The Summer of my 16th year on this planet I went on a mission trip to Vietnam. But since Christian Missionaries are not allowed in Vietnam, I was teaching English on a 6 month work visa. See, nothing illegal there! A group of six Brits, Australians, and I spent four months teaching English at private learning centers and working with street children to teach them skills and hopefully give them a better future. We were in the middle of Ho Chi Minh City in District 3. Our British sponsors paid to have us live in a very nice house complete with our own driver and house keeper. We each had our own room with air conditioning. Which was nice when the temperatures in the summer rarely ever get below 40C/105F. And that is in the shade!
I could be nude as much as I wanted in my room, but I wanted to get some sun as well. Not very easy in an over populated Communist city.
My room had a balcony which was great to sit on and drink ice coffee, but the series of windows that all had a perfect view did not make nudity very easy. The chances of someone and their entire family spotting me was a guarantee. Any time I sat on the balcony everyone across the alley would go out on their balcony or press up against their window to see the white girl. I guess I was their favorite show.
The roof of the building wasn’t any better. Apparently people in other buildings could sense I was up there and they would move to their own roofs to continue the show. Not to mention our house keeper hung the laundry out there. I just had to face it. There was no way I was getting naked outside.
After two weeks I formed a silent relationship with the women in the building directly across from mine. It was both their workplace and their home. They spent the day sewing clothes at a line of sewing machines and slept on the roof at night. This is very common in Vietnam. Many people work at home or live at work. We would wave and smile at each-other. They would play with their hair and touch their faces as a way of telling me they thought I was beautiful. I would smile and nod to thank them. I think they thought I was funny as well.
It was also around this time that I finally figured out a solution to my lack of nudity problem. I learned that my house had an upper roof. From the roof patio there was a bamboo ladder that went up to a narrow walk way and over a small wall to another patio. The floor was composed of the left over dolphin tile used to make my shower. Standing up there, I was higher than all the other buildings nearby. Nobody was looking down at me and I felt there was enough of an angle from the neighboring buildings that I would remain unseen. It was perfect!
It was night and two weeks had already been too long for me not to be naked outside, so I stripped and looked over the city nude. It was a beautiful night and very little light made it up there so even though I could see the flashes of welding torches in the distance from men working at night, I was confident they couldn’t see me. Only problem is that it was night, and I wanted to get a tan.
The next day was Saturday and my teammates were off being tourists. I hate being a tourist, so I stayed back. Besides, I had to get naked!
I could see the women were sitting at their sewing machines as I climbed the ladder to my private spot. I hoped they wouldn’t notice me. Again, this is a communist country and you never know who is going to report you to the government in exchange for favors. Even if you know people, you still have to be careful. However, I think I made it all the way up without being spotted.
I took off my clothes, lay out my towel, and laid down on the dolphin tile. For future reference, this is not a great idea. Dolphin tile, although pretty, is very hard and gets rather hot in the sun. But, as I’ve said before, I am stubborn and I don’t let much get between me and my nudity. I lay there and felt the 40C/105F Heat on my skin. It felt marvelous! It must have been about 20 minutes when the heat started getting to me. I reached for my water bottle, and felt nothing. My eyes were closed so I groped around for it. Still nothing. I sat up a bit and saw my bottle next to the bamboo ladder. I had left it there when I put it down to balance myself at the top. I was really thirsty and I didn’t want to pass out and roast to never be found again. I needed that bottle. It want that far away, I could just crawl over the small wall, grab my bottle, and crawl back. I’d be quick. Nobody would notice me.
Over I went. I stayed low. I made no noise. I grabbed my bottle. I snuck back. I heard a giggle… Oh no. I had failed to check the time, and it was break time at the sewing factory. The women were on the roof hanging their laundry, and they saw me. Their show just got interesting. I dove over the wall and peeked back. Oh, they had definitely seen me. Seven of them standing and looking at me. Some covering their mouths laughing. Some waving at me. I did not know what to do. What if they talked? What if my organization found out? What if the government found out? I could be in a lot of trouble.
As I was sitting on the hot dolphin tile contemplating my demise, I heard a “Hello”. Definitely one of the Vietnamese women. I peeked back over but I couldn’t see the source. I wrapped my towel around myself and got s little closer. What I saw made me scream a little, but mostly smile. There they were. All seven of them naked as the day they were born. No, actually there were nine of them now. Two friends joined them. They all looked so happy to be completely naked like the beautiful, funny, dreadlocked, white girl. I waved at them and they waved back. This turned out to be a one time event. Even at the beach Vietnamese women don’t allow sun to touch their skin. I don’t really think they wanted to sunbathe, but they just wanted to tell me that they supported me.
For the rest of my time there, I would wave at them on my way up the ladder and they would pretend to lift their shirts and laugh. Just another great example of how nudity brings people and cultures together.