Saigon Calling – Let’s get on with it
When in 2008, my family and I were preparing to cross over the ocean back to The Netherlands after 2 years in Vietnam, I wasn’t quit ready to leave. We had only just settled in and found our bearings when unexpectedly, the company decided it was our time to go. Go back. To the sticks of The Netherlands. The grand central of The Hague.
Many expats left Ho Chi Minh that summer. In part families leaving due to regular expat-rotations. Yet this year, many families were forced to leave their outposts, directly or indirectly, as a result of the crisis in the world. So force majeure it was for some; ‘You don’t want to leave but you have to. It is the way it is, you can’t change it and we’ll have to make the best of it’.
The situation asked for a mind switch.
And then I had a thought; how do people here, across the ocean; the Vietnamese people, deal with circumstances beyond their control, with crises?
A situation soon presented itself. Due to the monsoon rains, our home and garden flooded completely. Our landlady and all who were working for her at the time, came to our house to help us immediately. There was no talking or planning, they just started somewhere; they were sweeping, mopping, cleaning etcetcetc. Once they had finished, they went on to clean in their own house and garden, which was still flooded and flooding ours all over again. After a while, everyone was in the water, including us, while the electricity was still on. I saw a rat running through the house and I saw something swimming in the water but couldn’t quite make out what it was.
We watched as our neighbours were standing up to their hips in (sewer) water trying to connect two electricity cords to get a pump working, so we could finally pump some water away. I was a little tense and felt helpless. Lot’s of things were lost in the flood and the situation was unnerving.
My neighbours, on the other hand, seemed unaffected and actually, there’s was lot of laughter going on. For hours they kept up a brave face and worked hard. There were good vibes in the air and they kept giving me encouraging nods as we continued cleaning. The only thing missing was the music.
For our Vietnamese neighbours, this flood wasn’t a huge drama. Not at all; it was an excellent opportunity to connect and enjoy togetherness and sharing a purpose. To them, this was an good moment to show that when the shit really hits the fan, you show up.
It’s what they have done here for years.
I learned form this situation and appreciated my neighbours for their approach, one that has kept them sane for a century.
In Vietnam they often shrugged their shoulders when talking about the crisis in the world. I see the quality of their acceptance. “Let’s get on with it” they seem to be saying. And that doesn’t sound like a bad approach at all.
Let’s get this show on the road, my father would have said.