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Kindness One: In Vietnam, an unforgettable night at the opera

When we last left this story, I was being held up at the Vietnamese border, where the border authorities wanted to impound my bright yellow motorcycle. They suggested that I leave without it (I couldn’t do that) and go on to Ho Chi Minh City.

I did manage to finally talk my way out of this problem. It didn’t involve any payoffs because I’m traveling with no money. My around-the-world journey, which began Aug. 10 in Los Angeles, has been financed by total strangers who are committing acts of kindness.

They have fed me, sheltered me and provided me (or, more accurately, my bright-yellow motorcycle, dubbed Kindness One) with gasoline as I’ve journeyed across the U.S., then across the Atlantic, through Europe and then to Asia.

During my last months of travel: I’ve slept in the “home” (a parking garage) with a homeless man in Pittsburgh. I’ve crossed the Atlantic on a container vessel. I’ve been welcomed in an Indian village by hundreds of locals. I’ve experienced humbling kindness from others.

And I’ve just experienced it again.

As I was walking around Ho Chi Minh City, I came across the famed opera house. Sitting on the grand steps, I struck up a conversation with a man who was leaving the building. I told him my story, and he seemed genuinely interested. He invited me to the opera that night. As it turned out, he was the director of the featured show.

When I arrived, he had a special surprise for me: He wanted me to be a part of the performance in front of hundreds of paying customers.           

I was taken aback but jumped at the chance. I dressed in one of the traditional black costumes worn in the show and waited patiently in the wings. As the performance neared its conclusion, he gave me a set of drums and told me to go out and free style with the drummer.

I was playing in an opera house! When it was over, I returned to the stage to a standing ovation. Admittedly, it was a standing ovation because the performance was over and people were leaving, but I’ll take it. 

The moment was a high point, which, as often happens, followed a low point, and I now have the traditional wooden drums as a memento -- and as a reminder of what can happen if you’re open to it.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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