I've been reading Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert while traveling around Vietnam. While passing by an old toothless Vietnamese man - - skin so dark and worn by the unforgiving sun in Ho Chi Minh, I was almost hesitant to make direct eye contact with him. I'm not sure if I was having a moment of culture shock but inside my head, I could hear a voice shouting, 'Oh, stop that nonsense and give him a smile'. And so I did and the toothless man immediately reciprocated with a huge grin - and despite his lack of dental resources, it was a great smile. I peered down and recognized the title of the book - immediately purchased it for about 4 US dollars. Since then, this book has traveled with me from the hustling town of Ho Chi Minh to this mysterious island off he gulf of Thailand called Phu Quoc Island...
I've already seen the movie with Julia Roberts and recall her having a deep chat with a wise man in Indonesia. Although I'm not quite there yet in the book, I felt like my Wednesday in Phu Quoc resembled that particular scene from the film.
As soon as I checked into the hotel on the island, the hotel staff immediately recognized my strange accent when speaking Vietnamese and was met with some confused brown eyes. For the sake of saving time and entertaining the staff, I confessed I was actually born in America - Southern California...but was taught the language at a very young age. One of the staff members started to talk excitedly about his restaurant manager, a man by the name of Vu, who was from California and is always eager to meet a Vietnamese person from the States.
'You MUST have a coffee with him and introduce yourself to him'
'It is RARE when an American-Vietnamese person visits us and he will be So very happy to meet you'
'He will be available at 5pm - please meet him'
I do not think I have been met with such high levels of enthusiasm - - it was as if my confession of being American-Vietnamese provided this man an immediate sugar high! With an invitation like that, how could I not meet this person?
Once I met Vu, a forty-something man - - he shared many stories with me, some that I know will forever be remembered. While riding on the back of his scooter, delving into the tropical green and eerie-like jungles of the island, he told me something along the lines of the following:
'You cannot predict the future. One day at a time, follow your heart, and good things will come naturally'
'I can tell you think a lot - let go of your thoughts, and look straight ahead - - that's all you have to do'
With words of wisdom such as this, one would rarely expect this coming from an ex-convict who got mixed in with the wrong crowd at an early age and, as a result, got deported to Phu Quoc Island after spending approximately 9 years in maximum level security prisons..
I feel as if I am getting a tiny bit closer to whatever I'm searching for out here in the great wide world. Whatever that ma