Adventure in my homeland


One of my earliest  collections was the Adventure of Tin-Tin.

It was a roadmap for my adventure later in life, which took me to ten countries and roughly fifty cities in North America. But nothing had prepared me for an adventure in my homeland. Certain familiar elements still exist: Chemin de Fer, Ben Thanh Market and the noodle stand in my old neighborhood. But new elements have emerged as well: I-Pho T-shirts, I-Center and Steve Jobs biography in Vietnamese.

At rush hour, thousands of helmets compete for pavement and sidewalk. Call it “Helmet Nation”. But at night, when the heat subsides, tables and chairs sprout up on the very sidewalks commuters had just fought for the right of way earlier.

People are getting married (young demographic), are into fashion and style and going to school at ALL hours of the day ALL WEEK LONG.

I heard that Koreans work  the longest hours (55) and the French shortest (35).

Maybe Vietnam should be ranked at the top for classroom hours vs free time.

(This study load perhaps did not scare off the only Korean student enrolled in Vietnam University to study MBA out of a few thousand foreign students in Vietnam, most taking Vietnamese lessons).

During my “re-entry” I could pass as a “pure” native, until  my slightly red-hue hair gave me away

“Good morning Sir, would you like to see the menu?” one vendor approached me at Ben Thanh Market.

And before I knew it, I purchased a Steve Jobs biography by TIME’s former Editor (in Vietnamese, by Alpha Book) instead.

After all, Steve was born Syrian. And his idea of “think different” would fit here where “Sorrows of War” copies are sold along with I-Pho T-shrits.

On my way home, I stopped by the I-Center in District 3 to see how closely this “reseller” reflects Steve’s original and obsessive control of  every Retail  detail (inadvertently, I acted as an unsolicited mystery shopper).

The rep asked “what would you like to buy”?

In the States, his counterparts would have left me alone to play with the I-products, until I became so engaged and enthralled that I wouldn’t need to be asked (puppy-dog sales).

The strangest feeling was to walk out of Mission Impossible (which took the audience to the Kremlin, Dubai and Mumbai) and emerged into the sunlight of my old neighborhood in District 3. For a moment, life seemed to be  a continuous loop, from Adventure of Tin Tin, to Tom Cruise, to Tommy (me), as one  writer put it, ” return to the same place, and see it for the first time”.

I finally understood the expression “the eyes of one’s heart”. Perhaps we will reach the Empathic Civilization sooner than thought: understand others and be understood. Full circle. Adventure that started at my doorstep ended there as you may have guessed. Ecole L’Aurore. District 3.

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