04 April 2010

Saigon shoe shine man... - middle class guilt... - life the universe and everything

The rich guy. At Fanny's Café, Saigon CBD.
"Excuse me Sir, Shoe shine ?"     
"Ten thousand."
My usual reaction has always been, NO!, mixed with a healthy dose of annoyance that I was being targeted, pested and seen as a rich tourist. Add to that a touch of guilt.
After all if you give in to 'them' they'll pester you all the more. 
But then there was that touch of guilt. 

Today I realized, I was rich.
I wasn't travelling as a backpacker.
I had enough money. I was sitting at Fanny's ice cream palour and Café spending 30,000 Dong for a ball of ice cream.

Yea sure compared to the pundits of superannuation in-security back home I was poor. 
I didn't have the AUD $800,000 I needed for comfortable retirement. 
I wasn't even trying for it. 
My contemporaries had houses and investment portfolios, I made $122 daytrading in shares in 4 weeks. 

But compared to the guy asking to polish my shoes, I was unbelievably wealthy. I have money, knowledge, degrees, abilities, experience, and friends and family who would support me in tough times. 
I have nothing to worry about.
Top left corner: my sandals being polished.

But what got me today were two things: 

1) I realized how much I had. He was humble. I felt no resentment from him. I'd be damn resentful if I had to work as a shoe shine boy.
2) I'm 50. I'm not going to be here forever. I'm mortal. 
Life is NOW!.
I didn't care about keeping up some great system of "don't give in to 'them' ". 
I didn't care about "it won't solve the problem at its deepest root"
No it won't. 

So I gave him my sandals. Old worn leather Teva sandals. 
He spent a long time on them, polishing them better then they ever been polished.

"Thanks they look great"
I paid him, 10,000 Dong and some extra. 

I'm not used to be being called Sir. 
"Who is he calling Sir ? Why ? I'm not a 'sir' I'm just an average scared little kid backpacking round the world."
There's a little boy, inside me, an eighteen year old backpacker who hasn't grown up yet.

The world is too big for me to fix it all, this is all I could do.
Let Gandhi and the heros do their stuff, I don't worry about big system, big picture anymore. 
The Universe is smart enough to work it out. 
I just gotta do what I can NOW. However small that is. 

Saigon, 4Apr10 Easter Sunday.

The view from the office desk: 
Working at Fanny's Café, Saigon, CBD.

Aswan, Egypt, Tombs of the Nobles