I went with my brother to visit his mother.

The decision to travel to Vietnam felt inspired by some unknown force. It felt like a manifestation I had created. I had very little doubt I was meant to go on this trip with Kin.

Langbiang Mountain – De Lat elevation 7,110

My brother Kin and I were greeted at the local airport outside the village of Da Me with bouquets of flowers from his nieces. Ruth handed me a beautiful bouquet of roses in all shades of pink and yellow, splays of greenery and her eager personality. She was forthcoming, gracious and intimate with her kindness. I noticed this with the two other nieces who met us at the larger airport in Ho Chi Minh city they day before. They came forward immediately and gently guided us with light touches to the small of my back that instantly felt warm and sisterly. I would soon learn they were the young progressives of the family. The children of the villagers who ventured out into the big city to be able to expand past their tribal lives.

When we arrived at Kin’s mother’s house (Grandmother) just a few minutes ride in the “Big Boy” – a late model blue Toyota Highlander Kin’s brother Ha’Lin had purchased a few months before, his driver and one other gentleman who I believe was a brother-in-law and Kin’s two nieces. My first thought was that all the girls looked so young, and the older men looked so old. The men’s skin looks like warn sixty-year-old leather that had been given birth in the full sun, and had worked every single day since then. Which of course, these men have been doing. No desk jobs for the Montagards living in the villages. They are mostly farmers growing the food their family needs to eat with a little left over to sell in the market.

Kin hugging his mother.

Our arrival was a celebration the whole village knew about. Kin’s mother was ninety-eight years old and had given birth to eleven children, survived a war while her husband, the local pastor, was in a re-education camp for two years, buried a few of her own children and was now meeting her eldest son for the sixth time in fifty years. The child who left. The prodigal son was returning home and she was waiting for him. Grandmother had stopped eating months before and the family was concerned for her health. Kin and his wife Mickie Skype quite often with the family from their home in Rhode Island. The Koho Montagards are a poor people but their wifi service is excellent. Kin had told his mother to keep eating and stay strong because he was coming home for a visit. The other family members and villagers were there to witness the mother and son reunion. Tears and hugs were abundant. Touching, grasping, kissing and snuggling on the couch and taking pictures. Grandmother kept looking up into Kin’s eyes with amazement. I think she was trying to recall or decided if the image she was seeing was real. She caressed him constantly like a mother cat would to her kitten. I sat on the other side of her and she took my hand which sat in my lap with her surprisingly strong grip. Grandmother didn’t let go of either one of us. If we moved or adjusted our body or hands, she adjusted with us. Ruth sat across from us on a matching small couch where she was Skyping the whole reunion with Mickie back home. I felt Grandmother’s small leathery hand in mine and knew this is why I had come.

The room was small and simple white painted paneling. It reminded me of a basement room from the 70’s with drop ceiling, plastic chairs, linoleum floor and simple furnishings. The windows were open and I could smell the earth just outside but it was pitch dark. I could hear the sounds of singing at the Karaoke bar a couple of yards away, across the dirt courtyard. The windows had molding that was painted a silver metallic color. I found that amusing thinking about who picked out the paint color and did they get it on sale. Kin had mentioned that they had “spruced the place up” knowing that I was coming. They wanted me to be comfortable. I can’t say that I was. Brothers and brother-in-laws streamed into the room to greet us and shake my hand and to give Kin a hug. Most of the men were missing a large portion of their teeth as were some of the women. I met a few of Kin’s sisters and sister-in-laws. They all wore knee length dresses and a light matching sweaters. The sisters smiled a lot and gave reassuring nods to me. They had on necklaces and earrings and slipped into house sandals to walk across the linoleum floor.

In America, we are taught to be fearful of anyone who has bad teeth. Bad teeth means bad people. All the scary villains in the movies are missing teeth. Homeless people are missing teeth. Poor people are missing teeth. Why is this? Why do we associate someone’s likability with teeth? I soon realized these are the most kindest, gracious people.

The anxious feeling of traveling half way around the world into a village where I didn’t speak the language had started to bubble up into my throat as all the people coming to greet me had neither the dental hygiene or the language I could associate with. I thought, What have I done? I can’t even leave if I wanted to. I’m at the mercy of these people. No, no, Eileen, don’t think that way.

