Impressions - Life in Vietnam

Updated 2009-09-23 10:37

I've often been asked , "Where are you from?" "What do you think of Vietnamese food?"  My answers were usually complimentary: "I feel comfortable here." , ":It's too hot, but I like it."  Sincere answers but I didn't have the words to explain how I really felt.  The answer came to me the other day in a way that still impresses me.

I was riding down Dien Bien Phu street when two motorcycles zoomed past me. The first motorcycle carried two young men and a middle aged couple were on the second machine. The traffic was heavy: as usual and when the motorcycles reached Nguyen Dinh Chieu street they both had to stop. The second machine did not stop until its front wheel was jammed against the rider in the first machine. Then the lady riding in the second machine jumped from her seat and grabbed the collar of the young man riding on the first machine.

She was irate. Her voice carried even over the constant growl of the waiting motorcycle engines. I could not understand her words but I could tell she was mad. The traffic light turned green but the motorcycles around the screaming lady did not move. All eyes were on the shouting, middle aged lady who was trying to pull the young man from his seat.
This lady could not have weighed more than 40 kilograms and maybe 1.4 meters tall. The young man was at least 70kg and much taller.

It was quite a show watching her: hopping around, trying to unseat the young man and screaming imprecations at him. The traffic light was still green but no traffic moved.Who would want to miss a show like that?
The young mad was flustered. His face was red from strain and embarassment. He looked as a child does when a mother is chastising him. His demeanour was that of a trapped animal looking for, but unable to find a means of escape.
The ladies efforts were not in vain. The hulking youth was cowed. He permitted himself to be dragged off the motorcycle. Not because of the ladies strength, but because of her determination. Maybe too, because if he had raised a hand against her, all the drivers of the surrounding motorcycles would have descended on him en mass.
She pushed and shoved him through the motorcycle jam and on to the sidewalk and back in the direction they had come.
It was then that I noticed the young man holding a small, blue ladies handbag.
The young man was a thief. One of the group of motorcycle riders that look for people carelessly carrying handbags or attache cases. These street thugs grab the case or handbag and zoom off. Their victims are stunned by the speed of the snatch and can do nothing except to sigh a regret.

I read an article in a New York Newspaper a number of years ago concerning a young woman named Kitty Genovese who was raped and murdered on the streets. Residents in nearby houses witnessed the crime: heard the lady shouting for help and did nothing. They didnt even call the police. They didn't want to get involved.
The people of Vietnam do get involved. The little lady on Dien Bien Phu street demonstrated the extend of her involvement.

It would be foolish to say that all the people in Vietnam would do as the little lady on Dien Bien Phu street. It would also be in error to say that none of the people in New York City would be as heartless as those that ignored the please for help from Kitty Genovese. I can say that that little lady on Dien Bien Phu street captured my heart and my respect.
That incident wasn't the only thing that keeps me in Vietnam but even if it was, it was enough.

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