Nha Trang, Vietnam

Firstly, I love Vietnam.

It’s rainy season here in this coastal area of Vietnam nam. We got off the ship in a monsoon-like squall. Watching all the Mildreds and Henrys navigate slick gangplanks with cloppety walkers and canes is an event worthy of observation. To know at this is what the future will like like, some years down the road, gives pause and simultaneous horror. Yet, when I near life’s fininsh line, will we have these kind of travel resources-which ain’t cheap, or will we simply rot like withered fennel.

I glumped through a mushy and moist Cho Han market where maybe a thousand covered-peasant tents vend their wares. Weird, spiny fruit and fish parts make up much of the goods. Intermixed, are sandals galore. I’ve not seen even one person clad in a full shoe–it’s pure flip-flop heaven here. Since I’m a devoted flip-flop advocate (wearing the things occasionally on the Red Carpet, as well), this is a smart culture. When you live in a rain-soaked culture, you don’t want to be propelling yourself in water-logged sneakers or swelling, unravelling leather shoes.

Much like our “other 99%” theme across the US now, this 99% has a civil code of helping one-another. Even when gringo me got entangled in the labyrinthine structure of the bazaar, one vendor would take you to another tent or stall which might have the wares you sought.

I bought two pairs of nice flip-flops for cheap cheap–probably 80% less than US retail. The tent vendor then pointed to her starving mother, a clump of bones sprawled out on the floor. I was told that mama was hungry and needed money. All so true, and by the end of the transaction, I had bought the 2 pairs sandals for what i would have paid in a high-end department store. But, here’s the thing: this wasn’t some kind of bait-and-switch, it was just a side comment because the mother started groaning on the cement floor and I couldn’t walk away from her agony.

The Vietnamese cooperate with each other in their economic strata. Instead of cannibalizing each other for the last morsel of food or stealing each others’ product, they barter with each other and keep the playing field rather level. Granted, they’re in a communist country, but this isn’t the law or an obligitaroy response to avoid penalty of law;this is common sense and civil decency.

I hope that if America has long term economic compression, our armed populace will consider non-violent solutions to mitigating the tummy rumbles. The vietnamese people are unarmed and not weaponized. More than once, I’ve heard them say how much they like peace and getting along. Perhaps this is a cultural response to having fought recent wars for decolonization in order to purge the occupying French and American forces from their “homeland”, as George Bush would refer to it.