Listening to Hope in Unfamiliar Voices

Quarantine in Vietnam

The photo above is where my son is in quarantine. It is where he will spend the next 3 months because the borders of Vietnam are closed and internal travel is restricted. It is on the outskirts of a national park that is usually filled with tourists. Now it is just him and the owners of the camp. To say they were reluctant to let him in is an understatement. He looks like the Brits who reintroduced the virus to their country.

A little over a month ago my son went to Vietnam. “The rent is cheap there and it’s still warm.” And so he went. And it didn’t take him long to fall in love with the country, the beauty, the people, and the food. But then things changed very quickly. Two “foreigners” from the UK flew into the Hanoi Airport and brought with them unexpected cargo, Coronavirus. It spread like wildfire and he noticed the welcoming nature of the loving and open people slowly disappear as foreigners were feared and no longer welcome. He lost his Air BnB and struggled to find another. Being over 6 feet tall, white, and with reddish hair, well he looks like he came from the UK, and actually, his ancestors did. He found a small hole in the wall where he could stay for a while but he would have to move on. He looked online and found a remote camp which would be a three hour train ride into the country. The owners told him he could come. Then the train fell through and he found a driver who would drive him the 4 hour drive. I admit, I was on pins and needles during his entire ride and I assume he was a bit nervous as well because he sent us screenshots of the car company contact info and the driver’s information as well. They drove for over 3/12 hours through beautiful, dense, green, jungle when suddenly the trees opened up and majestic mountains were before him. The driver, from the city, even stopped the car to take photos. My son exited the car, very grateful to arrive safely, and proceeded to the house. He was greeted by two very uneasy owners. Not sure why they agreed that he could come out and stay if they were uncomfortable with him being there. But they were clearly uncomfortable. After much “respectful and polite” interrogation and an agreement that he would self quarantine for 14 days, they agreed to let him stay. This is all understandable but none the less scary. How would he get back and where would he stay if they had changed their minds and said no? They told him he would have to find his own food. He asked about where to eat. They told him the restaurants and markets were closed. So he asked how he would find food especially since he agreed to be quarantined. They agreed to share their meals with him for a fee. A hefty fee at that. They are a young couple with two little children. With this camp being on the edge of a national park, which is closed, and the tourism they rely on gone, they needed the money. He promised them he pretty much sheltered in place for the past 18 days in his previous tiny place. They felt better about that and the fact that he had been in their country for almost two months. His money helps them and their shelter helps him. The young family now has hope that they will get through this and he has hope that he will too. So my son is sheltering in place in a remote camp in Vietnam. If that doesn’t make a mom’s heart pitter-patter I’m not sure what will.

A few days have now passed and he has settled in to his little room overlooking heaven. We chat daily but yesterday we had a lengthy chat about his new job which pays his new lodging. He tutors through an online English program. People from all over the world call him and he converses with them in English. He speaks with people from South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and many other countries. The topics tend to be light. Food, travel, family. But as we can imagine the topic of conversation lately centers around the impacts of the coronavirus. The number one question he is asked is, “Why is it so bad in America?” He struggles to reply in a way that makes sense. But the more he explains the more intelligent the questions are that they ask him. They want details about US policy, economy, politics. Which always leads to the next question he is asked, “How did trump happen?” For a year and a half he has spoken with people from other countries who have traded room and board for his help with installing walkways, painting rooms or fences, putting in gardens, etc. And for a year and a half he has had to answer that exact question. But he notices something else that is hiding in that question. First it’s usually out of curiosity that they ask, then the fear always shows its face. They are afraid of trump. They have seen him before. And they know what a fascist and nationalist looks like and sounds like. And they recognize that in him.

But something else was revealed by these phone calls. Some young men are at home, really at home, for the first time. They are with their wives and children full time, for the first time. I thought they were complaining about it but he said, “On the contrary. They love it. The didn’t know how much their wives did and how much fun their children are.” If that one thing comes out of this horribleness than… well I won’t say it was worth it because precious lives have been lost and more will certainly be. But it’s the flip side of this horror. This unearthed love that is so desperately needed. The dads need it as much as the moms and kids. We must come out of this kinder, gentler, more compassionate. We must recognize the need for families to come first and do everything in our collective power to make that a reality. For our families, our communities, and for the Earth. I think I heard something new in his voice. For the first time in his life he can feel it, hope. That gives me hope too.

My son is in quarantine in Vietnam. He is safe. I wish we were all so lucky. Stay safe. Stay at home unless you are one of the essential heroes keeping the rest of us going. If you are one of them, stay safe and thank you. You will go down in history as the heroes of this incredibly difficult time.

Help each other. Reach out if you need to and we will all need to. This is going to be a long haul.

Stay safe; love you all,

Mary

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