I arrived in Hanoi two days ago at 10 p.m.. When I arrived at the apartment I rented, the owner, Dong, and her partner Narelle, who live in the apartment above mine, came out to the taxi to greet me. They helped me get my luggage upstairs and spent almost an hour with me, showing me how things worked in the apartment, chatting about the neighborhood, and sharing tips about getting around town and shopping for things. They had stocked the refrigerator with breakfast items—eggs, bread, strawberry jam, cheese, milk—and coffee, tea, and drinking water were available. In the bathroom, there was toilet paper, soap, towels and shampoo. The kitchen is well equipped for cooking and some basic items, like salt, pepper, flour, sugar, and cooking oil were on a shelf. I really appreciated what had been provided, as well as their warm welcome. This was quite a contrast to Bangkok, where there was absolutely nothing in the apartment—not even a starter roll of toilet paper.
The next day, Narelle toured me around the neighborhood, took me to buy a SIM card for my phone, arranged for my laundry to be done, got me a map of the city, and showed me where the nearest grocery store is, which I never would have found without her. She waited while I bought a few groceries and then invited me to join her and Dong for lunch. After lunch, she offered to review my tentative list of sights to see and restaurants to try, and she and Dong gave their opinions.
Today, I woke up feeling like crap. After I’ve flown, I usually take some medicine to boost my immune system, because there are always inconsiderate coughers and sneezers expelling their germs into the airplane air to be circulated my way. I was really tired by the time I got settled into this apartment and forgot to take the medicine. So, of course, I got sick. Narelle called this morning to tell me my laundry was ready to be picked up and learned that I wasn’t feeling well. She offered to get my laundry for me, and she and Dong stopped by late this morning. In addition to my laundry, they brought me two bags of fruit and a bouquet of roses that really smell like roses (remember when?). They offered to make me lunch, but I’d already had a sandwich, and later brought me an extra blanket to make sure I stayed warm.
This world is overflowing with nice people. I meet them everywhere I go. And then there are the angels. These are people who extend themselves to you in ways that touch your heart and bring tears to your eyes. I met angels in Italy—the couple I stayed with for the last three weeks who treated me with incredible generosity and hospitality and my other penpal in Cassino who hosted me for a weekend and was also extremely generous and gracious—these were people I had come to know through our correspondence before I arrived in Italy. And I met angels in Thailand--the young couple in Bangkok who spent a weekend orienting me to the city and the women in Bangkok and ChiangMai who responded to the email I sent through an expat website, seeking to meet new friends in these places. Then there were people I just met along the way who showed me extraordinary kindness—the fruit and vegetable vendor in Sicily who always made sure I left with the best he had to offer and the man who waited for me to return to my car, then spent over an hour trying to help me resolve a computer problem he heard about from the owner of the store where I had tried to get help. These people went beyond courtesy to give something of themselves to me.
Angels aren’t as plentiful as nice people. They’re a rare breed that leave an indelible impression on you. I’m happy that there are so many nice people in the world—that knowledge enables me to travel without fear, knowing that there will always be people willing to take a minute to help me find my way. But I feel blessed to have encountered these angels who open their hearts and connect with mine.