Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Que pensez-vous du Vietnam?

On my way to the airport, I waited for the staff from the hospital to pop up with the question: what do you think about Vietnam? It’s like Sunday always comes after Saturday, no exception, they always bring up this question on my last day in Vietnam. Maybe it’s because they want to make sure that I have been treated well during my stay or they really want to hear different perspectives on their country from a foreigner’s eyes. I never know how to answer this question. I enjoyed and hated their overwhelming hospitality even though it’s built on benefits from this co-operative project. I am impressed by how fast their economy blooms after the government opened its doors to the world--motorcycles (both in number and type) in the street reflect the economic fluctuations yet I am also worried about the intensifying conflicts between traditional cultures and westernization in the communist society. I felt frustrated on their attitudes toward new technologies that we introduced and sorry for the conditions that compel them to earn a better life. There are too many emotions and I can’t simply put it down in one sentence, so even though I was prepared for the question, my answer was still vague.

I was surprised to see a mini-demonstration in HCMC. April 11, a group of people, around 20, wore little flags on their heads holding red banners with white words on them, surrounded by lots of tourists and security, it caught my attention. They were standing at the circle on DL Le Loi and it didn’t take long for police (in yellow-pink uniforms) and tourist security (in green uniforms) to escort the group to the park in from of the Municipal Theatre trying to contain the chaos. The wailing of military sirens intensified the situation and troops came from nowhere in minutes. Police started to open the congested roads whereas tourist security kept their eyes on tourists to stop them from taking pictures of the event. I was amazed to see a woman shouting at a police officer in such tense circumstances and I have no idea what this demonstration was about since my skill for Vietnamese is zero. I didn’t know how this incident ended and it was not surprising that there was no info regarding this event in the newspapers the next day.

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