I spent hours with the Dalai Lama and did not know it. It was on out flight back home in 2009 after visiting Vietnam with some co-workers. I spent much of the flight looking at him and sensing something familiar about him. There was no security and he was sitting in economy class with the rest of us. What gave him away to me was his voice more than anything else. Still unsure, I did not mention anything until we were off the plane. I told the others of who I suspected it was, and they could not believe it. I found pictures and voice recordings on the internet and sent them a few days later to my doubting friends. They are now convinced that he was indeed the Dalai Lama. What did we talk about you wonder? Absolutely nothing of consequence. It probably was a relief to him to just talk as an ordinary man.
Today we spent some time trying to follow the perimeter of the old wall of the old Dien Khanh Citadel but were frustrated at every turn. The old walls and structures are grown over by the jungle and all our attempts of tracing the wall ended up in impassable jungle walls. On one of the attempts, I ran over one of the biggest centipedes I have ever seen. Unhurt it continued on its way. An old lady from a property that had some very angry dogs came out and in a very stern and bossy manner was trying to shoo me away. When I responded to her in Vietnamese, she all of a sudden became my best friend and I was drawn into her household. This is what I was looking for. The house she was living in was built by the French and she took me to
proudly display a bicycle that the Frenchman had left behind. It was an old and pathetic sight. What was interesting to me is that this was a corner of the old wall and a guard house should have been here. Perhaps her house was a part of it. Around back was an old brick kitchen that looked a bit out of place from the rest of the building. Behind the kitchen was wild jungle so tangled that there was no way I could discern if there was any old structures beneath. My friend had found me after returning and not finding me on the small lane that lead to the house. We spent a short time admiring the beauty of the home they had and had a bit of a challenge getting the old gal to pose for a photo. She was trying to offer us a dragon fruit that was growing on the vine beside her house. I enjoy the fruit very much, but I wanted a photo of her with the plant. I think she had no idea of what a camera was, and it was a bit of a problem getting her to hold the fruit without her attempting to rip it away from the plant. In the end we succeeded and here she is in all her beauty. What a nice woman this was. I will stop and perhaps take her a copy of the photo.
This kind of thing happens wherever we go. The friendliness and open hearted nature of
the Vietnamese people always humbles me. I wish you all could experience the joy of interacting with these people. I understand that I am a bit unique in that I have some basic communication advantages and therefore can become involved quickly, however, if you smile at that person that looks like they want to rob you, or say hello to the child looking at you in confusion, it is magic. The smile and the following barrage of enthusiastic gestures and laughing will endear you to these people. I have said before that a person could fall in love everyday in Vietnam. It is true and here is a short example of how easy it is.
On today’s adventure, we came to a gate and decided to follow a jungle path to see if we could follow the wall. Carl went left and I went right. My path took me by a barbed wire fence that had a large preschool. After my failed attempt
of finding a trail, I was headed back when I heard in the distance a yaeyaeyea. I stopped and 4 women came to the fence, all of them in their 30’s. I talked and joked with them for a few minutes and in that time I was asked (and very seriously) if one of them could be a second wife to me as they were unmarried and too old to have the prospect of finding a husband. Carl had joined us and I had them laughing about my first wife perhaps cutting off parts of my body if I had a second wife. I was hearing promises of secrecy and such… ( now joking because I had refused) but then…. I told them Carl had no wife. Aha!! The game is on. They turned the charm on him and I had the pleasure of watching him be the object of dsire. OF course it is not to be. He has a wonderful gal and his heart belongs to her. Both of us left with the thought though……. What fun we could have had if we were single men