Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Bule Bakar di Angkor; Travels in Vietnam Part II

As I sit in a coffee shop in Ho Chi Minh City, I'm struck by the overwhelming number of stories around me; of how and why foreign nationals are here, of whether or not the native Vietnamese are originally from Saigon or if they've moved in from the country-side (and if so, why?), and what the Vietnamese think of the transition going on in their city? The answers to these questions are all fascinating to me and it helps ground me in the sense that everyone's story has equal importance and equal weight. Throughout the law school application process I've been focused on stories that would satisfy an admissions committee, but those stories are no more important than the woman bringing me my Vietnamese coffee (and by the way, Vietnamese iced coffee is really good).
Throughout dinner various American pop songs played, and it struck me that culture is our major export. Between music, fashion, movies and consumption, we've got the market cornered in a way China will never be able to replace :-p. Seriously though, hearing "Empire State of Mind" while eating my Bun Bo Nam Bo was a little much to handle :).
I also took a day tour of Ho Chi Minh City (it was only $4 and I figured a great way to meet other tourists along with the city) During the tour I got to see a good amount of the city and I also met a retired couple from California (they were surprised another American was on the tour), an elderly couple vacationing from Jakarta (it was fun to talk about the city with other who are intimate with the city and its history), and a young Filipino couple who are airline attendants for Qatar airways. It was a fun day and well worth the exorbitant expense ;)

In general, I am concerned about how my time in Indonesia, Vietnam and Cambodia is changing my perception and attitude towards service. At Thelma's, I am blessed to have Ida who cleans my room, makes my bed, and does my laundry. Also, when at a fast food, or any, restaurant, patrons are not expected to clean up after themselves. It still makes me feel really weird to get up from my table without taking my tray over to the garbage, but as soon as I move to get up, employees stream over. Lastly, there is not much of a tradition of tipping, and so I have become accustomed to giving exact amounts. While all of this has been a nice luxury, it is not the reality of the world I want to live in. I guess just something I'll have to be cognizant of when I get home.
Lastly, throughout the first part of my trip I completed "Team of Rivals" about the history of Abraham Lincoln and his cabinet. It was a fascinating read and I completely recommend it to everyone. Even though I knew Lincoln was going to be assassinated, reading it and the circumstances around it (initially the plot was to kill his VP Andrew Johnson and the Secretary of State William Henry Seward as well, but Seward's assailant failed and Johnson's thought better of it) nearly brought me to tears because of the way in which I reconnected with Lincoln. Yes, Washington, Jefferson, Kennedy and Roosevelt did amazing things for our country, but I think they pale in comparison to not only what Lincoln did, but the person who he was while doing it all. (Sorry, couldn't go a post without nerding out :) lol)

1 comment:

  1. Qatar is undoubtedly the best airline I have ever flown, but maybe I'd say that about any attendants who bring me half pints of Ben & Jerry's on my flight to Doha.