The people you meet when you travel are often the highlight of the trip, helping you discover and appreciate the destination in a uniquely personal manner.
Such was the case from our trip to Vietnam. These are a few of the incredibly interesting people we met.
His real name is Qui, but he told us to call him Buffalo Joe, a nickname awarded to him based on the circumstances of his birth. The little North Vietnamese village his parents lived in was flooding and they had just a water buffalo and cart to move their things to higher ground. Mom was 8 months pregnant and went into labor during the move. She gave birth to Joe on the back of a water buffalo in the midst of a swollen river.
Chuck Searcy is a veteran from Athens Georgia who returned to Vietnam in 1992 and has lived here permanently since 1995. He leads an organization that removes unexploded land mines and other ordnance from the war.
We never learned her name, but this young woman lives in the floating village of Cua Van in HaLong Bay. Through a series of hand motions and bright smiles, we learned that she has two young children she is raising on the sea.
Peter’s sweet smile belies much of the difficulty in his past. His father, a Lt in the South Vietnamese Army, was killed in combat when he was 3. As the war ended, Peter’s mother was sentenced to a labor camp for 20 years. Peter and his brothers tried multiple times to escape via boat, but were always caught, nearly drowning once. When he was 10, he witnessed two friends killed when they stepped on a land mine left over from the war. Still, Peter smiles.
Sweet little Lucy is a tour guide in Hoi An. Because the Vietnamese alphabet does not include an R, she had difficulty pronouncing Bruce’s name. “Instead,” she said, “I call you Batman.” Get it, the Bruce Wayne connection. She wants to be a writer.