We walked into the “Texas Bar and Grill” in Nha Trang because one of us -*cough* Ethan *cough* – had a hankering for ribs. And from the moment we entered, the waitresses were watching the boys. The ladies standing off to the side of our table weren’t being rude or threatening and I assumed that, just like we encountered in China and to a lesser extent in Thailand, they were just curious. But it’s more than that. When she approaches to take our order, our waitress’s questions – Where are you from? How long are you traveling?- and the statements that follow suggest a different emotion – “awe.”
As a Canadian there are so many things we take for granted. The ability to travel is a big one. We may grumble as we march down to the passport office and wait in those ridiculous lines but when a few weeks, days or hours later we walk out with our shiny little blue books, we know that all that is standing between us and the planet is our ability to buy the ticket.
But this lady, who I’ll call Maria, reminded us of a different reality. She fully expects that she will never set foot outside Vietnam. Ever.
“Not even Thailand? Malaysia? Laos?” I ask.
She shakes her head.
“You need to have a lot of money,” she explains, “but you also need a visa and even if you are rich you might not get the visa.”
We Canadians need visas too. Getting one has been a nerve wracking experience every time.
Our trip was almost derailed before it began when faulty information on where we could get our Chinese visa (not from my Flight Centre Travel Agent extraordinaire) meant sleepless nights and sweaty palms in BC. We ended up having to scrap plans to visit Portland and Seattle in order to rectify.(I’m still not over that. We will get there one day.)
And to get into Vietnam we had to gamble on an online service – was it legit?- to get approval ahead of arrival and then wait patiently in a room bordered by men in military uniforms to get the necessary stamps. Each time it was time consuming and nerve wracking process but each time we eventually got what we needed.
We were able to pay the fees. We were able to get the stamps. We are able to see the world.
Sitting in the Texas restaurant, the irony isn’t lost on me. The waitress who is serving us the most American of meals will never taste it on American soil.
Those of us who have the privilege to travel owe it to those who don’t to make the most of it.
Where will 2012 take you?