off-season adventure – “three blondes and a backpack”
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We started talking about this off season adventure last summer. Like all the seasonal workers in Door County we were dreaming about escaping the cold winter. But we were hoping for it to be more than just hanging out in retirement complexes in Florida. Me being back in Germany, Sadie spending the winter with her grandparents in Florida and door county born and raised Paula staying in Wisconsin, our need for adventure had us talking about this trip again.
All set we decided the girls would come to Germany in the beginning of February to celebrate Karneval in Cologne with me ‘Sadie added ‘and to eat Bratwurst.” Due to my finals I had to send them on a trip through Europe and two weeks later they came back to pick me up. Now we are all together- Vietnam bound!!!!
But before we head into the amazing Asian culture we would like to talk about the individual who made the Frankfurt Airport stamp a smile in my brain-places are partly defined to the people you meet there. So we were taking passport pics for our Vietnam visas when an awkward young man approached us and said ”Would you like some coffee on me?” We looked at each other, all thinking ”is it the blonde hair?” We shrugged and took up Crazy Harry on his offer but it gets weirder. After our delicious coffee he starts talking in German to Nikola. He explains he has a friend graduating from high school who likes socks and could we please spare a pair of socks, preferably, straight off our feet. Nikola states she is not wearing any and then retreats to the bathroom. Meanwhile Sadie and Paula have no idea about his strange request. When she returns she simply replys ”he wants your socks” After asking him to repeat himself three times he said ”well its payment for the free coffee.” As he watched us we reluctantly took some socks out of our bags and put them into the bag he provided. He took the bag, opened it to check for the goods and then quickly rolled the bag up and stashed it in the back room. All we could do was stare; without shame and imagined rows of paper bags arranged by the sock type.
After arriving into Saigon and struggling through customs we arrived to baggage claim to find only 2 bags abandoned on the floor and after 7 days Paula’s bag is still MIA. As we stepped out of the airport the heat of Vietnam engulfed us and we knew we had arrived. Nothing could prepare us for the chaotic traffic of Saigon. Try to imagine Chicago during rush hour…but no rules and add 3 million motorbikes…thats Saigon. When crossing the street its best if you walk steady look ahead and cross your fingers. Paula’s highlight of Saigon was watching Nikola and Sadie dance Zumba (Asian style) in the middle of the park. After dancing our socks off we were quickly approached by a couple of Vietnamese girls around our age. They started speaking English to us and asking questions. As we began talking we noticed the crowd growing larger. Instinctively we held our bags closer to our hips and began watching each others backs. The more time passed and conversation got better we realized they were not there to take our things. Rather they approached us just to talk. We were surrounded by 30+ young adults who were so hungry to learn English that they go to the park just to find foreigners to practice English.
For us English is just a language; something we take for granted….For them knowing English is a way out; an opportunity to advance in their careers. However this was not the only time we were approached to speak English. The next night we met 4 more Vietnamese. It was unique to click so well with individuals from a completely different culture. After talking for a couple of hours they decided to take us out to dinner and coffee. As we made our way across traffic these new friends, half our size, would grab our arms and shield us from traffic. They also showed us a unique lake where only locals go. Our experiences here have been so positive and the people are warm and welcoming. Traveling breaks down walls and barriers and provides you with the opportunity to experience life through a different lens. These experiences wont be forgotten.
To be continued….