Power to the People or Darkness on the Edge of Town

Power to the People or Darkness on the Edge of Town?

The Saigon Pearl apartment complex hovers like an icon on the banks of the Saigon River, a development symbolizing an emerging Ho Chi Minh City.  Its nighttime view is featured above.

Filled with upscale Vietnamese, Asian executives, fashion models, and assorted foreigners, it boasts its own school, an overpriced supermarket, several restaurants, an outstanding health club and a half dozen salons.

Saigon Pearl has just about everything – except today, power.

At midnight I go to turn the air conditioner on; nothing. I try to catch up on the NCAA March Madness games and the US Republican primaries; nothing. No hum to my refrigerator, no computer, nothing.

Power is out (again) at the Saigon Pearl.

In the morning it is no better but the elevators work – a blessing from the 26th floor and I descend along with other tenants, ranging in attitude from bemused to quite agitated.

This is not the first outage, exceptional in frequency and duration even by Vietnamese standards.  The complex has many pluses but a backup generator system (or consistent internet access) are not among them.  I am told that the developers were promised an increase to the electric grid and additional water lines once the complex (6 high rises) were completed.  Apparently the developers and the rest of us are still waiting.

I don’t complain (since no one speaks English at the front desk it would be futile) and, besides, I try to live in the serenity prayer zone; acceptance. This too shall pass.

I take myself out to breakfast and indulge in toast and home fries and scrambled eggs.  I read the Economist (purchased on the streets of Saigon with regularity).  I watch parents take their well-dressed, uniformed children to school and the experience the early rhythm of the morning; joggers, walkers, people doing Tai chi.

Vietnam has made an amazing transformation over the past few decades from poor and rural to an emerging modern society.  There are inherent challenges in such a dramatic shift and inadequate power (along with growing gap between the haves and have-nots) are among them.

Being  without the internet or lights remind me that many people on the planet never have the internet, or electricity, health care, education, flush toilets or even clean water.

These little “disruptions” put so much into perspective and maybe every once in a while we all need a power outage in our lives to remind us of the things that matter and to think about those who are truly powerle


About Dr. Roy Nirschel

Thirty years experience as an educator; international traveler, occasional writer, on a personal journey. Author of My Seasons in Saigon (available at amazon.com). Upon the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States I promised to go to Mexico; I did! Carol and I are here now. In the spirit of full disclosure, I promised to go to Mexico if Hillary Clinton was elected president too. The Seasons in Saigon are over; I am uncertain about Vietnam for many reasons despite my love for the country. Now it is Mexico time.

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