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BethMarie

Travel in developing countries

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Hi All,

I just got back from my annual "pilgrimage" to Viet Nam--I lead cross cultural trips there as I love the country and people. Viet Nam is really not an accessible country--lots and lots of stairs and sidewalks occupied with motor scooters! This is the first year I have gone with my new leg and compared to the last three years with my ankle injury, it was wonderful to be out of pain and have more energy. I was amazed I didn't fall at all--except on a 12 hours lay over in Seoul when I missed a tiny step and down I went. I was fine--just a little dazed from hitting my head on a metal post. I really was amazed what I was now able to do. One of my favourite places is a cave near the top of a mountain in Da Nang. There are 345 steps to get up and my aim was to at least try. Well, the way up was fun--and challenging. I had lots of Vietnamese people rooting me on and wanting to have their picture taken with "this strong lady." On the way down it was two security guards who felt the need to help me and as long as they did not touch me I was ok.

The one thing that I noticed was people looking long and hard at my leg and talking to the person near them. I did great in the beginning, but it did get weary toward the end. I did not take it personally--the Vietnamese are fascinated with anything different and are prone to touch. What I got tired was them looking at my leg and not me. I always say hello (in Vietnamese) and I did that especially to the people who were looking long and hard. When they looked up I usually (90%) got a big smile and a hello. Probably the best experience was in visiting a centre that takes care of children affected by Agent Orange. I have been there many times and the children were just so honest and were making cutting motions on their legs--that was easy to deal with because I would say yes and we would all smile.

Have other people had lots of staring when they have been abroad? How do you deal with it?

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I dont think you have to travel abroad to get the stares. I go to the grocery store and get them. So this is what I suggest you do. Go out and get yourself a nice sticker to put on it, now the next time you see someone staring at your leg, all they are doing ( in my mind) is looking at your cool sticker. Maybe a nice Canadian Maple Leaf for you will work. I have chrome skulls with flames on the side of mine......Now, stare all you want, I dont mind. You cant change them but, you can change the way you think about them.

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You cant change them but, you can change the way you think about them.

I like that!

:)

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Hiya BethMarie,

I am glad you enjoyed Vietnam. It is a beautiful country is it not - albeit I think it may be the most capitalist communist country I have ever been to!!

I have been there a couple of times since losing my leg. The first was last year when I cycled from Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) through the Mekong Delta and all the way to Ang Kor Wat in Cambodia, followed by travelling the length of Vietnam from Dien Bien Phu in the north west down to Saigon again, and the second just a few months ago for a work conference (read bia hoi drinking expedition) to Hanoi, which was slightly more relaxing than the first time!

Re: the leg staring thing. I have travelled quite extensively since losing my leg, mainly to places in Asia, and I now live in Hong Kong. I have also noticed more staring in these countries than I normally would in England where I am originally from. In my opinion though the staring is more to do with cultural differences than by virtue of the fact that the countries are still developing (especially as the staring happens just as much in HK as it does in Vietnam etc and HK is very much a first world country). I tend to find people in England will clock the leg, look a bit, and then quickly look away when they realise that I might think that they are staring at me (which always makes me giggle a little bit!). Whereas in Asia generally people are much less embarrassed about looking at the leg and will quite openly have a good old gander at it. It was very funny on the bike ride because we would all be cycling along waving at all the kids and people on motos and they would ride past us smiling and waving and then I would see them all do a double take when they clocked the leg.

One other thing I have noticed here is that even when the leg is not visible people are a lot less embarrassed about letting on that they have noticed the limp and asking what happened to the leg, and conversation about it generally gets off the ground pretty quickly. I quite like that because it feels like in a way people have noticed, brought it up, and moved on from it as opposed to noticing it like they would in england but being too embarrassed about asking what happened and then just talking about it when you are not with them.

I just think that it is the culture here for people to ask and to look if there is anything unusual about you. I think it might be an asian thing generally as opposed to a developing country thing. Also, as you really do see so many more disabled people here a lot more people in Asia probably know someone who is legless or who is disabled and so (and this is merely speculation) they may just genuinely be curious about westerners in the same position as them or their friends and how they get treated in their countries.

