Namaste

I know this is just the beginning of 2015 but I’ve just had one of my best moments of the year catching up with some amazing friends and people, this includes the Sajus…

I met Saju in back in 2010 when we were at the Hyatt Hotel Canberra. He was ‘the Chef’ and I worked in Food and Beverage as well as Sales and Marketing department. Except for the fact that he is Indian and he cannot swim – he admitted in front of everybody when we were playing the ‘Who’s Who game’ at the hotel – we knew nothing about each other until we both came back to Vietnam…

In 2012, he got a job promotion at a five star hotel in Saigon and by that time I also left Australia for home in Hanoi. I took the occasion to meet my old colleguage again in one of my trips to Saigon and got to know his family, his beautiful Croatian wife Mirjana and his gorgeous daughter plus personal assistant Kylie.

We met again in Hanoi yesterday and the day before as they went for a trip in Hanoi and Ha Long Bay. Oh my god, Kylie surprised me as she is a lot taller than she was before… Kylie loves winter so she seemed to enjoy it very much. However, the Hanoi weather has not been very pleasant as we’ve been experiencing to the extreme of the unpleasant days with cold wind air and too much of winter rain.

I enjoyed my time spending with them as well to get to know the ‘insights’ of how it’s like to get married with a Chef and got to know a bit of here and there… Europe, India, Australia and Vietnam… We literally include almost everything in our conversions and sometimes they even went up into becoming some ‘big’ husband & wife arguments but I guess this is just how life’s supposed to be. Mirjana was like: “Camellia, don’t get married and don’t have kids”. I just can’t help smiling looking at how happy they are and I could not see anything which is more lively and more beautiful than that…

I had one of the best Indian meals in my life at Namaste Restaurant in Hanoi… I just tried everything that I was advised by ‘the Chef’ and they were all so good.

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It must have been not so difficult for Indians to become vegetarians they have such a wide variety of choices when it comes to vegetarian or vegan food. I told the family that I wanted to become a vegetarian. Just got this feeling recently… And perhaps 80% vegetarian is a better target as it is not easy to be a vegetarian when you are part of the food and service industry and especially when you live in the society where people show absolutely no respect for animals as many of them still think dog meat is a type of food to eat…

Despite of the cold and rain, the Hanoi trip was good for us, I still feel like I am a ‘tourist’ sometimes – it happens when you travel with people coming from different cultures who look at your culture in a different perspective…

Life is full of coincidences. And I think I must have made Mirjana super happy as well. She might probably thought that she was the only Croatian in Vietnam. We were walking along Nha Tho street where the St Joeseph’s is and I suddenly realised that I knew someone also from Croatia who lives in Hanoi. Coincidentally, they were all at the same place at a perfect timing and just good enough for me to get everyone from the small little Croatian ‘community’ to get introduced to each other in a short period of time. Mirjana was so happy that she couldn’t speak a word after the encounter with not only one Croatian guy but also another one and another guy who is Croatian’ son-in-law. She asked me as if I knew everyone in this city which just made me smile… I took a step back to think of another coincidence, it was about an Austrian man who I’ve got to know for quite some time and once we went for dinner together at Da Paolo Westlake, he was so surprised that he could hear the ‘Austrian’ sound from another man who was dining in the table right next to us…

I said to the Chef: “Hey Saju, I think just maybe, if someone thinks he/she is the only person who has ‘unique’ nationality in this city, they should come and see me as I will be able to help them find a friend who comes from their own state of origin…”

The Artistic Me

cropped-because1.jpgIf I were not a business woman, I would probably be an artist – like a musician or a singer.

I still think I am an artist and I’ve been somewhat living an artistic life. I very often think in music and just like what Albert Einstein said: “I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music… I get most joy in life out of music.”.

The only difference would be: I don’t do music for a living. I hold no degree in music and arts nor having a professional work permit to become a professional singer. But I started to sing since I was two – I was able to sing almost everything that I listened too, whether it was in Vietnamese, English, POP music, Rock or Country Folks. This often makes things a little more interesting while a seeing a Northern Vietnamese like me is able to find a sing a song that represents a region of Vietnam with a very local accent.  And I guess the most exciting part is when people start to question whether I originally come from a region where the song that I sing belongs to…

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a particular talent in anything and absolutely not that I had a great voice or a great vocal (My vocal is down to Britney Spears’ level…), but I do feel like music turns me up whenever I feel down, but not every time in the most positive ways but I’m sure without it, my life will not be easier.

Some people like to talk about their problems – I would choose a song to sing then I solve mine:

22

One friend of mine gave me this book as a gift once we went to a bookstore together, by the time I was 22 years old and a few months.

22

I did not believe in this book – like many other cases I often read on the newspapers as I think the authors simply select some special cases and coincidences then trying to relate them into reality. Brad Dunn’s When They Were 22 tells stories of many famous celebrities and their fateful events and choices that they made at all important age of 22. It was when Oprah Winfrey dropped out of college to become a newsreader in Nashville, and at 22 she moved to Baltimore to work at a station where she started her own talk show. Or like how Jack White had his own upholstery business at age 22, but while practicing the guitar he asked his wife, Meg, to try the drums and because he liked her playing so much, they began performing as a two-piece band, the White Stripes.

Brad concluded that most of us can point to one or two moments in our lives when everything changed, when a stroke of fate forever altered the future, or a single decision sparked a lifetime of consequences. It happened to many of those famous people when their lives changed forever at 22 than any other age. I did not want to believe in that, however, I am here today, one day before I turn 23, I have proved myself wrong and yes in the 22nd of your life, there is so much to talk about.

It’s the age that I realised there is no right – no wrong – no rules for me, I will just live, learn, work, love and experience. And I realised that: 

Everyone crosses your path by a mean, not by accident. And I am so glad that they’ve come to be part of my life – Many have cherished me with joy and love – I think of them as the greatest gifts and some gave me the lessons.

It is so important to have faith in life and in people just to make it easier every time you breath. I know it is not easy to trust people and trust is not something that you can easily give to everybody. But I also know, if you don’t trust anybody, never expect yourself even once to be trusted by other people, either. It was the first thing I learned from my Business Ethics class: Treat people the way you want to be treated, it’s simple as that.

I learned that escaping is never a solution. It has come to time that I think I needed to walk away from my home country; from the company that I am working at; from all the dramas and chaos of life that I have created myself. I just need to face it, every single one.

I don’t need a master’s degree. I know it’s always good if I have one – but what if I don’t? I guess it doesn’t really matter. It will only be dangerous when you stop learning… On top of that, I’ve still been applying almost every single lesson that I learned from my bachelor studies into my work & life and still have not been able to use them all yet…

ROE (Return On Experience) can be far more important than ROI (Return On Investment), and I am at the age that I will just need to learn, travel and experience.

Always tell the truth, so that I won’t have to remember what I said yesterday or the day before…

Everybody can be replaced so don’t ever take things for granted.

Breathing is important. Sometimes I know people are too busy and forget to breath.

At the age of 22, I am proud that: 

I can live in almost entire areas and I know I will be fine no matter what I do. I accept me for who I am, and I am glad of the person I have become. I don’t compare myself with anybody, I don’t compare my job to other people’s jobs. I know I am beautiful the way I am.

I might not be the smartest one in love, I’m not sure if we could find someone who is, but I do believe that no matter what decision I make in life, as long as I am an independent person and have a good will to live, I am always going to be okay.

I have decided what I wanted to do when I am 23, 24 and maybe for the rest of my life:

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Once Upon a Cow

Once I went to the bookstore with a good friend of mine who I have known for over 2 years. We often meet up once every few months to talk about work, life and to keep each other updated of how we do.

I don’t read much and this is why I remember every single book that I have read in my life. I’m not sure if it is a good thing. My friend and I coincidentally bought the exact same book for business called: “The Blue Ocean Strategies” as both of us think it could be very useful and because we both work in business development.

Me was looking around the bookshelves again to make sure I would not miss anything. And not too far from the ‘Blue Ocean’, I found a book with bright orange-cover and there was a milk cow. It’s called: “Once Upon a Cow”. I decided to take home both the “Cow” and the “Blue Ocean”.

