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Saturday, December 29, 2012

My Life in Vietnam part 5: Making Friends

With each day that I don't write or that I try to adjust to being back in the USA, the memories of my exodus from Vietnam seem to feel further and further away from reality. I know that what I experienced was nothing short of real, but as I think about it, it seems so implausable that quickly try and search for something physical as a reminder of the events of recent weeks. The one thing that remains true is that my story can only exist in the context of Vietnam. So I have to provide more context. In order for you to understand HOW I was thinking, you really need to suspend disbelief for a bit and consider the context. By the way, I will do my best to label facts, conjecture, speculation, my reasoning, and the unknown whenever possible.

I am a nice guy, but I could not always say this. Some years ago I worked in a call center for an online brokerage company and dealing with other people's problems all day made me cold, detached, and removed from human suffering - or perceived suffering. Then I quit that job after 5 years and started working as a financial advisor with Merrill Lynch. Working in retail advisory services is souless and cuthroat. It was just the wake up call that I needed to find my way.  

Meeting the right people during that time of my life led me to the Law of Attraction. I began to realize that chasing paper was not any way to live. Sure money is nice when you have it. It is important when you don't have it, and it is evil when you are always basing your decisions on trying to get it. I started to realize that my happy life (and I say that with some serious sarcasm) was not so happy.  Eventually I found a simple way to bring some joy back into my life. I started living by an idea. I call the idea Plus One.

Whenever I meet someone new, I want to be genuinely nice to them. If they are also nice, then we end up with a friendship that can last a life time. But this new person is not nice and is not genuine with me, then I lose all obligations to be nice to them. I can still be friendly, but if I am not I still sleep at night. The math is simple. I was nice (1), they were not (0), then I was not (0). And the other way around - I was nice (1), they were nice (1), etc.  At the end of each day, I had a tally - no, I don't write this down.  But the basic idea is that even if I only meet the most ridiculous and phoney people, I have a +1 score at the end of each day.  So I call it plus one.

Back to Vietnam. 

I met some interesting people in Vietnam.  And just like everywhere I have been since I started living by Plus One, I was open to the idea that I can be friends with any and everyone. There was T. Again, I am talking about real people and don't want to call anyone out and cause them drama with their friends. But if T reads this, he will know that I have not exaggerated or misrepresented him.

T has an addiction. I am no stranger to addictions and probably will have to write about that soon. But for now, it is not important. T's problem and joy is heroin. In Vietnam, especially Saigon, it is apparently easy to acquire and cheap. T was one of the first friends I made in Saigon. He and his girlfriend lived a floor above me in the first room I rented. He is a brilliant writer and writes with the kind of thick verbose language that makes you just want to keep reading or listening to him read. His life mate, K, is a photographer and has an eye that captures the very essence of life in the most dingy of places. The three of us all were making a living as English teachers in Saigon. Proximity and art, and the ability to talk in English made us fast friends. Although I am a bit of a loner and feel a little out of place being too tight with a couple. Don't need any perceived drama.

That being said, I thought T and I were becoming good friends. In fact, when I first moved to the building they lived in, I was often short on cash because I had been traveling for several months and spent my last bits of cash to get a room, a motorbike, clothes for work, etc. He would often just hand me a few hundred thousand VND - $5 to $15 dollars. In Saigon, I could live for a week on $15 if I really stuck to the basic needs. After the first couple of paychecks came in, this situation quickly reversed. This was when I learned about T's affinity for heroin.

Kicking habits is not easy. I cannot count the number of times I have wanted to quit smoking and failed miserably. T had mentioned that he was trying to break his habit and this was percipitated by the fact that K had vowed to end their relationship if he did not. He started asking if he could keep things in my room for a few hours here or there. I said yes because I have never used heroin. 

This was probably not the best idea. If I had known then that my room was not secure and that all of my activites were monitored, I would have probably said no, I can't let you keep things here. Some one might think it belongs to me.

More to come . . .
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