Westerners, Go Home
After a year and two months of living in Vietnam, I feel like a local. Not a local in the sense that I speak the language and blend into the crowds (both of which are certainly not true) but that life on the streets no longer stops me dead in my tracks with awe and surprise, I can navigate the city as though I have lived here many years, the stares and the strangeness of this environment are no longer daunting. But as always, just as I feel accepted and assimilated, reality swings by to knock me in my face.
Yesterday as Mike and I were ending our exploration through the unknown streets and neighborhoods of this sprawling city, we heard a loud noise and a shout from across the street. We looked over to see an elderly man almost fall off his bicycle while he stared in our direction with an angry expression on his face. I heard the tail end of a yelled "go home!" Mike, being far better at Vietnamese, pieced together the old man's outburst and we realized he had yelled "Westerners, Go Home!" We were absolutely amazed. In our combined three years in Vietnam, neither of us have ever encountered hostility in any form.
The Vietnamese have always been so warm, accepting and hospitable to us as foreigners, Westerners, strangers to their culture. The man's age was an indication that he is a relic from the past when many Vietnamese held negative views of foreigners in their country. His personal story will never be known but he served as a reminder that there is always an exception to the rule and that for all the Vietnamese that are more than happy to have us here and share stories about their culture in exchange for stories about ours, there lies someone who is not as welcoming or forgiving. As comfortable as I am, I must still remember that we are foreigners in their land.