we met Brian in our hostel. it was morning, we heard him speaking Vietnamese to the hostel receptionist and curiously asked about his background. that was where our first interaction began, where our stimulating conversations unravelled and greatly made my trip to Vietnam more meaningful after that night.
traveling – traveling as a form of consumption. how do i make myself feel less consumer-ish? and in doing so, does that even matter or is it to elevate myself on a moral high ground? in attempting to focus on reflection and personal growth other than pretty pictures i hope to extend other facets of myself; perhaps these are ways by which i try to distinguish myself from a mass tourist- well, it’s hard to escape.
dinner with brian last night was absolutely lovely. it was another one of those times that reminded me why i loved being abroad and meeting new people – the stories each individual holds! their years of histories, mistakes, knowledge. their memories, their changes, their proof of how life was fleeting as much as it is long and jam-packed with events that could take abrupt turns.
with brian we talked about many things – ‘out of four world issues, we’ve solved two and a half,’ we laughed. The issue of US and the Vietnam War, beliefs and memories and their (un)reliability, global warming – we jumped from one thread to another, leaping from the global to the personal, the past and the future.
Some things that struck me –
beliefs and one’s reality. as a US soldier that was drafted, all too often it was with the full belief that what they did was right, and good
and that turning point (he snapped his fingers) was the fateful day he saw that tiny news notice about Thailand on the papers. That single notice that turned the clockworks in his head, that shifted his reality. that they had a point,.
the passing of his friend, and his voice that echoed for him to find out the truth, to not let him pass away in vain – surely that formed part of the fuel that kept him burning, that carried him towards his dreams in all these years?
him, giving 10usd to the sick girl each month – ‘not to get a girlfriend,’ he laughed, but because this sum to him comparable to her made a huge difference. i wish i would stop buying things i don’t need. a part of me knows the root issue of global warming lies with our capitalist economy and endless productions and throwaways and our attempts are seemingly futile at present; if we wanted to truly curb or slow down its exacerbating effects it would have to stem from the self. having said that and acknowledged it, and as i’ve mentioned to them, i know these and a part of me wants to boycott capitalism – stop accumulating all these things, stop the unnecessary buying (which i would like to think I’ve greatly minimized, except i just got that Pride and Prejudice notebook yesterday sob) – but the other (lazy) part of me thinks, life is short, allow me to indulge in this hedonistic life that i can lead, to embrace the consumerist culture because it is easy, pleasure-inducing (however fleeting!), and somewhat experiential within this short frame of time i have on earth.
more pertinently, i think it is the estrangement i have from the true implications of global warming. yes, i have studied that sea levels are rising, strange things are happening to our climate, low-lying lands of southeast asia are already experiencing its implications, and who are its primary perpetrators! us and the North! upon the South! but do we feel it? might i experience its full-blown implications in this lifetime? i am unsure, i am detached and estranged from direct harm, and perhaps that is why, armed with the knowledge that i have, i remain relatively apathetic. yes, i know this this this and why, but can i really do something? the reality is Yes, of course! it always stems from the individual, the self. i get these momentary spurts of understanding, and then i forget, and i indulge. after all, life is short, and i am merely a quiet fog blending into this careless generation.
i guess this forms one of those momentary (or not!) self-awareness. but i am going to try okay brian, i am going to try! boycott capitalism! don’t fall prey to this consumerist culture! (leech on sis where necessary hahahaha) Sigh. i will still travel (and contribute to the amounts of air pollution) but I will be more careful with my purchases, okay! okay!
i suddenly recall the conversations I had with German writer on the bus in Cologne, with Paco, the Indian shopkeeper in Barcelona, Beck. These long conversations that evoked such similar feelings. It’s strange to think that I still remember them, and as always I wonder if our meeting struck them the same way it struck me.
I chanced upon the ABC Bakery and Cafe along Pham Ngu Lao. It had a lovely ambience as I sat down for an afternoon break.
42,000VND for SMOOTHIE + danish apple pastry + wifi + aircon = $2.70sgd
On my last night, I met Dũng. He took me on his motorbike around HCM. We zoomed down along the roads, me with my helmet, hands carefully placed on the shoulders of a stranger I had only met about half an hour ago (with 60 references! I am no complete idiot) but sometimes, sometimes, I wonder how my older self would be. Would i still be like this? acting inconsequentially? (but was this so? hmm not for me, not for this, for now.)
We talked about music, movies, culture, dreams. I love hearing about people’s dreams, what they strive to achieve. It always interests me how people my age (or further) hold ideals that are different from mine, lifepaths they set to lead that I wouldn’t have conceived of. For him, I hope his English education will bring him further, his motorbike tour company will take off and maybe someday his sincerity will bring him to great heights. Perhaps when I return to Saigon again, he will be his own boss.