Little Ambassadors - Unchained Melody - CycleBlaze

December 2, 2023

Little Ambassadors

Little Ambassadors

We had to stop for some iced coffee.  We had ridden more than 22 miles almost non-stop and needed to give our butts a break.  It wasn't the most ideal coffee place because it was right next to the busy road and we had to cross the road to get to it.  One might think that crossing a road is no big deal but those people who think that should come to Vietnam.  Here, chickens don't cross the road.  

A nice woman, apparently the owner, welcomed us in, all smiles.  There were two other guys sitting at tables both smoking cigarettes which made the place even less ideal.  Shortly after we were served our iced coffees a rather tall and boisterous man showed up.  There was a lot of banter among the four of them and it seemed to be banter about us, led by the tall guy or so it seemed because his voice was so loud and he kept looking at us.  Usually this sort of light-hearted banter dies down but the tall guy was the type of person who liked to stir things up.  At least that's how I assessed his personality right away.  I could tell he very much wanted to interact with us but couldn't because of the language barrier.  

I, too, hate language barriers.   It's so hard when we can't communicate with the locals especially for us because we are both introverts and sort of shy and also terrible at languages.  But, in this case I didn't know if I wanted to engage this guy.  He was the sort who egged things on and got others going.   They were for sure making jokes about us but not in a bad way at all.  We could tell it was all light -hearted banter; fun-hearted banter.  But we still didn't know what they were saying.  The woman was so sweet, she always looked at us and smiled and the expression on her face was, 'Don't mind them, they mean no harm.'  She was basically telling us through her beautiful smile that everything was all right, those guys come here all the time. 

The tall guy was possibly a bit of a trouble maker.  He was loud and possibly even obnoxious.  He wanted to interact with us in the worst way but I didn't want to make eye-contact with him. I could tell he had questions but he was that kid on the playground who was always in your face about something, not dangerous or mean but the kid you always wanted to just go away.  

I said to Andrea, "This is kind of a rough crowd." and I continued to not make eye-contact with them except the woman.  I didn't want to engage the loud-mouth.   In fact, I thought for a time that he might even be a bit drunk, it was Saturday and we observed a lot of men sitting around in groups drinking, maybe not a lot but social drinking.  I couldn't really get a handle on what the loud-mouth wanted so I kept talking to Andrea who had her back turned to all of them.  

Then, the one I'm for the moment calling the trouble-maker/loud-mouth walked over to our bicycles parked a foot or two from major whizzing traffic.  One of the other guys joined him and they were discussing the bikes and admiring them.  That was the opening.  

I got up and showed them the belt drive.  Ooohs and ahhhs ensued.  They noticed that there was no derailleur and much discussion erupted about that.  They noticed how cleverly our panniers were attached to the racks. They liked our mirrors and computers.  They were impressed with it all but most importantly the loud-mouth calmed down and was even more interested in us in maybe a different way or maybe it was I who started to understand he wasn't a loud-mouth or a trouble-maker at all but someone who was maybe in your face a bit more than you wanted but at heart is a good person, just curious.  He wanted to know about us.

Andrea is the one who bought a Vietnam sim card and a data plan, (we didn't both need to have them), so, I asked Andrea to use Google Translate, (which needs a connection to data), to tell the curious guy where we were riding from and to.  He liked that a lot and took a seat next to us.  Andrea then made a flurry of translations on her phone telling him we were out for three months and we were Americans and answering his questions.  The man read out loud in his loud voice each translation and everyone heard.  Everyone was interested.  

When the group found out we were Americans there was another eruption of talk among themselves.  We, probably mostly I, immediately think about the war at such moments and all I want to tell them is how sorry I am that my country fought the Vietnamese.  But time has moved on and these people were tiny kids if they were alive at all when the war still raged.  The man who was formerly labeled, (by me), the loud-mouth and presently labeled, (by me), the curious one, pantomimed by holding each of his hands that the U.S and Vietnam are friends .  Andrea wrote that exact sentiment on her phone and everyone agreed.  If we were all drinking whiskey at that moment, shots would have been poured for everyone.  Once we established that we were all friends, (not that we ever felt otherwise), it suddenly felt like we really were all friends, even old friends.  I was starting to really like the curious guy. The woman kept smiling the whole way through, a wonderful smile of tolerance of her regulars whom she probably had known all her life.   Just a bunch of old buddies who come to her coffee house all the time.  It was starting to feel like we were being accepted into their group.

When we stood up to leave the curious man, (the one I would have had a hard time with on the playground when we were kids but who eventually became my best friend!), took my hand in both of his, bowed and was the most respectful, sweetest person in the world.

I love when you simply stop to rest your butt and interactions like these come about with common ordinary people.  I've said this in probably each of our journals; When we travel to these Asian countries we are little ambassadors.  We have very basic interactions with common, ordinary people.  But who is really common and who is really ordinary?  Nobody.  When you kid around and have fun using the most meager of communications but nevertheless start to feel like you are blood brothers, you realize nobody is common and nobody is ordinary.  We are all in this together.  We have a common cause.   And we all want to be friends.  

Andrea and I have had these sorts of interactions all over SE Asia and they are always similar, in that not one of us will ever forget the wonderful feeling of being friends.  We live on opposite sides of the earth but that ends up being a shorter distance.  We can't understand one word of each other's language but somehow we communicated.  Not one of us will ever forget the other and the silly things we talked about.   No one will ever forget the togetherness and each other's smile.  

That's what it is to be a little ambassador.  This is why we travel.

lovebruce  

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Betsy EvansI am enjoying your reports! Just an FYI - when you have a good Wi-Fi connection, you can download Vietnamese to both your phones in the Google Translate app. Then you won’t need to use cellular data. Click on the language, then on the download icon (down arrow).
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2 months ago
Jen RahnI love this common theme in your journals and appreciate every story that illustrates the magic of being open, curious, and kind.

And most important (and impressive!) here is your willingness to sit through the discomfort of first impressions.

Thank you for every reminder you give us that things are not always as they seem!
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Betsy EvansThank you Betsy. We actually did download Vietnamese in the way you mentioned but I was finding that it still didn't work unless I had a wifi connection. But I just tried it now and it worked! Weird things happen when we are traveling and I'm not surprised by any of it anymore. And it could very well be something I'm doing that messes things up. I just go along being happy when things do work.
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2 months ago
Courtenay GlennTo Betsy EvansWhile on-line, it can be quite fun to use the audio function with Google translate for conversations. . Push the microphone button : once the participants get the idea, it can be a riot, especially when it gets lost in translation.
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2 months ago
Andrea BrownTo Courtenay GlennWe HAVE used this and it was pretty fun.
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2 months ago
Rachael AndersonWhat a great encounter!
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2 months ago
Carolyn van HoeveNobody is common, nobody is ordinary and nothing can be everything.
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2 months ago
Ron SuchanekAs Jen said, it's admirable that you sat through the initial discomfort and allowed a connection to happen.
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2 months ago
Bruce LellmanTo Ron SuchanekA rare moment of patience on my part.
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2 months ago