During the next few months, I have seen a couple of times that several people were reading the “Blue Ocean” book. I met my friend again on one beautiful day and we naturally came back to the reading topic.

“So did you read the book? The Blue Ocean Strategies?” he asked. “Well!” I replied: ” I had started with the very first pages to understand the tittle of the book and I got so bored.

But now I know it is called the “Blue Ocean” because previously in business speaking terms, they have the “Red Ocean”. They are all about market competition. However, the difference is in the “Red Ocean”, competition means ‘killing’ each other in order to survive. In contrast, in the “Blue Ocean”, we focus on their own competitive advantages, focus on our ‘piece’ of the pie when it comes to market share and everybody lives happily ever after”. “How about you?” I asked.

 “Same”. He smiled.

“But I finished the other one, “Once Upon a Cow” and actually I found this is, in fact, a must-read”, I added.

The story starts with a quotation by an author named Anthony from Seattle, Washington:

I felt like most of the failures I had experienced were the direct or indirect result of other people’s actions. I always found myself blaming my spouse, my boss, my team, my parents, or anybody else for my setbacks. To this day, I think, in some of those instances I was correct. Maybe in others, I was just making excuses to cover my own mistakes and indecisions. However, what the story of the cow taught me was that whether they were at fault or not was completely irrelevant. I can’t go through life saying, “Honest, I wanted to succeed but it’s his fault I didn’t”, or “It is her fault for not doing her part”. I think accepting 100 percent of the responsibility of our own success is one of the greatest challenges we all have. The great thing is that once you do it, you don’t have to live with the constant torment of thinking that your failures and mishaps are somebody else’s fault. -Anthony, Seattle, Washington-

And here is the Story of the Cow:

Once upon a time, a wise and experienced teacher wanted to instruct one of his pupils on the secrets to living a happy and prosperous life. Knowing of the many unnecessary hurdles and difficulties most people face in their search for happiness, he thought the first lesson should be to explain why so many people live average and ordinary lives.

After all, thought the old man, too many men and women seem incapable of overcoming the obstacles that hinder their success and end up living unfulfilled and barely tolerable lives. The teacher knew that in order for the young man to comprehend this very important lesson, he would have to witness himself what happens when we allow mediocrity to rule our lives.

To teach these important lessons,  he decided to embark on a trip with his student to one of the most impoverished villages in their province. Misery and desolation prevailed throughout the region, and its inhabitants seemed to have resigned themselves to their lot in life.

Soon after they arrived, the teacher asked the young man to help him look for the poorest home in the area. That would be their refuge for the night.

After walking for a while, they reached the outskirts of town. And there, in the middle of nowhere, the two men stopped in front of the most dilapidated little shack they had ever set eyes on.

The structure, at the point of collapse, sat on the farthest edge of a small group of homes in the countryside. It belonged, without a doubt, to the poorest of families. The walls stood as if only by miracle, threatening at any moment to come tumbling down. Water filtered through an improvised roof that looked powerless to keep anything out, and all kinds of rubbish gathered against the walls of the house, adding to its decrepit appearance.

The owner, alerted by a small child to the presence of the two strangers, came out and greeted them warmly.

“Greetings to you, my good man” replied the teacher. “Might two tired travelers find shelter in your home for the night?”

“The place is crowded, but you are welcome to stay if you don’t mind”.

When the two men stepped inside, they were shocked to see that the miniscule space, not more than 150 square feet, was home to eight people. Father, mother, four children, and two grandparents did their best to concede each other a bit of space under the very cramped conditions.

Their unkempt and painfully tin bodies and ragged clothes were clear evidence of the scarcity that defined their everyday existence. Sad faces and bowed heads left no doubt that indigence had not only taken over their bodies but also taken root deep within them.

The two visitors couldn’t help but let their eyes wader around, questioning whether there was anything of any value in the midst of such destitution. There was nothing!

But as they stepped out of the house, they found they’d been mistaken. Curiously enough, the family had a most unusual possession – quite an extraordinary one under the circumstances. They owned a cow.

The animal was not much to look at, but the family’s everyday life and activities seemed to revolve around it. “Feed the cow”. “make sure the cow’s had enough water”. “Tie the cow up tight”. “Don’t forget to take the cow to pasture”. “Milk the cow”. You could say that the cow played a prominent role within the family, although the little milk she produced was barely enough to keep them alive.

Nevertheless, the cow seemed to serve an even bigger purpose: It was the only thing keeping them from complete and utter misery. In a place where everything seemed to be scarce, having such a prized possession had gained them the respect, if not the envy, of their neighbours.

And so it was there – among the grime and disarray – that teacher and student lay down to spend the night.

The next morning, before the break of dawn, being careful not to wake anyone, the two travelers set off to continue their journey.

The student looked around as if trying to take a mental picture of the grim conditions. To be perfectly honest, he was not certain why his teacher had brought him here. However, before starting out along the road, the elderly teacher whispered: “The time has come for you to learn the lesson that brings us to this dismal place”.

During their shot visit, they had witnessed a life of almost complete abandonment, but the young man was not at all clear on the cause of this family’s dreary existence. How had they allowed themselves to get to that point? What could have kept them there?

The teacher walked slowly toward the cow, which was tied to a wobbly fencepost no more than twenty yards from the house. When they were but a step away from the animal, he slipped a dagger from the sheath he carried. The student was puzzled. When the old man suddenly raised his arm, he was shocked by the realization of what was about to happen. He watched in disbelief as the teacher sliced clear through the cow’s throat with one swift movement. The fatal wound caused the animal to drop silently to the ground.

He was in a state of complete disbelief. “What have you done, Teacher?” he said, anguished but whispering so as not to wake the family. “How could you have killed this poor animal? What kind of lesson is this that will leave this family in certain and complete ruin? This was their only possession. What is going to become of them now?”

Not at all perturbed by the young man’s distress and ignoring his queries, the teacher proceeded to leave the gruesome scene behind, apparently indifferent to the fate awaiting the poor family at the loss of their animal. Still confused, the student followed a step behind, as they resumed their journey.

And so it was that this poor family was left to face an uncertain life, full of predicaments and the possibility of even greater misery.

During the following days, the student was haunted time and again by the frightful idea of what without their cow, the family would surely starve to death. What other conclusion could he possibly draw from the loss of their only source of sustenance? In the months that followed, he was often troubled by these thoughts and by the events of that dreadful morning.

A year went by, and one afternoon the teacher suggested that they return to the small village to find out what had become of the family. The mere mention of the seemingly long-forgotten episode was enough to reawaken in the student the vivid recollections of a lesson that, even after all this them, he had not yet fully understood.

Once again his mind was swamped with thoughts about the poor family and the role he had played in their fate. What could have become of them? Did they survive the heavy blow? Were they able to start a new life? He face them after his teacher had done? In spite of these upsetting thoughts, he reluctantly accepted on a journey that would cast new light on the previous year’s disturbing episode.

After many days of traveling, the two men reached the village. The searched in vain for the house. The surroundings appeared to be the same, but the shack where they had spent the night a year earlier was no longer there. Instead, a newer and much nicer house had been erected in the same spot. They stopped and looked past the structure in all dictions to make sure that they were indeed in the right place.

The young man feared that the death of the animal had been a blow far too difficult to overcome for that simple family. Perhaps they had been forced out of their property, and a new family a bit better off on their luck had taken over their land and built this new home. What else could have happened to them? Maybe the same had forced them away.

While these thoughts raced through his mind, he waved between wanting to find out what had happened to the family and simply continuing on his way, avoiding the unpleasant task of confirming his worst suspicions. He chose to find out – the needed to know – so he knocked at the door and waited.

After a short while, a very pleasant man came to open the door. At first the student did not recognize him. He couldn’t hind the shock on his face when he realised this was the same person who had given them shelter a year earlier. This was clearly the same man, but something was very different about them. He wore clean clothes and was well groomed. He had a smile on his face and a sparkle in his eye. It was clear that something quite significant had happened in his life.

The young student could scarcely believe his eyes. How was this possible? What in the world could have happened in a year’s time? He rushed forward to greet the man and wasted no time in questioning him about the good fortune that had obviously come upon him and his family.

