Local Interactions in Saigon, Vietnam

July 2, 2013

This is my friend Vy Thảo, my friend who lives here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I met her a couple weeks ago through my friend Erik. Yesterday, Vy came to my hostel and picked me up on her motorbike and we headed 45 minutes to her district. Sitting on the back of her bike, we entered the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh. We traveled with hundreds of motorbikes down the road as busses and cars were in arms reach amongst the sea of bikes. Suddenly we felt the rain start so we decided to pull over on the side of the road until it passed. Vy’s district is wonderful. As we entered, it had a distinct feeling when compared to the others. The roads were a bit narrower and there were lines of locals selling their product along the streets. You can get everything you need from the street vendors and a store is not necessary, it’s a unique way of obtaining your household essentials. If you need fish you go to one person, vegetables another. Vy took me to one of her favorite spots and we enjoyed some street food. As we approached, we hopped the curb and parked the motorbike right inside the room. We sat on the foot high plastic stools and over came the food. It was delicious. Vy introduced me to a couple of her friends who were extremely kind and we practiced English together tackling those difficult words and phrases. Afterwards, Vy took me to have some coffee before she openly welcomed me into her home for dinner. Vy lives with her mother, father, brother, sister in law, and soon to be nephew/niece. Arriving at their house I was greeted with open arms by her wonderful family. Her father, a very kind man, full of smiles, took me around showing me his different birds they had as pets. We watched a little of the Karate Kid which was nice as its been a while since I watched TV. Sitting there with him, there was so much said with few little words. The language barrier was in effect but it didn’t change a thing. We were communicating on higher levels without words. Soon Vy’s mom came into the living room and greeted me with a hug. She took out photos of her and her husbands recent trip to Da Lat, where I just left. There was a group shot and I had to pick them out of the group and it took me a while! We enjoyed numerous laughs as I chose the wrong person over an over. Next came the feast. Streamed rice, soup, pork, chicken, and cabbage. I was getting full and I knew I wasn’t getting off the hook easily as her mother insisted I have one more bowl. Upon reaching the point of explosion, I surrendered and sat back to let the meal digest. Vy and I practiced some English words and shared different photo albums we had online. She got to see some of the life in America and in exchange I saw pictures of life in Vietnam. Her brother came home in the midst of dinner. A kind, soft spoken man who had excellent English. We spoke for a while about life in America. He extended to me the fact that Vietnamese are very interested in American news. His family member is moving to Austin, TX and we spoke about Texas as well as the safety due to the explosion in West, TX. I explained it was a horrible accident and assured him his family would be safe in Austin, TX. He is expecting a child with his wife very soon and I wish them the very best. Before I knew it, it was 9:00pm and Vy had to drive me the long distance back to my hostel. So unfortunately we hopped back on the motorbike and headed back to the hostel. Before I left I had Vy translate my gratitude to her parents. Her father gave me multiple hugs and told me that whenever I come back to
Ho Chi Minh I am always welcome in their home. I really hope I get to take him up on his offer. Vy gave me great insight to daily Vietnamese culture. I was in a district where I was the only foreigner and no one spoke English. Individuals stared at me in awe and often became bashful when I returned their interested glare with a smile and nod of the head. Vy reiterated to me the importance of family. Being 25 she is happy living with her family. When I asked her if they all lived together she replied without thought, “Of Course”. She went on to describe her family as “Very Happy”. Sitting in their living room it was clear, this is one happy family. Before I left, Vy and I took a photo. Just like most things here, we found laughter in simplicity. We made funny faces at the camera and had a good laugh for a long, long time. Asia has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. I spend so much time here laughing at simple things that happen everyday. Laughter is a universal language and you can have a good laugh with anyone without any words exchanged. One of my favorite things to do with the street kids who approach you is to give them a high five. When our hands connect I say, “Boop!” and motion for another high five. Upon connecting again I say, “Boop!” The second time usually triggers a laugh. Then comes the third.. the forth.. tenth high five. The child caches on to saying “Boop!” and before you know it I’m laughing right along with them. It’s the simple things. Vy, I want to thank you for opening up your home to me. I appreciate it immensely. I am very thankful for this unique experience. Keep practicing your English, your so good and almost there.. And remember to always keep your dream alive.

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