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Visiting an Old Friend in Hoi An

Our only purpose for visiting Vietnam this year was to see our friend My (pronounced Me). We met My on our first visit to Hoi An in 2004. How we met her is actually quite an interesting story. We were originally trying to leave Hoi An the morning we met her, but that bus was full and we had to take the afternoon one. That morning, I was sleeping in and Tadashi went for one last morning walk along the river. He was taking pictures on a bridge when My approached him, said hello and started up a conversation. It turned out she was going to try to sell him a boat ride, but was clever enough not to be obvious about it (usually people just ask, “You ride on my boat?”).

Tadashi told her that he had decided to come to Hoi An because a friend of ours loves it so much. My asked him where he was from, and after he responded “California,” My said that she also had a friend from California who comes to Hoi An often. My then asked Tadashi what his friend’s name was, and he told her it was Mike Matlach. My said, “Oh! Mike Matlach! I know him – he is my friend too!”

Tadashi was of course quite suspicious; what are the odds that he’d run into the one person in that town that Mike told us about? He considered trying to trick My by commenting about what a small black man he is (really he’s a big white guy), but decided better of it. My then invited Tadashi to her boat to look at pictures and meet her family. Sure enough, there they had a picture of Mike! So it really is a small world after all. My’s family invited Tadashi and I back for lunch that afternoon. We joined them for a wonderful meal before heading up north to Hue.

Although we were originally disappointed when we were not able to get tickets for the morning bus, if we’d been on that bus we wouldn’t have met My and her wonderful family. This day taught me a really important lesson: if you don’t first get what you want, go with the flow, because something else really cool is bound to happen. Indeed, this has become our traveling philosophy.

I wrote about My’s family in a blog last summer, but I’ll remind you that they’re poor fisher-people. As there’s no fish during the winter, they have to make a whole year’s worth of money during the 7 month fishing season. Despite being so poor, they are always willing to share their food (even in the winter); I think this is a testament to how giving they are.

My is the first person in her family to go beyond 6th grade and will be graduating from high school this year. Neither of her parents were afforded the chance, nor were her 3 older brothers. She has received top marks for the first half of her senior year, and will be entering Danang University next year. Her family is, of course, extremely proud of her. Her father, Can, continues to work very hard to be able to afford her and her 2 younger siblings’ education. He’s even gone fishing on the ocean – a very dangerous job. Tadashi and I have agreed to pay half of her university tuition, although if her family has a difficult time with it, we’ll pay more.

My loves reading English literature in her free time, so we brought her a bunch of books. These are books we’ve all read in high school and university; titles such as The Old Man and The Sea and Of Mice and Men. We also brought her Tadashi’s old laptop, which unfortunately, was damaged beyond repair on the trip over (we still can’t figure out what the hell happened to that thing!!). We may end up shipping her my old laptop instead, although it may be cheaper to buy one here and ship it to her. We’ll see.


  1. Hey Katrina,

    I ran across Tadashi's photos, then blog and now yours. This is a great story. I actually have a friend who's from Vietnam and her dad was born in Hoi An!

    Have a great trip!


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