“Just a year ago, in our brief stopover here”, said the young man, “you seemed to be living in the most unfortunate and hopeless conditions. Please tell me what’s happened since then to change things so much. What was the cause of your good fortune?”

Ignorant of the fact that the two travelers had been responsible for the slaughter of his cow, the man invited them in and began to share an incredible story – one that would change the young man’s life forever.

He related how, coincidentally, the very day they had departed, some villain, probably envious of their scarce fortune, had savagely butchered the poor animal.

“I must confess”, said the man, “that our first reaction was one of complete desperation and anguish. For a long time, the milk from that cow was our only source of sustenance. Besides, that animal was our only possession; our lives depended on it. That cow was the centre of our everyday existence and, frankly, just owning it had given us a sense of security and earned us the respect of our neighbours.

“Shortly after that tragic day, we realised that unless we did something, we were very quickly going to go from bad to worse. We were at rock bottom without that animal. We needed to eat and feed our children. So we cleared a little patch in the dirt behind the house and planted a few seeds to grow some vegetables. That’s how we were able to survive those first months.

“After a while, we realised that the little garden was producing more food than we needed for ourselves. If we could sell the rest to our neighbours, we’d be able to buy more seed. So we did, and not long afterward, there was enough food for ourselves and plenty more to sell at the town market.

“Then it happened! Said the man almost cheerfully. “For the first time in our lives, we had some money for food and clothing. There and then we knew that there was hope for a new life, a life we had not anticipated or even dreamed possible. Last month we were able to build this small house. It’s as if the loss of our cow opened our eyes to a new and prosperous life”.

The young man was astounded by the story. Finally he understood the lesson that his bellowed teacher had meant to impart. It was suddenly obvious that the death of the cow had not, in fact, been the end of them, as he had feared, but the beginning of a new life full of better opportunities.

At the end of the story, the teacher told the student: “That’s what happens when you convince yourself that what little you have is more than enough. That thought alone becomes a heavy chain that prevents you from looking for something better. Complacency begins to rule your life. You learn to accept your circumstances in spite of being dissatisfied with them. You know you aren’t happy with where you are in life, but you aren’t completely miserable either. You’re frustrated with the life you’ve been dealt but not disturbed enough to do something about it…”

Once Upon a Cow: Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing but Success - By Camilo Cruz Ph.D
Once Upon a Cow: Eliminating Excuses and Settling for Nothing but Success – By Camilo Cruz Ph.D

The moral is:

We all have cows (excuses and justifications) for not doing what we really want to do. Our comfort zone becomes the chain keeping us attached to a life of mediocrity. So find the cows and kill the cows, which is to eliminate excuses and setting for nothing but a better version of yourselves.

Trưa Vắng

Ước mơ đầu tiên của mình là trở thành ca sĩ. Từ năm khoảng 7, 8 tuổi gì đấy thì mỗi năm thay đổi ước mơ một lần. Bây giờ thì mình biết mình đang làm gì và muốn gì nhưng mà chẳng biết phải đặt tên cho cái nghề đấy là gì nữa. Nhưng dù làm nghề gì đi nữa thì cũng chẳng hiểu sao cứ mỗi lần gần đến sinh nhật là lại muốn… làm ca sĩ, thực ra hơn cả việc muốn làm ca sĩ thì mình muốn hiểu về nhạc lý, muốn có người hướng dẫn luyện thanh và muốn có thể chơi giỏi một loại nhạc cụ nào đấy hơn. Hy vọng là không phải đợi đến già mới có cơ hội học... 🙂

Ngày xưa hồi mình làm cho một resort (khu nghỉ dưỡng) ở bên Úc tên là Club Med, nếu ai đã từng làm việc cho Club Med thì sẽ rất quen thuộc với mấy từ G.O; G.E hay G.M. Mấy đứa như mình được gọi là G.O, viết tắt của từ (Gentil Organisateur) được coi là các nhân viên đại diện của Club Med; G.E (Gentil Employé) thường là các nhân viên có thể hoặc là người bản xứ và thường tập trung ở khu vực ‘back of the house’ (khu vực phía sau) và G.M (Gentil Membre) là để chỉ các vị khách đến nghĩ dưỡng.

Điểm khác nhau chính giữa G.O và G.E là các bạn G.O mặc đến 7 bộ đồng phục khác nhau cho 7 ngày và mỗi tối lại được yêu cầu mặc trang phục theo mỗi chủ đề khác nhau. Các G.Os thường làm việc vất vả hơn và cũng đồng nghĩa với nhiều quyền lợi hơn. Ngoài 8 tiếng làm việc (vất vả theo từng bộ phận) thì thông thường các G.Os sẽ có khá nhiều các nhiệm vụ khác nhau. Nếu như các G.Es chỉ làm việc hết giờ rồi đi về thì G.Os làm việc xong rồi thì còn có rất nhiều các hoạt động khác nữa. Một trong những đặc điểm rất đặc biệt của Club Med so với tất cả các khu nghỉ dưỡng khác đó là văn hóa của Club Med. Các G.Os của Club Med ngoài những công việc chính ở các bộ phận như thể thao, ẩm thực, spa, buồng phòng, lễ tân thì ai cũng sẽ có chung một “công việc” buổi tối đó là chia sẻ các trải nghiệm trực tiếp cùng các G.Ms.

Cam 4
Hồi này tròn thật đấy. Nhân tiện chỗ đang đứng là Jetty, vì mình làm việc trên một hòn đảo nên chỗ này vừa để đón khách, vừa để tiễn khách.

Club Med theo mình được biết là khu nghỉ dưỡng duy nhất trên thế giới để nhân viên ngồi ăn trực tiếp cùng khách hàng và tìm hiểu về trải nghiệm của khách hàng khi nghỉ dưỡng tại đây. Vào 8h tối thì gần như tất cả các G.Os sẽ trở thành ngôi sao trên sân khấu vì tối nào cũng sẽ có các buổi biểu diễn khác nhau theo từng chủ đề. Nói là gần như tất cả tức là có một số G.Os không thể tham gia trực tiếp vì làm ở bộ phận ẩm thực nên thường phải ở lại nhà hàng khá muộn và rất hiếm khi tham dự các buổi biểu diễn. Mình thích các buổi biểu diễn từ đầu đến …gần cuối. Nói vậy vì kết thúc buổi biểu diễn đã từng là nỗi ám ảnh của mình vì ai cũng phải nhảy theo một vũ điệu kỳ quoái mà được gọi là “crazy sign”, mỗi người có thể nghĩ ra một “crazy sign” khác nhau và mọi người sẽ thực hiện theo điệu nhảy đấy. Hồi đấy mình ghét trò này vì thấy cứ ngớ ngẩn sao ấy, bây giờ thì đỡ hơn một tí vì nghĩ lại nhiều lúc cũng thấy vui. Có một lần mình không phải làm tối nên ngồi xem biểu diễn, xong đến giờ có cái “crazy sign” đấy, mình không kịp trốn nên cứ bị kéo lại, nhưng mình cố gắng từ chối vụ nhảy nhót đấy thế là bị hai bạn G.Os khác phê bình là mình không làm việc hết mình.

Nói chung là mình hơi bị bực mình vì cái lời phê bình đấy vì mình biết mình là một trong những đứa làm việc vất vả hơn ai hết, chỉ có điều là hình như đây không hẳn là văn hóa của mình. Thôi chẳng cãi nhau với họ nữa, dù sao họ cũng chẳng phải sếp của mình, nhưng mà vẫn bực. Chắc tại khác văn hóa.