While sitting and saying hello to friends and family I was suddenly back-handed by Grandmother. I was slapped in the mouth by the back of her incredibly strong and boney brown knuckle!

“Oh, my! I’m so sorry.” said Ruth. Besides Kin, Ruth was the only other person within miles who I could communicate with. She studied English at University and now teaches English to her students in De Lat.

I unclasped my hand from Grandmother and brought both my hands to my mouth and was completely shocked by the slap. I wasn’t even looking in her direction when it happened. I thought I was bleeding and checked by dabbing the tissue I was holding due to reunion tears a few minutes before. “She hits people she likes.” said Ruth

“She did that to Anna when she came to visit. It made her cry.” said Kin as a way of explanation that the same thing happened to his daughter a few years ago during their last visit.

I was hit off kilter and my sense of calm started to become unhinged. It felt Grandmother was swatting a fly, aiming to kill it, not giving me a love tap. Some of the men offered Kin a can of 333 beer popular in the area. They asked if I would like one. “Um, yes please.” was my immediately reply. I didn’t care that none of the women were drinking. They looked at me with some skepticism and distain when I finished my first beer at the same time Kin finished his. The beer was cold and my body knew what to do with it. I took my second beer and third beer when it was handed to me. I was keeping up with the men. If I’m going to survive this trip and get some sleep, I better find a way to relax.

“We have to go!” said Kin as he jumped up and walked out the door. “We are staying at my sister’s house and they want us to go there now. They will come over with our bags.”

I got up from the couch having my small cross-body bag that held my passport and my promotional Coca-Cola backpack that contained a few “travel safe” toiletries and walked outside into the dark. The “Big Boy” truck was no longer there. In the place were a few motor bikes. “You go on that one.” said Kin

“Wait, what? Are you serious?” I asked. We had just come from Ho Chi Minh city where the motorcyclist were absolutely insane, driving in and out of traffic, going the wrong way all while having their families or small children or dogs or office furniture sat on the back of their motorbikes. Lots of people die everyday on motor bikes in Vietnam. It’s probably hundred of people.

With the three beers thankfully in my belly, I straddled the motorbike and grasped on to a man without any teeth to sped off towards the house I would be staying at, without my luggage. I was told it was a short ride, past the karaoke bar, around the corner, past the pig pen (you could smell it) and down the road that had open puddles of water… from the pig pen?? God, I hope that doesn’t spray on my legs. I held tighter to the stranger at his waist and my knees instinctively clenched his outer thighs in a gesture too intimate for my New York sensibilities. I leaned into him, my breasts pushing up against his back as we hit a bump and my backpack pressed against my lower back that gave me a reassuring grounding feeling that I still had a connection to America. We swayed around the puddle as single unit. The stranger and I few past few buildings in the dark. The light from which poured a dreamy light onto the road. I saw a silhouette from a horse or was that a cow in the empty lot….I hope they have more beer at the house.

The pastor’s house, although I didn’t realize it that night, was a robin’s egg blue painted French looking villa, and they don’t drink alcohol. They had built the house a few years before from the original structure that was the kitchen, bathroom and shed that remained in the same location. There were about nine small bedrooms that surrounded one open living and dining room area that fed into the kitchen area where the toilet and wash room were located in the back.

The Pastors house

As custom we took off our shoes, as not to track any chicken poop inside, at the door and I was lead to my room upstairs that belonged to one of the eldest daughters. The double bed held a thin mattress with a quilted cover (the thickness of a yoga mat) I was showed how to use the mosquito net. I was shown the one bathroom in the house and the one wash room, which were down stairs, through two rooms, off the kitchen by the back shed. I was dead tired from the trip and the few hours of trying to communicate without a similar language. Now I was going to wash and go to the bathroom without much privacy. How was I going to handle this week?

Wash room

Kin had the room next door, which I was thankful for. He had originally said he was going to stay at his mother’s house. We had both hoped that we didn’t have to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Even Kin was scared to be walking across the house with a flashlight in hand, hoping not to run into anything or anybody.


That night I started my uncomfortable journey and the realization,

I manifested this.

You are going to be O.K. – Eileen

Wherever you are, there you are.

