said our good byes.

Guess what….. I opened that bag of coins a few months after my travels to be precise…… stopppppp! I need to go back….he’d paid me $2 extra. I must give him the change!

So, here you have it and yes I do need to return back to Vietnam to tell this man that he’d over-paid me, and I need to return his money with interest! I’ll recognise him…

The moment I had arrived in Vietnam I felt that everyone was staring at  me, or was it at Stephen walking behind filming me! When we were walking on streets people would stare at me too. Then, a man on a scooter shouted at me.

At first I couldn’t understand what he was saying so asked Kim, Vy and Phu. They said he was advising me to tuck my gold necklace into my blouse so that it was not so obvious for thieves to grab. I should not have worn my bling blings on the street.   I needed to listen to what the man had to say if I wanted to keep my jewelry and body parts.   I was only wearing my normal pearl earrings,  thin gold chain, a cheap watch, a thin gold bangle and my wedding ring, none of which were of significant monetary value but apparently each would have appealed to a fast thief. For me they had more sentimental value than monetary value. They were what I would normally wear but they would have a different appeal to some others. I now know that people are attacked by motor-cyclists for such a small amount of jewelry, and can be pushed and shoved and get injured, some even murdered! I felt sick to my stomach hearing all of this. So, I pass this advice on to you. That evening’s walk in the city wasn’t as pleasant as before because I was now aware of the dangers that all the locals knew about. The man who had shouted at me was a good citizen to tell me of the danger. I felt warned and shaken.

So in a nut shell, unlike in Malaysia, China and Singapore where gold jewelry is displayed in public, in Vietnam not even a fake gold could be worn openly by the locals. Instead everyone wore items of obvious cheapness.  Sad isn’t it! To keep safe I had to walk in between Vy, Kim and Phu while I worried for Stephen’s safety as he was often walking backwards filming me with his expensive camera equipment!

We finally arrived at the Ho Chi Minh City Central Market. The hustle and bustle of the market and people wanting your business was very much like all the other Asian markets that I have been to. People here in comparison with other markets were still polite and helpful even if you didn’t buy anything from them. The market combined with the wet market where fruit, veg, meat and fish could be bought all at the same market. We were only there to experience the atmosphere because we couldn’t carry with us anything more than what we already had on us for the duration of our trip. Finally we saw our way out on to the streets where the night market was beginning to take place but we couldn’t stop because we had a long journey ahead of us back to Lucy’s place, then pack and off again to the airport the next day. But first we were going to make our way to Vy’s home for dinner made by her mum.

We decided to eat at a nearby cafe while waiting for the driver to arrive. Rice noodle dishes are in abundance in Vietnam and varieties of their favourite national dish Pho’ was available here.  We settled for these and had a good time all chatting for our last evening. At one stage during our dinner the whole entire shop and street light went off, it seemed like a long time after eating with our phones and camera  lights on, the lights finally came on…… hooray! Our driver arrived and we dropped Phu off at his apartment. We said our final goodbyes, our emotions were both happy and sad at the same time. We know that we’ll keep in touch and will definitely see each other someday soon!

It was quite late and our journey home seemed pretty eerie on the country road to Lucy’s.  There weren’t many cars on the road. It must have been around 1opm when we saw police lights flickering in the distance! The police made us stop at a quiet location. All sort of things went through my mind because we have been to many places and have an idea about what can happen if the police are corrupt.

The police came and took the driver away for a talk near their car which I felt was suspicious.  I asked Stephen to get out of the car and pretend to film the stars in the night sky because we couldn’t exactly film the police now could we now…or did we…with our Panasonic twin camera…… Stephen aimed the main camera away from the police but used the second side camera to……..

From the corner of my eye I saw one of the officers approaching our car. Stephen had already packed up the camera before the officer could see it. The officer shone his torch on us and I said hello “How are you? We’re from Australia. Beautiful night.” He said something to Vy and Kim and I butted in and asked “Do you want to check our passports?” He paused, smiled and left….. phew!

The driver was then quickly sent back to our car. He explained that the officers had been asking him if he had seen an on-coming car speeding? Er, Hello, what on coming car, the road was empty. You guessed it. That was how they made money on a deserted countryside, say that the driver was speeding or perhaps he wasn’t and to avoid the paperwork a cash payment would be made….. and yet our driver said that he didn’t have to pay anything that night! Something made things easier. We were in a foreign country but were lucky to have locals to support us.

We were all glad that we made it to Vy’s home in one piece. The driver waited outside. Vy’s mum really wanted us to visit her. She is such a kind and hospitable host.  We met Vy’s grandmother and her many pets. Vy’s mum had prepared a lovely home-cooked dinner which was all really delicious.  She showed us around the house, especially the room that she had designed and built for Vy.

Kim, Vy and her mum.

Kim, Vy and her mum.

Food resembled my cooking at home.

Food resembled my cooking at home.

Chicken dish.

Chicken dish.

Tofu and green beans.

Tofu and green beans.

Fish dumplings in broth.

Fish dumplings in broth.

The walls of their lounge displayed Vy’s school awards. She is a good scholar and deserves to continue on to University. I promised her that I could provide her with accommodation but that I could not afford to sponsor her Uni fees.  I told her that my goal is to sell the documentary and books in each country that I had visited and that I would put aside some money to sponsor a student when I can. Lets hope that my dreams come true for deserving students like Vy because its only lack of money that stops her and many others from furthering their education.

