Connecting with Others
Days 827 – Days 829
I love this quote by Harriet Lerner “Only through our connectedness to others can we really know and enhance the self. And only through working on the self can we begin to enhance our connectedness to others.”
Connecting with others around the world, plus quiet introspection and learning on self is vital to us. And occasionally we have days, not about seeing the wonders of the world; but about experiencing the wonders of people.
After travelling back to Ho Chi Minh City from Phu Quoc, we visited Peter and his extended family, who I connected with on Facebook through our cousin Deidre. We met Peter, his wife Loan and their three children just before we went on our Mekong trip and there was an immediate bond, so took the opportunity to meet up again.
Fifteen family members live all together in Peter and Loan’s house. As well as their family of five, there are Loan’s parents, her sister, brother and nieces and nephews. With children from aged 3 to 18, the noise is loud but joyful, and Peter takes the crazy family commotion all in his stride.
As we arrived, Loan’s sister My introduced us to their dog and five little pups. Jac was in her element; she loves dogs. From my earliest memories, she has always wanted one, but our Dad, a country lad, didn’t think that living in the suburbs of London was the right place to bring up one.
I loved watching Jac, Tim (who, since we have been travelling, is no longer allergic to canines or cats), and little Tintin play with the pups. I made sure that five remained when we left, and Jac hadn’t smuggled one in her bag!
A delicious spread of food was laid before us, and we sat chatting to Peter on his gorgeous balcony full of lush plants. He is a captivating storyteller, and we enjoyed hearing about his days in the music business, his collection of military memorabilia, and life around Hertfordshire. We discovered that he knew our Uncle Les; that must be the connection with our cousin. His eldest daughter, Sara, who loves art, generously gave us gorgeous little paintings for a keepsake.
My offered to paint Jac and my nails, so while Tim and Peter carried on chatting, Jac and I were pampered with our fingers and toes painted beautiful colours. Tim then joined us and astonished the family with his magic tricks. The reactions from them were priceless.
It was delightful to connect with this generous and welcoming family of three generations living together. We seem to have lost that community living in the western world. There are pros and cons to this, but something that interests Tim and me for the future.
We returned to Common Inn, our lovely Vietnamese and Swedish owned accommodation with the friendliest of staff, who remembered our names.
The next day we met up with Ben (our other sister, Dawn’s friend) with his god-daughter Tallulah. Ben is such a fascinating guy. After lunch and a thought-provoking conversation about spirituality, he showed us around his workplace. He set up Bamboo Bridge, a non-profit organisation in Ho Chi Minh, providing opportunities, training and support including micro-financing to disadvantaged people and those facing difficulty to have a brighter future.
Unfortunately, the rest of the team were away at a wedding; it would have been great to meet them. However, we saw some tangible results; beautiful homemade cards and well-made leather belts in wooden boxes that are being sold here and in the UK. I so admire people having faith and balls to set up these social enterprises, making a difference to people’s lives.
In the evening, we met up with Ben, Miriam, Tallulah, together with Colin and Kate, who kindly let us stay in their apartment in late January. After a few drinks and a delicious meal, some of us went for karaoke.
Sadly the Wi-Fi wasn’t working, which limited the song choice. However, we did manage to all belt out Bohemian Rhapsody and find Jackson 5's Rockin Robin. This brought back memories of when Jac and I sang this at a holiday camp talent competition over 45 years ago. We stood on the stage, started to sing and I proceeded to get the giggles, leaving Jac to sing on her own. Needless to say, we didn't get through to the next round!
The next day we had a coach to catch for our 7 hours journey to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. At breakfast, I was grouchy and snapped at Jac - the dynamics of sisterhood. My behaviour bothered me. I definitely needed to work on myself to enhance my connectedness to my lovely, dear sister.
Gratefully, Tim and I had an enriching conversation on the bus. Through deep listening and self-coaching, I realised what my irritation was about and more importantly was shocked at my lack of respect. The lesson is being learnt. We also unpacked the difference and impact of active listening versus deep listening. We’ve had some incredible conversations when travelling on long journeys—the time and space plus sitting next to one another rather than opposite works well.
The rest of the journey was uneventful, passport control was smooth, with our bags going through the x-ray machine with no-one there to look at the screen. Fortunately, the coach driver agreed to drop us off nearer to our accommodation, so after a 15-minute trundle with our bags through dusty streets, we arrived at Holland House and met Petra and Benjamin, the owners.
They beckoned us to sit down for a drink, what a wonderful welcome. We sat chatting for ages, hearing how they lived and worked in China for the last 16 years, but decided to move out a couple of years ago. We do meet people that have fascinating lives. As we sat listening, something caught my eye. There behind me was a brilliant portrait of the pair of them depicting a bit about their characters. We think we’re going to like staying here. Perhaps we’ll stay here longer.