Blogs, Miami Globe Trotter

Miami Globe Trotter: Vietnam’s vitality defies war-torn past

Jamie Servidio poses in front of this giant happy buddha statue on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.

Jamie Servidio poses in front of this giant happy buddha statue on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City.

Before my visit, I had only ever heard Vietnam surrounded by war jargon like the terms Agent Orange and the Viet Cong. An overall opposition to the events that occurred there clouded my perspective of the country.

I have heard Vietnam War veterans speak with trembling courage about their experiences, I have watched documentaries, and I have listened to the music of Woodstock, but I had never separated the country and Vietnamese culture from the war.

With that being said, nearly everything I experienced in Vietnam took me by surprise.

My journey through Vietnam began on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) where I was quickly introduced to the chaos of traffic.

Nearly everyone rides a motorbike, and I mean everyone. I saw everything from families of four dressed in ponchos squished on a single motorbike to an elderly woman whizzing in and out of traffic with caged chickens fastened to the back seat. I saw young women in stilettos nonchalantly texting while dodging other riders and a man with a 5-foot tree balancing on the back of his seat.

And there I was simply trying to get from one side to the other.

Though the streets appear fairly disordered, there is a definite method to the madness. From simple observation, I learned that pedestrians often stride through traffic fearlessly at a constant pace. The motorbike drivers will easily move around the walker and continue on without commotion. At first, I was hesitant to jump in the middle of traffic, but after being led across by a few nice (and extremely skilled) locals, crossing the street became an essential part of assimilating into Vietnamese culture over the course of my brief visit.

Aside from the traffic, the streets are lined with vendors selling brightly colored paper crafts, coconuts filled with cool refreshing milk, and an assortment of street food. I was hit with a sensory overload.

Flowers are among one of the many goods for sale on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

Flowers are among one of the many goods for sale on the streets of Ho Chi Minh City.

Street life in itself was so dense with culture. Within 10 minutes of exposure, I was completely distracted from all of those history lessons that told the sad tale of a broken culture that had experienced so much hardship.

Over the course of my time in Vietnam, I encountered many people who were eager to practice their English. I was greeted with “hellos” paired with big smiles and even given a quick tutorial on how to eat phở (pronounced fuh), a popular Vietnamese noodle soup.

My last day in Vietnam was spent on the Mekong Delta where I had the opportunity to try locally grown fruits and listen to a traditional Vietnamese music performance. Three generations of women sang songs about love, good fortune and bringing in the Chinese New Year. Accompanying the vocals, were two men playing traditional Vietnamese instruments, including the đàn bầu, a Vietnamese monochord, or one-string guitar.

A local Vietnamese man plays the đàn bầu, a Vietnamese monochord, or one-string guitar creating oriental, violin-like sound.

A local Vietnamese man plays the đàn bầu, a Vietnamese monochord, or one-string guitar creating oriental, violin-like sound.

From a historical standpoint, the Mekong Delta was an area directly affected by the American war in Vietnam. However, I can’t help but remember the pride that beamed out of the locals I met there as they opened up and shared a piece of their culture with me, a foreigner.

Experiencing Vietnam firsthand dispelled every preconceived notion I had prior to my visit. Vietnam buzzes with life—the sounds, the colors, the smells, the food, and most importantly the people have far more to teach than any textbook or documentary I have ever read or watched. Until next time!

February 24, 2015

Reporters

Jamie Servidio


Around the Web
  • Miami Herald
  • UM News
  • HurricaneSports

University of Miami fans no doubt are loving the Hurricanes’ two newest tight ends. What they’re pro ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Thursday: ▪ Though UM wasn’t called for a single penalty against ...

Two of the best athletes and a freshman quarterback on the No. 21 University of Miami football team ...

A six-pack of Hurricanes notes on a Wednesday: ▪ The Miami Hurricanes are honoring their 1983 nation ...

With Jaquan Johnson still sidelined with a hamstring strain he suffered on Saturday against Toledo, ...

The trailer for a documentary exploring the relationships between UM students and Holocaust survivor ...

New technology could help workplaces and schools identify violent intruders before they enter the do ...

A University of Miami professor has created software to detect fraud in standardized tests. ...

UM President Julio Frenk outlined the strategies of the Roadmap to Our New Century, part of his Stat ...

Students attending Monday night's State of the U address by UM President Julio Frenk offer thei ...

The 1983 national champions will be back on campus to celebrate the 35thanniversary of Miami's ...

The University of Miami volleyball program begins ACC play on Friday night against Wake Forest at 7 ...

Head coach Katie Meier announced Wednesday the ninth annual Miami Women's Basketball Fantasy Ca ...

The yearly Miami Fall Invite will take place Friday through Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center, ...

Through three games, Miami is No. 1 in the country in tackles for loss and the entire Hurricanes def ...

TMH Twitter
About TMH

The Miami Hurricane is the student newspaper of the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Fla. The newspaper is edited and produced by undergraduate students at UM and is published weekly in print on Tuesdays during the regular academic year.