Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Friday, June 18, 2010

Just when life starts feelin mundane. . .


I step outside. Step outside my comfort zone, step out of the box, step out on a limb. Or literally, step outside. . . . . and feel the 95+ degree fahrenheit heat burn my skin.

Did you forget where you are Little Bee? This isn't Kansas anymore. No need to day dream, there's no time, the dream is now. Go out and live it.
I finally have a routine. A day to day program, a way to get to work, a 9-5 schedule. But having a "regular routine" in a not-so regular environment is becoming a bit scary. This place that I knew nothing about, the language I can't understand, the culture that makes no sense is happening everyday. If it happens everyday, it will eventually begin to feel normal. Can that happen? In a city with no family, no college cronies, no macaroni and cheese, where they eat fruit with salt, where the river is filled with trash, where old ladies sell food in conical hats, and have 50 thousand ways to create soup with noodles, how can I expect this to feel normal?
Well, not having my family and friends around is something I'll never get used to, but waking up to the sun at the same time every day, 365 days, to go to a job I enjoy, that's something I can accept. But if it's normal, it becomes routine, and routine leads to monotony, and monotony leads to boredom and boredom leads to me needing to change, and . . . . . . Oh wait . . . did I forget where I am? This isn't Kansas, or Georgia, or Illinois. There's no time to day dream, the dream is now. Let me step outside and live it.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Grandmas

Don't you love them?
I think it's a universal role of grandmas to take care of their family. Regardless of the ethnicity or country. Grandmas will be there to feed the baby, help with laundry, cook dinner. The grandma of the house is here. She pops in every once in a while to help her daughter with the new baby boy. I didn't know she was home today until she crept up behind me in the kitchen, wondering what I was doing. Of course she started fussing, and then laughed, cause I'm clearly not fluent in Vietnamese, yet. I usually scavenge the kitchen for any left over food. I know, I'm horrible. But according to the maid they spend too much money on food and I should eat what's left, so I do.
So as I'm waiting for my water to boil (because there's no microwave) and eat my pathetic concoction of rice and broth, grandma comes over with a large pot of "beef stew" I didn't notice. She tips the pot over so I can see what's inside. I nod in agreeance that it looks edible. She heats up the soup, then places the hot bowl with a regular spoon on the table. "There!", she says. Awwwww, thanks grandma. or "Cam on," the Vietnamese phrase for thank you. Not sure what the leafy green stuff was, but it was tasty!

Monday, June 7, 2010

are you up for the challenge?

Just had a lovely evening with some ladies from work. It is Gen's birthday so we went to get our "junkfood-on" in Vincom plaza (Imagine Lenox Mall in Buckhead, but smaller). In our Vinasun taxi ride there, we got into a conversation about living here. I learned that Gen has lived in HCMC for 4 years. wow.

"People ask me why do I like living here?" Nicole stated, "Because everyday is a challenge."

True indeed. It is said that if you truly want to feel alive, you should live in Vietnam . . . . because you're life is on the line everyday. If it isn't the nasty street food that keeps you running to the toilet, it's the motor bike robbers trying to steal your backpack, or the city bus determined to not just run you over, but kill you in the process. While basking in some beach sun this past weekend, my friend Ludi (a Vietnamese-French VietQ beauty) mentioned that the Vietnam law states, if you injur someone in a motor accident, you must pay for all their medical bills, for the rest of their life, but if you kill someone you only serve 5-7 years depending on the situation. Hmmm, let's see, if I were poor which consequence would seem less threatening to my well being. . . kill someone? or paralayze them? you decide. Not to mention the language barrier. Luckily the Vietnamese language does not have characters but the 4-5 tones are crazy difficult!

Any ways, back to our food adventure. So Nicole describes the restuarant we're going to as Carl Jr.'s, "they have the best burgers!" Never heard of it. But in my mind, I'm thinking this will be a nice sit down restaurant, fancy tables, nice lighting, I mean we are going to Vincom Plaza, everything in there is high-class. After strolling around 3 floors of the mall, window shopping in Western brand names (Doc Martin, Nike, Ecko, Accessorize), Viet-style high class fashion stores with outfits too tight for us and drooling over sexxy NineWest shoes that were waaaaay over priced, we get to Carl Jrs.

