It’s half past five AM. Outside the Women Association of Ho Chi Minh City, I heard music. Not hip hop, not trance. Jut Gold music “Gui Gio Cho May Ngan Bay”, blasted from a boom box . It’s dark, but the sidewalk hosted a group of women practicing Tai-Chi. The music was about acceptance, about one wing drops after another. But here they stood, with graceful moves and fateful lives.
Their counterparts meanwhile distribute magazines, newspapers, meat, seafood etc.. for the city of 10 million. I struggled to find room on the sidewalk for the run, before hordes of scooters claiming their right of way.
Common city dwellers don’t seem to be able to afford living space. NUSKIN and new Life Insurance, big-box Fast Food and sugar-drink companies such as Coca Cola drove up commercial real estate prices.
As a result, the face of the city has changed, over the last six months (faster than in the US).
One can spot the need for women gyms, for skin care and cosmetic products.
But then, love sees it differently. Here were mothers of revolution . Of future leaders.
and of past glory. Still out there before dawn. Still guarding the age of romanticism (w/out make-ups or cosmetic surgery).
Still staying fit for the fight. Vietnam is synonymous with war. War against Chinese invaders, French colonialists, American reluctant Imperialists, Cambodian “cap-duon” and now, in full circle, back to the Islands against the Chinese industrialists.
Still “Gui Gio Cho May Ngan Bay”, still with that cigarette-hoarse voice of Khanh Ly, the exile folk singer, muse of Trinh Cong Son (and Trinh Nam Son will be here for just one night) known as Vietnamese Bob Dylan.
Love sees it differently. The same song could be used to soothe the soul, comfort the afflicted, or to motivate the team . At any age, at any time.
Now I realized I did not know what I was talking about. I barely scratched the surface .
The Diary of Dang Thuy Tram spoke of a woman doctor who walked the Ho Chi Minh Trail, just to be near the war front where her lover had gone before. It spoke of the diary with “fire”. To others, war was hell. Love sees it differently (she died a martyr’s death, never to be reunited with her lover).
The irony did not escape me that, in contrast to Western sense of appropriateness,
here women could be warriors, housewives and heads of firms, with no conflict.
Their ability to synthesize and compromise says a lot about how this society manage to gloss over enormous challenge.(see After Sorrow).
A city of 10 million or 1 million, it doesn’t matter. What matter was how those women have taken over the education in public, and the management of the household in private. It’s they who make it happen. Just show up and see at 5 AM, the music and movement. Then you will see the tip of the iceberg. Often we don’t see those undercurrents. But love sees it differently. It got you up early and forced you to notice. I noticed. I learned.