Mà đúng là khác văn hóa ấy. Hồi đấy cứ khoảng 3 tuần hoặc 1 tháng một lần là ở đấy lại tổ chức một cái “G.O meeting”, lúc đấy tất cả các G.Os mới sẽ đứng lên giới thiệu bản thân xong lại bị yêu cầu…nhảy nhót 😦 Hôm đấy đến lượt mình, mình nói với bạn Chief of Village (General Manager) là mình hát có được không và may quá bạn ấy đồng ý. Hồi đấy mình vẫn xì-teen nên mình hỏi các bạn ấy có biết “High School Musical” không. Sau đó mình bắt đầu:

“Na na na na

Na na na na yeah

You are the music in me

You know the words “Once upon a time”

Make you listen

There’s a reason…”

Rồi có một buổi tối đến vụ phải hát thì các bạn G.Os kia có vẻ ít người hào hứng, lúc đấy thì sao không có ai thể hiện hết mình đi. Thế là mình lên hát, mình nhớ mình lên hát vài lần. Một trong những lần mình nhớ nhất là hôm đấy hát “Oops I did it again” – Britney Spears. Thực ra đấy là lần đầu tiên hát bài đấy nên chẳng hiểu hát hò như thế nào, chỉ biết lúc hát xong cái bạn hôm trước kỳ thị mình chạy ra ôm mình chặt một cái nói là “Well done darling, I’m so proud of you”. Mình chỉ nói là không có gì đâu, chỉ là mỗi người có một cách thể hiện khác nhau thôi. Nhất định sẽ có một lần nào đấy mình sẽ viết một bài tiếng Anh về chủ đề này, để nói cho bọn Tây nó hiểu là ngôn ngữ cơ thể không phải sở trường của người châu Á.

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Mình nhớ gia đình này ở Melbourne, có lần đến Melbourne chơi có gọi lại cho họ. Ôi nhất định hôm tới phải có bài viết về Club Med một lần nữa.

Ước gì hồi đấy có ai quay phim chụp ảnh cảnh đấy, thế mới biết nó vô giá như thế nào. Thôi hôm nay quyết định sẽ ngồi nghe mình hát, kỉ niệm lần đầu tiên đi thu âm khoảng 10 tháng trước. Bài hát này lấy cảm xúc từ chuyến đi công tác Đà Nẵng. Hôm đấy đứng ở bờ biển một mình đợi chị đồng nghiệp xong nhìn thấy cảnh hai bác lớn lớn tuổi ngồi với nhau rất tình cảm thế là bị ám ảnh đến hôm về đến Hà Nội. Sau đấy nhân dịp cậu bạn mở phòng thu thế là thu âm thử luôn. Bài này vẫn còn nhiều lỗi nhưng mặc kệ đi, hy vọng nếu đi thi Vietnam Idol chắc vẫn được đi gửi xe.

Chiếc Lá Đầu Tiên

“Mình sẽ quay trở lại trời Tây vào một ngày nắng đẹp hoặc tuyết trắng nào đấy để ngắm nhìn phong cảnh nơi đấy nhưng có lẽ chưa phải bây giờ”.

Hôm nay lại như bao ngày khác mình trở về nhà và thấy sự mệt mỏi hiện lên một số gương mặt quen thuộc. Vì cuộc sống ở nhà theo mọi người là quá mệt mỏi và mình thì không chịu nghe lời. Nhiều người nói mình không muốn sướng. Và vì nhiều lý do. Dù sao thì mình cũng có rất nhiều dự định muốn thực hiện chính tại nơi được sinh ra như thế này nên bây giờ phải nói thế nào nhỉ, chắc là “khổ quen rồi, sướng quá không chịu được đâu”. Mình sẽ quay trở lại trời Tây vào một ngày nắng đẹp hoặc tuyết trắng nào đấy để ngắm nhìn phong cảnh nơi đấy nhưng có lẽ chưa phải bây giờ.

Lý do mình viết blog này, thực sự muốn truyền tải một thông điệp tới…càng nhiều người càng tốt. Rằng ở đâu cũng sẽ như vậy cả thôi, nó hoàn toàn phụ thuộc vào suy nghĩ của mỗi người. Mọi người ở “Tây” hay ở “Ta”, kết hôn hay còn độc thân, giàu có hay là “nghèo bình thường” thì miễn người ta thấy vui là được. Nhiều lúc, ví dụ như bây giờ, mình đang thấy rất vui và hào hứng, vậy thì chỉ mong ít nhất những người xung quanh, đừng chỉ vì những ý kiến chủ quan của mỗi người mà khiến mình phải đánh mất luôn cả niềm vui mà bản thân mãi mới tìm thấy được…

Trong suốt hơn 2 năm về nhà, mình hỏi bản thân đến cả chục lần, có thật là đã về nước rồi không? Nếu giấc mơ của hàng chục ngàn người là “thoát ly” khỏi cái đất nước này thì mình về làm gì nhỉ? Xây dựng đất nước à? Xa xôi thế, chắc chẳng đến lượt đâu. Hay là đi học thạc sĩ? Hay là thế này? Hay là thế kia? Thôi kệ, mình quyết định dành thời gian trải nghiệm, làm việc, học tập trên chính quê hương của mình và nhận thấy rằng cuộc sống này đâu đến nỗi tệ như mọi người vẫn nói. Mình có dẫn chứng mấy câu chuyện ở dưới đây:

Câu chuyện thứ nhất: Cô chú hàng xóm

Không những ở cùng một tòa chung cư mà còn ở cùng một tầng nữa nên do chơi thân với bố mẹ, hai nhà vẫn qua lại rất thân thiết, thỉnh thoảng tổ chức ăn uống chung. Chú “hàng xóm” này hầu như tối nào cũng qua chơi với bố. Cô chú ấy quan tâm đến bố mẹ mình chẳng khác nào anh chị em ruột. Nhiều lúc mình cũng biết là bản thân thực sự vô tâm và không giỏi trong khoản quan tâm chăm sóc bố mẹ thì chính cô chú ấy lại giúp động viên bố mẹ phần nào. Thực sự ngoài bố mình ra thì chú ấy cũng tuyệt vời chẳng kém. Thường thì mỗi người có một ưu thế riêng. Mình nói với vợ chú ấy là: ” Cháu thấy chú nhà cô là tuyệt vời nhất rồi đấy. Thực sự là cháu rất ít khi gặp được một người đàn ông Việt Nam nào như chú ấy, lúc nào cũng làm chủ mọi tình huống…” Nếu chú ấy biết chú ấy phải lái xe thì nhất định sẽ không để mình bị say rượu. Cơ bản là vì chú ấy cũng không uống được nhiều rượu và cũng chẳng thích uống rượu hay tụ tập chỗ đông người. Vợ chú ấy nói là “Điều này thì cô đồng ý, nhưng nếu thỉnh thoảng chú nhà cô mà được như bố cháu, ăn nói nhẹ nhàng hơn thì tốt quá rồi…” Nhưng tất nhiên, chẳng có ai là hoàn hảo cả. Mình thích cô chú ấy ở nhiều khía cạnh dù là trong việc duy trì cuộc sống hôn nhân hay trong vai trò dạy dỗ con gái. Đặc biệt là đối với “cô hàng xóm” này, lúc nào mình cũng coi cô ấy là một người bạn lớn, ngoài sở thích về thời trang, thỉnh thoảng hai cô cháu ngồi tâm sự và động viên nhau, dù cuộc sống nó có khó khăn như thế nào thì vẫn nên tiếp tục suy nghĩ tích cực hơn về cuộc sống.

Câu chuyện thứ hai: Bạn thực tập sinh

Có những thời điểm mình nghĩ, hay là chuyển vào Sài Gòn sống nhỉ nếu ngoài Hà Nội này ngột ngạt như thế? Xong rồi nghĩ lại, Sài Gòn hay Đà Nẵng, Mỹ, Anh, Úc hay Phần Lan… thì giải quyết được cái gì? Mình không thích chạy trốn kiểu đấy. Cũng chẳng phải mình cố gắng cứng đầu cứng cổ làm gì. Nhưng không phải sao? Chỉ cần mình thấy ổn là được. Thì ngày hôm nay, mình lại gặp lại một cô “em gái”. Bạn này trước đây do chính mình nhận làm thực tập ở công ty đang làm. Em ấy tốt nghiệp từ một trong những trường đại học danh tiếng bậc nhất Việt Nam và đã từng nuôi dưỡng niềm đam mê “Big Four”, nhưng không hiểu lý do gì lại đầu quân vào thực tập một công ty “bé” như công ty mình. Bây giờ em ấy lớn hơn nhiều rồi, được đào tạo để trở thành “cán bộ nguồn” từ một trong các chương trình đào tạo “danh giá nhất của ngành ngân hàng, em ấy nói là: “Em thấy có nhiều cái không ổn, em chỉ cố gắng để không bị cuốn vào vòng xoáy của những người có cùng hướng suy nghĩ theo lối mòn. Nhiều lúc em cũng nghĩ là sẽ bỏ cuộc, nhưng em nghĩ là em không nên từ bỏ chỉ vì em chán, như thế thì không đáng, ít nhất em cũng phải đạt được một thành tựu gì đấy trong chương trình đào tạo này vậy nên em sẽ không bỏ cuộc đâu…”.

