Follow my Existential Exile. . .

Monday, February 21, 2011

Don't forget. . .

Watching the online broadcast of a sermon at trinity church. . . At the end of an entire weekend of partying I am reminded what February represents in my community. I am reminded that through my foolishness and faults Jesus still loves me, His grace and mercy endures. I am reminded of the painful past of American history but reminded that this past is what made "Us" such an amazing culture. Below is a quote from Frederick Douglass. Though he expressed his sadness and disappointment in American history, I would dare to say "Thank You" to all the haters of our past and present. Thank you for reminding me why I work so hard to abolish your ignorant ways and narrow-minded perspective of who you think I am or what you think I should be. From the day I entered kindergarten to the day I arrived in Southeast Asia, it never ceases to amaze me how distorted and demonized the image is of Black people in the minds of those from sheltered, uneducated, monotonous communities across the world. "But be careful not to become the evil you seek to remove." It takes courage to remain beautiful when everyones disposition towards you is so ugly. Live with no fear and abolish hatred with love.

"In thinking of America, I sometimes find myself admiring her bright blue sky–her grand old woods–her fertile fields–her beautiful rivers–her mighty lakes and star crowned mountains. But my rapture is soon checked when I remember that all is cursed with the infernal spirit of slave holding and wrong; When I remember that with the waters of her noblest rivers, the tears of my brethren are borne to the ocean, disregarded and forgotten; That her most fertile fields drink daily of the warm blood of my outraged sisters, I am filled with unutterable loathing."
-Frederick Douglass

Monday, February 14, 2011

That time of day

After you live in a city a for a significant amount of time you begin to understand what makes the people tick. If you're really observant you notice certain behaviors become patterns that represent each stage in ones' day. In Chicago, people work. So much so that one of its nick names is "The City that Works." But since Chicagoans work soo much, you can't tell the time of day by the traffic. Traffic jams can happen at 7 am, 12 pm, 3 pm, 6 pm, even 11 pm, Monday, Tuesday or Thursday or Saturday, and even on any given Sunday, especially during football season. 24/7 365, Chicago has traffic. However, one distinct pattern of life in Chicago are its seasonal events. You know it's summertime in the city when you smell barbeque down the street. You know it's spring time when the digital Crown fountain is up and running again, and teenagers stalk the streets of Michigan Avenue for the perfect prom dress. You know summer is here when you see Grant Park full of dancers and live musicians on the Summer Dance stage. You know when summer has come to an end when the air force puts on their sky show over Lake Shore Drive, or when the south side residents fill the streets to watch their friends and family perform in the Bud Billiken Back-to-School Parade. I would say the life of a Chicagoan is marked by seasons, not the times of day.

However on the other side of the world, in an impoverished city, stricken by rounds of wars from more prominent governments, the people move to a different beat. First of all, Saigon sits 10° 45' N, 106° 40' E and is 1,090 miles south of Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam. That distance is slightly less than the miles it takes to get from Chicago, IL to Miami, FL. Since Saigon sits closer to the equator than Miami, our seasons are tropical and not temperate. So we have two distinct seasons of dry and wet. The sun rises ad sets at the same time everyday, no need for daylight savings and spring forwards. Regardless if the rain is pelting you like a paint gun or if the sun is shining bright, there are certain things that happen during a Saigonites day: morning, noon and night that revolve around food. 

In the morning most Vietnamese families get up at the crack of dawn to have breakfast. They eat either pho (noodle soup) or ban mi opla (bread and eggs). Then as the clock turns 12, they are eating again. This time, a rice dish with some type of protein either fish, chicken or pork and for vegetarians, tofu. Noon time is also the time of day when the fruit ladies stop through. Not only in front of the school but through out the city you will find them between 10-2 pm pushing their carts of large ice blocks, with cut fruit sitting on top. Some ladies stay out all day. The fruit lady who stops by the school always has fresh pineapple, papaya, watermelon and waterapples. She takes a slice of papaya, cuts it into smaller pieces and puts it in a bag. She knows better than to add salt to mine :-) As the day rolls on and kids get out of school, about 3 or 4 pm, it's time for the doughnut ladies. Yes doughnuts. Well some are more like beignets, accept no powdered sugar. Instead the beignets by my apartment are topped with sesame seeds. My doughnut lady also makes beignets of small quail eggs and minced meat with onion. Other doughnut ladies actually make round doughnuts that Americans know of, with the hole in the middle and covered in sugar. I saw a lady sell these late at night around the backpackers district, but I've only seen this once. There are also lots of doughnut/bakery shops in Saigon. If the place is really good and popular parents take their children there after dinner hours, or to the local ice cream shop, most likely Swensen. Dinner is at fairly late. The Vietnamese family I lived with ate dinner around 7 or 8 pm, whenever the husband came home. I've also noticed that late into the night, certain com xanh (broken rice) restaurants stay open till 11 pm, 12 am and beyond. Long story short, us Saigonites like food. Even with the heat, the Vietnamese love to eat!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

I mentioned a few before, but here's the official list

Top Ten Reasons Why Ho Chi Minh City is ghetto fabulous:

(#11. this happened today) the girl at the ticket both is cocked back in her seat, smacking her gum, fake blonde color in her hair/weave and glares at you rudely as she gives you the parking ticket

10. some folk like selling socks and bottled water or a car wash. Vietnamese sell live dogs, cats, rabbits, hats, belts, motorbike mirrors, helmets, baskets, lottery tickets, juice, dead chickens, pigs, dried squid, peanuts, durian, jackfruit, toys, ceramics, lotus flowers. . . on the street

9. grown women wear foam rollers in their hair . . . in public . . . to work

8. the streets are filled with trash, however there aren't many garbage cans around so. . .

7. grown people stand on the corner and do nothing, except watch their life go by, and stare at the foreigners

6. music is blasting, I mean BLASTING from the speakers at any given hour of the day or night at a local karaoke bar, house (no, not a house party, that would make sense, just folk sittin at home), tricked out bike speakers, or mall kiosk

5. though I haven't seen it often in Chicago, because it's only warm 3 months out the year, the men here enjoy peeing in public, in the local river, street alley, or sewage drain, young toddler boys follow suit

4. the grill is on 24/7, fried bananas? chicken kebab? dried squid? it's a summer barbeque ALL year round!

3. you can GO2 a bar and see prostitutes stalking and cigarette-selling-children slick talking

2. you like 22's and ice cream paint jobs? we got old skool vespas, honda waves, yamaha mios equip with fake luis vuitton, cheetah, houndstooth, gucci, burberry and any other tacky print you can think of

1. in Chicago you may get hit by a stray bullet, but in HCMC you may get hit by a stray bus