Monday, July 6, 2009

bubble revealed

last old one!

So all of the members in our group feel proud of ourselves for having adjusted to life in Vietnam, a life that seems somewhat different from our own. Yet, today a few of us had a rude awakening to that concept. Today we wandered further than we normally do. We turned down a side ally and began to walk. At first it appeared to be a small quaint street filled with vendors. As we traveled further, we began to realize that not many foreigners wandered this way given all the stares we were getting. Near the middle of the ally there was a metal bridge. As we approached it I noticed it was over a bit of water and it appeared that there were lily pads floating in it. There was a sign on the bridge which I can only interpret indicated a warning about littering. The girl in front of me made a sound, and then I got a better look at the area. The water was literally a solid mass of disposed products. Plastic food containors, styrofoam containors, cans, you name it. There was a house suspended above this water and it was clear that they too dump things directly into it.

It seems that living in district one we have only been exposed to the more gentrified areas. During my internship I go to what is a poorer area. Yet, that is more of a rural poor area. This area was literally the slums of Vietnam. We began to wonder how much of Saigon is like this. How could we not have found this until now? Perhaps it's our fault for not wandering far enough and not wanting to see the full range of life in Vietnam. Should encorage people to wander more? Yet, is this encouraging a kind of voyeuristic insensitivy akin to the guided tours of the slums now being offered in India? Is taking a photograph of this area also voyeurism? Where does one draw the line?

todaywealso treated the roommates to "black cat" which is a burger place. As soon as you walk in it is clear that the clinetel is all white people. The decor is funky leopard print couches and walls covered with rather corny depictions of scenes in Saigon. The burgers are expensive by vietnamese standards ie about $5 per burger. I was very surprised at the way in which our roommates approached the meal. A few of them did not like the food, and told us so. Also, none of them thanked us for the meal. I really don't think this reflects on the quality of their character. I like them all very much and they've been so helpful to us all. It is simply not ingrained in them like it is in the U.S. to constantly thank people for things. Furthermore, bluntness is far more culturally appropriate in Vietnam. W've encountered this before, such as when the roommates will say "you look tired because you have marks under your eyes" and point to the bags under our eyes. This is clearly meant well, but simply would not be considered polite in the U.S.

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