Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mrs. Lan

Mrs. Lan runs a laundry service out of her shop across the street from the hotel where my group was staying when the severe flooding took place in Hoi An. On the day that I was evacuating my group from our hotel, Mrs Lan helped me out by calling her brother-in-law to paddle his boat out to the hotel and take some members of my group into town. After I had seen all my passengers off, I ran across to her shop to buy a couple cheap ponchos that I could use to cover my bags and protect any work-related documents from getting soaked. I thanked her again for her help with the boats (and all my group's laundry!), and hopped on the final dinghy to meet up with my group in town. When she saw that I had bought the ponchos for myself--not, as she had thought, for passengers in my tour group--she actually tried to give me back the money I had paid for them! Her shop was already knee-deep in water and likely sustaining quite a bit of damage from the flood, yet she wanted to give me my money back for the ponchos because I had given her a bunch of business with my group's laundry. Her generosity given the circumstances was astounding, though I absolutely refused to allow her to return the money (the equivalent of US$0.65). What is even more amazing is that Mrs. Lan was not the only person I saw that day who refused to allow the floods to dampen their spirits--I have never seen so many people smiling (or lauging at the foreigner paddling a fisherman's boat with old Vietnamese men) in the face of such adversity.

Reason #276 Why I Love Cambodia

I had an incredibly simple yet beautiful experience last time I was in Cambodia. As I was walking through the Killing Fields with some members of my group, a few children who were playing in a nearby field approached us. At first they echoed the ubiquitous chant of "photo! photo! one dollar!" in an attempt to convince us to pay them a dollar to take their photo. While I declined the staged photo op, I instead started chatting with them and playing some of their games. Went I went to say goodbye, one of them came over and gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek; I smiled and gave the child a hug in return, and again turned to leave when another child came over to hug me. Giggling and flashing their beautiful Cambodian smiles, all 5 of the kids lined up to hug me and give me a kiss on the cheek before I left. It was such a beautiful experience at a site where such tragedies had occured only 30 years earlier.