Right place, right time: Woman scammed in Vietnam finds help from fellow Albertan

Violet Reid had just been scammed out of $2,000 and was lost in Ho Chi Minh City when she walked into a local fast food restaurant looking for help.

The friendly woman Reid met in the park earlier that day had turned out to be a lure in a tourist trap.

Reid was invited to the woman's home, coerced into a poker game by a smooth-talking uncle, and then forced into paying debts she didn't owe and giving up her cellphone to an intimidating nephew.

They took her to a jewelry store and ordered her to withdraw thousands of dollars on her credit card.

The Beaumont, Alta., woman was left shaken and adrift in an unfamiliar neighbourhood in Vietnam's biggest city. It was a Friday night in early March: traffic was hectic and the sidewalks were bustling.

"I felt completely alone," Reid said.

She walked into a restaurant beside the jewelry store and approached a man collecting his food from the counter for help.

The man, it turned out, was from just down the highway in Red Deer.  

"I was on the other side of the world and the person I reached out to was someone that lives an hour and a half from my house, it was just crazy," Reid said.

"Home is never very far away, it doesn't matter what part of the world you go to."

A chance encounter

Jack Foulston helped orient Reid, bringing up a map and finding her hotel.

The two chatted briefly, enough time for 70-year-old Foulston to explain that he lived in Alberta but spent his summers in Vietnam. He fell in love with the country after visiting his daughter's in-laws in Ho Chi Minh City back in 2004.

Foulston hailed a taxi, directing the driver to the hotel and making sure the price was negotiated before Reid drove off.

They both had regrets despite the serendipitous encounter.

"I should have asked her if she was hungry and have gone in the taxi with her," Foulston wrote in an email to CBC News.

Violet Reid

Reid, meanwhile, was embarrassed that she left with just a quick thank you. Foulston had abandoned his food to help her after all, she noted.

"I just wanted to make sure that he knew how much he helped me that night," she said.

Facebook callout

Back in Beaumont, Reid posted on Facebook, asking if anyone could connect her with "Jack from Red Deer".

Within eight hours, his daughter responded in the comments.

Luella Foulston got a text message from a friend asking if the post was about her dad.

"I went on and checked and sure enough I found Violet's story," she said. "A nice heartwarming story. I'm glad he was in the right spot at the right time."

Her father developed a community of his own in Ho Chi Minh City, taking Vietnamese classes at the local university and teaching English in his spare time. A local magazine even wrote a feature about him a few years ago.

I was on the other side of the world and the person I reached out to was someone that lives an hour and a half from my house, it was just crazy. - Violet Reid

He's apt to dress up at Christmas time in Vietnam -- his white hair and cheerful manner make for a convincing Santa Claus.

Jack raved about his adopted home in emails to the CBC.

"I am the luckiest man in the world," he wrote. "My doctor said my old ticker has an expiry date coming up soon. If I pass away in Vietnam, it will take the mortician a week to get the smile off my face."

Foulston is still in Vietnam and hasn't spoken with Reid yet.

But Reid has a plan for when they're both back in Alberta.

"I'm going to say thank you, obviously, but I also owe him lunch," she said.