Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Monday, January 31, 2011


The Lunar New Year is approaching and the city is adorned with yellow and pink flowers, red banners, red and gold signs, gold coins, and lights galore. As I rode my bike home very (late/early) in the Saturday morning I was greeted by mounds and rows of . . . none other than watermelons! Green, Green with stripes, Yellow. Huge, gigantic, watermelons. No this isn't a farm in South Carolina or a Spike Lee parody, 'tis the season of watermelons.

With 90+ degree weather 365, 24/7 it's not a surprise that there is fruit ripening and flowers blooming during a time of the year when I'm normally wrapped in thermals and fleece socks. So I'm thankful and a little perplexed, but excited to greet a spring-like season soo soon. I wish you all could see it. Downtown Ho Chi Minh is gorgeous. Lotus flowers hang from the trees, Nguyen Hue promenade is now the annual flower exhibit, store fronts and business entrances look like Disney World with all the extra ornate decor that has been added to the outside. I'm the sure Vietnamese children are eating this up. It's almost more fun than Christmas time, mainly cause it's hot. I can honestly say this is my favorite time of year to be in Saigon.  

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

If there was one thing I love about teaching. . .

its when my graduated students call me up for advice. It feels good to be needed. And one former student, Mai Anh, needed my advice ASAP! She texted me this morning, while I was in class.

Student, "Tiana, this company offered me a position, do you think it's a good chance for me?"
Me, "Wow, Congrats, when do you need to give them a reply?"
Student, "Today!"

I'm honored that she's giving me the responsibility to answer this question for her. (She also treated me to lunch!) But she already knew the answer herself. She was not happy in her current job, and she has already interned at the company that is offering the new position, it's a perfect set up. I'm proud that she did such a great job at her internship, that the art director would personally ask for her to replace a designer who is leaving. And what an exciting time for my graduates. Since design is a small market here in the city, young designers have the opportunity to have their hands on more projects and take on the role of design director.

Same same, but different.

So, I've had some time to examine Vietnamese culture, and the everyday life of the people. Not sayin' I'm an expert, I'm just making observation. There are definitely overt differences in Southeast Asian life, some which are the affect of the religious beliefs and the tropical weather (monks walking around barefoot). But in general people are people. We wake up, brush are teeth (some of us), put on our professional clothes, take our kids to work, fight crazy traffic to avoid getting into an accident and just deal with the everyday madness called life.

Many ex-pats living in Vietnam get frustrated with the laziness, laid back atmosphere, "VP" time, and overall clueless nature of the people. Sometimes it's a language barrier, sometimes Vietnamese really don't make an effort to understand what you say, even when you try to speak Vietnamese. But communication break downs happened all the time, all over the world. I just recently had an issue getting my bachelor degree legalized. Nobody at the school knew the correct process, and I spent several weeks fussing at everyone from the Director to the HR manager, trying to understand what I needed to do. Upon my return to the US, the process wasn't much different. I go to the bank in Atlanta to get my notary stamp, and the chick behind the counter doesn't add a signature to her stamp. The stamp must have a signature. Of course I didn't know this till after I fed ex the letter and degree to the legalization office in Chicago. But, the main question is, "Why didn't the notary know how to do her job?" I mean really, am I back in Vietnam?

The break down continues as I discover the state of Georgia does not give a secretary of state seal to documents that are not from the state of Georgia, and my degree is from Ohio. Great.
The process, which should have been finished with my initial fed ex to Chicago, instead took the entire 3 weeks time that I spent in the States, all because nobody knew the process. So mistakes happen everywhere. Nobody is perfect. Though this city is not one I would want to live in for the rest of my life, I am here in HCMC now, and the now is what I need to enjoy. Not what it could or should be, because I can't change it, especially not in a communist society.
You know the saying, "if you can't beat em, join em."

Now, Seoul, Korea, that is a city I could live in. . .

Monday, January 10, 2011

1st day, 1st term of the 2011 school year, and

for the VERY FIRST time, after dismissing my students early from class (10 am instead of 12 pm) Nobody got up to leave! It's currently 10:16 AM Monday morning, Ho Chi Minh City time, and every single student is still sitting in their seat. . .typing! Perhaps the in-class assignment had something to do with it, write 300 to 500 words about a Contemporary Asian Street Artist. . .But regardless, when you say "leave early" most students run for the hills, like a group of toddlers running to Toys r Us. I'm so proud. This is the first class of Design Investigation and Culture, and the first group. The class was so large we had to split into 2 groups. I don't think group 2 can hang though. EVERY student staying after class to finish. . . now that's hard to beat!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year, New Day, New Country, New Experiences

Happy New Year Bloggers!!!
I feel blessed to have experienced another full year especially one that was filled with surprising changes and challenges. I hope that I can continue to remain focused in 2011 to manifest the destiny that God has planned for my life.
There's lots I have to update you on. Christmas in Saigon, my visit to Seoul, Korea, and reflecting on my Vietnamese life to my American family and friends has brought new perspectives and the realization that I need to show all sides of life in Southeast Asia. It is challenging, but still livable. I may not want to establish roots in this part of the world but, there are many who do, and continue to live healthy fruitful lives. So, my new years resolutions, if I had a few are: 1. post more photos and 2. fluency in Chinese Mandarin. There it is,written in stone, so now I have work to do!