Re-occupy yourself!


When I boarded my flight to Vietnam, Penn State was losing to Nebraska.

And after I landed in Vietnam, I read about New York “tent city” had been re-occupied by the Mayor.

Here in the land of motor scooters, and kids try to conjugate in English, I can put those problems  in perspective. It’s true that I have felt shaken that my University’s reputation was now tarnished.

But the moment I sat down with my Cafe Sua Da, and the first lady who walked around selling lottery tickets (the equivalent of Mexican child peddlers selling “Chicklets) approached me, I knew I was home.

I learned a hard lesson: it’s not the place. It’s the time and how mature we are at handling those curved balls life throws at you.

If Nelson Mandela can rise above the hatred, Khan can get out of jail to restore a nation, and Churchill never gives up, so can we. Those giants weren’t giants as we now know.  They were dirty (in detention), desperate (isolation) and constricted (as in London bombing). But they rose to the occasion, and never lost hope.

Vietnam is playing catch-up (its President thanked President Obama at recent APEC meeting for siding with Vietnam when China acted up on territorial dispute) starting with early school age (mandatory English).

I remembered how my mother, a school teacher herself, paid out a large chunk of her meager salary to send me to English classes. My first lesson “It is raining, isn’t it”. It will soon stop raining here, but the flood water in Thailand has yet to recede.

MNC’s are rethinking where they should place their manufacturing facilities to avoid similar occurrences (delay in part shipment). Perhaps Vietnam could be a viable alternative, provided that its workers are up to task. I know they already are resilient, heroic and resourceful. Now the hard part: get trained up in soft skills and softwares or risk becoming Asian sub-contracting factory due to skill gap.

That easy way out has with it myriads of unintended consequences such as pollution, traffic congestion and wage pressures as happening in China.

The other alternative has long-term benefits but also has its price: invest in its work force and young population.

It’s not just English. They will need a whole new mindset, one which is complimentary to their built-in advantages. Instructors will need to equip students to think, to respect quality (the Japanese way) and not to rely on the flow of FDI with its own unintended consequences.

Right now, its neighbor Korea has just entered WTO. I stopped in Korea for a flight change, and couldn’t help notice the wealth and inflationary level those folks are experiencing (Starbucks and Tiffany). I got a book “23 things they wouldn’t tell you about capitalism” in paper back (it costs me $31.00).  I hope I got a good lesson out of it from this Korean author. But more than that, I wanted to thank my mom for sending me to French school, Vietnamese school and English school. It’s been a long road since “it’s raining , isn’t it” to “23 things they won’t tell you”.

The only thing I have left to tell you is, “re-occupy yourself”. It’s not the park or the campus, New York or Happy Valley.

It’s in your mind. I am sure Mandela and Khan both learned that while in the can.

They didn’t let the outside walls occupy their inner liberated self.

A Jewish author says it best ” they can take my body, but not me who occupies it – I paraphrase”.

Yes, my body as of yesterday’s reading, requires Lipitor. I am not a young English student who can eat any junk food outside the school yard. But inside, I plan to “re-occupy” that 140 lbs of me for the long haul. Don’t even think of trespassing it.

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