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Lost in Translation

By William on Wed, Apr 29th 09 at 01:58PM | Permalink | Comments (6)

While exploring Vietnam by motorbike, I had a very strange encounter with some Vietnamese farmers.  Sam has already detailed the beginning of this scene in his recent blog, but he did not explain what happened to me afterwards.

I had had a few shots of their very strong alcohol, not as many as Sam but enough to feel a little light headed, and we headed off down the road to find a place to recover.  A little ways down the road, I realized that I had forgotten the map back at the house we'd stopped in.  We had gotten it out to verify with them that we knew where we were going.  I knew it would be near impossible to find an English map outside of an tourist areas, so I decided to head back and get it while Sam waited for me by the road.

When I got to the place, I was greeted by smiles and handshakes just like before.  I tried to tell them that I had forgotten my map, but of course they didn't understand.  Then I noticed it sitting on the table by where we had sat, so I went over and picked it up.  It was at that point the atmosphere somehow changed, and I must admit the scene is now a bit blurry in my mind.

As soon as I picked up the map, one of the guys walked over and took it from me.  He started pointing on the map and talking to me, but of course I couldn't understand what he was saying.  I assumed he was talking again about where we were going, so I tried to indicate on the map that we were headed to Cat Ba Island.  He just kept talking to me and pointing at the map.

At this point I started to get a little frustrated, I just wanted to take my map and hit the road.  When I tried to take it he wouldn't let me have it.  I reached for it again and this time he grabbed my wrist with his other hand.  I tried to tell him I just want the map so I can go, but obviously he still didn't understand.  I tried to pull my arm away but he tightened his grip and wouldn't let go.

That was when I decided I just need to get out of there.  I quickly grabbed the map with one hand and using a simple self defense move, broke his grip on my wrist and backed off.  Another of the previously friendly guys came over and they both stood between me and my motorbike, talking to me and pointing at the map.  I had no idea what this was all about, but I knew it was time for me to leave.  I quickly pushed passed them, jumped on the bike and rode off, a bit shaken and extremely confused.

Obviously I had missed something in the exchange.  I had just come back to get my map.  Didn't they understand that?  The only thing I could thing of was that maybe they'd thought I had given them the map as a gift, and when I took it back they got angry.  It didn't seem that way though, it was more like they were trying to show me something on the map.  I guess I'll never know.

 

Photo by ImageMD.

Comments

Corey T wrote on April 29th 09 at 02:12PM
Gulp. Very interesting.

It's a shame a language or cultural difference kind of cast a shadow on what would have otherwise been a positive experience.

I guess what "really" happened will remain a mystery.
KellyandEllie wrote on April 29th 09 at 03:04PM
Maybe he didn't want you to drive drunk?
Mom wrote on May 1st 09 at 05:45PM
On the plane to Seattle we spoke to a woman who travels a lot. She said you can stay in Monasteries and Convents in Italy for practically nothing. You might want to check it out. She said just google it. Your blog was really scary!!
Arun wrote on May 4th 09 at 03:04AM
I can't think of anything either.

New here.. Came through LP.

Having wanted to travel to Vietnam for sometime, I had somehow assumed many years of American presence would have spread some English there.
Fun Lilliy wrote on May 14th 09 at 11:08PM
that was scary.. glad you came out of it alright.. safe journey..
Nguyen le Phong wrote on October 22nd 09 at 01:31AM
I, a Vietnamese, do not understand either :)) If you got photo of them and the house then I can tell, but guess they want some money, haha. Not every1 is nice and friendly here
The incredible story of how two recent college grads are traveling around the world on an impossible budget.
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