I’ve had a real lesson in trust this week and letting go of my “control freak” tendencies.
Since being in Vietnam on my great life swap experiment I’ve been used to getting around the frantic Saigon traffic on the back of a motorbike via Grab, a company that works like Uber but offers various modes of transportation including motor bikes.
If you haven’t been on the back of a bike in Saigon, it feels kind of like you’re in the middle of a swarm of bees, with bikes coming at you from all sides and a constant hum of motorbikes surrounding you. I’ve grown accustomed to that now.
Despite what you may think, I’m not really that adventurous, I have a strong sense of my own mortality and my life preservation is strong so getting on the back of a bike initially filled me with dread (but shhh, don’t tell anyone my little secret). Anyway, I got over the whole bike in crazy traffic scenario and am now quite used to zipping all over the place.
But this past week my Grab driver switched it up a notch.
It started raining on the streets of Ho Chi Minh, and when it rains here, it’s torrential, so as the first drops began to fall, my Grab driver pulls over and motions to me that we need to put our jackets on. After cloaking up, we hop back on the bike. But the thing is his wet weather gear is a two-person cover, so after I’m comfortably back in the saddle he pops the cover over my head.
So there I sat for the next 10 minutes driving through the streets of Ho Chi Minh, with my head bowed, hunched beneath a rain cover. I couldn’t see a thing, other than the road beneath my feet. But all around me I could hear the buzzing of the traffic.
And you know what? I stayed calm the whole time. I silenced the control freak inside of me and just allowed myself to go with the experience. Eventually the rain cleared up and he pulled over to ask me for directions. Luckily I’m such a local now I knew where we were and even knew how to get home.
I could tell you that that was the highlight of my week, but it actually wasn’t. You see I was invited to a wedding and a housewarming party last weekend, both of which involved karaoke. And I was also invited to my former Vietnam tour guide’s house for dinner with his family.
I was spoilt on all counts. The food at all three was amazing, of course. This is Vietnam after all. There were about 400 people at the wedding, which started with a live performance by two dancers. The bride and groom never actually got to sit down, they walked from table to table while we all ate a seven course meal. There was a band, and then karaoke.
The following day I went to my current housemate’s parents housewarming party. There were about 30 of us at the housewarming and after a hearty lunch, which seemed never-ending, out came the microphone for some more karaoke.
On Sunday night Laki, my former tour guide, sent a Grab car to pick me up (it was raining, again!) to take me to his house on the other side of town. His wife and in-laws had prepared an absolute feast of seafood, salad, a hotpot. The food was amazing. There was no karaoke, though the neighbour was definitely singing into a microphone when I walked past…
But the thing with each of these events was not so much the food – as good as it all was – it was that feeling of being made to feel welcome and like part of the family on each occasion. Not everyone at any of the functions spoke English, and beyond hello, thankyou and oh my God, I don’t speak any Vietnamese, but everyone made sure I was comfortable and felt included.
And ensured I got to experience the true local culture of Vietnam. So whether it’s learning lessons in trust on the back of a bike or celebrating milestone events, I’m getting to experience everything that Ho Chi Minh has to offer.