Câu chuyện thứ ba: Lớp học viết Tiếng Anh của thầy Nam (Mr Nam’s writing class) 

Thầy Nam này thì mình nói thật là chưa gặp bao giờ. Nhưng nghe học trò của thầy ấy kể lại và mình cũng thấy ngưỡng mộ vì chẳng mấy khi gặp được mấy người cá tính. Nghe nói thầy này học ở Mỹ về, ngoài việc dạy Tiếng Anh thì còn dạy học sinh uống rượu bia và đi club… Nói cho vui vậy thôi, anh này chắc chắn là thích pha chế rượu và đồ uống nên thỉnh thoảng có truyền lại một số bí kíp để truyền lại cho học trò, đặc biệt là các bạn đang học tiếng Anh để rồi “đem chuông đi đánh xứ người”. Vì không rõ về tiểu sử của thầy này lắm nên không dám bàn bạc gì nhiều nhưng với những người thay vì được xuất hiện trên TV và kiếm được bội tiền từ những chuyến đi quay phóng sự lại dành thời gian ngồi sửa mấy bản sơ yếu lý lịch của “bọn sinh viên” xong ngồi hướng nghiệp cho bọn trẻ – những cái chẳng có liên quan đến công việc của thầy thì cũng chẳng có mấy người…

Câu chuyện thứ tư: The Note Coffee – Post-it Love

Mình biết anh Tiến với chị Huyền từ trước cái ngày tận thế. Nói như vậy là vì hồi đấy hai anh chị ấy đang tìm kiếm các đối tác và nhà cung cấp để mở một quán cà phê và bánh ngọt và muốn mở cửa đúng vào 21/12/2012 (mỗi tội là đến lúc mở thì bị chậm hơn so với dự kiến nên có thể coi là may mắn sống sót sau ngày tận thế). Nói đến đây thì chắc phải đi xin lỗi hai anh chị ấy vì ban đầu do không biết ý tưởng kinh doanh cụ thể ra sao nên cứ nghĩ trong đầu là “chắc chẳng có gì đặc biệt đâu”. Xong đến lúc anh chị ấy mở The Note ra rồi, mình thực sự rất chi là…thích cái quán đấy 😦 Thế nên là cứ mỗi lần có bạn từ đâu xa đến là mình lại đưa vào Note. Một phần vì nó nằm ngay tại trung tâm thành phố (Hà Nội Km0), và một phần nữa là, khi vào đến đây rồi, người ta thấy yêu Hà Nội hơn. Mình thích làm cho người ta yêu Hà Nội – nơi mà mình đang sống, và kể cả sau này có không sống ở đây nữa thì mảnh đất nào cũng đáng được yêu. Mình nghĩ thế. Nếu ai chưa có cơ hội ghé qua The Note Coffee, 64 Lương Văn Can, Hà Nội thì mọi người ghé qua thử xem nhé. Quán này không lớn, nếu không muốn nói là nhỏ xíu, có 3 tầng. Đồ uống cũng không thua kém bất kỳ quán cà phê nào tại Hà Nội mà dịch vụ thì cứ phải nói là… tốt hơn nhiều. Phần đa ai cũng nói được cả Tiếng Anh và đặc biệt là ai cũng biết cười mới sợ chứ. Rất nhiều người thích đến đây để “trút bầu tâm sự” qua những dòng Note đủ sắc màu mà thỉnh thoảng đọc cũng thấy hơi sến nhưng mà nhìn chung là vui và thấy đẹp. Nhiều người còn biết đến “Note” qua các hoạt động “1 giờ học tiếng anh” tại câu lạc bộ Tiếng Anh thứ Hai hàng tuần tại đây hay các buổi dọn vệ sinh quanh khu vực Bờ Hồ vào các buổi sáng cuối tuần. Mình tin chắc là “Note” không chỉ đặc biệt với mình mà còn với rất nhiều người nữa.

The Note Coffee

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Có bạn gửi nhầm địa chỉ cho bạn Camellia Dinh thì phải 😀
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Bị bắt quả tang ngồi…viết Note. Câu này có nghĩa là: Mọi chuyện rồi sẽ đều sẽ kết thúc ổn thỏa, nếu bạn vẫn chưa thấy ổn, vậy là vẫn chưa phải hồi kết”.

Câu chuyện Tòhe: Chuyện của những người lớn thích làm trẻ con!

Nếu có ai đã từng đọc “Hoàng Tử Bé” thì sẽ biết được Antoine de Saint Exupéry đã cẩn thận đặt lời tựa cho cuốn sách của mình là “Viết cho những người lớn từng là trẻ con. Mặc dù thoạt nhìn câu chuyện này không khác gì một cuốn sách thiếu nhi có hình minh họa kể về cậu bé tóc vàng du hành qua các vì sao, đi tìm kiếm một người bạn và ý nghĩa thật sự cho cuộc đời mình. Sau khi đi qua các hành tinh và cảm thấy mệt mỏi với việc gặp gỡ quá nhiều “người lớn” vì họ rất kỳ lạ. Người lớn có lúc là một ông vua trên một hành tinh nên luôn cho rằng quyền lực của mình là tuyệt đối. Người lớn đôi khi thật hợm hĩnh chỉ nghe được những lời tán tụng mình. Người lớn được quyền uống rượu nên uống để say, uống để quên, quên là mình xấu hổ, xấu hổ vì mình đã uống rượu. Thật là một vòng luẩn quẩn. Tự làm khổ chính bản thân mình. Người lớn là một doanh nhân luôn cho mình là người bận rộn, hàng ngày ông đếm những vì sao và cho rằng chúng là của mình. Người lớn đôi khi là một nhà địa lý, luôn tự cho rằng mình biết tất cả mọi thứ nhưng thật ra lại chẳng biết gì. Bởi lẽ, “nhà địa lý quá quan trọng để đi đây đi đó, ông ta không bao giờ rời khỏi bàn làm việc”.Người lớn luôn cho rằng mình biết tất cả mọi thứ thế nhưng “Những người lớn chẳng bao giờ tự họ hiểu được cái gì cả, và thật là mệt cho trẻ con lúc nào cũng phải giải thích cho họ”.

Từ nãy đến giờ mải mê kể chuyện Hoàng Tử Bé mà chút nữa quên luôn chuyện Tòhe. Chuyện Tòhe cũng đơn giản và dễ hiểu thôi. Chuyện là anh Nguyên và chị Ngân nhà nọ mặc dù lớn rồi có đến hai đứa con (nếu lấy tuổi hai bạn trẻ cộng vào cũng được đến tính bằng một đứa tuổi “teen” rồi) nhưng không lo làm chuyện người lớn mà suốt ngày đi sưu tập tranh của bọn trẻ con xong rồi mang đi in ấn thành sản phẩm rồi đi bán. Một lần nọ khoảng hơn 2 năm về trước bị mình bắt gặp ở Tô Ngọc Vân vì mở cửa hàng ngay gần công ty mình. Mình có chụp ảnh để làm bằng chứng về sự “rảnh rỗi” của hai người này và cả một nhóm người thích làm trẻ con kia nữa.

Tò He Style
Tòhe Style

Tò He Workshop - Nguyễn Chí Thanh, Hà Nội

world smile
World Smile Day 2014 @ Tòhe

Thực ra mình nói vậy thôi chứ các “cán bọ” của Tòhe ko rảnh như thế đâu. Để đạt được thành quả như bây giờ, là một trong những doanh nghiệp xã hội lớn nhất Việt Nam, các anh, các chị, các bạn ấy đã đi trực tiếp tới các địa phương và phối hợp với các nhóm tình nguyện tổ chức các lớp hướng dẫn sáng tạo cho các bạn trẻ em tại trung tâm khuyết tật, mồ côi hoặc các bệnh nhi mắc bệnh hiểm nghèo tại các bệnh viện để các em có cơ hội vui chơi và giao lưu. Các tác phẩm của các em sau này được các nhà thiết kế của Tòhe chọn lọc và sử dụng để in lên các sản phẩm như quần áo, phụ kiện và 1001 thứ mà các đồng chí ấy nghĩ ra được.