For example, my boyfriend and I have just come back from a holiday in Cambodia. While we were there we went down to the beach in the south for a couple of days and one afternoon in the bar of our guesthouse I stood up to go to the loo and limped a bit. Immediately the girl behind the bar asked what had happened to my leg. I told her I was in an accident and that was why I was limping. She didn't give up and asked to have a look. When I rolled the trouser leg up she and all her friends gathered round to see, and asked if it hurt etc. What really surprised me though was her next question which was "were you going out with your boyfriend when it happened?". I said yes, and she basically responded by saying that I was pretty lucky that he had decided to stay with me after what had happened, the implication being that I definitely wouldn't be able to find anyone else in my state!

That reaction really said something to me about how disabled people must get treated in Asia. I have never once felt marginalised by society because of what happened to my leg, and after nearly three years I am also at the stage where I feel just as attractive and womanly as I did before hand too. I don't think that would have been that case had I been born Cambodian, which is very sad.

But back to the original point, I quite like the natural curiosity that you get here, and I actually find it a bit of a relief after all the veiled English looks and comments that you know are going on but that you are not privy too. I also think that seeing a western person walking around with a fake leg, working at a normal job and just generally getting on with it is probably a fairly good thing for people in countries where the society isn't quite so accepting of difference. Not that I have any pretensions that seeing me with my leg is going to change the world or anything. I just hope that some of the people you and I and all of us have come across on our travels will realise by seeing me and you just getting on with it that the legless and disabled people that they come across in their own societies can live productive lives and contribute and are real people too. And if that entails a bit of staring and a few funny questions then so be it.

Gosh sorry for the length of this. I have just realised that I could go on forever. For example I have joined a gym in HK and have for the first time in my life employed a personal trainer to attempt to bulk up the muscle on my right thigh which is about the size of a toothpick after all the wasting away it has done over the past three years. Even his attitude gets to me sometimes. He is full of how enthusiastic I am and how I have just the right attitude yada yada yada - and it does my head in. Maybe it is the English person in me - I kind of want just to be sitting at the back of the class throwing paper aeroplanes but still being brilliant at whatever it is I am doing and I can't do that when it is just me and him, but I think that what it actually is is that I just want him to treat me as a normal person, and I don't feel like he is doing that. Again, it is possibly just the general asian attitude as opposed to the developing country attitude.

Anyway, I have gone on for long enough. What one of us really needs to do is go off to Africa or South America or something and see what it is like there. .....hmmm maybe an idea for another holiday!!!

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Guest bearlover
I dont think you have to travel abroad to get the stares. I go to the grocery store and get them. So this is what I suggest you do. Go out and get yourself a nice sticker to put on it, now the next time you see someone staring at your leg, all they are doing ( in my mind) is looking at your cool sticker. Maybe a nice Canadian Maple Leaf for you will work. I have chrome skulls with flames on the side of mine......Now, stare all you want, I dont mind. You cant change them but, you can change the way you think about them.

Its universal! People are rude all over. Its not one place or the other..Iam use to it. I got stared at all my life since infancy..Peole are rude and maybe courious I quess. I just igniore it I have better issues to worry about.

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I dont think you have to travel abroad to get the stares. I go to the grocery store and get them. So this is what I suggest you do. Go out and get yourself a nice sticker to put on it, now the next time you see someone staring at your leg, all they are doing ( in my mind) is looking at your cool sticker. Maybe a nice Canadian Maple Leaf for you will work. I have chrome skulls with flames on the side of mine......Now, stare all you want, I dont mind. You cant change them but, you can change the way you think about them.

Its universal! People are rude all over. Its not one place or the other..Iam use to it. I got stared at all my life since infancy..Peole are rude and maybe courious I quess. I just igniore it I have better issues to worry about.

I don't think people are rude at all. I think they are curious and don't quite know how to deal with what they are seeing. I honestly think that a lot of people stare without saying anything because they are trying NOT to be rude by confronting us. If you saw someone walking down the street wearing a lime green hat that was 6 feet high, would you stare? or giggle? Or would you go up and ask why they were wearing that hat?

