Got an apartment. Got a cell phone. Got travel insurance. Got plenty of TUMS. Got a helmet. What I don't got is a plan. Or blood pressure meds, which I'm starting to think that I'll need to simply cross the streets in this city.
So, as I mentioned before, I'll be hanging out here until my documents are processed to obtain a visa for a job. I'm living in a nice little studio apartment in a Vietnamese area in District 7. I'm currently looking for some part time work but not trying too hard. The city is preparing for Tet- the mother of all holidays here in Vietnam. Everyone is out in full force preparing for the Chinese New Year. Needless to say, it's not the best time to be looking for a job, as schools are closed and families are returning to their hometowns, or traveling if they are expats. So, in the meantime, I'll make the best of my time here, relax a bit, and write about my observations of the culture.
It's 2012. It just so happens that it's the year of the dragon, a fierce beast common in most Asian art, literature, and folklore. I feel like if you're going to be in Vietnam during Tet, it should be during the year of the dragon. I'm already impressed with the efforts businesses have put into decorating their storefronts with reds and yellows and lights and lanterns and flowers. Big corporations like Coke and Oreo are taking advantage of the holiday for advertising purposes and have grand displays set up throughout the city.
various plants, particularly yellow and red carnations, orchids, and sunflowers. Kumquat trees are another traditional plant bought during the holiday, as it symbolizes fertility and the fruitfulness that the family hopes to experience during the new year. Peach blossoms bring protection to the household, whereas apricot blossoms foster luck. Though most businesses shut down during the week, these plant stalls stay open, as the flowers are an essential purchase during Tet. It can be quite surprising to see huge trees strapped to the "backseats" of the many motorcycles that zoom around the city.
Exotic flowers add a lot of color to Saigon.
Displays celebrating the upcoming year of the dragon.
Women dress in Ao Dai, the traditional Vietnamese dress, and pose near the arrangements.
More dragon motif on Ngyuen Hue.
I made another observation a few days ago while having my nails done. A bubbly middle-aged man walked into the salon and cheerfully greeted all of the girls. I couldn't understand what they were saying, but it was obvious that they knew each other. After a few quick words, he starting taking notes of 50,000 dong and passed them out to each of the girls working there. The small gesture seemed to make their day. They say that the perception of luck is based on one's happiness and I guess receiving (or giving) money can have that effect. Who knows... maybe they're on to something with this lucky money thing.