Sunday, October 28, 2018

A Dog's Eye: Vietnam part 1

Towards the end of our Cu Chi (pronounced goo jee) Tunnel tour, as we headed back to the bus, I stopped to sign the visitor's book. Bich had pointed it out and asked me if I wanted to write something. I said yes- would a writer ever say no to an invitation to write something? As I kept writing, Bich asked me to hurry up because our fellow tourists were probably waiting for us. When I explained to her the danger of offering a pen and a blank page to a writer, she smiled and nodded.

That little event neatly highlights two things about my recent trip to Vietnam. Firstly, the continued blossoming of our new marriage relationship, and secondly, the difficulty of nutshellizing my holiday. It was so great - undoubtedly the best holiday I've ever had -that it's hard to know where to begin recounting all the wonderful experiences I had. Therefore, I am not going to do that. Instead, I will offer just a few snapshots.

Fifteen million people live in Ho Chi Minh City which most locals still refer to as Saigon. It's a crazy, crazy town with so much to see and do. It struck me one morning late in my second week, as we were en route to meet my mum and sister at the Ducati dealership, that I had never experienced a traffic jam in Saigon. Despite the huge volume of vehicles, mostly motorcycles, and their chaotic movement, it flows. Regardless of the near misses, swerving, and the use of handheld devices by many drivers and riders, I never saw an accident. 

I know they happen - Bich had two minor accidents in one week prior to my arrival - but I was on the road for many hours, and I never saw any collisions. Even when observing from the footpaths, which are not at all people friendly (motorbikes use them, as do ubiquitous street vendors), or from the safety of one of Saigon's countless cafes and restaurants, I never saw anything go wrong on the roads.

It looks for all the world like a road system destined to perpetual choking, frequent accidents and road rage. But it works. With cars and motorbikes moving in all directions, not driving in lanes (because there usually aren't any) and right of way always taken, not given, Saigon's traffic should be a basket case...but it isn't.

This is only one amazing aspect of Vietnam: a country to which I am now perpetually bound courtesy of God giving me an angel from Saigon as my wife.

Friday, October 5, 2018

RelationDips: like father

Image result for like father movie imagesThe film Like Father, which stars Kelsey Grammar as Harry and Kristen Bell as Rachel, is a reconciliation story, and that's primarily why I loved it. There is so much brokenness in this world, so many loved ones estranged from one another, so much pain and regret. Unity and peace are relationship ideals, which we all desire, but we have to work so hard to achieve them that many people find it easier to cut people out of their lives instead.

Burning bridges is a simpler process than mending fences. Building walls is a less complicated option than tearing them down. Wait a minute! Look at those metaphors literally. The opposite is in fact true. The truth is, it requires more time, effort and care to build a wall than it does to destroy it. Logic is turned on its head when it comes to relationships.

Harry is a workaholic father who walks out on his wife and daughter, Rachel, because it is too hard. Rachel hates what her father did, but her remedy for the pain is to become a workaholic herself. (Hence the title of the film). On her wedding day, she does business on the phone outside the church while the music plays, and the congregation waits expectantly for her to walk down the aisle. The groom wonders about the delay as familiar feelings torment him. Finally she enters, but during the ceremony, her phone, which she hid inside the bouquet before entering the church, falls on to the floor. The groom pulls her aside and says he cannot marry her. She loves her job more than him.

Unbeknownst to Rachel, Harry is at the wedding.They see each other for the first time since Rachel was a child, but she runs away, upset by being jilted, and shocked to see Harry. Later he comes and knocks on the door of her apartment, thus beginning the reconciliation which initially takes place courtesy of copious amounts of alcohol at a bar, before continuing on the pre-booked honeymoon cruise.

Like Father is a very funny film with heart, and a poignant message about relationships and the choices people make.

The emotions experienced by Harry, which ultimately caused him to abandon Rachel, are not uncommon. Many men become husbands and fathers before they are emotionally mature enough. Some survive. They fight against the selfishness and learn to excel and flourish in these important relationships. Many others, flee. I doubt any of those who run from responsibility, escape the guilt and shame associated with their selfishness.

Most of us acknowledge that people are more important than things. Why then, do we live as though the reverse is true? The man who works so much that he has no time to invest in his marriage says he is providing for his family. He is doing what he has to do. Challenge! I met a man like this once. He said he had thought he was doing the right thing in making sure his wife and children had everything they needed and more, but when his marriage fell apart and his children stopped talking to him, he realized that his family wanted him, not his money.

Relationships are hard, but we are built for them. We are designed to prioritize each other. We were created to love and be loved. You don't have to look far to see evidence of how wrong we have got it. Invest in people and relationships above all else. Forgive others, forgive reconciled to one another, and find peace.