Trung, barely twenty-three years old, was born in the coastal province of Thanh Hoa, about two hundred kilometers southeast of Hanoi. Both his father, age fifty and his mother, fifty-one are farmers, while he has one older brother, married, who is a house painter.
He also has a sixteen-year-old younger brother, still in high school. Trung was born vision impaired and is legally blind, registering 4 out of 10 on the ophthalmological chart. It is believed that his mother’s exposure to pesticides during her pregnancy with him may be responsible for his vision impairment.
I started off my conversation with Trung, who I met for the first time in a video chat conducted from, quite literally, the opposite end of the earth. He was in Vietnam while I was sitting on the equator in Ecuador. While he was at home with his parents in a tropical coastal climate at near sea level I was sitting at home at about 8,500 feet of elevation. Even though we had to work through an interpreter and fight poor internet transmission Trung seemed totally at ease. It felt almost as if we had known each other for quite some time. His ready smile, superb sense of humor, and genuine interest in sharing his story with me set the tone for a very relaxed visit.
The real icebreaker in getting acquainted with Trung was his romance with another of our staff. When I teased him about wasting no time, his warm smile acknowledging the relationship made it clear this would be an enjoyable conversation. Though he couldn’t think of any particular reason that his girlfriend might be drawn to him I could think of plenty, right off. As we talked about his life growing up in his rural province it became clear that he makes friends easily and has many friends back home, even as he has obviously been able to make friends quickly and easily since coming to Omamori. Trung explained that he never felt discriminated against by those around him. Rather, even though everyone knew of his vision impairment, he received strong support from friends, teachers, and those with whom he came into contact in the community. His constant smile, positive attitude and good looks certainly haven’t hurt him, I’m sure.
Throughout his schooling, Trung had a strong interest in technology, and in particular, photography and videography. While still in school he formed a circle of friends focused on trying to turn this interest into a business. Upon graduating from public high school in 2016 he and his friends developed a website and began marketing their services, offering a platform for sharing wedding photos, class photos, and celebrating memorable events such as parties, etc. It wasn’t long, however, before he and his friends each found more stable sources of income, going to work in the formal economy occasioning the eventual dissolution of their enterprise. Trung, himself, went to work for a stone company specializing in the sale and installation of granite and marble to be used in retail and commercial construction and remodeling.
Has only recently arrived at Omamori Spa as a trainee at the time of this writing. Although the work of a massage therapist is, obviously, radically different from that of the stone cutter, and there would seem to be no logical connection, as so often happens, there is indeed a very strong one. Trung’s mother, it happens, is a very close friend of the grandmother of Cuong, one of our therapists who has perhaps had to overcome more difficulties than any therapist working at Omamori. Cuong’s grandmother, knowing how much Omamori has done for Cuong and recognizing the value of the professional and personal training offered at Omamori, as well as the quality of the work environment, strongly recommended to Trung’s mother that he consider a change of career. His mother, too, felt that the work of stone cutter was bad for his eyes, and neither healthy nor safe. She suggested Trung look into the possibility of a future in massage therapy.
Though Trung’s time with us has been short, so far, his experience here has opened his eyes to a whole new world, one to which he has taken readily. He explains that first, when seeing Cuong again for the first time in a long time, he was shocked. Cuong’s transformation has been so complete that Trung simply didn’t recognize him, physically nor in his personal demeanor. Trung’s new girlfriend has also opened new horizons for him, as well, causing him to think more seriously about the need for establishing a stable future for him and his own family, whenever in the future such an occasion might present itself. Meanwhile, he tells of having truly fallen in love with his new job.
He says it is physically much less demanding than the work of stone cutter, which required lots of work, often under the hot sun or in the rain, and was rendered particularly dangerous and difficult due to his limited vision. Equally if not more important, he simply loves it and feels that he is well suited for it. It is for these reasons, stated immediately and without hesitation, that he truly dreams of becoming one of the most highly rated top-notch therapists at Omamori.
Trung describes himself as “harmonious, humorous and delightful”. There is little doubt that these qualities will endear him to his clients even as they have endeared him to his friends and colleagues making it even easier for him to achieve his professional goal to become a top-notch therapist.