The Giving Keys - Chang Gang

The Giving Keys - Chang Gang

Well my permanent time in Vietnam is coming to an end shortly, but before I go into more about that I thought I would share with you a story about my friend Trang.  Which in Vietnamese is sort of pronounced “Cjhang.”  Yes, the “Cjh” noise is on purpose, it is like a blend of Ch and J.  I am a person who gives everyone a nickname and gave Trang close to 5 nicknames these past 5 months, but the one that seemed to stick the most was, “Chang Gang!”  Chang Gang had no particular meaning other than the fact that it rhymed.

I assume a lot of people will immediately assume this was a romantic relationship.  To be clear, Chang and I never had a romantic fling of any sorts.  Our friendship was strictly platonic.

There were plenty of Vietnamese people who thought that we were a couple.  Being in Vietnam it is very odd to see people of the opposite sex out together by themselves who are just friends.  Let alone a foreign man with a Vietnamese woman.  Everywhere we went other Vietnamese would ask her if we were together and mention to her that I was a handsome gentleman.  Although I can’t understand Vietnamese because I’m tone deaf I always knew what they were saying by the look on her face. 

For those of you who know me, of course I couldn’t just let this moment pass without comment.  I always had to tease Chang Gang a little and remind her how lucky she was to be out with a strappingly attractive man like myself. Modesty is another one of those virtues like patience I’m not very good at, but in all fairness in the USA people hardly ever comment on the handsomeness a man-stranger. Except amongst close guy friends who are not embarrassed to tell their buddies they look “fresh.”  Typically, it is the women in the USA who get this attention so it felt nice to have that turned around for a change. Vietnamese strangers (men and women) have no problem complementing a man for being attractive. It is an admirable quality of the culture here.

But that fact is I was the lucky one to meet and have gotten to know Chang Gang so well.  She helped me translate my way through Vietnam, was always there to take my calls or texts when I had questions and helped me to understand the Vietnamese lifestyle better.  Because of her I was able to engrain myself into the culture much faster than most people could in 5 months.  I am nowhere near an expert on everything that goes on in this country, but in the time I’ve been here I feel like I’ve been able to learn more about the Vietnamese way of life because of Trang than had gotten to know her.

What I most admired about Trang is her risk taker attitude. It is of my opinion she should be a role model to other individuals in Vietnam and around the world who want to experience more than the societal norm.  She took a leap of faith, quit her job and moved away from home for two months to grow as a person and study English to prepare for a literacy exam.  At some point, she hopes to apply for a scholarship and study at a University outside of Vietnam.  This isn’t uncommon for someone in their late teens or very early twenties in Vietnam, but because Chang Gang is a woman and 27 years old there is a lot of pressure on her to give up on this goal by society.  The “normal people” think she is getting too old to find a respectable husband.  Society here thinks she should concentrate on finding a husband more than a goal to better her English skills and gain more life experiences. 

Our loved ones and community genuinely want the best for us, but sometimes what they think is the best for us is what is the best for them.  This is something I experienced within my own family several years ago when I almost made a decision to take the trip I’m on now. Eventually, I folded under the pressure of potentially disappointing certain family members and chose to stay in America.  Later, I decided I had to do what made me happy and not only make others happy who love and care for me. This time around most of my entire family is very supportive of what I’m doing, but I still have a couple people who can’t quite understand what I am doing. I can't seem to find the right words to explain my feelings to them in a way that makes sense. However, I know they still love me and that's what matters!

Before I left the USA, my mom gifted me a necklace from The Giving Keys organization to take with me on my trip. The Giving Keys organization is a "pay it forward" community "that helps support job creation for people transitioning out of homelessness." The key my mom chose to give me had “FEARLESS” stamped on it.  She told me about The Giving Keys organization and told me to pass it along if there was ever someone I met who I felt could use the key in their life journey.  Earlier this week, Chang Gang and I had to say goodbye for some time as I’m packing up and headed to Bali for my next adventure.  Trang was the person who I decided to pass my key onto.

The key I passed along to Trang (photo credit https://www.instagram.com/trangthu_90/)

The key I passed along to Trang (photo credit https://www.instagram.com/trangthu_90/)

Trang, you are the perfect candidate for this key as you showed your fearless qualities when you went against the societal norm in Vietnam and left home for two months to study English and improve yourself.  I hope this key reassures you that you’re on the right path in life with your fearless attitude.  Even if you change your mind about studying abroad I hope you continue to live a life that makes you happy. As they say here in Vietnam, “see you again!” 

The fearless Chang Gang above a mountain near Da Lat. I realized we never actually took a picture together in 5 months when writing this blog :( 

The fearless Chang Gang above a mountain near Da Lat. I realized we never actually took a picture together in 5 months when writing this blog :(