About the person who asked for the book....

Back in April this year, I was sitting in a funky "sidewalk" bar in My Khe, Vietnam writing an email to a friend who was on his way to Jogjakarta, Indonesia.

My correspondent wanted to know if there were any beaches and volcanoes near Jogja. So I was working on this when... out of the blue - a woman started asking me about Sarawak. She had noticed I was wearing a shirt with a Borneo motif as she was walking by. So she pulled up a stool and we talked about Sarawak and the rest of Borneo for a while. And it became clear to me that she was not Vietnamese. Asian, yes, but not the features and manners of a Vietnamese. Not Thai either. I can tell the differences now and was thinking she might be Malaysian or Indonesian. And she was... academic... she had a University accent. So eventually I asked her where she was from. And she said "Jogjakarta". So I asked if there were any beaches and volcanoes nearby. And she wrote down a list - which I photographed and attached to the email I was writing to my friend who was on his way there.
Magic, eh.

And then... when I told her I was from Canada, she said; "Oh... I've just come from Hamilton, Ontario"..... and explained that she's working on a PhD in Religious Studies at McMasters U.
How interesting.

And at some point - when she realized I was a native English speaker and seasoned traveler - she asked if I could proof read an article she had written about tourism. It's  called "Managing Heart in South East Asian style:- A thought on Fusion of  ‘Hospitality Business’ and Traditional Hospitality". It was extremely interesting to me. She says it was "inspired by the genuine friendliness of Da Nang" - and she had written it for the Huffington Post, where she's a regular contributor. This is her latest. "Understanding the Islamic concept “Inshallah” through Psychogeography" [I attached the tourism article]

Now some of this seemed a bit incredulous to me. After all... I've been cleverly scammed in Indonesia - and she's Indonesian - and started this interaction - - and I'm still happily naive yada yada - so I "fact checked" her. And found her c.v. and publications and other stuff that confirmed everything she said.

So we met again the next morning to discuss the tourism article and had a great conversation. And over the next 6 weeks or so we met for coffee and "brainstorming" pretty well every day.

And in the process I learned a lot. This is a very interesting person.

For starters...
Her name is Ngatini Ngatini (Tini) - or
Arendtwannabe Hanna on Facebook ("want to be Hanna Arendt" Indonesian style). She is Javanese (as opposed to Indonesian (she would say)). But she's not really from Jogjakarta, which is a very Westernized and liberal city. Au contraire, she's from a conservative Muslim Sultanate in the interior. Her mother is Muslim (full burqa) but her father was Hindu, and that was her preference as a child. But when the father died, the mother - and ambient culture - forced her to become (strict) Muslim. And she did not like this (to say the least). So she ran off to Jogja. Which is a pretty serious thing to do in her world.. well, problematic, at least - to be an apostate Muslim female in southern Java. So she.. she  researched... the whole ball of wax - "the secular consequences of adopting a given religion" she said somewhere - "legal, political, philosophical, cultural, etc" - and she became involved in Religious Studies at U of Jogja, which she described as being a secular and socio-political interest, rather than spiritual. She also may have said or implied that it was "opportunistic". After completing her BA she "escaped Java" on a Fullbright Scholaship to do her Masters in Florida. And then she was accepted into the PhD in program at McMasters. The Huff Post articles and other stuff she does are credited to her PhD program. She also establishes "learning centres" everywhere she goes - "teaching" English and Western culture to Vietnamese who want to work in the tourism industry (which is new and becominhg important to Vietnam). This is typical - Asians teaching English and Western culture to other Asians. But Tini is different. Asian, yes, but she lived in Florida and Ontario for several years. And she speaks very little Vietnamese - which forces her students to speak English. Etc...

And then... a few days before I left Da Nang, Tini went south to Da Lat to help start up a newly opened restaurant, then to Cambodia on a visa run, and returned to Hanoi, where she took a barista course and now works in a fancy coffee house. (Coffee is a big deal in Vietnam - a custom adopted from the French, maybe - very good coffee - everywhere). And she has established another learning centre in Hanoi. And all along we've been maintaining a conversation over messenger.com. Online chat. Pretty much daily. When she's waking up and I'm going to sleep.

There are more oddities to this story - like how Tini got involved in trying to sell a pizza joint in Da Lat to a buddy in Cache Creek, but I'll leave it at that.

And now... I'll be going back to Vietnam. Oct 20.
And by far the best flight... coincidentally... honestly.... A bit of detail - last year the best flight to SEA was offered by Vietnam Air to Saigon via Taipei for $795 but it didn't work out and they cancelled it. But this year they co-share with China Airlines - but to Hanoi instead of Saigon - for $820 - and there are plenty of empty seats. So I booked it.
Yes, Hanoi. Coincidentally. And Tini is still there. So.... to be continued....

But she talks about going back to McMasters - and some kind of Buddhist thing in Nepal - and other ideas. She considers herself to be Buddhist now. And she's a wanderer.

So... I have an interesting friend at my first destination of this journey.
And I'll deliver the book.