There’s something about that moment when the customs official at a foreign airport takes his heavy duty stamp, and with an authoratative “thump- thump”, makes the requisite imprints in the passport to permit entry into his country. I’ve traveled all my life, but that single instant gives me a surge of adrenaline every single time.
I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City at about 2 am this morning. After some sleep, I wandered the streets to explore and instantly felt right back at home. There’s so much for the senses in this part of the world. Family and friends gather along the sidewalks in make-shift congregation areas of plastic chairs and tables to laugh and share tales; tantalizing scents waft from woks and stalls in the central market; honking horns compete with urgent shouts of vendors in silks and conical hats hoping to sell their wares; children dart in and out of the crowds while their mothers call after them. Its always a good test of one’s acting abilities to step off the curb with nonchalance and watch as the seemingly impenetrable stream of motorbikes magically diverts around you. There’s such a feeling of high energy and hard-working industry here that, paired with the thriving luxury hotels and shiny new office buildings that are everywhere, its easy to wonder if Ho Chi Minh City didn’t somehow manage to sidestep the effects of the world’s current economic downturn.
I stopped off at a cafe for a pair of bottled waters. Since they were out at the front counter, someone went upstairs for more. While I waited, an employee urged me to sit down, pulled out a chair, and joined me for some impromptu casual conversation. When the bottled waters arrived, they were individually wrapped in plastic to maintain their chill and provided to me in a durable bag with handles. The two cafe workers waved at my thanks and sent me off with genuine and warm smiles.
Yeah….its great to be back.
I’ll be writing about my experiences here over the next several weeks as we continue to develop our program slated to launch in Vietnam next summer. I hope you will follow along. Thank you… I am grateful for your time and interest!