William Gibson’s book Pattern Recognition has a description of jet lag as “The soul lagging behind the body” or something in that general idea. My copy of that book is currently on the other side of the Earth so I don’t have the exact sentiment, but the general idea is that your soul, your presence, the “you-ness” that allows you to function in society does not move as fast as an airplane flies. Therefore, while you may have sped across an ocean, your soul is spooling out behind you, trying to keep up. So”soul-less husk” is a pretty good descriptor fo I felt when I stepped out of an airport in Ho Chi Minh city.
So yeah, I’m in Vietnam now.
Reasons are unimportant, but I do owe the facilitation of this to my Uncle who generously offered to put me up in the heart of Ho Chi Minh. Those pictures are from his dining room where I sit in a tower called Vincom B. It’s on the 23rd floor (I know) of a building that also contains the city’s biggest shopping mall (six stories, two buildings) and a theater.
To say that I’m unaccustomed to such luxury is kinda understating the situation. I find it ironic that while I’m writing this, said Uncle is listening to Lorde’s “Royals.” A song about being proud of humble circumstances.
Lorde knows he’s been there as well as here. Hee
Anyway, as I was saying before. I haven’t quite adjusted yet. I’ve been here for two days and I have only done the most cursory explorations. On foot. At night. Stupid night owl nature.
The city never sleeps here. I wandered up the walkway to the People’s Committee Building (the building at the very bottom of the picture with the big red flag) through crowds of people just throwing glow sticks into the night air. Sat and watched the Ho Chi Minh statue that people were congregated around (it would be strange if people treated a statue of George Washington the way people treat Bac Ho’s statue). I exchanged pleasantries with literally countless people sitting on scooters, just idling on the side of the street. I watched a funeral outside of the Note Dame cathedral that the French left behind, the singing was haunting and filled the square that was already full of cars, scooters, and countless spectators. I wandered through a Night Market. Crossed countless streets three feet at a time through streams of scooters and taxis.
That was last night.
Today I got floored with some sort of stomach bug. My Aunt says that this eventually happens to everyone who visits. So I’m not too worried about it. I did discover that Vietnamese coffee comes with condensed milk, is more commonly served cold, sweet, and thick. Imagine a frappacino made with cold brew. It’s intense.
Something I definitely have learned as well, is that the people that I have encountered here in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam are unfailingly friendly. They will stop and say hi and give stuff to my little cousin. They all are gracious with me, who is the only one here who doesn’t speak any Vietnamese except Hello and Thank you. Even then, I don’t know that I’m doing it right. It took like six tries for me to say the two letter word that means “Large” correctly, and I don’t have the characters on this keyboard to write it. The punctuation is dizzying. One aspect of that friendliness is that they have no concept of personal space.
Now you could come up with all sorts of theories as to why that is, but their self containment doesn’t stop there. Each street is jammed with scooters and almost all of their riders have surgical face masks on. Now this could be due to the intense smog (see above picture, though it looks especially bad with the sun setting), but they leave them on in the stores. It keeps them contained and any contaminates out. Speaking of the roads again, there are no real rules of the road. Each driver is focused on making their way through the streets as quickly and effectively as possible. The only way to navigate is to focus on your own way, and make sure you don’t run anyone over.
Pedestrians can cross the streets anywhere they want and generally do just that. But with every motorist carefully driving, you can generally count on being avoided as long as you do not make any surprising moves. It’s a strangely individualistic way of living.
I think of it as self contained.
My suspicion as a stupid foreigner is that this has some things to do with the political history of the country combined with the spiritual history. I’ll get back to you guys on that as my travels tomorrow include investigating a pagoda.
Anyway, I find myself envious of their self containment. I have a diffuse sense of self at the best of times, and having my soul lagging behind somewhere in the middle of the Pacific Ocean is not helping. The bastard is probably hanging out in Maui without me.
Mindfulness is forefront in my…grr…mind. Living with yourself is challenging, but when yourself is myself, it’s bad.
Maybe I’ll pick up swimming again, there’s a nice pool.
Some songs (embedding will happen when I’m not using an app to write these):
Tom Sandford “The Fool” – Probably going to do a cover of this one soon. Rockabilly classic that needs more love.
Miracle of Sound “All as One” – Yeah it’s a Dragon Age song, it’s not about it specifically though. It’s nice to have a song about unironic hope and unity, especially in these troubled times. Even if that song’s video has dragons and bull men in it. (Also Miracle of Sound is super awesome and always a perennial reccomendation).
Kurt Hugo Shneider and Shawn Hook”Go the Distance” – Let’s keep the sappiness a rollin’ with a Disney cover! This whole album is fun, but this song resonates. Also it has Tessa Violet on it who I know I will recommend at some point.
Anyway, here’s how that view has changed in the time of me writing this
So anyway, welcome to my site. It’s my first official, central site with a fancy, owned URL and everything. Kinda dusty and empty right now, like a new house, but it’ll get filled soon.
Till next time, be nice to each other, we don’t have much time left, and that guy with the limp might be the first to go.