Thanks for sharing your trips with us Beth and Fi. I really want to go to Vietnam one day everyone I know who has been there has loved it.

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hear hear Cat. I agree completely. I also think it is interesting how different cultures react to the same thing which is what I was trying to get across in my post.

Yeay you should go to Vietnam - it isn't too far from Oz so you could even just take a week or so to go - especially because there isn't really any time difference. I would heartedly recommend the beer stall you get there. There is something very cool about sitting on the street drinking 6p beers - not least when you stand up and try to get home!!!

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One day Fi I will get there. ;)

We have an extra member in our family now and having to pay an extra fare, accommodation, food, etc., makes traveling a little too expensive for us at the moment.....but one day for sure :D

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Guest bearlover

I dont think you have to travel abroad to get the stares. I go to the grocery store and get them. So this is what I suggest you do. Go out and get yourself a nice sticker to put on it, now the next time you see someone staring at your leg, all they are doing ( in my mind) is looking at your cool sticker. Maybe a nice Canadian Maple Leaf for you will work. I have chrome skulls with flames on the side of mine......Now, stare all you want, I dont mind. You cant change them but, you can change the way you think about them.

Its universal! People are rude all over. Its not one place or the other..Iam use to it. I got stared at all my life since infancy..Peole are rude and maybe courious I quess. I just igniore it I have better issues to worry about.

I don't think people are rude at all. I think they are curious and don't quite know how to deal with what they are seeing. I honestly think that a lot of people stare without saying anything because they are trying NOT to be rude by confronting us. If you saw someone walking down the street wearing a lime green hat that was 6 feet high, would you stare? or giggle? Or would you go up and ask why they were wearing that hat?

Thanks for sharing your trips with us Beth and Fi. I really want to go to Vietnam one day everyone I know who has been there has loved it.

Adults should know better courious or not..we teach our children not to point or stare..People should also know better its just bad manner's.

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I dont think you have to travel abroad to get the stares. I go to the grocery store and get them. So this is what I suggest you do. Go out and get yourself a nice sticker to put on it, now the next time you see someone staring at your leg, all they are doing ( in my mind) is looking at your cool sticker. Maybe a nice Canadian Maple Leaf for you will work. I have chrome skulls with flames on the side of mine......Now, stare all you want, I dont mind. You cant change them but, you can change the way you think about them.

Its universal! People are rude all over. Its not one place or the other..Iam use to it. I got stared at all my life since infancy..Peole are rude and maybe courious I quess. I just igniore it I have better issues to worry about.

I don't think people are rude at all. I think they are curious and don't quite know how to deal with what they are seeing. I honestly think that a lot of people stare without saying anything because they are trying NOT to be rude by confronting us. If you saw someone walking down the street wearing a lime green hat that was 6 feet high, would you stare? or giggle? Or would you go up and ask why they were wearing that hat?

Thanks for sharing your trips with us Beth and Fi. I really want to go to Vietnam one day everyone I know who has been there has loved it.

Adults should know better courious or not..we teach our children not to point or stare..People should also know better its just bad manner's.

Personally I teach my kids to BE curious and take an interest, ask questions and find out about the world and all the different people in it. So in a way I do teach my kids to stop and look.

I must just have bad manners :rolleyes:

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No you don't have bad manners, I did not say that. being rude is one thing and being couries is another I quess..Whatever I did not mean to offend anyone. :)

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I haven't posted here for a while or read posts for that matter but reading this one I felt like i needed to reply.

You know I remember when i when to Bali still 2 legged and the people were blown away cause i had freckles (I'm a red head) the women all spoke to each other about it.....I thought it was gorgeous.....maybe redheads don't visit Bali much but it was nice I most certainly wasn't offended and in a polite way they were simple curious........just as i would be going into another culture.

When I first went to a shopping centre in a wheelchair I felt like everyone was looking at me. What a joke that was totally my stuff & not their's.

Bear i think you are completely off the mark here. People are curious; children are amazing...........& more so cause they ask all the questions the rest of us are too scared too.............I so love it...........their innocence is priceless. How could anyone ever think that is rude or offensive. And I hope that the children of today grow up to be the adults of tomorrow.............way too much polictical correctness in the world.

