An Apology for Dinner

Buon Ma Thout, December 30th 2010

With half of my mind still on Al Servo and the twinkle twinkle little stars, I got into the car and felt something unusual. Well, I had been traveling in this car day and night since the last 3 days, so I can feel it. The car seemed to be crowded.

Ah, sitting in front next to Mr. Vu wasn't Mr. Ting, but an officer in green uniform. On my right side was another officer. Mr. Ting sat at the back with our luggage. After being stranded in the middle of a quiet dark for more than an hour although showered with twinkle twinkle little stars, sitting next to an officer in green uniform made the air for me felt more tensed. My first friend who went with me to Vietnam for our first time commented on the immigration officers at the airport,

"Those people makes me feel scared."

Exactly. I thought it was only me who felt so. I think it's because the green uniform reminds me of war movies. And, as the alphabet "V" is just next to the alphabet "W", so is "Vietnam" to "War", in my mind. I believe it's even much closer in the minds of the Vietnamese themselves.

Gabe sat next to me, between Wiwik and me. He clung to Wiwik tightly. Quiet. An unusual thing it was that he did not complain whereas something really terrible actually happened. Probably he had cried out all his tears. I expected to hear: "When I grow up and go to Vietnam, I would not take this tour again."... or sort of. At first I was surprised. And then I felt relieved, but just for a couple of seconds. The next second I felt concern. Worried, to be precised.

"We are okay, Gabe," I said while rubbing his arm.

"Yes, we are okay," Wiwik repeated.

Mr. Vu broke in. "You had gone very far away. What did you go that far for?"

I don't clearly remember his words, but obviously he was blaming us as if we had strayed away. As a matter of fact, we were physically and spiritually fine. We didn't lie when we told Gabe that we were okay. However still, I don't think we deserve to be left on our own, and worse, to be blamed. Yes, the blanket of starry sky had been a priceless experience. But, this tour we had signed in was not of no price either. Mr. Vu's words got into my nerves and I forgot completely about the 2 officers in green uniform.

"Hey!" I raised my voice. I think the window would have cracked, if I had sat by the window. No more 'Hunny Bunny Darling'. "We intended to go back to the car and I wanted to follow Mr. Tin's advice to take the asphalt covered road. We saw that the road was an asphalt road, so I thought that it would lead to the road which Mr. Tin pointed to us!"

Mr. Vu was silent. I continued.

"But on top of that, we shouldn't be left alone. We paid 195 USD for one person. 195 USD! That doesn't just include a driver, but also a guide! One - hundred - and - ninety - five - dollars!!"

"That's my fault. I'm sorry," I heard Tin from behind. "It was my mistake."

"Fine! So don't blame us then!"

"No, it's not your fault. It's mine," Tin said again.

You know what, the very most thing that can pump my blood pressure high up into the sky is that when someone wrongs me but instead of apologizing makes up reasons. I know, it takes a great deal of pride to say, "I'm sorry." But at least don't try to deny the fact.

On the other hand, I can feel like witnessing the 7th wonder of the world if someone does pronounce the word "I'm sorry." without reasoning. It would be the 8th wonder of the world for me to hear someone say, "It was my fault." but again, without reasoning.

By an exit gate Mr. Vu stopped the car. The 2 officers got off without a even word. We said "thank you" and they just went. I got off to let Tin who was sitting at the back of the car move to the front seat next to Mr. Vu. Mr. Vu drove on, Tin turned around to us.

"My friends, I'm really sorry for what had happened. I know I shouldn't have leave you. Please forgive me."

"Okay, I forgive you," I replied.

Tin gave his hand and I shook it warmly. It was for me, the 9th wonder of the world.

The next few minutes was silence. Deep silence -- until Tin turned around again, and said,

"As a token of apology, I would like to invite you to dinner. Are you willing?"

I turned to Wiwik. She nodded. I nodded.

Tin helped us check in Eden Hotel. We were in Buon Ma Thout. It was rather chilly. After giving our passports to the receptionist, Tin ushered us to the elevator. Inside the elevator he said to me,

"I want to tell you why I didn't go with you to the waterfall."

"Why?" I asked.

"It's this." He moved his collar. I saw severe scars on his shoulder up to his arm. He rolled up his trousers. Same scars on his leg.

"What happened?"

"I got a motorcycle accident."


"That's why I didn't go with you. The rocks scare me. I'm afraid I might fall again."


I was hundred percent sincere when I said I forgave him. I also can believe that he had suffered a motorcycle accident. By judging the insane swarming motorbikes in Vietnam, I can't be surprise about that. However, how can one hold a tour if one is afraid of something that would come the way. In other words, if you are afraid of rocks, don't conduct a tour to places where there are rocks. You can conduct a tour to Ben Thanh Market, for example.

We put our luggage in the room, went to the rest room, and back down to the lobby where Mr. Vu and Tin were waiting. It was a very short drive to a food stall that served Vietnamese broken rice by the side of the street. I wasn't in mood to take my SLR camera along. So I took pictures with my Nokia N86.

It was a quite street, clean, and smooth. For a Jakarta girl like me, the street itself was already something to enjoy.

Do I look exhausted? Or tempered? LOL

No, no! We weren't tempered! We didn't bend the spoon! The spoon was made of very thin metal. Maybe the cook's idea was that broken rice is best to savor with a broken spoon.

This was my choice. It was the only piece of chicken left.

Wiwik happily went for pork and ... what's that on the left? Tofu?

As long as there are eggs, Gabe will never go hungry.

On top of this meal, Tin treated us a bottle of wine from a mini mart across the street.

We returned back to Eden Hotel well fed with Vietnamese authentic meal. Something authentic has something more valuable than money. Gabe was back to whistling around the room. That's the best thing I like about him. I always admire people who can whistle a song, like Gabe.

Good night, Vietnam.

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