Day two in the village of Da Me, Vietnam

It’s 6:30 am here and I just woke up! That is huge because I’ve been waking at 2-3-4 am and having a hard time getting back to sleep. It could be due to the last two days events. A sudden invitation to a wedding. One minute we are sitting talking after breakfast with grandmother (98), the next second someone comes, she jumps up, hops on the back of the motor bike in her sweater and new turquoise knit hat and takes off. I look up from the table and see the back of her zip through the alley way. I guess we are going too!

I sat next to Kin and all the men dressed in suits. (Because Kin is the only one who I can communicate with). The women were on the other side in beautiful bright colored clothes. I Listened to a sermon for over an hour in Koho language while sitting under a sea of pink patched tents on the groom’s family front lawn while sitting on a tiny plastic stool. (That is a lesson in posture and core work) The bride and groom already had a wedding in her family church – this was just a celebration for the grooms family.

I watched people on motor bikes, children going to school, dogs, chickens, the world passed by behind the make-shift alter. I stood out as the only white women sitting in the sea of dark skinned men and closed my eyes to take it all. When the sermon was over, the plastic red stools we were sitting on were moved to the side and tables were assembled in their spot. A team of helpers who were friends or family members chipped in and helped; laying table clothes and supply each table with the utensils (tinny bowls, chop-sticks, napkins, wet naps, plastic steins, bowls, a hot plate, a sterno-like heating element, dipping sauces, bottled water) and a case of bottled soda was placed under the table.

The first course was cold and came with salads and some cold pork sausage and meets. I can’t remember the other five course but the stereo was lit and the cold or uncooked food was cooked with the help of the guest at the table. Chicken, pork, beef, seafood all came out on platters wrapped in plastic with herbs either in separate bags or laying on top of the meets. The stew was cooked to a boil right in front of you. I had a elderly gentle women sit to my right. She was being beaconed by her friends to sit with them (and all the other women) but she waved them off and stayed next to me and helped put food in my bowl. The Montagnard people are so gracious, kind and instantly warm. If they cared that I was a white women sitting with the men, they didn’t show it. Everyone greeted me with a handshake. Other women, Kin’s relatives, sat at our table and started passing around the bottles of soda.

The wedding reception lasted for hours. Over 300 people crammed every last space of the front yard. Guests were encourage to get up on stage to sing their favorite Vietnamese ballad. At one point I recognized a familiar tone. I heard a rendition of Josh Groningen …”I’ll raise you up on a Mountain”. Which made me chuckle.

I started the morning with a thought.

“Wherever you are, there you are.” We are always at home if we connect with our soul and speak to each other with that same peace and love, those emotions know no boundaries.

You are going to be O.K. – Eileen

Second Chances

Thank you for coming back. I didn’t post the first blog correctly. Here’s to second chances.

I wanted to explain why I named the blog “You are going to be O.K.”

It’s because that was the message I heard from my grandmothers who came to me while I was in the CT scan at the hospital after being hit by a Hummer. Both my grandmothers are souls without bodies, my angels. They are most certainly still around me and gave me a simple message that day.

When I heard their message, while strapped to a gurney, in a neck brace and the CT scan was humming above my head. I had awoken from the accident with my first lucid understanding that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. I should be walking in the street with my daughter. I had experienced flashes of reality like my roommate from college, Mary Ann standing at the back of the ambulance. My father yelling at me, “Eileen! Brynn is fine! Now stop screaming.” Then I was in a machine. What is happening? Is this a dream?

Why am I being passed through a machine? What is going on? Then came – my world is ending – tidal wave of fear that shot through me like a branding iron and awoke my senses. My brain was now starting to reboot and process reality again. I was alone in this room, no one to look to for answers. I don’t remember feeling any physical pain but I was scared shitless and began to cry, like soul crushing cry with deep sobs and a fountain of tears that welled in my eye sockets which eventually ran down to my ears on to the hospital sheets.

That was when they came to me. Shadows really, but I knew who they were immediately. Nanny (Mac) McAvoy was in-front and to the side of Nanny Gallagher. Nanny Gallagher, I knew came from a longer distance to be there. She not only died in 1987 but I somehow knew that she was coming from a different level than Nanny Mac. Perhaps she had learned more, done more, or achieved more in heaven during that time. This information was immediate. I instantly knew things.

