Before arriving in Hoi An, I was certainly under no illusion that I wasn’t going to learn something from the Vietnamese. For me, learning is such a huge part of the joy of travelling.
Yet, how much I have learned has still caught me by surprise.
I have seen some strange things since I have been here. People riding water buffalo by the side of the road, kitchens and building sites where you can assume the O in OH&S has been replaced by the word “optional” and people carrying 10 cartons of beer on the back of their motorcycles, just to name a few.
I have learned that just because something is broken, it doesn’t mean that you can’t use it, a motorcycle can make a good bed, noodles are a fantastic breakfast food (or lunch or dinner for that matter) and you can safely get from A to B in a place where most road rules are treated like friendly suggestions.
However, the greatest lesson that I have learned, I learned on the first day. And to be honest, has completely changed my perspective in a very permanent and positive way.
On the first day that I arrived in Hoi An, my uncle said something quite profound. He told me that out of the many, many things that he has learned from the locals in the 5 years of living in Hoi An, the biggest lesson he learned was how to receive.
I love to give. I love to take the time and put in the effort to find the perfect gift. It’s to the point that it can take me such a frustratingly long time, that I can’t even subject anyone to coming to the shops with me.
But I am not a good receiver.
That night, my uncle asked me to think about why I liked to give. The answer was simple. Because it’s a way that I can show the people around me how much I care about them and it brings me a lot of joy to touch them and see them happy.
“Well,” he said. “In the same way that you receive joy from giving, by not being a good receiver you are essentially depriving the people around you from receiving that same joy from you. How selfish is that?”
Over the past ten days I have watched countless times as the people around me have shown generosity beyond belief. Despite most earning less in a whole day than I would pay for a breakfast in a café at home, they give whenever and whatever they can. It’s my Mum’s birthday today. And what a wonderful way to spend the day. Before midday she had received 2 cakes, 2 bunches of flowers from the tailor and the beauty salon and several gifts.
For me, I have learnt not to say, “You shouldn’t have” when being given something, but rather to say, “Thank you so incredibly much. I am so touched. You have made my day.” In a very Meta way, you give by receiving.
I have always had the propensity to call wherever I am at home. However, something about this little city has captured by heart in a way that leaving tomorrow will truly feel like leaving home.