You might remember me from such posts as that one six months ago, back when we were still living in Hanoi, in a long, narrow railroad flat perched five floors above the reeking, oil-slick, sewage-milky, belly-up fish filled Truc Bach lake.
Like many things in Hanoi, it looked lovely and atmospheric and serene from a healthy distance.
Now, in a month of June that feels exactly like the month of April and the month of February when we arrived (hot, hot, and hot), we are perched nine floors above one of the reeking, dubiously coloured tributaries that flows through Saigon, overlooking low red rooftops in the immediate distance and the towering shininess of District One beyond that. We get the usual Asian City illuminated skyscraper light show at night, not unlike my old one in Shanghai looking west over the neighbourhood that was most certainly not the Former French Concession (at least not in official, legal terms). Our flat is at the far end of the far end of a long, elevated row of residential towers, deep in the suburbs south of the city, a baker’s dozen complexes long, three buildings deep on either side of the central walkway.
This may not mean much to those who don’t live in Vietnam, but the central walkway here is actually a walkway. As in, motorbikes don’t casually drive down it. It is actually used as a pedestrian area, with grassy verges between buildings, lined with hair salons, nail salons, tae kwon do studios full of shouting kids, fruit shops, juice shops, estate agents and little grocery stores. There are two Circle Ks, which fulfill the Bill and Ted Excellent Adventure bingo card.
Everything is written in Korean first, then Vietnamese, then maybe English. Everyone seems to be Korean, and they all seem to be fixated on golf and barbecue joints. These are the suburbs if the suburbs were like a densely packed urban neighbourhood airlifted by aliens into a faraway drained swampland on the fringes of the city.
Why are we here, and not in the manic, densely packed city centre or out in the gringo heartlands of District Two (where you can buy cheese and nice bread)?
Work. We came for the work, transferred down from Hanoi, from our tiny university department up there to their massive department down here. It was a good move.
It’s a lot calmer here. The air is cleaner. Far fewer dead fish bob about in the river, though clumps of plastic detritus do swim past on the regular. Traffic is calm by Vietnamese standards. We have yet to get into any fistfights or shouting matches with dumb asses in their oversized dipped-in-gold SUVs or fantasize about driving around with paintball guns as we did up north. Work is good. Students are generally lovely. It’s a calm rhythm, with days blending into weeks into months, all a bit of a hot and sticky blur.
This calm (combined with toddler, MA, tons of baking, tons of experimental cooking, and work) has meant less inner and outer turmoil. Less rage. Less ranting. Less frustration. Less interesting stuff to write home about.
Thus, blog silence.
On all fronts. No mops, no woks, no ephemera. Effective radio silence for half a year.
Would anybody notice if I made a concerted effort to drag it all back? Is a Korean expat bubble in the suburbs of Saigon of interest to anyone? The summer rainstorms? The experimental crunchy mango cakes? The backstreets rich with nouveau riche absurd architecture?