Don’t judge a book by its cover
I always like to go for a walk or run when I hit a new place to check out the area but it’s not always easy to run through a city, I love running through London but I know it so well, can find my way and dodge the crowds. However, its a little trickier in other crowded cities as I don’t know where I’m going, don’t want to get ‘too’ lost and have to battle with the culture of the road: millions of bikes, Tuk Tuk’s, Jeepney’s, cows, donkeys, buffalo, tricycles, tripeds, side cars, street vendors, tourists, elephants, crocodiles, rhinos, cats and dogs and god knows what else I’ve seen on the road in the last few months.
Todays walk around Manila was a good one as I felt bad about my pre judgement on Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and realised what my issues are with the Asian cities that I visited, so didn’t want to judge a book by it cover… I thought of a million things to write about, most of which I’ve forgotten now and they all sounded great when I talk about them in my head but putting it down on paper, especially a few hours later, is so much harder plus I realised that I’m actually not that good at writing, the conventional way anyway.
TIP: always put notes in your phone
I’ve never been much of a reader, so my grammar, vocabulary and punctuation is awful. I think I’m good at explaining feelings and thoughts but when it comes to describing a place and it’s surroundings I’m awful, so its hard for me to set the scene but lets give it a go. (See look even there I couldn’t think of another word but ‘awful’…that’s ‘awful’).
So I step out of the hotel, man on the right says hello, his wearing a suit as works in the hotel, and there is a big wall in front of me surrounding the park area, a few cars parked and bikes whizzing by. How’s that? Got the picture? No me neither…basically I walked around manila which is crazy, a little bit dirty, wires everywhere, bins, rubbish on the floor, bikes parked up and people standing around waiting for their next job, or sleeping. Street stalls selling a range of food from nuts to fried squid, noodle soup and shark fin dim sum, busy streets, mainly cars, with long tuk tuk styles buses called ‘Jeepney’s’ (designed from American war jeeps), a pretty humid day and smog filling the air…but here’s a few pictures jut in case you still cant get it 😉
As I wondered around I was struggling to NOT… to judge a book by its cover but then I realised my frustration, which is really my own OCD…the heat. I can’t stand being sweaty, that tied in with not knowing where I’m going, where to eat, where the cool spots are, where to chill and where to get a real feel for the city but this is the same anywhere, unless you’re in a cool little beach spot with one reggae bar, you’re always going to struggle to find the good spots. So suck it up get sweaty and walk around.
It actually became quite an inspiring walk as first I met a guy in Wendy’s (yes I had Wendy’s, I got lost and saw it and it just happened, and I even super-sized it, anyway that’s not the point), the guy that worked in Wendy’s was so happy to serve me and talk to me and make sure everything was ok, he came over twice to check if I needed anything, asked if my arm was ok (due to my deadly insect bite) and admired my tattoo. We started talking and I found out that he travels 2.5hrs a day for his job at Wendy’s…that’s EACH WAY. His mum cooks for the family, his dad cant work as broke his hip so his younger brother looks after them and he, Eduardo, is just thankful that he can work and provide for his family. Wow…that smacked me back to reality – here I am travelling the world, second time over, setting up a business, a blog, moving to Australia and starting a new chapter which is tough BUT… the point is… I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY. Its not easy setting up a business as I’m discovering, especially when building this blog and planning a new move ,and your business partner is the other side of the world, so every week we face a new obstacle but we’re building great programmes, even thought its taken longer than expected BUT the point is… I HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY.
We forget what goes on around the world and that’s why I love travelling so much and setting up these kind of projects to open peoples eyes and help these communities. It puts everything into perspective, makes you appreciate things more, reminds you about the simple things in life, the important ‘stuff’, like friends, family, home, food, a nice day or the feeling of sand between your toes, a good meal or nice glass of red. Buts it not just about making ourselves feel better, its about helping the less fortunate, its about giving them an opportunity.
One thing I did notice about Manila and certainly HCMC, which I did start to like after a few days, is the community…it’s amazing. Whether its street vendors that are so dirty I want to take them home and wash them, actually I don’t want to touch them (OCD) I just hold my breath and walk past, but seriously its the interaction and fun they have with each other on the side of the street; motorbike drivers having banter with each other in between shouting at tourists or sleeping on bikes which is certainly one of the most impressive things I’ve seen; kids playing in the parks, practising school rehearsals; ballroom dancing; badminton; card games; running; yoga; playing; kissing; drinking; eating; enjoying life and what they have around them…It’s clear some of them aren’t so fortunate: the street beggars, the street kids, the homeless, the sick, you can see the sadness in their deep dark eyes, wrinkled sunburnt skin, torn and dirty clothes and bare feet, walking, crawling and sleeping along the littered sidewalks. BUT there is still something about the community in the cities that I have visited through out the last few months that WE have definitely lost!
A friend of mine had a bike accident in Vietnam, he came around a corner and couldn’t make the turn due the bad road conditions and slipped off the side of the road. The bike fell into a stream and he smashed into the wall busting his knee and wrist. He climbed to the road side and the first bike that drove past stopped and turned for him, made a few calls and within a few minutes another few bikes arrived and a few minutes after that a policeman turned up and a few minutes after that a truck, which they all helped to pull the bike from the water and load up to before taking him to hospital, booking him a hotel and helping him arrange to ship the bike to HCMC. Now that’s a community! I wonder how many bikes would drive pass in London before they stop and help?
I had a pre-judgement of Vietnam as I’d been there before, but clearly last time I didn’t get to know it well enough. Don’t judge a book by its cover as every place is different…WHY?
The same reason I believe I’m different…we’re people…and our culture, our ways, our history, our traditions, are different and that’s what makes us who we are and what makes our communities what they are!