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. He 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
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.
And at some point - when she realized I was a seasoned traveler and a native English speaker - 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 I had returned to Da Nang specifically because I found it to be so friendly, and was puzzled by this. So I wasn't alone. 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 - and I've been scammed in Indonesia - and she started this interaction - and she's Indonesian - 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, meeting for coffee and brainstorming became a daily event.
And in the process I learned a lot. This is a very interesting person.
Her name is Ngatini Ngatini (Tini). 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 contrair, 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 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 secular and socialo-political in nature. She also may have said or implied that it was also "opportunistic". So she did her BA in Jogja and then escaped Jave 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 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).
But 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). And she has established another learning centre. And all along we've been maintaining a conversation over messenger.com. Online chat. Pretty much daily.
And now... I'll be going back to
Vietnam. Oct 20.
And by far the best flight... last year the best 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 - for $820 - and there are plenty of empty seats.
Yes, Hanoi. Coincidentally. And Tini will still be there.
But maybe she'll goes back to McMasters - or some kind of Buddhist thing in Nepal that she talks about. She considers herself to be Buddhist now.