“You are going to be O.K.” is what I heard.

I did not hear this through my ears as a form of sound, but came straight into my brain as information. I know they were on the right side, and the information seemed to come from that direction.

“O.K., O.K. I believe you.” was how I replied out load still sobbing and trying to catch my breath, my chest heaved. I instantly trusted their words. I had no doubt.

With that, a received a whole body chill that started at my feet and rose to the top of my head. It traveled through me like a current and I was filled with unbelievable joy. I was so happy at that moment, blissful. Nothing bothered me, I wasn’t scared any longer and I just saw my grandmothers and they told me I was going to be O.K.!

I remember being rolled back into the E.R. where my father was sitting and waiting in the room with my nurse. I grabbed my fathers hand and said, “Dad, I just saw your mother! She told me that I was going to be O.K.! I was so elated with this news and eager to share it but my father turned white and his face looked at me with disbelief and concern but I also sensed some deep acceptance of the information. The two EMT’s who had brought me to the hospital where there and wanted to see my how I was doing after being hit by a Hummer. They had thought for sure I had shattered my hip and or my back. They smiled at me from the left side of the bed. My father explained that they came back to check on me when they heard about the test results, because they didn’t believe that I hadn’t broken anything…not even a finger nail.

It had occurred to me a few months ago, six years after the accident, after a morning meditation, what if that message wasn’t just for me at that moment? What if that message from my grandmothers was meant for my whole life? I’m going to be O.K. throughout my whole life. That’s a joyful thought.

What if that message was meant to be shared with everyone? That’s a bigger, joyful thought.

YOU are going to be O.K. – Eileen

I have no business writing a blog.

I have no business going to Vietnam.

I have no business starting a blog four days before going to Vietnam. No, I have never written a blog and I have no idea what I’m doing.

I keep asking myself, “Why am I doing this?”

I question myself, my ego wants answers. However, the deep part of me keeps answering back, “Because your soul wants to do this.” I think my soul is a bit crazy but I keep following it like a lost dog who wants to get home.

Let me start by saying, “Hello” – welcome to my first blog, which I have no business in writing. There is so much I should be doing right now! Like picking up baby wipes, Cipro and vodka to pack in my luggage for the trip to the highlands of Vietnam with my “semi-adopted” brother. Was that too much for the introduction? I don’t mean to scare you, but you have to keep up — it’s a long and winding road that brought me here.

I’m a mother of three children, I own two small businesses, I help run a breast cancer charity, I deliver for Meals on Wheels, I have run a marathon, I’m writing a book, and I have been hit by a truck — actually a Hummer. [A crazy PTA mother, who was texting and hit my daughter and myself, head on, while we were walking in our neighborhood six years ago. Her license plate is “ALLZGOOD” How was that for irony? This is also a public service announcement. If you see this license plate, say a prayer and get off the road you are currently driving on, she is probably still texting while driving. And please, don’t ever text and drive. You may kill someone or have your license plate end up in a (soon to be popular) blog]

I served vegetable soup and a well done sirloin steak to the Dalai Lama when I worked as a waitress.

Surprise! The Dalai Lama is not vegan.

So, I was hit by a truck in 2012 which lead me to booking a trip to Vietnam… four days from now. The book I’m writing is about Vietnam and that’s why I’m traveling to Vietnam… in four days. Shit, I also have to pick up the neighbor’s dog from the pound and go to a middle school volleyball game later today. Did I mention I’m still sitting in my P.J’s and it’s 10:00 am.. I’m getting off track. The Dalai Lama is correct, sometimes getting hit by a truck (i.e. something you don’t want) leads you to a place full of wonder. A place I have never thought I would travel.

I have no business writing a book. I was actually in remedial writing class in first grade because I had a hard time reading and I kept getting my “b’s” and “d’s” mixed up, the stigma has followed me ever since.

“You can’t write. You can’t spell” my ego keeps telling me. But thanks to Bill Gates, we now have the computer and the computer knows how to spell for me! Suck it first grade learning disability stigma!

I’m going to let you know that I probably won’t be blogging from Vietnam since I have no idea what I’m doing – but I will eventually come back and have things to share about the journey.

You are going to be O.K. – Eileen