Saturday, October 28, 2006

Where do you want to be?

Alfaspider logged in her livejournal a post starting with a question that she is often asked, as an ex-pat: 'if you had to choose, for the rest of your life, would you live in the Vietnam or the US?'

Part of her post, where she states that "Vietnamese people are always looking for a way to get to America" elicited comments and concerns (not to mention rebuke) over at OMIH in the post "Do You Agree?"

Now, while I don't agree with a lot of what is in her post (which I'll get to below), it does seem that her comments flow from a younger lass who's enjoying her freedom to drop it all and move across the world upon a whim, which she contrasts with the limitations others enjoy, whether imposed by governments, or economics or by one's current comfort and self-doubt. Naming oneself after a classic Italian roadster certainly allows for a bit more leeway with me.

What are my problems with her post? Well, complaining that HCMC is "too small" certainly seems a bit hollow. Vietnam is about 1/3 of the size of the U.S. in population and about 3.5% of the U.S. in terms of land mass. Three point five percent! Geographically it is smaller and less diverse, but it's main cities are more of an overcrowded mess than the vast majority of U.S. cities. At ~4.5 million (HCMC) and ~3 million (Hanoi), only NYC and LA are bigger. Chicago is about the population of Hanoi. Also, her wonderment at why folks don't "leave and explore" speaks from a vaunted, privileged position. A lot of Americans can't pick up and go because they don't have resources - money, family, friends - from which they can launch their adventure.

The average American does not have a passport (~25% do); the average American lives within 50 miles from where they grew up; the average American does not have a 4-year college degree. All this and more from Kevin O'Keefe's book "The Average American." [haven't read it, but I don't read books]

Also, the question that is asked of her is a loaded one - like asking if you would prefer to live at home or at your grandmother's, for the rest of your life. As I touched upon a bit in a couple of earlier posts, here and here, you're an ex-pat for a reason; Vietnam is not your home - even as a VK, it may be your homeland, but it's not your home. A couple of weeks, a couple of months, a couple of years will not change that. You have to devote time and energy before you become part of the tapestry of society, not a mere sewn on patch.

It's wholly unfair to ask this question of an ex-pat, especially one who's only been there for a year or two. It's also unwise for that ex-pat, to surmise, based on their answer, that Vietnam is somehow such a bad place that every Vietnamese wants to get out and move to the ex-pat's home country. There are many elderly VKs who I know would like to retire and later be buried in Vietnam. They may not do so for political reasons, but absent that, they would move before their last heartbeat. Why? Because for them, Vietnam is forever their home.

4 comments:

alfaspider said...

Hi D.

Here is my response: http://alfaspider.livejournal.com/128891.html?mode=reply

BTW, thanks for suggesting to OMIH that he let me know about his response. That was cool of you.

D. said...

Response on your journal:

http://alfaspider.livejournal.com/128891.html

Thanks on the acknowledgment of the suggestion. I'm sure it just slipped his mind for a bit.

t83nguye@ucsd.edu said...

hey buddy,

chill out. Why do you always have a bone to pick or problem with other bloggers when they talk about VietNam? Just read the damn blog and enjoy. From reading your blog, I think you appear to be a small minded, annoying, irritating wackos. Learn some diplomacy skills.

D. said...

Thank you for that comment. With words like that, I know that you like me, you really like me!