Especially on Sundays, like today.
Shaded streets, short strolls and sweet smiles.
Who needs all the executive shirt with designers’ emblem on it.
Instead of shirt, just smile even when you are not on camera. “Cuoi len di em oi” Just smile.
Flowers for the graves, flowers for the grade school teachers.
Lots of laughters, lots of tears “Ta chi can mot nguoi cung voi ta doi chet moi ngay”
Just a person to pass the time with while awaiting death inevitable.
Hence, Saigonese put on their best.
Last night, at a friend’s private birthday party, I sat outside on the balcony, looking into the glass door, taking in the scene, as if it were a movie set. Was I there, or just watching myself being there?
Am I in or in but not of it?
They say you can take a Texan out of Texas, but you cannot take Texas out of a Texan.
Perhaps the same holds true for Saigonese like myself .
Saigon is a synthesis.
We “cao dai (unitarian) every strand of thoughts and expressions.
No one knows or is let in to our core. Double protection.
Suspicious of foreigners yet embrace them all.
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Lots of laughter and lots of tears.
Just one life time.
But in mine, I have seen Saigon live multiple lives.Try every dish, every taste: bitter cucumber or pickled lemon.
We take everything and leave out nothing.
During my entire life interacting and learning about Saigon , I have yet seen Saigon lose out.
It blends and synthesizes everything.
To the point where you could only recognize it by its smile.
Then the younger generation takes over.
You see the resemblance but can’t put a finger on it.
Turns out it’s that smile underneath the facade.
They smile when they are happy and when they are sad (see Understanding Vietnam).
Saigon’s smile is more of a reaction than an expression. “You always smile but in your eyes your sorrow shows”.
My Saigon. Cuoi len di em oi, du nuoc mat rot chet vanh moi. Smiling while swallowing tears.