Thursday, March 5, 2009

Smiles in Vietnam

I walked all over Southeast Asia in 1996. The trips included 3 times visit to Vietnam. I would not go into details about business, but I was enjoying visiting Vietnam. It was smiles of people which relaxed me and gave me breathing space in busy working environment and pressure I was getting that time. There are many things impressed me about Vietnam. Bicycles and motorbikes which filled in half paved road in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City).

One Saturday Afternoon, I did not have any plan and my counterpart needed to leave me alone for taking care of his private things. I also enjoyed to be back to myself in the places I visited. I took elevator down and went out of Hotel exit. Semitropical Sun gave me nice feeling and street shops looked interesting. But, I could not go across the road because so many bikes were crowding and streaming up and down the street. I tried to walk across the road in front of my hotel about 20 minutes and gave up. I went back to my hotel and decided to stay in for the rest of the day.

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But it was worth being by myself since I noticed that no matter what they are doing, attending street shop, just striding around, or riding bikes to move around the city, people looked happy, active, and vigorous. It was the best thing which I felt in that very afternoon.

Next morning, my counterpart Japanese stationed business person picked me up and we both played golf. 2 young girls attended us as caddies. Both of them might be 12 - 16 years old. Both smiled and talked with each other and laughed a lot. Since I was, still am, a terrible golfer, I mainly enjoyed their laughing, smiling, trying to communicate with me in English. Their English was not so bad. Communicable level. They feel lucky to be able to speak in English with us. They tried to talk with us as much as they could. It was fun.

18 holes usually very long for me as a lousy golfer were not so bad thanks to their laughs, English, and smiles. All 18 hole games were over and I said good bye to them. I said "I feel happy to be able to visit Ho Chi Minh City." 2 young caddies looked at each other and still smiled. One of them looked at me told me "No, sir. The city name is "Saigon". Please remember as Saigon." 20 years since end of Vietnam war, these young girls were upholding their identity and the city name. It was a little later that I learned the base which supported fast growth of Vietnam after 1994 open economy was US dollars South Vietnamese were holding, hiding, and kept in closed economy days of Vietnam.

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