A Family Affair

Gloria Jean’s Coffee has floor to ceiling windows that are meticulously cleaned every morning by a middle-aged woman with an exquisitely beautiful and friendly face. I can only imagine what she looked like at 20. I’m sorry I don’t have a picture of her to include here, because she is part of our day every day. Nevertheless, through these spotlessly clean and clear windows we look out, as we drink our morning lattes, on a narrow street that connects the two main arteries in downtown Saigon – Dong Khoi and Nguyen Hue. It’s a fascinating contrast. The little family enterprise in the photo is a thriving street restaurant similar to what existed here 50 or 60 years ago – maybe even in the same location – but not 100 feet away across Dong Khoi Street is the flagship Gucci store just down the street from Louis Vuitton and the Sheraton Hotel.

Every morning this little family sets up shop on the sidewalk. Mama works the stove while Papa, in the baseball cap, serves the customers and washes dishes in two plastic buckets curbside. The daughter does take-out deliveries on her bicycle, riding with a perfectly straight back and the tray held up like a New York waiter as she rides out into Dong Khoi traffic. This is the essence of free enterprise in Vietnam. I’ll show you more examples in the next few days.

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