I took my first job as a software developer in Ho Chi Minh city more than 12 years ago. It was the third time I visited the city and yet everything was strange to me. I didn’t know how to drive and didn’t have a motorbike at the time. Hence I went to work by bus for around 2 years before saving enough money to buy my first motorbike.
For most people, catching a bus is easy, but for me it was hard. I lived far away from the bus station, hence everyday I had to walk more than 1 kilometer to get there. It took me some days to learn the path to the bus station. At first, I didn’t know how to catch a bus. I didn’t know if I should wave my hand. Or should I stand there and someone on the bus would ask me if I wanted to go. My younger brother showed me how to do it earlier, but I was too nervous to remember anything. Luckily, I was a good learner. After I missed some of them, I saw people waving their hands when the bus came. This was a great success. I finally knew how to catch a bus.
I thought if I could catch a bus, there would be no other challenge that could stop me. But I was wrong. I didn’t know when to tell the driver to stop. Everything looked exactly the same through the window. In the first 2 months, there’re a lot of times I had to walk around 1 kilometer back to the company, sometimes even more. The worst time was when I had to go to the other side of the street to catch another bus to go back. I felt so embarrassed.
After so many times walking back too far from the company, I decided I needed to find a better way to stop the bus. The first solution was to ask the bus conductor whether the bus was nearby my company. This solution worked quite well when I met good conductors who were happy to help and have a good memory. But sometimes, there were too many people asking and they simply forgot me. Whenever I could not ask the conductor, I turned to asking the people on the bus. Some good people were willing to help but some didn't. And I also felt ashamed after asking people so many times. Hence, I started thinking of a new solution.
The second solution was to try to identify a recognizable target. It could be a colorful building or colorful objects on the street that I could see through the window. This solution worked well most of the time. But sometimes the bus was full of people and it’s hard to see anything through the window. Hence, sometimes I had to go back to solution number one.
I tried to develop the skills for around 2 months. And I finally was able to recognize things quite easily. I was even able to recognize the differences between the trees nearby my company with the others. I didn’t need to ask anyone but became a person that other people can ask. And I was happy to do that.
Apart from the challenges at the beginning, it was fun taking the bus to work. Once I got onto the bus, I didn’t need to worry about anything. I could spend my time looking at the buildings on the street through the window. I could look at people outside rushing their way to work. I could see a lot of different types of motorbikes, cars on the street - which was amazing to me at the time. I lived the entire of my childhood in the countryside. And I had not had a chance to see those things, hence everything was interesting to me.
Even now, I still can imagine my curious face in those days. The good old days...