Another friend flew out for Thanksgiving.
Mouth-watering! children running around and old folks reminiscing the good old days.
Yes, his destination has a few hallmarks of the American Dream.
Here in old Saigon, the only thing that changes is new names on old streets and schools (no longer segregation, so it came with a shock as I rode pass the old all-girl Gia Long High to see the new mix of male and female students)
My friend likes the quote from T.S. Eliot (In my end, my beginning).
He knows the Earth is round, and that at the end of his short stay in Saigon is the beginning of his trans-continental journey to America and Europe.
Before meeting him, I carry water and chop wood.
After meeting him, I carry water and chop wood.
But he left a vacuum hard to fill. Just like our mutual friend, before him (see Goodbye Saigon).
They have sons and daughter to attend to, paper work to sign and friends to play catch up with.
None of us gives up on Saigon. We all think the place deserves a make-over, a second chance (as if it needed our help and opinion).
Rated as most competitive in the nation, Saigon is quite poised to soar and regain its former glory (Pearl of the Orient).
Skyline and sea harbor, street signs and shops, all compete for clientele. Back-packers have a hard time configuring their Google-map routes. But everyone here knows or are supposed to know where they are going.
Young work force pour over the key board, while street vendors peddle their wares (walking Wal-Mart).
When my friend was here, we used to sit at one of the ronde’s, French round-about, to feel and feed on the energy of bustling traffic.
Afterwards, we would retire to his quiet alley just a few feet away to recuperate. It’s exhausting and exhilarating at the same time to live the night life in Saigon. More bikes take up the space a few moments ago reserved for buses.
Years ago, they stopped allowing tow-trucks to come through before mid-night. So on this Thanksgiving eve, there is no Black Friday here in Saigon. Only window shopping and online shopping. Tourists find it refreshing to stroll the old boulevard, to discover names like Majestic, Continental hotels etc…
Time seems to freeze-frame here. And we took advantage of this to “re-enter” our past (as if it’s ever possible).
American pop songs overheard from retail shops can lure you back to a time when you were first in love or discover love.
Don’t give up on us, baby.
On the other side of the trans-Pacific flight, my friend perhaps is checking out his luggage, going through custom, with the reflexive greeting “Welcome home, mr Ngo”. I like America. When being addressed by Mr so and so, you know it’s official and that you have paid your taxes and your due.
Consumer confidence is returning with rising home prices in the Bay Areas. I hope it spills over across the pond. After all, Fukushima tsunami waves got tossed all the way to San Francisco bay. Why not this time around, with rising economic waters from the West. When my friend returns, he’ll know once again, his next stay in Vietnam would just like T.S. Elliot puts it, “in my end, my beginning”. No way around the inter-dependence and inter-connectedness of our 21st-century living.