Slippery Saigon

Someone told me that the rainy season here would end soon.

Yet it is raining still. Outdoor activities like kung-fu class, xe-om, beer stalls all ceased.

I seeked shelters .

The trick to walk safely here is to step firmly with one foot into the sidewalk, not at its edge (which slopes down to facilitate water draining).

Yet the middle of the sidewalk  was often “occupied” by street vendors most evenings.

The last choice is to walk in the street where scooters in all directions fighting for right of way.

Rain or shine, the internet cafe are full: kids playing Chinese chess , soccer and Thumbelina online.

I found a restaurant that caters to Northern taste: boiled pork, shrimp sauce and stuffed tofu.

I miss mom’s cooking.

The owner paced back and forth trying to put his grandson to sleep (on his shoulder).

I remember my old baby sitter, who let me piggyback to and from kindergarten.

I wonder how many favors one accumulated in a lifetime.

And how many favors one gives back ( Karma currency imbalance).

We all need bail-outs at times and we all “occupy” at some point.

Meanwhile, I  read about the Obama’s latest injunction to use foreign aid resources to further human rights’ causes e.g. gay rights around the world.

It’s one thing to finally “don’t ask don’t tell” in the US.

It’s quite another to open US embassies and USAID facilities to be “gay sanctuaries” around the world.

Tall order indeed!

Has anyone briefed him about cross-cultural differences? about Cultural Relativity and Taboos around the world?

People barely got used to using “OK” (condoms) here, much less advancing “don’t ask don’t tell”.

For more than three weeks now, I have been out of one bubble just to enter another.

Here, in Vietnam, people are in constant motion; multi-taskers in the US would feel right at home (people riding scooters in busy traffic with one hand while talking on the phone and smoking).

On my first few trips here, I saw accidents that claimed lives. Lately, it has been less frequent.

Infact, phones are no longer the most sought after, nor are English classes (which are increasingly commoditized ).

Home Karaoke systems perhaps reach saturation point, just like chat room at internet cafes.

Indeed my IT guy and I couldn’t find phone cables (for fax and wireline phones).

Apparently telecom VN has gone completely mobile.

The working class meanwhile are trying to stretch their hard-earned money

(get paid, get a few dresses).

With holidays fast approaching, workers in China and Vietnam are scrambling for the last train home.

Saigon, though still slippery, will then be emptied of migrant workers.

“The Sad Hymn” (Bai Thanh Ca Buon) will be played way past Christmas.

Booze and beer will be consumed till the last drop. Caution: slippery when wet.

Nobody discussed “Occupy” here. We are 100 percenters, sharing the burden and hopefully the beer.

Why not while it lasts! Its famous movie star has just died of a stroke at age 54. His declared wish: someday to return to Vietnam,

and find acting gig among his peers. He has just felt short of that last wish. One of his screen appearances was in “We were soldiers“.

It’s slippery still in Saigon. I will sign off now before treading carefully home, or else, I end up in “We were alive”.


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