Ode to my friends
“Let's all do what Matteo wants to do”, Amy starts chanting and Susie joins in a second later, after I suggested (forced on them) a forty-kilometre bicycle ride, the unmissable visit to a temple or dinner in that restaurant I've seen during a random walk and that I will not be able to find anymore. “Let's all do what Matteo wants to do” becomes a very often heard refrain but, to be honest, I've forgotten my hectic pace to follow the chilled rhythm of these two travelling pearls: I like them very much and I don't mind to steer away from my visiting frenzy and spend some time in their company with the odd (well…) drink-fuelled night (“Excuse me, can we please order three cocktails? And while you're at it, can you also bring out three precocktails and a round of B52 please? And can we also have three beers whilst waiting? Thanks”. I think they still have our picture hanging in the hall of fame) and the long discussions to talk about everything and nothing at the same time. Random encounters are important for the solo traveller, it's nice enough to share a meal or a bus ride with someone you can have a decent conversation with, maybe linger together for two or three days, but when you meet someone that is straight away vibrating at the same frequency it's something else, you light a candle to the patron saint of travellers and you just enjoy every single moment.
I've met Susie first in Hoi An after a long motorbike journey through the central highlands and Amy the day after; I have a good vibe about the two of them but it is only when I embarrassingly ask if I can join them on their trip to Hué and Amy very politely answers that they'll be happy for me to follow that our friendship starts rolling. From that moment onwards there is no need to ask anymore, we simply travel together, one step after the other with feelings growing stronger, developing into durable friendship and camaraderie. With the exception of a small break (because they didn't do what Matteo wanted them to do) we travel together as far as Sapa and the beauty of the places we visit together is flanked by a whole series of memorable moments between the three of us. They are pretty good at taking the piss out of me, bringing me down to my real self (years and years trying to be cool thrown out of the window), but they can laugh at themselves pretty light-heartedly and I often couple with one of the two to make fun of the other as well.
The way I sing, after countless nights watching American Idol, is their favourite target. I swear that Susie's line “Matteo, you cannot hold a single note for more than a second” was extracted verbatim from one of the episodes. Nonetheless my rendition of “I'm a rock, I'm an island” by Simon and Garfunkel turns into the soundtrack of our experience and more often than not we burst into laughter when we surprise one of the three humming or whistling it.
We make fun of each other so often and in such a good natured way that our defects almost become a stronger bond between the three of us than our qualities and doing a Matteo, a Susie or an Amy become frequents expression in the language we speak and that starts to be unintelligible to the outsiders.
I'm surprised when they tell me they are only twenty-three: their wit, soft spoken English and polite manners are constantly battling with the acquired stereotypes of the rowdy British girls at their worse, but I'm pretty easily convinced that there is still hope for the UK after meeting them! They have been travelling together for a number of months, from India through South East Asia and their already strong bond has raised to a whole new level of friendship that leaves bystanders bewildered that anything so genuine, deprived of all jealousy or animosity (so easy to develop for other people after such a long time spent together), might actually exist.
This two faced being though, has two very different souls that are not afraid to speak up: Susie is very passionate and winds herself up in a matter of microseconds when one of her solid principles is put under discussion, Amy is always ready to provide a new angle during a discussion, she is the one taking decisions for their journey and making sure that everything happens: Amy the driver, Susie the passenger when a motorbike is rented, Susie busy taking pictures with her new camera and Amy just leisurely strolling along pointing at things that should be photographed.
Vietnam would have been a totally different experience without this two professional disagreers (they smashed more often than not all my “theories”) to the point I almost regret meeting these newly found friends in the initial phase of my long trip: they've set the bar pretty high and I can hardly imagine founding again such a special connexion in the near future. One can only hope.
We spend our last days together in Sapa: they've finally decided to go to Laos for the last three weeks of their journey and we have, for the moment, to split ways. Seeing them going away in a forty degree day is heartbreaking and I try to keep my mind away from this long dreaded moment with a strenuous six-hour trek trough the mountains, that makes me physically sick when I finally manage to come staggering back to my hotel: at least I puke instead of crying.
The balcony where we spent the last nights putting the world to rights is now empty. Amy how I'll miss that special bright blue stare of yours whenever I'm about to utter the umpteenth bullshit, the famous look you are never able to replicate when I ask you so; Susie, well, you won't be missed. Just joking! Being able to spend so many late nights for the last cigarette and watching the world through your eyes has been an amazing experience and, of course, I expect you will read this out loud with your twisted accent, the only reason for writing this in English.
Goodbye my friends, goodbye.
It rains in Sapa, time for me as well to move towards new horizons.