Mình thì yêu Tòhe chắc chỉ kém các anh chị và các bạn kia một tí thôi vì mình mới biết Tòhe được hơn 2 năm. Ban đầu lúc mới vào đấy nói thật là chẳng mua được gì mặc dù nhìn thấy cái gì cũng hay hay với tinh thần 100% hồn nhiên nhưng mà tính thực tiễn thì không cao. Về sau Tòhe cũng biết được điều này nên không ngừng điều chỉnh và đổi mới. Hậu quả là mình vừa là đối tác lại vừa thành khách V.I.P của Tòhe lúc nào không hay. Bị đánh giá là một trong những đứa “cuồng’ Tòhe, mình chắc chắn mình là một trong số ít các khách hàng có một bộ sưu tập các sản phẩm của Tòhe không hề nhỏ.

TH2
Túi đi du lịch ưa thích của mình
TH3
Áo Dài Tò He

TH5

Nhưng tại sao lại là “Tòhe” nhỉ? Ngày xửa ngày xưa, người Việt Nam mình cứ nhắc đến tò he là nghĩ đến một loại đồ chơi dân gian truyền thống cho trẻ em được làm bằng bột gạo và phẩm màu tự nhiên mà sau khi CHƠI xong các em có thể ĂN được. Nhận thấy ý nghĩa của đồ chơi này rất gần với ý nghĩa của dự án đó là vừa tạo cơ hội cho các bạn nhỏ vui chơi vừa giúp các em hưởng lợi từ các hoạt động vui chơi từ chính các thành quả sáng tạo của mình, cái tên “Tòhe” cũng chính vì vậy được sử dụng để trở thành tên dự án và đồng thời trở thành tên thương hiệu cho dòng sản phẩm đặc biệt này.

Mình thực sự rất cảm ơn Tòhe vì còn quá nhiều điều cần học hỏi từ doanh nghiệp xã hội này. Cảm ơn “chủ tịt” Nguyên, “dám đốc” Ngân, “cán bọ” Ngọc, “cán bọ” Loan và tất cả các “cán bọ” Tòhe vì đã mang đến một sân chơi mới sáng tạo và bổ ích cho các bạn trẻ con và cả trẻ lớn như mình hoặc hơn mình nữa. Đối với các bạn theo học ngành kinh tế, các bạn có thể dành chút thời gian nghiên cứu về khái nghiệm về “các dự án kinh tế sáng tạo” (trong Tiếng Anh là “Creative Economy” từ các doanh nghiệp tương tự như Tòhe, sẽ thấy thú vị lắm đấy.

to he 7
Tập tành với bóng bay nghệ thuật tại làng trẻ em Thụy An, Ba Vì

to he 6

to he 3
Tohe’s Kidstallation – Nghệ thuật sắp đặt tại Tò He Indo China Tower, Cầu Giấy, Hà Nội

tohe

Câu chuyện Tòhe của mình vẫn chưa kết thúc mà mình bỗng nhận thấy là mình đã viết quá dài, đến tận 5 câu chuyện khác nhau rồi mà vẫn còn vài câu chuyện nữa để kể. Nói tóm lại là, cuộc sống này nó vẫn đẹp và công bằng trên một khía cạnh nào đấy. Người ta vẫn nói là có hai cách để suy nghĩ về cuộc sống này, một là sẽ chẳng có điều kỳ diệu nào xảy ra trên thế giới này, hoặc hai là, bất kỳ điều gì xảy ra trên thế giới này đều là những điều kỳ diệu. Mọi người cùng suy ngẫm nhé. Còn dưới đây là đoạn kết trong Hoàng Tử Bé:

Mỗi người đều có các ngôi sao của riêng mình. Với người đi xa, chúng là sao dẫn đường. Với một số người, chúng chẳng khác gì những đốm sáng. Với những ai thông thái, chúng là các vấn đề. Với vị thương nhân, chúng là một kho báu. Nhưng tất cả các ngôi sao đó đều câm lặng. Chỉ riêng chú sẽ có các vì sao không ai có được… Ban đêm khi chú nhìn trời, vì có cháu sống trên một ngôi sao nào đó, vì có cháu cười trên một ngôi sao nào đó, cho nên với chú, tất cả các ngôi sao đều cười. Riêng chú sẽ có các ngôi sao biết cười“.

Ngày hôm nay, sau khi chứng kiến những vẻ mặt lo âu, mệt mỏi kia, mình quyết định không giải thích gì thêm nữa và sẽ để thời gian trả lời. Cũng chẳng lâu nữa đâu. Vậy nên hiện tại vì có rất nhiều thứ để nói, nhưng không nói được gì nên ngồi nghe nhạc. Bài hát của ngày hôm nay là “Chiếc lá đầu tiên” của nhạc sĩ Tuấn Khanh, mình thích từng câu từng chữ trong bài này tuy nhiên có hai câu mà mình đặc biệt thích:

“Hỡi chiếc lá nào bay về trời, có gửi lời với tôi:

Hãy giữ lấy giùm tôi nụ cười, và đức tin ở con người”

Bản cover này mình cũng thích hơn bản gốc nữa. Chúc các bạn vui!

#Flashback

A wish for love, with silent prayer, cannot travel through the air. A wish for love, with form and phonics, propagates and finds harmonics.” - Bret Victor.
A wish for love, with silent prayer, cannot travel through the air. A wish for love, with form and phonics, propagates and finds harmonics.” – Bret Victor.

I’ve always been asked by many people if I ever had a boyfriend as they hardly ever see me publically disclose any information regarding my relationship status nor private life. Well, I think that was something that I used to do, when I was 15 – back to the point that Blog 360 by Yahoo was so popular in Vietnam. I was, like many other teenagers, so flattered by the fact that I had one of the coolest boyfriends ever and could not help being a possessive girlfriend. I am 22 now and turning 23, at the age that I am in a way mature enough not to ‘facebook’ my private life and I also realized that I would need to find a way to keep him with me but not necessarily have to be a possessive girlfriend. The reason is simple: if it is true love then I won’t have to chase. Seriously. I would rather keep that for me and only my closest friends to know in order to protect my relationship.

There are some highlighted moments of my love-life for which I always feel grateful towards some of the guys I know for giving me a clearer understanding of who I am and most importantly, is to be confident of myself. Here is an interesting one:

CANBERRA:

There were me and Pippa, who is one of my closest Aussie female friends together with many other ‘Hyatt’ colleagues of mine. I bumped into HIM at a farewell party of one of my male colleagues as he was leaving for ‘the vibrant’ Sydney. “HIM” – N.L was the coolest guy at the party who had worked before at ‘the hotel’ where I was working at that time. He’s a perfect combination of the half Western and half Asian type and obviously that I did not really have a reason not-to-like-him. But it was just IT – he was just so damn cute and we spent a bit of time to get to know each other during the night. Pippa was so on to him I could tell and it is pretty normal still. I had to leave early that night as I had got to start a very early shift next morning so I guessed, it was nice meeting him but this could be first and the last time we met.

On the next day:

HE added me as a friend on Facebook!

A few days after:

“Hey Cam!” – I was called by another male colleague who also joined the farewell. “Hey, what’s up?” I replied. “What do you think of my friend?”. “You have so many friends, what are you talking about?” – I questioned. “Well you know I’m talking about N.L, the guy that you met at the party…”. “Ahh! I think he is a nice guy, he added me on Facebook the other day, but that was just it…”

There was a night unlike any other night:

I logged on to Facebook and keep my Facebook messenger on. N.L buzzed me and ‘officially’ said “hi”. I could not remember how much time we spent on the chat. The only story that I could remember until now is when we was having the ‘men and women’ debate and how he complained to me that his female colleagues could easily get uncomfortable when they constantly hear the pen clicking sound. And I did agree with him that women sometimes can be very sensitive whereas men would only pay attention for what they are interested or what really matters to them (Please do correct me if I’m wrong).

