Introducing My Seasons in Saigon
As I celebrate my second TET (Lunar New Year), I have decided to launch a blog reflecting my life in Vietnam as well as the story around the creation of the first American-style university of which I am the founding president.
My first year has passed quickly and I have the luxury of alternating between Vietnam and New York, two places I now call “home”. I know that being here is a gift and one which I get to open and have revealed daily.
It’s appropriate that I start this blog during TET, a time of renewal in Vietnam and much of Asia. The streets are quieter as city dwellers return to their home villages. Families gather together from around the diaspora to be with loved ones, make special foods, and sweep clean the graves of ancestors. Fireworks, street fairs, and incredible flower shows abound in Saigon, the name that many use for what is now officially Ho Chi Minh City.
Saigon is a city in the midst of dramatic change since my first visit a decade ago. Then, an American abroad was still a novelty and bicycles vied with motorbikes for street space. Today the traffic (along with the population) has grown exponentially, and the city of ten million sprawls in all directions with bicycles rare and Mercedes Benz cars and assorted vans increasingly commonplace.
Still, it is a city of motorbikes. On my ride to work I absorb the scene of helmeted drivers piloting their passengers who sit side saddle fixing their make-up or saffron robed monks texting in traffic. While two or three on a motorbike is not unusual, my personal viewing record was a family of five zipping by, two of them eating snacks and a third reading a comic book!
Vietnam is a place to expect the unexpected. I hope that through this blog I will introduce the reader to the past, present and future of this country of 90 million about which Americans know little, and too much of what they do know is framed in a distant and tragic past.
But, for now, Chuc Mung Nam Moi – Happy New Year and enjoy the Year of the Dragon.