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Futher more I'm speaking of adults not children,,Children at work are always asking about my leg..I am very happy to explaine with my ampu-Teddy! I have and talk to classes all the time about my leg..Don't take this out of context. :)

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......way too much polictical correctness in the world.

Amen to that, Mel!

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......way too much polictical correctness in the world.

Amen to that, Mel!

DITTO! ! well agreed to that! :)

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Bear I'm not taking anything out of context.........I walk around in shorts all the time; play golf etc in shorts and as an AK heaps of people look and stare; it's a little too hard to disguise and quite frankly who can be bothered........I don't find it rude or offensive.........it just doesn't bother me.

My missing bits are now metallic; and if that makes people look so be it........ :D

Live & let live

M

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I prefer to have my prosthetic cosmetically covered. I don't like or want un- wanted attention. Some people like it..

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Everyone looks. I'm 70, but I still "look" at a pretty girl - BUT I dont' "stare". I don't care what culture we come from, that is just plain rude.

Like K, I don't like to call "un-wanted" attention to myself - but that is just me. I am normally a very conservative person. I have worn shorts with my prosthesis, and expected people to "look", but what upset my wife the most was when people would look at you, and then just "stare" at the leg. I don't care if it is a prosthetic leg, or ones height, or ones weight, or whatever. STARING is rude.

I have had people look, and then politely ask a question about it. There is no problem there.

I have no tolerance with rudeness, or rude people in any form.

Children can be taught to be curious, (as they should be), but politely.

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Everyone looks. I'm 70, but I still "look" at a pretty girl - BUT I dont' "stare". I don't care what culture we come from, that is just plain rude.

Like K, I don't like to call "un-wanted" attention to myself - but that is just me. I am normally a very conservative person. I have worn shorts with my prosthesis, and expected people to "look", but what upset my wife the most was when people would look at you, and then just "stare" at the leg. I don't care if it is a prosthetic leg, or ones height, or ones weight, or whatever. STARING is rude.

I have had people look, and then politely ask a question about it. There is no problem there.

I have no tolerance with rudeness, or rude people in any form.

Children can be taught to be curious, (as they should be), but politely.

Exactly the point i'm trying to get across Jim. I too am a very soical person I too do not want attention or have a my prosthetic stared at..glancing is one thing, being rude and staring is another.

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People are going to look when they see something different. I know I do. In the beginning it bothered me, but like you, Mel, I realized that was my insecurity. Now, I don't care. Sometimes when I see a kid looking, I'll say, "cool leg, huh"...or something to that effect. Mine is cosmetically covered but it still doesn't look like a real leg. Even to a kid it's obvious it's not real. I guess we're all different. I decided it wasn't going away so I might as well get used to it.

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People are going to look when they see something different. I know I do. In the beginning it bothered me, but like you, Mel, I realized that was my insecurity. Now, I don't care. Sometimes when I see a kid looking, I'll say, "cool leg, huh"...or something to that effect. Mine is cosmetically covered but it still doesn't look like a real leg. Even to a kid it's obvious it's not real. I guess we're all different. I decided it wasn't going away so I might as well get used to it.

Late in the school year I wore my caprie pants to work...I saw a child looking at my leg, I asked "whats up? ahe said Mrs. E is that your fake leg? I said yes it is..With a smile she said "I can tell it looks fake" :lol: :) I thought it was very innocent and cut and very true! out of the mouths of babes. she was 6. I explained how the fake leg helps me walk,, She said " Mrs. E I love you! your old fake leg dse not matter" I adore children they are my passion in life..I also have many youn nieces and Nephews who think "Aunt K" has a totally cool leg that comes off! Children you have to love them!!

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Children are wonderful, aren't they :)

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Children are wonderful, aren't they :)

God has not blessed us with children.. :( But I love them I work with them and have lots of nieces and nephews.. :) :)

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If you saw someone walking down the street wearing a lime green hat that was 6 feet high, would you stare? or giggle? Or would you go up and ask why they were wearing that hat?

No one answered the question......seriously, what would you do?

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