After taking some photos together we left to return to Lucy’s and arrived just after midnight. We checked emails and then packed again for Kuala Lumpur before getting to bed after a very long day.

Morning came quickly and before breakfast we went to Lucy’s clothing factory warehouse which is located on her grounds.  There were dozens and dozens of seamstresses working happily producing Lucy’s garments to send to Lucy’s clothing shop in Adelaide. Many are purchased via the Net. I examined the materials and workmanship which were both so good. The attention to detail is excellent. I was so impressed that I had to take a video of everything so that her customers can see where Lucy’s clothing is made so diligently.  I was equally impressed at how little this quality costs customers in Adelaide and I told Lucy that there can’t have been much margin for profit.  I have heard from Adelaide customers how much they appreciate her low prices for such good quality workmanship. Up till now I have been too busy to visit Lucy’s Adelaide shop on Grand Junction Road but I have visited her factory/warehouse in Vietnam where the garments are created and I think that’s pretty cool! Next time I’ll know where to go.

Another  beautiful breakfast arrived and we ate until the driver arrived to take us to the airport.

The driver arrived and we brought our bags down to the foot of the stairs for him to put in the van for us while we said our goodbyes to everyone staying behind and then,  with Kim and another of her friends Phi Anh we were on our way to the airport which was about 1.5 hours away. Well, one hour into our ride Lucy rings us on Kim’s ‘phone….. “Do you have all your bags”? ….

Driver please stop….. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 where is the 6th one?….

Obviously it was too late for us to return to collect it so Lucy kindly offered to bring it back for us the following week when we could all meet up at KL airport…..amazing!  We all flew home on the same flight which was booked without knowing the return date.

On the way to the airport journey  I chatted with Kim and her friend Phi Anh who would come to say farewell. Phi An is someone I was introduced to on  FaceBook long before I went o Vietnam. She became an  instant follower of my FaceBook page and my website blog.  She told me about her life. Every weekend she visits her grandparents to take care of them and wishes that she could quit her job in the city to take care of them in the country full-time. She tells me that her parents gave her up for adoption when they saw she had a cleft lip. This was because they felt she had no future as a “disable child”. Her grandparents opted to look after her and bring her up as their own child. Naturally she now feels that their kindness needs to be re-payed in full because without them believing in her she would not have survived the cruelty of the constant bullying she had experienced during her childhood until she reached adulthood. They paid for her to have surgery to heal her cleft lip.  She speaks on camera about how cruel the world can be if you don’t look normal.  To me she looks normal but the cruel remarks that she endured for years before her surgery had hurt her deeply and left a different type of scar that was going to be difficult for her to forget.  It would be nice for me to be in a position to make her wish come true too by helping her to help her grandparents. It is a simple wish,  if only I can make it happen!

A the airport, relatives and friends are not allowed into the building so we had to say our goodbyes under the roof outside. We had enough time to buy Kim and Phi Anh an ice cream which was very welcome in the tropical heat and chat like kids,  yaay! After ice cream we asked the guard why the girls could not go in and he just answered  “No they can’t enter with you”.  The logic was that the airport would be flooded with too many people without this rule, which I can make some sense of. However it did feel odd to say goodbye to the girls outside the airport. We said our goodbyes and turned away. We were on our next journey, to KL.

The airport staff were very friendly. While we were waiting in the lounge I couldn’t help but notice that an Australian family with  two young children were sobbing away as they said goodbye to a lady who must have been their Grandma. It looked like they we going to fly in different directions. I thought that something sad must have happened and they were going to miss her.  I also saw that Grandma board our plane, still sobbing. She looked so sad.

Finally, it was time to take off and after a very pleasant flight we landed at KL airport.

As we walked the labyrinth that is KL airport, old and new,  I caught up with sobbing Grandma, still sobbing!

I said G’day and explained that I couldn’t help but notice that her family had been so sad to separate from her at Ho Chi Minh airport…..

She explained that she had stayed with her daughter and family in Cambodia after her husband had recently passed away. She was off to Perth in an hour and didn’t know KL airport well at all and was worried about where she should go. She was already feeling lonely having left her grandchildren and family behind.  She was flying alone for the first time.  I told her not to worry,  we went to freshen up in the bathroom while Stephen minded the bags.

She asked what were we filming as she had noticed at the airport, Stephen and I explained why we were in Ho Chi Minh and now in K.L. and that we had time to spare to get her onto the KLIA transit train to her connecting flight.  We weren’t in any hurry because we were making our way to our friend’s house in KL. We checked her boarding card and put her on the correct train within KLIA to her next transit.

She said that she wouldn’t have known any of that and thanked us for all that we have done for her especially in her state of mind and she insisted on a hug and said “I have found my angel for today!”

Those words still give me goosebumps, am I worthy of it?

Showcasing my weekend market food in Vietnam for Lucy's family.

Showcasing my Adelaide weekend market food in Vietnam for Lucy’s family.

My Okunomiaki that I was thought in Japan.

My Okunomiaki that I was thought in Japan.

Used up some green bananas to make these fritters.

Used up some green bananas to make these fritters.

Green bananas as soft inside as the yellow one's that we are familiar with in the West.

Green bananas as soft inside as the yellow one’s that we are familiar with in the West.

 

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