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Running away from Home

Gear woes and peace signs

VIETNAM | Sunday, 11 April 2010 | Views [292]

I enjoyed my walk along the beach this morning. I was surprised to see how busy it was at 7:00am. When I took a closer look, I saw that the majority of the beachgoers were Vietnamese. I was one of only a few westerners out there, but they didn’t seem to mind sharing the sand. It makes sense to me that the morning is the best time to be active in this climate, before the sun of the South China Sea reaches full wattage. Let the other western tourists bake in the midday heat. I’m happy with a small dose, thank you. The Vietnamese keep to their own business as I keep to mine. My only bit of interaction was when an older woman playfully slapped my upper arm and then gave me the peace sign in passing.

So much of my gear is falling apart. The band is completely gone from my watch. The cheap backpack I purchased in Kathmandu is an absolute mess and I doubt it will last another two days. The umbrella that I purchased in Siem Reap a few weeks ago is breaking down. The souls of my hiking shoes are coming unglued and pulling away from the shoe. The other day in Saigon I actually had someone try to fix my hiking shoes WHILE I was walking in them. Maybe I should have let him. It’s no wonder that companies that manufacture durable sporting gear charge so much for it. I thought that one would have to be a real label snob to pay $200 or $300 for a backpack, but now I see the light.

When the woes of materialism start bringing me down, fate usually intervenes and helps to pull things into perspective. Especially in Southeast Asia, where you really have to be living with a pair of blinders on if you can’t see all those who are living in poverty or very near to it. While I was waiting for my bus to come, I spoke with the woman who looks after the hotel restaurant in the afternoon. She was telling me about how she had to work seven days a week so that she could afford to live. This was the one who told me that I was going to get married this year. The topic of conversation came up because there is a Vietnamese holiday coming at the end of the month and I asked her if she was going anywhere. She told me that if she got really sick, then the girl who works in the morning had to cover for her, but if she took any time off, she would not get paid. I asked her if a man had her job would he be paid more than she was. I don’t think she fully understood the question, but she answered, “yes.” No wonder these women are consumed with getting married. Aside from the fact that Asians value family above all else, to these women it represents some financial security. Case in point: all of the young Vietnamese women that you see with older white men.

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