It was a hot, sultry morning in Hồ Chí Minh City, or as many of the locals called it, Sài Gòn. More than usual, the humidity was oppressive, but Carter Nash was used to it by now. It had been a little over a year since he arrived in Việt Nam. Carter was standing in the middle of Bến Thành Market, a popular market among locals and tourists, clutching his video camera and trying to capture as much of the market as possible. Even though it was a few minutes after 8:00am, the market was buzzing with activity and recording video proved to be challenging as people kept bumping into Carter’s arm. He arrived at the market early to make some recordings, but he was planning to return at 8pm to shoot more videos of the night market. The throng of people also made it challenging to capture unobstructive footage of the various fruit and food vendors, but Carter persisted and did his best to record what he could. After meandering his way through the crowded market and capturing video for several minutes, Carter checked his watch, tucked his camera away in his backpack and started walking towards the southern exit along Lê Lai Street. It only took him a minute to walk to his destination, Okkio Caffee, a chic cafe that was popular with tourists and denizens of District 1.
Carter strolled up to the cafe and took notice of the red exterior and two large windows that provided a peek into the cafe. Looking through one of the windows, Carter caught sight of Barney, an old school friend, who was typing away on his laptop after taking a sip of his cà phê sữa đá. Carter chuckled to himself because Barney was wearing a suit as usual. How could Barney be wearing a suit in this stifling weather and still look like he’s comfortable?
Carter entered the cafe, which provided some relief from the suffocating heat, but the interior still felt oppressive. Maybe the air conditioning unit was on the fritz today. The cafe was buzzing with activity too, but Carter maneuvered his way through the crowded cafe adeptly. Barney, who stood up once he saw Carter, extended his hand as Carter approached the table. After shaking hands and exchanging greetings, they both sat down. A waitress arrived at the table several seconds later, took Carter’s order, then left just as quickly as she arrived. Carter said, “It’s great to see you, Barn. I hope you haven’t been waiting too long. I thought we were meeting at 8:30am.” Barney, a legendary movie producer, explained that he arrived early to do some work and reply to some business emails.
Wasting no time, Barney got down to business because he had to catch an early flight back to the U.S. “Listen, Carter. I know I brushed you off a couple of years ago with your movie proposal, but I gotta say I have been really impressed with your YouTube videos. I wanted to meet you face to face because I have a business proposition for you. Basically, I want you to make a series of travel videos. It wouldn’t be limited just to Việt Nam. You would be traveling across Asia to make a series of travel documentaries exclusively for my production company. I am subscribed to your YouTube channel, and I think you produce great content.” Barney continued on to detail the proposal, budget and all the other important details before taking out a contract and handing it to Carter.
Carter couldn’t believe what he was hearing. A little more than a year ago, he arrived in Việt Nam thinking he would only be in the country for a month to record a series of travel videos for his YouTube channel. He called the series, 20 videos in all, The Bún Riêu Chronicles, an homage to the catalyst that set off the chain of events that led him to move to Việt Nam. Recording the videos, then staying up late into the night to edit them was challenging, but Carter’s hard work paid off as the video counts and subscribers increased. At first, the view count on the first few videos was low; however, slowly but surely, the number of views for each video started increasing as social media platforms played an important role in the videos gaining traction in popularity.
Generally, reception of the videos was mostly positive. Carter’s viewers enjoyed his presentation, his sarcastic comments and self-depreciating humor, but more importantly, they loved the commentary he provided about the history and culture of the places where traveled. At first, it was a challenge communicating with the locals when he interviewed them for his videos, but as he spent more and more time interacting with people, he began to understand more. He still spoke in broken Vietnamese, but his speaking skills were improving every day, and he was relying less and less on his translation app. It was hard not to reflect on his first day in Việt Nam compared to now. He couldn’t help chuckle about the first time he tried crossing a street in Sài Gòn. He was so scared of all the oncoming motorbikes that it took him thirty attempts before he found the courage to cross the street. Of course, it helped that an elderly couple, who showed him the ropes, was crossing with him at the same time. It took some time, but he finally got used to crossing the street without thinking about it too much.
Surprisingly, his most popular video featured him falling into a pool of water. He got permission to record a video of a rice farmer’s property. Little did he know, he would come face to face with a water buffalo. The water buffalo was not aggressive, but its sheer size intimidated Carter. As he was backing away from the animal, he kept his line of sight on it trying to stabilize his shaky hands and not ruin the shot of the water buffalo. Little did he know that right behind him was a large, muddy pool of water. It was too late before he noticed the pool and fell into it. Rather than omit that part, he decided to leave it in the video. His viewers would loved it. Many people left comments expressing sympathy, while others left him cheeky comments. Carter took it all in stride and learned not to take the comments too seriously. He even found it in himself to laugh along too.
As the videos were becoming more popular, Carter decided to quit his job and extend his stay in Việt Nam because the income from YouTube, though not earth shattering, was enough to support his life in Việt Nam. He wanted to create more content for his channel with more videos of Việt Nam because The Bún Riêu Chronicles only gave a small glimpse of life in Vietnam. He wanted to show the world more of Việt Nam’s beauty as well as educate people on its rich culture and rich history.
Suddenly, Carter felt a jolt in his body and snapped out from his momentary daydream. He told Barney that he was interested in working with him on the travel videos, but he said that he would still need the freedom to create videos for his YouTube channel. Barney said that it wouldn’t be a problem, and they could work out an agreement. Barney glanced at his watch, finished off the last of his coffee, then said he needed to catch his flight. He told Carter he would be in touch with an updated contract to include the new terms they discussed. They shook hands, then Barney left the cafe. Carter couldn’t suppress a beaming smile as he took a sip of his iced coffee. After all the failures in his life, he was finally experiencing a modicum of success. The road ahead of him was looking brighter than ever with so many opportunities ahead of him. Where would he be next year? What would he be doing? He did not know, but he learned to soak up every second and enjoy living in the moment.