The conversation went over 2 hours I guess then N.L greeted me goodnight. He also mentioned that we should catch up for a coffee sometimes.

For some stupid reasons I went extremely quiet…

A few weeks later:

I got some news from the hotel school where I studied and learned that we would be relocated to Sydney. I was a student on an industry placement (IP) at that time so it also meant that I would have to move to Sydney at the end of my IP.

The night before I moved to the new city:

I was face-booking as usual. For some reason I kept staring at the Facebook messenger… There was something inside my head right at that very moment which made me start to count 1, 2, 3… And guess what? He was there starting to type:

“Hi Camellia…”

“I know you are moving to Sydney…”

“Just wanted to say hello and I don’t see you until then, please take care and I wish you all the best”…

I was like… seriously :(. I remember I admitted something to him. I said I wish we could spend more time to get to know each other.

SYDNEY

I moved to the new city and not-by-accident, I had a “CANBE” (short for Canberra) reunion with the host of “the farewell party”.

“Hey Camellia?” he asked. “Yo, what’s up?” I replied. “Are you really Asian?” – he examined. “Don’t I look Asian? Why did you ask?” I questioned him back.

“Well, it is because, my friend N.L is a type that many Asian girls out there would get melted for and you don’t seem to show any interest”.

So Camellia went silent again as she didn’t really know what it was like to have to show her interest in somebody. And she was dying, little by little…

After that, I came back home in Vietnam for a short trip for my sister’s wedding in the end of 2011 and I also learned that N.L had moved to a new city. I wish him all the best.

8 months later:

I think I was at Wild Fire, a restaurant Sydney with a friend of mine. The coincidence is that the waiter who works there is gay, oh, no, I meant, he used to work at the hotel.

“Oh, so you worked there as well? Do you know N.L by any chance? The guy who used to work in….?” He asked me. Yes I do know him (Yes you have just asked the right person and thank you for having reminded me of him!) “You know what? I liked him but he is straight”. “Well, I know right…”

After dinner, I was walking down the street, back to Sydney CBD and sent N.L a text message: “I met this guy at the restaurant. He said he worked at the hotel that we both worked before. He liked you but you are straight unfortunately. Good night 🙂

Dalat – Part 4 (Final) – Mindfulness

Lately I’ve found that my mind has not been very quiet. I can’t stop my mind from spinning with different sources of ideas and thoughts. On the one hand, I have so much to write about but I also know I should put an end to my recent Dalat trip. I need to end this ‘relationship’ before getting into a new one – I think that’s the right way to do as I can’t love two guys at once. Wait a minute, did I just say that “I have so much to write about?”. It doesn’t even sound like me…Uhm… Is this like a sign of aging? 😦

So on my very last days of the trip in Dalat, I had the chance to meet a friend’s friend of mine. Hung is a vegetarian, super skinny from what I see but what I remember the most from this person is the eyes – he’s got bright eyes. He is in his 30 something, at the age people should get mature in all aspects. I’m not sure if in English people have an expression for this, but I think he is a ‘time’ billionaire. It doesn’t mean that he’s jobless or having nothing to do. He owns a garden, a fish pond, a coffee field, a small town house and a reading tent in the garden. I guess that should be enough to keep him busy, especially during the coffee harvest seasons, but it only happens once per year. Hung told me once: People usually tend to think of all the ‘big’ things that matter to them in life, which is to work; to study; to earn money; to get a career; to get married or to have kids and/or to get more and more money but then, every so often they forget one of the most important activities to keep them alive: TO BREATH. Sometimes it is simply important for us to take a deep breath and give yourself a break. I could never thank him enough for everything. Thank you for taking me to the Elephant Water Fall, for all your lessons and thank you for the wonderful meals that you cooked for me.

Me at the Elephant Water Fall
Me at the Elephant Water Fall

So after Axel, Mai Dung then Hung, my trip would not be completed without Sydney (but not Australia) and Alex, my new and BFF American friends.

From left to right: Sydney, Alex, I am in the middle, Axel and Mai Dung
From left to right: Sydney, Alex, I am in the middle, Axel and Mai Dung

I was sitting in the office yesterday and got a text message: “Hey Camellia! This is Alex and Sydney from ZEN Cafe! We are in Hanoi for about 3.5 hours. Are you in town? I am definitely am! Let’s catch up! 🙂

Catching up with my favorite American couple at the Note Coffee
Catching up with my favorite American couple at The Note Coffee

After Dalat, it was a great catch up with Sydney and Alex at Hanoi Km0 – The Note Coffee. He spent the rest of the 3.5 hours on Hanoi Old Quater’s Streets; had some of Hanoi’s favorite street food near St. Joseph’s Catheral. We finished our trip by having the best Italian Gelato from Casa Italia Hanoi before rushing to the train station for Alex and Sydney to make their way to Sapa. I seriously love these beautiful friends and cannot wait for my next trip to Ho Chi Minh city as we still have lots of promises for the future.

Dalat – Part 3: The Crazy Day!

Good morning pillow! I love the feeling of waking up in a brand new place and knowing that I am going to learn something I never knew before. On my third day of the trip, I decided the ‘Crazy House’ to be the first place to visit. Axel told me something like if I didn’t go to the Crazy House then I had not been to Dalat. Good morning pillow! As soon as I finished my brief greetings with my white pillows and the comfy bed, I made my way up to Zen Cafe for breakfast. Sun was out beautifully and I found myself so lucky as I got dad on the phone telling me that back home, it was thunderstorming and lighting all night the night before. I must have done something good I thought. In order to make it sound a bit crazier, I decided to walk to the Crazy House instead of taking a taxi or a shuttle bus from Zen Cafe. I seriously don’t mind walking and never had any problem with it. And since I am not a sporty person, at least I am not lazy sitting or lying in bed all day. Well, I just thought, I had the map with me, and except the fact I am not really a good map reader, the city of Dalat is not a huge one so I should be fine. And I proved it, I made it to the Crazy House and it was totally worth a visit. Seriously, I had had no clue what the Crazy House was until I got there and learned that it was, in fact one of World’s most unusual hotels. The idea of the Crazy House is absolutely mind-blowing.

In what could be seen as an homage to either Antonio Gaudí or mental illness, this trippy hotel by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga has become a popular attraction. Mushrooms, spiderwebs, portholes, and tree roots are sculpted into the organic concrete form, and each of the 10 guest rooms at “The Crazy House” is named for an animal. Choose wisely; those burning-bright eyes in the tiger suite will surely keep you awake. —Adam McCulloch

The Crazy House - 3 Huynh Thuc Khang Str Dalat - Looking from the entrance. The Crazy House – 3 Huynh Thuc Khang Str Dalat – Looking from the entrance.
The Crazy House was formally called “Hang Nga Villa”; the change of name was made because some people copied its original name for their buildings. The Crazy House was formally called “Hang Nga Villa”; the change of name was made because some people copied its original name for their buildings.
The The “Bear Room”
Interestingly the room rate is only from $35 US per night. However, you should avoid staying there during week days if you don't want to be bothered by public visitors. The room rate is only from $35 US per night. However, you should avoid staying there during week days if you don’t want to be bothered by public visitors.
Climbing these stairs to top of the building can be a very interesting part if you are not the“acrophobia Climbing these stairs to top of the building can be a very interesting part if you are not the“acrophobia” type (fear of heights). Be cafeful too if you travel with children as these staircases might be a little scary and dangerous at most times.
Hang Nga guesthouse was originally built as a personal project by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga, opening to the public in 1990. Nga, daughter of Trường Chinh, who received a PhD in architecture from the University of Moscow, has stated that her overall design was inspired by the natural environment surrounding of the city of Da Lat, along with the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. Hang Nga guesthouse was originally built as a personal project by Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga, opening to the public in 1990. Nga, daughter of Trường Chinh, who received a PhD in architecture from the University of Moscow, has stated that her overall design was inspired by the natural environment surrounding of the city of Da Lat, along with the work of Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí.

