Wed 23 Nov
As much as small things have changed each time I come back to Saigon — roads laid with gravel now paved, broadband Internet now almost commonplace, newer, taller and more gleaming high rises towering over old construction — the city is basically the same as it was when I first returned here eight years ago. Undeterred by progress, it remains a mess of human traffic, diesel exhaust and unkempt and unregulated commerce everywhere.
I can’t resist it. Its disjointed clicks and whirrs are in sync with a romantic idea of home that I nurse very tenderly: so too the omnipresent and melodic sound of spoken Vietnamese — nasal, drawling, bearing hurt and satisfaction at once.
I was born here but I left when I was three and a half. So just being back, in the midst of the quotidian and the unremarkable, is profound in a very private, intimate way. It’s more than just being a visitor to a place one cherishes; it’s like playing tourist in another course of events, sightseeing the attractions of a life I might have led if it weren’t for, you know, global politics and war and all. Everywhere and everything is a could-have-been for me, superficially strange and foreign but, in an emotional way, also deeply familiar. It’s weird, it’s fun, and the food is amazing.