Viet Kieu

Most recently there have been so many Viet Kieu or “Overseas Vietnamese” coming back to Vietnam. For the Tet holiday I think was the biggest single time of returning Vietnamese coming to visit their birthplace. I met so many of them going out and seeing people I know with Vietnamese I had never seen before (You get to know the faces in the ex-pat bars). I would introduce myself and upon hearing their accent would know they are American. They told would tell me that it was the first time back for them in 30 or so odd years!! Also, about how the place changed so much and how it was strange to see so many foreigners now living in HCMC. I was talking with one who I became good friends with and she told me that Arizona was home now but she felt guilty because Vietnam should feel more like home. I answered that in this day and age, there is no reason that we should only have to pick one home. For me, I feel comfortable and at home just as much in Tokyo, HCMC and Madrid as I do in Columbus.
But it got me thinking. What exactly defines a nationality? When I was a child I thought an American was either white or black and spoke the English perfectly. As I got a little older, I began to think it was anyone who spoke American English flawlessly. But now, I know it is anyone who holds an American passport. Restrictions aside, it is possible for anyone to go to American and call themselves American if they can get a passport. However, it is only a one way street.
With the ease of air travel, the popularity of studying languages abroad, and less governmental restriction there is a large amount of people leaving their native lands and taking on new nationalities in Europe and America. But this has not happened the other way around. I can never be a Vietnamese or Japanese no matter how well I learn the language or adapt to the culture. I also read an article in “Let’s Go Vietnam entitled Going Home….

Ah Vietnam

The President of Vietnam recently made the first visit to the United States since the end of the war. It was really big news here among the business community and we all hoped that the trip would spark a more definate answer about when Vietnam would join the WTO. It seems the trip went very well and Vietnam is on it’s way to finally joining hopefully by the end of this year or more likely sometime next year. Right now HCMC is booming and there are new businesses opening up everywhere. It seems my initial feeling about this place was correct and HCMC is really a great place to live once you get past the third world surface. The people are really friendly and it is a very relaxed lifestyle. However, during the President’s visit there was a small group of protesters holding signs such as “Stop the Oppression” and other such nonsense. We in the ex-pat community wondered exactly what “oppression” these protesters might be refering to. Now without divulging into politics too much, I don’t see, feel or have heard of any “oppression” what so ever in this country. In China there is definately a feeling of big brother but I don’t feel this at all and definately think Vietnam is a wonderful place to live.
During his visit, President Bush also promised to come visit Vietnam at the end of the year which is huge news. I really think he might make some sort of statement when he is here about exactly when Vietnam will join the WTO and after that the country should take off economically.

Experiences in Saigon

As I sit here typing this entry, it is pouring buckets just like it does everyday during the rainy season. Many people do not like rain, and neither do I, except for these types of thunderstorms we get everday. I love a good storm and this is the first country I have lived in where a new storm rolls in every 15 hours.
Also, the main form of transportation here is the motorbike. So when these storms come in you see the entire crowd of traffic pull to one side and put on ponchos. You have never seen anything more ridiculous than myself in a suit, backpack with computer inside, motorbike googles, and a poncho. I swear I will take a picture next time just to prove silly I look. But that is life here. Most people just don’t have the luxury of cars to sit in and keep out of the rain. No matter how good your poncho is you will always get a little wet.
My recent discoveries:
1. You need a passport to enter the library and you are not allowed to bring your own books. The reason is they do not have a security system to guard against theft so if you are not allowed to bring in your own books then they are able to make sure every book is checked out and don’t have to ask.
2. Many institutions here will not accept older bills. There is also a counterfit bill problem and bills are often rejected. I went to the bank yesterday and got my salary after which I went to the electricity provider of HCMC to pay my bill. They would not accept one of the bills I had just gotten from the bank!! The only other time this has happened is when I first arrived in the country. I exchanged some yen at the Vietnam Bank counter at the airport. I was then in a local disco (Apocolypse) and they would not accept about 5 of my 100,000 VND bills because they were counterfit!!!

15 of May School Fundraiser.

Today I went to the 15th of May School Fundraiser. Pictures here. The school is a grassroots charity, which helps disadvantaged children in District 1, HCMC. The kids put on an excellent show of Hip Hop dancing and diversions such as juggling and acrobatics. There were also silent and live auctions plus an excellent buffet provided by the Caravelle Hotel.