For me, one of the most fascitinating parts about this project is the fact that this famous building was designed by one of World’s most talented female architects – Dr Dang Viet Nga, which made me – a young Vietnamese lady feel simply proud. There was a history lesson too as I did not know Ms Viet Nga was the daughter of Mr Truong Trinh, who was Vietnam’s second-ranked communist leader (after Ho Chi Minh) for a period of time. I left the building with some strange and mixed feelings that I did not know how to explain. There are so much what I need to learn from my country…

I visited Bao Dai’s Palace afterwards as it was very close to the Crazy House. It was also interesting to know a bit deeper about the last Royal family of Vietnam. Nevertheless, this place did not impress me so much, not to mention it was a bit noisy and I was disturbed by a tour guide whom I think he was just in the wrong job because there was too much nonsense from his speech to the tourists.

My next destination was Truc Lam meditation centre – the largest meditation centre in Vietnam. It was on my top list of my must-see destinations in Dalat from the very beginning. I started my walking journey again from Bao Dai’s Palace to where I believed was not so far away. It was…one straight line on the map to get there and about 3km from the city centre, I thought I could always catch a taxi if I don’t know how to get there. All what I needed was to find Tuyen Lam lake then I can find the meditation centre. But it was not as easy as I thought. So I kept walking…More than 45 minutes and still did not see the Lake. I got a bit scared really as I could not find a taxi and there were fewer and fewer people passing by on that road. Besides, I was sure that I definitely looked like a tourist, yes, a crazy tourist. And it was when it started to rain. What to do? Seriously? I could not believe I was about to get wet…like that? No… 😦 I put on my hood and hoped it would keep me dry for a little while and hope the rain would stop soon. But it didn’t. There was no taxi available too. I was imagining myself as an character in the Story of Tam and Cam, an ancient Vietnamese tale, which is also known as the Vietnamese version of Cinderella. It was about Tam, the ‘Vietnamese’ Cinderella after realising she was tricked by the step-mother, she did not know what to do but to cry. Then the Buddha appeared to her and comforted her…

Well, I knew I was not Cinderella in that case as nobody tricked me, I was only suffering from my stupidity. But guess what? The Buddha appeared like for real. There was a bike stopped next to me within seconds and a man in his 60s stopped right there and he started to talk. The old man: Hello! I saw you from start walking from up there far away. Where are you going? Me: I’m going to Tuyen Lam Lake. I wanted to get to the Meditation centre. The old man: Is that so? I am going to Tuyen Lam too. I will give you a ride there and wear this raincoat on. I guessed, well, the rain just got heavier, he looked harmless and I did not want to get wet. I didn’t even know where Tuyen Lam Lake was. We stopped by a village shop to wait for the rain to stop. From the moment I talked to the guy who just saved me, I could see he was a bit abnormal from the way he spoke. Telling me he was a lawyer, I asked if being a lawyer was a tough job. He told me yes as you had to know all the tricks and gimmicks. I shared a bit information of what I do and where I work too.

He then drove me to Tuyen Lam Lake and invited me for lunch after learning I hadn’t got lunch in a restaurant near by. Well, okay then. I thanked him for having given me the ride. I told him this could be some sort of destiny as I could not imagine what was going to happen if he did not show up right at that moment. He asked to exchange our mobile numbers so we could keep in touch. He started talking about his purpose of visiting Dalat this time. It means he has been to Dalat many times before. He even knew the people from the restaurant and some of the very big ‘key’ people in town and without hesitating he introduced me as I was his niece. Talking about his purpose of visiting Dalat this time, “I’m here to do some good” he said. Then in order to make me understand, he showed me a Buddhist magazine and started telling me the story of a monk. “This monk is about 70 something now who had spent his whole life learning about Buddhism. Now he is old and he wants to lay back here in Dalat. He also wishes to build a pagoda here for himself. But it is not easy to I am here to help…” Right from this moment, I started to talk more, but to myself instead… Wait a minute, did you just talk about building a pagoda? There are more than 15 pagodas here in this small city. If he really wanted to rest in peace, he can just stay in one of those. Building a pagoda is not a joking matter. And a pagoda appears to me as a long term political and economical interest to a number of people including the guy sitting in front of me, I realised. And the respected monk is no better than any of ordinary people, he simply fell into the trap of fame. Pity! At the restaurant I heard there is a famous type of ginseng wine so I decided to get two bottles for dad. He paid for lunch and offered to pay for the wine. I let him pay as he wanted to act like he was my uncle and gave him money back later, trying to show a nice manner. I don’t like to owe anybody anything, especially this to this man.

Any words that came after from my life “savior’ suddenly became meaningless. He took me to Truc Lam meditation centre and showed me around. I wanted to visit the library but it was closed. There was a bookstore next to the library. The bookseller was a nice lady, and she also knows the old man who was standing right next to me. She told me that the library was closed because the Head Monk doesn’t like to keep the door open while he works (I sighed, deep deep inside). He old man was nice enough to give me a Buddhist book named “Quiet Mind” as a gift. I thanked him again and already started to have a gut feeling – I am not going to have a quiet mind today. We left Truc Lam Meditation Centre, despite how beautiful the flowers and the view could get, I would never return to this place again. This meditation has lost its peace and spririt and no longer appears to me as a solemn place. Earlier on before I went to the trip, I had tried to find if they offered any meditation courses but the travel agent told me that the courses are only offered for foreigners? I asked a friend of mine with hope that she would know better. She told me only some certain types of ‘insiders’ will be able to attend the course. I wanted to know what it takes to be an ‘insider’ and why do people even bother trusting this religion if they insist on the thought of distinguishing an insider versus an outsider.

I just wanted to go back to Zen Cafe at that stage to meet with Axel and Mai Dung and tell them how my day was. Unfortunately, I was kind of stuck with the old guy for a while. At least I did not show him any of my disinterest in him, I remained calm and I think it wouldn’t take me long until I got back to the resort. He dropped me at ‘my home’ the Zen Valley and again, I was not so sure if this was another stupid moment of mine to invite him to have some tea with me. Just for a reason that he was old and he gave me a long ride. He looked around the bungalow where I was staying and kept telling me what exactly-I-did-not-want-to-hear: “Oh this resort is good but too far, you should blah blah blah…” Thanks, would you like to have a look at the room? I asked. “Why not?” he replied and went upstairs to check out my room and all of sudden he lied on my bed! I was not happy obviously but I asked if he was tired after riding the bike for long. He said yes and I let him rest for 10 minutes while I could not stop counting down the time for him to leave. At least, he should have asked for my permission and if he was a decent guy he should stay in my living room. He got up afterwards, greeted me goodbye and asked me if I wanted to join him for dinner. At that time I think I was sure that I would get in some serious trouble as he got my phone number. He texted me in about half an hour after he left and the second text he said he would come back to pick me up and obviously without waiting me to say yes. Unfortunately he knew where I was so he just came and pick me up. Thanks to this interesting encounter, I was invited to one of the most disgusting ‘fine dining’ restaurants, owned by one of the richest families in town. After giving a brief introduction of who they were, I found out that all of these people are also…like me, Northern Vietnamese, except for the fact that I don’t want to be one of them. Obviously they don’t just own a restaurant business but a number of forrests and other businesses. The lady – the owner of the restaurant’s wife showed me a cosmetic and perfume brand under her name that she, with all proudness called it “Queen PT” – PT is the abbreviation of her name. The queen’s golden son appeared as a poor kid to me. He is about 10 years old. Meanwhile the mother was trying to force him to answer her question about what he would do if he became a Prime Minister one day? Godness me. I have no idea why I was there talking to these people. There were some rich, some poor dining on the same table but they were just as the same to me. To conclude, I thanked him anyway for his perfect timing ‘rescue’ and the entertaining dinner. The guy gave me a ride back to the resort and did not forget to show me a very big land that he said to me “That’s our land!” I was not so sure what he meant by using the word “our” but it was definitely not mine, nor his, nor the government, it belongs to my country.

Earlier on, I said it was a destiny that I had a chance to meet him, I would not take it back, but I would like to add something in. It was a destiny, but it was too short as it only lasted for one day and I have just ended it. I came back to the room, safe and sound and quite unsure how tomorrow going to be…