Sam Richardson, a junior studying communication, recounts his experience last fall in Vietnam with whom he calls “my little stalker,” along with his advice on how to stay safe while studying abroad this year.
Q: I wanted to ask you a little bit about your time in Vietnam. What were you doing there?
A: I was doing study abroad, but I served my mission, Vietnamese-speaking, in Houston, Texas, and I just wanted to have an excuse to go to Vietnam and learn the culture more.
Q: What kinds of things did you do?
A: Every day I went to teach English class, but besides that, I would go around downtown Ho Chi Minh City, visit people and go into the little shops.
It was really interesting because I met a lot of not just Vietnamese people, but a lot of international people. Like in my English class I was the only American, but there (was) a French woman, there (was) a Filipino woman, there (were) two Taiwanese people, South Koreans (and) Indonesians.
I just met so many different people, and it was amazing. It was awesome.
Q: What did you love most?
A: The best part, this is the Mormony part of me coming out of me, (was when) I hung out with the missionaries and the members of the Church so much. Because I don’t know if you know this, but the Church just barely opened up there and the mission just barely started. So there’s a whole bunch of new members, and whenever they see someone else who’s a member they just get so excited.
So, we’d go eat dinner together all the time, we would go study the Book of Mormon at each other’s houses — super weird — but I hung out with the members a lot.
Q: What was the craziest thing to happen to you?
A: Definitely the stalker story. I was helping the missionaries teach an English class and there’s this one kid; he was just an off kid.
“One time I opened the door, and I accidentally hit him with the door. In America, you just say ‘Oh sorry’ and keep going on with your day, so that’s what I did.
A couple days later I’m riding my bike home and traffic in Vietnam is really tense, terrifying.
I was super focused, and then from my left, this guy comes barreling at me, and he hits me! I fall off my bike, but I was like ‘Oh whatever, it’s fine.’ So, I get up and start riding again, and I look back and this guy is following me.
It’s like 11 o’clock at night in Vietnam. I didn’t have my passport on me; I was like, ‘I’m going to die. I am dead. My parents won’t know where I am.’
I ended up going to the McDonald’s for an hour and a half. I didn’t know what to do, so I called the lady I lived with and told her what was happening.
She came and picked me up, and we literally took like this huge circle all the way back around her house so that he couldn’t follow us.
The next day, I called the embassy and made sure I was always with someone. A few days after, I was just sitting in my English class, and I got 40 calls on my phone, and it was this kid. I called him back and he said, “We need to meet up.”
I said, “OK, where do you want to meet up?” and he said, “We need to meet up like wherever you’re at. Where (are) you at right now?”
I tell him I can meet at the church, and when I get there he says, “Can we go talk?” and I’m like “Yeah, right here. What do you want to talk about?” And he wants to talk outside in the alley, but I’m not stupid, so we agree to talk outside the gates of the church.
And he says, “You did it on purpose, didn’t you?”
I was like, “What?”
And he said, “You did it on purpose. I know you did. You hate me.”
By this point, my adrenaline is starting to go up, and my ability to understand Vietnamese is shooting down. He’s just talking faster and faster, so finally, I say, “I have no idea what you’re saying, man. I don’t understand you at all.”
That pisses him off even more, obviously, and he yells, “You hit me with the door! You did it on purpose, and you didn’t say sorry. You want my insurance money, don’t you?”
I was so confused at this point, and he was getting real mad, and so I just say, “No, homie, I didn’t mean to. It was an accident.” But he’s just getting madder, and suddenly all these people are around us asking if everything is OK, and he just screams at them, “Go away.”
And I’m like, “Don’t go away, stay here.”
Finally, I looked at him straight in the eye and said, “I didn’t do it on purpose. If you want to say I did it on purpose, that’s your problem. I’m willing to help you if you want to come to the English class that’s great, but this is not OK, and you need to leave right now.”
And I just like walked away, but he punches me in the back as I’m walking. I turn around, look at him and say, “Go.”
Q: And you never saw him again?
A: Never saw him again! I just thought “That was way intense. That was one of the scariest moments of my life.” I thought I was going to get shanked. Definitely my craziest experience in Vietnam. It was awesome.
Q: If you could say one thing to BYU-Idaho students, what would it be?
A: A, if you’re traveling, make sure you know where the embassy is and know their phone number. And B, just stick your ground. If you didn’t do anything bad, don’t let someone push you around, especially if you’re in a foreign country.