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Meeting at the Embassy



I went to the Vietnamese embassy yesterday morning. I had to go and get the document that will allow me to enter the country with my father's ashes.


I went to the Vietnamese embassy yesterday morning. I had to go and get the document that will allow me to enter the country with my father's ashes.


I was sitting quietly in the waiting room when a couple from Quebec entered. They applied for three visas, to be prepared the same day. They then took a seat next to me in the cramped space that served as a waiting room. The conversation about our travel plans started naturally.


- How long will you be gone?

- Seven weeks.

- You'll arrive in Hanoi?

- Yes, and I leave from Saigon.

- Are you planning to travel by train or bus?

- Actually, I'm going across the country on a motorcycle.

- Wow! So you must ride a motorcycle here.

- No. But I took a course.

- You speak Vietnamese?

- Only a few words.

- And are you going with someone?

- No, I'm going alone.


There followed a long silence. Both of them looked at me with a look of deep confusion. Then, as it always happens, the confusion gave way to fear. A fear about which they soon talked to me.


I have seen this reaction many times. Among family members, friends, colleagues. They are afraid for me. But this fear that we say we have for others is in reality the fear we have for ourselves when we project ourselves into the life of the other. For this man and woman, it was the fear of being in Vietnam, with a motorcycle in hand, immersed in a foreign environment and confronted with their solitude.


I don't have that fear.


For the last five weeks of his life, I kept company with my father as he died. I spent every day at his bedside, several hours a day. I saw in his eyes his unfinished dreams. I held in my arms the sobs of his regrets.


If I let my fears guide me, I could come up with a thousand excuses not to make this trip. But the fact that I don't speak Vietnamese or know how to ride a motorcycle is of no importance to me. It doesn't even matter if my motorcycle breaks down in the middle of nowhere. Or that someone would attack me and take my stuff.


I've been wanting to make this trip to trace my origins for a long time. But the ideal conditions were never there; I lacked either the time or the money. In fact, I lacked the freedom to make such a decision. My life had been filled with attachments that kept me from going so far and so long.


And then suddenly, those ties were broken. The day I found myself alone was the same day I found my freedom. Today, I am thirty-one years old, single and childless. Soon, my life will be filled with family and marital obligations that will no longer allow me to undertake such a self-centered project. I have a small window of opportunity to take this adventurous journey, which promises to be a great inner journey.


So, I am taking a chance.



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