Đông, age twenty, was born in Nam Dinh Province into a family of five. The middle son, he has both an older brother, age twenty-four, and a younger brother, age thirteen. His father, age forty-six is a construction worker, as is his mother, who is forty-three years old.
Born vision impaired, Đông’s vision got worse by the time he entered primary school. Though he had a sighted friend who helped him with his schoolwork, in the early years he struggled greatly with his studies. With considerable determination and the help of his friend, he later progressed and was able to join the most advanced group in his class. It was while still a schoolboy that he discovered his love of Vietnamese literature, and of writing for himself. Đông has written a number of stories about his activities as a child, about friends, and teachers and games he liked to play, and more. He also has a keen interest in foreign languages, English and Japanese, in particular. When I asked him why he likes foreign languages he told me that he finds them very difficult and prefers to study things that challenge him. He also has a passion for gymnastics and physical exercise.
When asked about any other interests he might have Đông literally jumped at the question. Almost as if he were being quizzed by a film director he exclaimed that his DREAM is to one day be an actor or a comedian. He has even already created some video clips, working out some skits with his friends. Determined to create his own voice, a voice that will be respected and can be used to represent the blind, Đông says he feels driven to be the best he can at whatever he does in order to earn the respect of others.
In school, however, worried that the pressure of keeping up with his studies was worsening his eyesight, he decided to terminate his formal academic studies at the end of his tenth year, at age sixteen. Initially, he went to work helping his father make decorative paper lanterns such as those used here at Omamori Spa and beloved by many throughout the country. He had been told by those around him that he would be unable to succeed with making a beautiful lantern because of his visual impairment. Determined to prove everyone wrong, he wanted to show that he could succeed. He took great pride in explaining that he managed to complete three exquisite lanterns, surprising everyone but himself.
After working for his father for a short time he decided to attend a course of training in traditional Vietnamese Tam Quat at the Training and Rehabilitation Center for the Blind, in Hanoi. One of his teachers there owns a Tam Quat studio and hired Đông to work there, soon promoting him to manager. There, he even cooked for the other staff. Always looking for a challenge, Đông returned to the school to complete another course of training and went to work for another teacher who owned yet another Tam Quat studio.
At one point, about two years ago, seeing a Facebook ad posted by Nham--one of our Master Teachers, Đông decided to apply to study and work at Omamori Spa, both to broaden his horizons and to challenge himself further. He had heard that the training, as well as his future bosses, were very demanding and uses this opportunity to emphasize, once again, that this only enhanced the appeal of the opportunity. Đông has proven over and over since coming to Omamori that he takes this new challenge in earnest, mastering one technique after another, and showing himself to be a true rising star amongst his colleagues.
He describes a marked contrast between the environment at his former places of employment, the Tam Quat studios, and Omamori. In particular he points first to the professionalism amongst his peers at Omamori. Whereas his prior experience was that of considerable competition and at times backstabbing between the staff, with one therapist criticizing another in hopes of luring a regular client to him or herself, at Omamori there is a much greater spirit of camaraderie and mutual respect. Conversely, at the Tam Quat studios it was common for there to be a constant chatter between therapists while providing treatment to the clients. At Omamori there is a professional code of silence, providing a calm and peaceful atmosphere for the client and enabling the therapist to enter into a focused and at times even a meditative state while treating the client. The physically beautiful and peaceful environment at Omamori lends even further to the atmosphere of professionalism.
Đông also tells of an equally important contrast between the clientele. He talks about clients at the Tam Quat studios who showed little respect for their masseurs and often made unreasonable requests. Meanwhile, at Omamori his experience has been a very positive one where the majority of his customers have been respectful and clear about their gratitude and appreciation of his professional skills.
Presently, Đông wants to be known, first and foremost as a happy guy, who is in turn hyperactive and crazy. Finally, and in the future, his greatest hope is to establish his own voice, whether as an actor, or a comedian, or as a spokesperson for the blind and the visually impaired.