"This is it??" That's Hardee's!" I said.

Sure enough, it was the same Hardee's Star character, same Hardee's burger taste. Well, tomatoe, tamato, the burgers were good. Can you believe we also saw a Popeye's Chicken? Don't worry it was still called Popeye's. Now if I see a Chic Fil-a, I KNOW I've seen it all!

Friday, June 4, 2010

where am I?

So I mentioned on my Facebook page, a while back, about a guy I met from Chicago. A friend of mine had mentioned that she knew this man from Chicago living here in southeast Asia and, being that we are both Americans kissed by nature's sun, thought we should meet up. Fortunately we happened to be in the same place one particular Friday night. It was a hip hop party, well French hip hop, but that's another story.

Being, that he was the only "brother" in the establishment, I noticed him right away. Please don't misunderstand, I am not interested in dating this man. The interest is similar to when we moved to Wisconsin; any new Black person in the area stirred up excitement. But this isn't just a case of finding brown skin and curly hair. This man is American, and one of the very few that I've met 2 months into my exile. I don't think it is unnatural to assume that two Americans of African decent would want to network with each other. To my chagrin, this man did not share the same assumption. In fact he had other business to attend to. A smorgasbord of International fantasies were waiting for him across the club, Why waste any more minutes talking to the "one of hundreds of Black women" from your hometown living in HCMC? *rolling my eyes*

This leads me to my next point. Ho Chi Minh City reminds me of the South (and West) Side of Chicago, which is pretty sad considering Vietnam is a "developing" country. Let's compare and contrast:
1. South Side of Chi has streets filled with trash, consisting of used diapers, junk food wrappers, condoms / HCMC has streets filled with trash consisting of used diapers, plastic cups, rotten fruit, and other unidentifiable objects
2. In the South Side of Chi (I will shorten to SSC) you will typically see grown men standing around, doing nothing in the middle of the day / In HCMC I see grown men, usually sleeping, in the middle of the day
3. While strolling along in SSC, you can find women with rollers in their hair, going to the grocery store / in HCMC you will see Vietnamese women wearing a roller in their hair, to the market, from the gym, on their way to work. . .
4. On the streets of SSC there are men selling socks, bottles of water, and in the summer time possibly barbeque / In HCMC you will see men and women selling fruit, strange dried sea food, face masks, or grilling unique asian culinary delights
5. In the heat, SSC dwellers are known for blasting their music in all hours of the night / in the heat, which by the way is 24/7/365 my alley neighbors in HCMC do this as well, starting at 10 pm ish till 12:30 am ish
6. In SSC you may get hit with a stray bullet / in HCMC you may get hit by a bus
7. In SSC prostitutes are seen on the corner, sometimes they were there at 6 pm when I got home from work, though I never knew they were prostitutes / in HCMC male prostitutes from Africa are hired to please the Vietnamese women, though most African men will lie and say "they are here to play football."
8. Most folks from the SSC stay on the south side, and may even resent those that get out of the south side and move to the north side of the city. / Similarly folks from the southern part of Vietnam do not interact with folks from northern Vietnam. If you live in the south, you stay in the south, forget those north-siders, they're too uppity anyway ;-)
9. Women on the SSC where weave that doesn't match. / Women in HCMC wear weave that's either too straight, or the wrong color, or just wrong, lol. and they wear rollers in public. . . nuff said
10. Lastly, you think ghetto negros are the only ones who stop on the side of the road to pee? Welp, Vietnamese men do it too! This is why I will never be caught in a flood. . .  ewwwwwww.

This juxtaposition may seem extreme. What's more extreme is how in a "civilized" nation, areas of poverty, illiteracy, war-like violence among the youth can still exist. . . and what do we do? travel the world, praised for getting out, more concerned with selfish desires than with uplifting our own community.