Archive for Saigon Diary – Page 4

Life Reports

This morning David Brooks of the New York Times asked his readers over 70 for a gift. He asked them/us to send him brief “life reports” on our lives so far, an evaluation of what we did well, of what we did not so well and what we learned along the way.

He plans to write a couple columns around Thanksgiving using the “gifts” that show up. I thought about it all morning and couldn’t resist the challenge. Here’s mine: read more

Shouldn’t You Be In School?

This girl is selling coconuts on the street near the Opera House in downtown Saigon. My guess is that she is 12 or 13. She’s there every day. I see kids like her all over town. Some are working in street cafes. Some are selling lottery tickets. Some are hawking postcards. Some want to shine my flip-flops. Some want me to buy Chiclets. The question that always comes to mind is “Why aren’t you in school?” The reason is simple; her family needs whatever she can make to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads. read more

What’s with the Hoodie? It’s 90 degrees!!

Southern Vietnam has two seasons – hot and dry and hot and wet. We are supposed to be moving to the dry season in October but no one has told the gods and they are still punishing us with rain. Nevertheless, wet or dry, I like hot. It takes little adjustments sometimes, but I like it a lot more than being cold. Yesterday I played tennis at noon in 90/90 conditions (90 degrees and 90% humidity). I drank two bottles of Revive and a quart of water but the tennis was OK and it got me out from behind the computer screen. read more

A Cautionary Tale

I’ve written about motorbikes before. There are 6,000,000 of them in Saigon. They are everywhere – on the street, on the sidewalk, in the lobbies of buildings, and on the ground floor of most houses. Not just some motorbikes, millions of them. You are conscious, every minute, of their presence. Right now I’m in my apartment but the sound of motorbikes passing is in the room with me. They are noisy, quiet, dirty, clean, sleek, clunky, fast and slow. They are used for personal transport, pizza delivery, FedEx and DHL, taxi service, family transport (up to 5 on one bike), furniture delivery (I’ve seen 10 twin bed mattresses weaving down the street at 6am), livestock delivery (trussed inverted pigs or 30 dead chickens hanging by their scrawny necks), police patrols, mail, grocery, fast-food, flower, and window glass delivery. Almost any function is and can be performed by motorbike – including larceny and battery. read more

The Lure of the Exotic

ex·ot·ic   [ig-zot-ik] adjective

1. of foreign origin or character; not native; introduced from abroad, but not fully naturalized or acclimatized: exotic foods; exotic plants.

2. strikingly unusual or strange in effect or appearance: an exotic hairstyle.

3. of a uniquely new or experimental nature: exotic weapons.

4. of, pertaining to, or involving stripteasing: the exotic clubs where strippers are featured.

Webster is too clinical for me. Exotic has danger implicit. It has romance. The air is heavy and moist. There is a little mold forming under things. You feel different. The air is charged. The mind is altered. And, yes, it is not native. read more