Thursday, 16 July 2015

finding happiness...

As I touch down on home (Singapore for me), all I take back from my week-long holiday in Vietnam are some quiet and touching moments, spent in Hoi An and a few inspirations from people I came across in the last week-living imperfect lives but with no complaints.

Our first leg- Hoi An turned out to be a sheer surprise. A quaint little (mostly cycling and walking) town highly spirited and full of history set the right pace to start this holiday. We spent a whole day walking around the 'Old Town' discovering the alleys and making random pit stops at cafes, stores and historical sites.

During our 2- day stay apart from visiting the usual eateries and bars, our idea was to undertake some activity that would take us a bit into the back and beyond and show us the   'real' Vietnam. One such highly recommended tour (on Tripadvisor) was a cycling tour of the nearby islands/villages. Our internet search led us to a leading bicycle tour company- Heaven and Earth, and we chose a 6-hour (half day) tour.

The morning of our tour we had two smart, petite girls (in their early 20's), who came on their scooty's and picked us from the hotel. On reaching their office, the cycles were tested and we were briefed that it was going to be a hot and long day with different modes of transports- ferry, cycle, walk. Of course with the sole objective of getting us to see the rustic side up and close.

Quick and me!
Our guide for the day- Kute (pronounced cute but nicknamed 'quick'), was this little girl in her early 20's! She was extremely warm and cheerful. If our life intrigued her, her background, her work, her family life intrigued me. She had tonnes of questions along the day on Singapore, India, our kids, Adi (my husband-and his interest for photography).

And I had a lot of questions for her- how did she get to this job? Doesn't she get bored and tired doing this everyday? Her personal life- Her parents (who live in a remote village very far away from her), siblings, boyfriend! She was more than happy to answer every question and had a constant smile on her face through the day! I can surely say, if not for her this trip would not have been half as fun and memorable!
  From one village to another..

Every moment spent on that 6-hour tour was touching. Be it passing through the quaint villages, the vast rice paddy fields, entering locked family Buddhist temples and exploring them, seeing rice wine being made inside a little hut, or watching a 75- year old lady sew cane mats that she still sells for a livelihood. Belonging to India, poverty or villages are not new to me. But there was one stark difference here-  each person we met, looked happy and content...even a stranger or a little kid would smile at us while we cycled through their village and not fail to say 'CAM AN' (thanks in Vietnamese!)

Stacey performing 'Gangnam style'
Madam Phuong (or lovingly called 'Stacey')- our 60- year old bamboo boat trainer also needs a special mention. I wonder what excited her more- singing 'Gangnam style' along with us or teaching us how to ride that 'so tough to balance' bamboo boat. And am certain this feeling was not unique to us. She must be doing this with every tourist who lands up at her door step every day for that boat ride!

So what was so special about this holiday? I probably thought I would take back memories of places I visit, bars that I drank at or the awesome food I ate! But alas, it was something totally unexpected - Stacey's zest for life, Quick's attitude of just staying happy and the Vietnamese way of life- content and warmth! Hope I can live my daily life with even half that attitude. And of course, I plan to work on my cycling skills and make sure that I am up there for my next cycling holiday! 

Sunday, 5 July 2015

bonding for the future....

As I sit by myself at the departure lounge at Bangalore airport (my hometown in India), there is a sudden 'erriness' around me..I am flying alone after a long time and that surely feels strange. This solo trip is not one of my 'girl' holidays (I think I took the last and only one 5 years ago). This trip was to drop off my girls at their grand mum and aunt's place in India for a 2-week break.

I still recollect a dinner table talk a few months back at our home in Singapore on where to head for the summer holidays. The elder one (then 7 years old) promptly  replied "a drop- off India trip". I wasn't too surprised but somewhere was a bit reluctant. The elder one had done this in the past and totally enjoyed it but it was a first for my younger one (now 3 years old). As days passed, I realized she was serious about this holiday plan and I dare not alter it. Of course conversations with the younger one also started and she seemed more than ready. I probably forgot that my nephew and my elder girl did their first such vacation when they were 3-years old too!! So this should have been easy for me! 

Well as they say easier said than done! I have had my moments of weakness in the last few days, wondering how I will kill my time in the next two weeks without the girls, will they be fine without me, will my younger one sail it through. And also an unwanted realisation that I will miss them more than they will miss me!

I often recollect my childhood holidays and talk about it to my girls- visits to my grand mum's house in Kerala, spending weeks with my cousins, as we grew even our talks maturing, meeting each other's girlfriends/ boyfriends. Little did we realise that those few weeks of catch up would bond us for life! 

My sister and my first holiday abroad  (and that too just by ourselves) was a visit to my uncle in Muscat. She was 16 years old and me just 11 years then. Till today, that was probably my most 'special' holiday. And my parents were not on that holiday with us!! 

My inner circle of cousins (today though geographically very far from me) are my closest 'whatsapp' buddies. We chat almost every day, exchange pictures/videos and even cry out some of our day's anguish. Am sure those endless games of hide and seek, hours of chatting, table tennis on the dining table had some role to play in bringing us so close...

When I was leaving my mum's home for the airport, for a moment I thought why can't I just stay here and be a part of all this fun. What am I heading back home for? A few days by myself?? I am still not sure how fruitful that is going to be. But the giggles and laughters I heard as soon I closed the door, just made my decision easier. 

Somewhere I am (hopefully) opening windows for the girls to be more independent, form their own relationships and create a path for years of future bonding. Probably when they grow up and remember their childhood holidays, this maybe a special part of their memories. And with that thought, I head back home with a smile and not tears this time around...